Mesh wireless network systems or whole-home WiFi systems are the new kid on the block when it comes to smart homes. The approach these systems take is different from traditional wireless routers that work in conjunction with repeaters and range extenders. ASUS has entered this new arena with a system called Lyra. If you want to know what it has to offer regarding speed, wireless coverage, features, and ease of use, read this detailed review:
What is a Wi-Fi Mesh Network or whole-home WiFi system?
Before you read this review and correctly evaluate the ASUS Lyra and other similar systems, you should know what a mesh network is: “a system of stations/hubs that work together to provide a WiFi network in a given area. All the hubs communicate with each other to establish the best path to send the data between the different clients that are connected to the network. You can think of it as a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network of WiFi stations/hubs that are linked to each other and the internet.”
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We recommend you to read this article so that you fully understand this concept, its advantages, and disadvantages: What is a mesh wireless network or whole-home WiFi system?
If you compare the ASUS Lyra with a traditional router, you are missing the picture. Mesh networks are very different with many advantages over conventional routers but also with some important shortcomings that need to be fully understood.
Unboxing the ASUS Lyra AC2200 Home Wi-Fi System
The packaging for the ASUS Lyra is very different from that of other ASUS networking products. The box uses calming white and cyan colors, and it features a picture of the three devices that make up the ASUS Lyra mesh networking system.
On the back and on the sides of the box, you can find visual and text explanations about how ASUS Lyra works and the key features of this home networking system. Everything is very nicely packaged, and inside the box, you will find the following elements: three ASUS Lyra devices, the power adapters for each of them, a network cable, the quick start guide, the warranty and support information.
The unboxing experience is an enjoyable one, worthy of a premium networking device. Also, the Lyra devices are very elegant and look great.
Hardware specifications and design
ASUS Lyra is a three band home Wi-Fi system that’s made of three devices. Each of these three devices includes a quad-core Qualcomm IPQ4019 System on a Chip (SoC), running at 717 MHz, that handles two wireless frequencies: one on 2.4 GHz and one on 5 GHz. There’s also a secondary Qualcomm QCA9886 SoC for a third operating frequency of 5GHz, on each of the three devices. One of the two 5GHz bands is dedicated to the communication between the ASUS Lyra devices, so that they distribute the best connection possible, at the highest available speed. Therefore, out of the three bands, only two of them can be used by client devices: one on 2.4 GHz and another on 5 GHz.
On each Lyra hub, you have 256 MB of RAM and 128 MB of storage space for the firmware. ASUS says that each Lyra has seven internal antennas, four of which are “smart" and used for the 5 GHz frequency. These smart antennas are used to detect the signal quality of the other Lyra hubs and then choose two of the most suitable antennas to establish the backbone connection between all the Lyras. Therefore, for client devices, ASUS Lyra offers two smart antennas and three usual WiFi antennas.
ASUS boasts about a total theoretical bandwidth of 2200 Mbps that is split as follows: 400 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz wireless frequency and 867 Mbps for each of the two 5 GHz bands. Since one of the two 5 GHz frequencies is used for the backbone connection between the Lyra hubs, client devices will have available 400 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz wireless frequency and 867 Mbps for the 5 GHz frequency. A more realistic total available bandwidth for client devices is 1267 Mbps. However, these numbers are theoretical and measured in very high-tech labs. They don’t mean much in the real world. That’s why we recommend that you read our real-life measurements, later in this review.
ASUS Lyra offers 2x2 MU-MIMO wireless connections, which is perfect for most wireless clients. It offers support for all the wireless networking standards including 802.11n and the latest 802.11ac Wave 2.
On each Lyra, you have two 1 Gbps Ethernet ports. On the main Lyra, one of them must be used to connect it to the wireless router or the modem that your Internet Service Provider has offered.
On the side of each Lyra, you have a Pairing button that you can use to connect each hub to the network, through WPS.
