Download EnGenius EWS850AP Outdoor Access Point review for free
While it was once a challenge to get good indoor WiFi connections. Now the focus is shifting to external performance, especially for the hospitality industry as an example.
The caveats with placing these types of devices outdoors are that they need protection from rain, snow, and wind, but also need power and a data connection to internal network services.
EnGenius has an enviable track record of deploying internal wireless network infrastructure using MESH. With the new EWS850AP, the company would like to repeat this success for those who need external wireless networks.
The pricing of EnGenius products reflects that they are designed for business users rather than home users, although some home users may be interested in this particular device.
In the overall view of what EnGenius offers, the EWS850AP is the only WiFi-6 access point they currently offer for remote use, although they have a variety of WiFi-5 access points and PtP / PtMP bridges.
Direct from EnGenius online, the EWS850AP is $ 399, although we found it on Amazon.com for $ 343.57.
Availability in the UK and Europe is not high, and the outlets that sell this hardware often import it from the US and charge additional costs for the high cost of transportation. So it can be a challenge to find it in Europe for less than € 370.
Hopefully these distribution problems will eventually be resolved, making this router cheaper for those who are interested.
Design and functions
The EnGenius designers like simple shapes, because on the outside the EWS850AP is little more than a beveled box with an entry on the underside for the connection cable and four threaded connections for each of the 20 cm long antennas.
This device mounts directly to a wall or metal post and all the necessary hardware comes in the box.
In both scenarios, a metal mounting plate is used, which can be screwed to a wall with two metal brackets or attached to a vertical post. The plate has four protruding pins that fit into their corresponding tabs on the access point, and a single screw prevents the two from separating.
EnGenius has excellent documentation for this product, but one point where it is missing is the less detailed installation section.
In order for it to work, an Ethernet cable, which carries both power and data, must be inserted through a waterproof grommet underneath.
We ran into issues with this aspect that we will discuss later, but connecting this device was not as easy as it initially seemed and there are some problems with the mechanics of the connection.
But the critical part of this product is how it connects to the rest of the world and is also powered.
The Ethernet LAN port is PoE 2.5GbE and enables the simultaneous transmission of data and power via a single LAN cable. This is good for those who want the very best performance and a 2.5 GbE switch. Unfortunately, the included EPA5006GR PoE injector EnGenius is just a Gigabit spec device, which undermines this option.
EnGenius makes a 2.5 GbE PoE injector, the EPA5006HAT, which costs an additional $ 59.99.
However, we cannot confirm that this will work with the EWS850AP. Given the relatively high cost of this hardware, the lack of a 2.5 GbE PoE injector is disappointing.
The beauty of this hardware is that it can withstand the elements, and any decent craftsman should be able to mount it on a wall or pole in no time. And with the use of PoE (Power over Ethernet), a single-cable installation is superior to any option in which the power is distributed outside of a building.
One small disappointment is that this is only a 2 × 2 WiFi setup, meaning it only supports two channels on each frequency with the four antennas.
The instructions say for the buyer: “Connect one end of the Ethernet cable to the LAN port (PoE) of the access point and the other end to the PoE port of the PoE adapter.”
That’s what you need to do, but the documentation doesn’t go into the details of this process.
To access the Ethernet port, you will need to remove the threaded plastic sleeve and remove a rubber grommet that seals the cable against the ingress of water.
It is not documented that the grommet is divided into two parts so that it can seal as soon as the RJ45 end of the cable is passed through it and connected to the connector in the threaded sleeve
We figured out how this should eventually fit together, but a step-by-step guide on this part would be helpful for many.
But what is also not documented is how limited the space is behind the grommet. If you terminate ethernet cables this is not a problem. However, if you use prefabricated cables with a grommet, as you did at the beginning, you cannot screw on the grommet and thus make the device watertight.
Should you ever need to replace the cable, you will need to have a long screwdriver on hand to remove the block from the socket, as no finger can reach into it.
Another area not covered in the documentation is device grounding. This is critical as it can be hit by a thunderstorm. A grounding strap is included, however advice on use and best guidelines is not provided. Also, because the cable is only about four feet, it is assumed that the access point is not far from the floor or other grounding hardware. More information would have been helpful.
After overcoming the installation hurdles, setting up the access point via the web interface is remarkably simple and just like the other EnGenius routers we have seen before.
While experimenting with the hardware, we spent some time with the web interface and found that it was almost identical to the indoor EWS377AP we tested earlier.
It has the same business friendly security features, the ability to define up to eight SSIDs, etc. The only changes we noticed were that the EWS850AP v1 has significantly more memory than the older design and controls for adjusting the output power of the signal if it is deactivated on the outdoor access point.
Any IT professional who has worked with previous EnGenius devices should have no problem with this design as it is the same as other access point hardware of this brand.
For a 2 × 2 WiFi 6 access point, the performance of the EWS850AP is excellent. And certainly one of the fastest we have ever tested. But with only two transmit and two receive antennas, the bar is rather low, especially when compared to some 4 × 2 hardware.
Or rather, we have to say that the performance between individual AX-class adapters is good. However, there is a limit to the total bandwidth that can be shared between connected devices, so it would perform poorly if there were a large number of concurrent users.
How high In general, this question cannot be answered precisely. Each pool of connected devices with different capabilities is likely to make things less frustrating or significantly worse for those who connect. And if these devices were moving, the situation would be dynamic.
We can theoretically speculate that if this hardware is used in MESH mode and forwards a return channel from other access points, fewer users could experience problems due to the lack of available bandwidth to communicate with the client devices.
Why EnGenius hasn’t given this device the same capabilities as its excellent indoor access points is strange, and we suspect that at some point an updated version of the EWS850AP will be released to address these limitations.
We should also mention that if the access point can connect over 2.5GbE, there won’t be enough WiFi bandwidth in the device to take full advantage of that connection. Therefore, it may not offer a significant improvement over the Gigabit PoE connection.
EnGenius clearly listens to reviewers and customers and has added many critical parts to make this device ready to use right out of the box, such as: B. a PoE injector.
While we won’t entirely forgive them for bundling a 1Gb PoE injector with a 2.5GbE access point, that’s still an improvement over some other products that didn’t have an injector at all.
We finally figured out why the injector isn’t what we expected. The EPA5006GR has a special function with which it can send a reset signal to the access point.
Because of the water resistance, there is no reset button on the device, so this is necessary if you ever want to reset the router to factory settings (as if you had forgotten the password).
The documentation states that only the EPA5006GR should be used to power the device. Until EnGenius releases a 2.5 GbE version with a reset function, this product cannot be used in network mode with the highest performance.
That being said, the EnGenius EWS850AP is a relatively easy to deploy and manage solution that performs well over an excellent range.
However, given the cost, it has modest channel selection and the lack of a 160Hz return channel is a bit daunting. With four antennas available, we expected to receive on all four, not just two.
By using WiFi 6 technology, which limits the total bandwidth to 1750 Mbit / s, and with WiFi 5 and 4, this value is reduced to only 1157 Mbit / s.
How big the problem will be for the buyer depends on how many remote connections you want to support at the same time and how much bandwidth each user needs.
If those who connect are just browsing and collecting email it works acceptable with 20 or more users, but once they start streaming 4K video down or up that number can drop to less than 10.
It is important to keep in mind that the bottleneck is likely the broadband connection and not the EWS850AP if everyone is getting data from the internet.
EnGenius makes well-designed and manufactured devices that deliver solid connections, but at a price. And for some, that price is too high. For others, it’s more important that it justifies the investment in time, installation costs, and improving external Wi-Fi performance, and in that regard we need to worry much less.