Why is the Synology RT6600ax Router’s use of the 5.9Ghz band such a big deal?
It is a valid question. Synology has talked a big game about their new RT6600ax supporting the 5.9Ghz band and 160Mhz channel support, but what do they mean in real terms to the end user? To get to grips with this, we first need to understand what prevented 5.9Ghz use till recently. Whenever we broadcast anything, it needs a way to get from point A to point B. When delivering goods, the mode of transportation is a truck. When delivering information, the mode of transportation is the airwaves. The same can be said of wireless radio frequencies and especially those that we now use in our homes every day for wireless internet/network connectivity.
Radio frequency is broken down into spectrums from 30 Hz to 300 GHz. Spectrums are further broken down into sections called bands. Governments regulate those bands and spectrums by allocating them for specific uses. For example, the 30-300 MHz spectrum is used for radio and television broadcasts. The extremely high frequency of 30-300 GHz is for stuff like radio astronomy and directed-energy weapons. The point of regulating frequencies is to make sure no band or spectrum is congested to the point of rendering it useless.
Currently, most Wi-Fi devices communicate using the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands. The lower bands deliver farther, whereas the higher band travels faster. That’s why there will need to be more transmitters for 5G cellphones, for example. For the past two decades, the entire 5.9 GHz spectrum (5.850-5.925) was reserved for intelligent transportation systems like C-V2X. Meaning, that only devices for transportation-related purposes have been allowed access to that spectrum. Now that most of the bands in that spectrum are accessible to devices like prosumer routers and the Synology RT6600ax is one of the first to take advantage of this, that is what makes this very special router indeed right now. 160Mhz frequencies are a factor here as this is the frequency when you will get the best performance out of WiFi 6 but until the 5.9Ghz band was opened up for use, it limited the range of shared bandwidth afforded to WiFi 6 and the total volume of 160Mhz frequency that could be used is increased (as well as the potential for increased smaller channels). Let’s discuss SRM 1.3 inside the RT6600ax router.
Synology RT6600ax Router Review – Software
The Synology RT6600ax arrives with SRM 1.3 (Synology Router Manager), the latest version of the brand’s popular router management system software. I don’t think it would be a tremendous overstatement to say that more than half of the price tag of the RT6600ax goes towards this software and, fair play to Synology, SRM is by FAR the best router management software that I have ever used. The brand has already produced one of the best NAS management platforms in the market in DSM and you can clearly see that ALOT of the logic, methodology and attention to the customer UX has been applied here. SRM has been around now for a good few years and despite my high praise, it is also worth highlighting that the platform has generally received fewer significant updates and feature improvements compared with DSM 6>6.1>7>7.1 in the same time frame (though regular security and database updates have been reliably constant).
Pretty much ALL routers arrive with a software GUI that you can access via your web browser (that includes your free IS router too) and from here you can manage the connections, security settings, ports and users on the system. So, what is it that makes Synology Router Manager any different? Well mainly, it is in how easy it is to comprehend the controls and the extent to which you can configure and customize the system to your own network needs. SRM 1.2 always had this and it would take a long time to go through the full range of services and features of SRM (which is why I made a FULL review of SRM 1.3 HERE that covers everything new and old) but for this review of the RT6600ax I will just focus on the new additions, as well as the standout features that continue to impress.
One of the new features of SRM 1.3 on the RT6600ax that arguably should have been there much, MUCH sooner was the option to create vLAN (i.e virtual networks) that can exist inside the router system for sub-networks that can be separated/connected as needed to the wider system network – such as for IP cameras, VOIP systems, or collected users in a single network. This is something that is more often associated with network switches than routers, but is still an available option on many premium router systems for a few years. There is also the means for priority of the incoming internet connection to go towards VOIP or IPTV services if needed.
vLANs were sadly not available in SRM 1.2 and it’s arrival in SRM 1.3 is very useful, but still massively overdue (see below). These virtual networks can be customized in several ways in their identity and address, but also can be bonded to a specific network interface (LAN) port, which is useful if you are going to attach a switch to one of these ports for connecting a bunch of other network devices. These virtual networks can also be attached to existing wireless SSIDs or even have a new SSID created specifically for that network.
