EnGenius ECW230 review: Quick, but not quick enough
Not the cheapest or fastest Wi-Fi 6 access point, but the cloud management features are hard to fault
EnGenius was an early entrant into the SMB Wi-Fi 6 market, making a splash with the temptingly affordable EWS357AP. The ECW230 costs nearly £140 more, but the extra cash brings faster wireless performance.
Indeed, on paper you're getting double the speed, as the ECW230's AX3600 rating combines a top speed of 2,400Mbits/sec on the 5GHz band and 1,148Mbits/sec over 2.4GHz. To allow you to make the most of that performance, it sports a 2.5GbE multi-Gigabit LAN port – and this is also how you're expected to power it, although if you don't have a PoE+ source you can buy a separate power supply and plug it into the adjacent power socket. For testing, we used EnGenius' ECS2512FP model, which provides 802.3bt PoE++ on all 2.5GbE ports and can also be cloud-managed.
For managing the AP itself, the ECW230 presents a basic web browser interface, which provides the LAN, internet and cloud connection status – but it's really designed to work as part of a cloud-managed fleet of APs. We registered the ECW230 to our cloud account in seconds, using the Cloud To-Go iOS app on an iPad to scan in the QR code on its base. The AP then automatically joined our organisation, picked up our wireless settings and started broadcasting them as soon as it was online.
The cloud portal opens with a standard dashboard; you can't customise this, but it provides a good range of metrics, with graphs showing wireless throughput for all switches, APs and wireless clients, plus details of top APs, clients and SSIDs. A Layer 7 traffic-analysis graph also reveals the top ten detected applications, along with upload and download bandwidth usage.
Up to eight SSIDs per site are supported, and for each one you can pick which radios are active, enable band steering and fast roaming, and set rate limits, either for the entire SSID or on a per-client basis. WPA3 encryption is supported along with the older WPA2 standard, and the clever MyPSK service allows you to automatically generate unique WPA keys for particular users or groups.
Alternatively, you can enable a captive portal for particular SSIDs, and use a range of other authentication methods including cloud user ID, radius, voucher and Facebook account login. A splash page can be displayed to users too, and the cloud portal's integrated HTML editor makes it easy to customise this with your own logo, welcome message and acceptable use policy.
Upgrading to the paid-for Pro version of the cloud portal gets you some additional security measures: the client timeline provides a seven-day view of all the APs each device has associated with and the authentication methods used, while the exposure-analysis tool – originally developed as a contact-tracing aid during the pandemic – tracks other users who recently associated with the same AP.
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When it comes to Wi-Fi 6 settings there's, as usual, almost nothing to configure. You just get a switch to enable or disable 802.11ax on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, although EnGenius goes further than most by allowing separate settings for indoor and outdoor APs.
The ECW230 also doesn't support the 160MHz channel width, but performance is still pretty good. Over a Wi-Fi 5 link, large file copies to and from a Windows 10 Pro desktop equipped with a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 USB adapter were completed at 77MB/sec at close range and 72MB/sec from 10m away. That's better than the EWS357AP, which averaged 69MB/sec and 65MB/sec respectively – but well short of TP-Link's Omada EAP660 HD, which delivered record-breaking speeds of 105MB/sec and 96MB/sec.
If your focus is on performance, therefore, the ECW230 probably won't be your first choice, and it's certainly not the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 AP around. Even so, EnGenius' cloud portal offers a superb range of business-class wireless management and security features that make this AP well worth a look.
EnGenius ECW230 specifications
AX3600 Wave 2 dual band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ax
4 x 2.4GHz/4 x 5GHz internal aerials
4x4 MU-MIMO, Kensington lock, 2 x ceiling/wall mounting plates
205 x 205 x 41mm
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