Navigating the browser interface of SRM 1.3 is really, really easy and if you have ever used an operating system such as MAC OS, Windows or Android (which clearly you have if you are reading this!) then you will typically find that all the configuration and options for navigating SRM on the RT6600ax are exactly where you would expect them to be. Leaning ever so slightly more towards the Mac side of design and placement (Synology has always had a lot of Mac branding influence, even if their support and compatibility of services always seems to end up with Windows users first – blame Apple I guess), the main desktop can be changed in a few lite ways, as well as desktop shortcuts and additional applications can be downloaded and installed easily from the App Center.
As touched on earlier in the review, the USB port on your router is hugely useful to the SRM 1.3 platform, with it allowing use of several Synology NAS-generation applications that you can install in SRM that including File Station, Download Station, Media Server and more. Additionally, it is recommended that in order to fully utilize the database software to catalogue remote threats and potential intrusions, you have a USB drive installed to maintain those databases.
One key element of using SRM 1,3 and the RT600ax to their fullest extent is in how the system is deployed in your network environment. You can choose to deploy the router either as your primary internet access point or operate the system as your secondary router with another router/modem (such as one provided by your ISP in between.
If you use the RT600aX and SRM as a secondary later, a number of the security and network management features will be absent, but if used as the main management point for your internet connection, the full range of services will be available to customize. This configuration can be easily changed on the fly at any time.
The coverage and network connectivity of the three bands of wireless coverage of the RT6600ax can be monitored and adjusted very easily on the RT6600ax, with the extent of their maximum bandwidth and frequency changed easily.
When testing of the Synology RT6600ax router started, we decided to test the wireless 160Mhz WiFi connection with the Killer AX m.2 802.11ax adapter AND connect to the router via its 2.5Gps connection over wired LAN. Straight away, windows reported both connections as 2.4Gobs and 2.5Gos respectively. This still left ample wireless connectivity on the 80Mhz and 160Mhz bands to share and in both cases, we were able to fully saturate the ethernet connection with ease.
Of course, one of the biggest draws of the Synology Router systems is their support of intelligent profiles and management. Alongside the ability to create user profiles for all connected users, you can connect individual devices to those users and then spread access rules to be applied to that user’s devices easily and borderline instantaneously. This extends to creating website access rules, internet access rules that are shared between devices and preset rules that allow you to impose access conduct configurations in around 3 clicks that are tailored towards friends, family or professional colleagues.
Despite the usability and ease of use that SRM 1.3 brings in the RT6600ax, it is worth highlighting that, at least at the time of writing, mesh router support of this system in conjunction with existing MR2200ac mesh router systems is not supported until they roll out an SRM 1.3 update. Until then, you can only utilize mesh router deployment with the use of other RT6600ax routers, which is arguably less than ideal. This will no doubt be addressed soon, but for those looking at replacing the RT2600ac in their mesh system set up with an RT6600ax, it might be worth sitting on the fence a while longer.
Synology has addressed questions regarding the timeline on SRM 1.3 for the MR2200ac and RT2600ac (enabling mesh support between their routers, currently not possible between SRM 1.2 and SRM 1.3 systems). Below is their current message on this:
While SRM 1.3 in the current phase will remain restricted to our newest router, we can now confirm that all the software advancements available on the RT6600ax will be made available for the RT2600ac and MR2200ac early in the third quarter of this year, when we stand to release the SRM 1.3.1 update. With the upcoming update, both the RT2600ac and the MR2200ac will support up to 5 VLANs and 5 associated Wi-Fi SSIDs, essentially allowing users to create separate wired and wireless networks for management or security purposes, and set up rules to allow conditional one or two-way traffic between these.
SRM 1.3.1 will also allow using several RT2600ac units as Wi-Fi access points as part of a mesh network. Previously, only MR2200ac units could be used with the RT2600ac to provide seamless Wi-Fi connections throughout larger buildings and spaces. Combinations of RT6600ax and RT2600ac/MR2200ac are also supported.BBeata @betazzMay 11, 2022
I will continue to update this article where possible and make a follow-up video on mesh support in the RT6600ax / MR2200ac /RT2600ac when they all have SRM 1.3 available. SRM 1.3 is arguably not a huge upheaval from SRM 1.2 on the RT2600ac and MR2200ac, adding only a few extra features and tweaking the GUI. That said the improvements in Synology DS Router 2.0 for Android and iOS (as well as the utilities of SRM generally) result in by far the easiest to use router management software that I have ever used. For more information on the software and services included with SRM 1.3 on the RT6600ax router, I recommend that you read the massive FULL router manager software review below:
Synology Router Manager 1.3 Review Chapters SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, ALL Parts - HERE SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, Part 1, Design & Control - HERE SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, Part 2, Safety & Security - HERE SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, Part 3, Network Management - HERE SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, Part 4, Safe Access - HERE SRM 1.3 Synology Router Software Review, Part 5, USB Storage Services & Conclusion - HERE
Alternatively, you can watch the FULL review of Synology’s SRM 1.3 Router Software on YouTube via the link below:
Synology RT6600ax Router Review – Review Conclusion
The Synology RT6600ax IS a very, very good router. So many users will never graduate from their ISP router and never understand the benefits of a premium solution, gauging the Synology RT6600ax as something of an indulgence. However, as WiFi 6 continue to rise in popularity, more client hardware arrives with 802.11ax support and adapters to upgrade towards AX wifi over PCIe and USB appear, the RT6600ax is something that family/business users are going to want to consider to monitor and customize their own networks. That said, although the hardware the RT6600ax arrives with is a big jump up compared with the RT2600ac and MR2200ac, the software is a tad less ambitious and given that SRM 1.2 will likely upgrade towards 1.3 on those legacy devices, the Synology RT6600a is less appealing as an immediate upgrade over the RT2600ac right now. Ultimately, if you were a first-time adopter of the Synology 6600ax router, you cannot fault the software and hardware right now and it more than justifies the price tag for its software alone. Add to that the increased bandwidth potential of 5.9Ghz and greater 160Mhz support and you are getting a tremendously future proof product. That said, if you are already an owner of the RT2600ac or an existing MR2200ax mesh router owner, you might find that recent improvements in virtual networks and SSID creation are not enough to justify the upgrade (unless you are already well into your WiFi 6 environment upgrade). The RT6600ax is EASILY the most powerful and capable router that Synology has ever produced and with great software to boot. Even if it is slightly overshadowed by WiFi 6E, it still stands tremendously proud in the existing prosumer router solutions in the market right now, despite its higher price tag.
|PROs of the Synology RT6600ax Router||CONs of the Synology RT6600ax Router|
|SRM is still top-notch and easily still one of the best (if not THE best) router software in the market in 2022
2.5GbE port for your WAN or a LAN excellent (shame there is only the one though)
Huge degree of user profile and device clustering options to create an intelligently controlled by still user-friendly network
LAN/WAN failover Support (including with a SIM Dongle or Phone tethering)
USB Drive Support is treated exceptionally well with several Synology NAS class applications available
vLAN is now available
5.9Ghz Band utilization adds a good degree of future-proofing to the device + more 160Mhz connections at one time
The inbuilt threat prevention database deserves more credit/attention than it seems to
I am ashamed to admit it, it is really easy on the eye!
|Mesh Support with MR2200ac still not available (planned for H2 2022)
5.9Ghz band use is good, but client hardware uptake is still early
A single USB Port limits the use of both an External storage drive AND 2nd mobile SIM failover connection at once
Quite expensive given more affordable WiFi 6 routers in the market and 6E making a name for itself
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