The bottom of each Lyra has five rubber feet which hold the device in place on just about any surface, including glass. There are also mounting screw slots that can be used for wall-mounting each hub, using a VESA mount. This way, it is easier to find a right spot for each hub, that doesn’t stand in your way. You also have a Reset button for restoring each Lyra to its default factory settings.
One downside to ASUS Lyra is that it doesn’t offer a USB port to connect external hard disks, printers or NAS systems. Such devices need to be connected to the network through other means.
In terms of size, each Lyra hub has 5.51 x 5.51 x 1.57 inches or 13.99 x 13.99 x x.98 cm in Length x Width x Height. Each Lyra weighs 25.36 ounces or 719 grams.
If you want to read the official specifications yourself, go this page: ASUS Lyra Specifications.
The specifications of the ASUS Lyra wireless home networking system are impressive, at least on paper. However, you must read between the lines and understand how the system works, to get a realistic perspective of what you get regarding total maximum bandwidth and number of available frequencies.
Setting up and using the ASUS Lyra AC2200 Home Wi-Fi System
Setting up the ASUS Lyra is done with the help of your smartphone. If you are using Android, head to the Play Store and download and install the ASUS Lyra app. On an iPhone, you can find the app here: ASUS Lyra. When you start the Lyra app for the first time, it shows you what you need in order to set up the whole-home WiFi system. Follow the instructions, and you will configure the main ASUS Lyra in about a minute or so after starting it.
ASUS Lyra can work with the following types of internet connections: DHCP (if you connect it to a modem or router from your ISP), PPPoE, Static IP, PPTP, and L2TP. During the initial setup, the ASUS Lyra app asks for the necessary connection details, depending on your internet connection’s type. Once that is done, you set the name and the password of the wireless network that is broadcast by ASUS Lyra. One aspect to keep in mind is that ASUS Lyra broadcasts ONLY ONE NETWORK NAME, and it uses it for both the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequencies. After you set up a Lyra, you are asked to select its location in your home.
After the main Lyra is set up, it automatically connects to the internet, and it starts broadcasting its wireless network. The mobile app asks you to add another Lyra. The second and third Lyra devices are added much faster, and they automatically clone the settings that you have chosen for the first Lyra. This is friendlier and quicker than setting up a router and two repeaters or range extenders.
Once you have set up all three ASUS Lyra devices, you can see how they are connected to each other in the mobile app.
From now on, you can use the ASUS Lyra app to set the main features of this whole-home WiFi system. As you can see, the menu doesn’t have too many options.
Each feature of the mobile app is easily accessible, and it has only a few configuration options. Geeks and IT professionals will surely want more control, while beginners will be happy to see that there’s nothing complicated to configure.
One downside to the app is that it can only be used when you are connected to your home network. It doesn’t offer any remote administration. Also, it seems to be available only in English. We used it to configure every feature that it offers, and we found it easy to use. However, one thing that you will quickly notice is that some changes (especially the ones affecting the broadcasting of the wireless network) involve a full system restart that takes two to three minutes. It has to restart all three Lyras to apply your changes, and that can lead to frustrating waiting times.
We were saying earlier that beginners will be happy with the mobile app. For experts, ASUS provides detailed configuration even though it doesn’t communicate this on the official web page of the product. If you know the IP address of the main ASUS Lyra, you can enter it in a web browser of a computer that is connected to your network. Log in with the user and password that you have set and voila! You get access to the ASUS firmware and its traditional user interface. If you have used ASUS routers in the past, you will immediately feel at home in this environment.
Now you can finally set everything you can about the ASUS Lyra, and you can also turn on and use hidden features like the VPN server and the network troubleshooting tools.
One thing that’s missing though is the wireless settings: you can’t change the channel, the transmission power and other settings about the wireless network that is broadcast by ASUS Lyra. The system handles everything automatically, and users can’t change anything except the password (this is handled only in the mobile app).
A second thing that’s missing from the web interface is the Parental Controls feature. You can only configure it from the mobile app. However, you do get access to AiProtection, and in the web interface, you can control it in detail.
While ASUS offers great multi-lingual support on its wireless routers, this is not the case for ASUS Lyra. At least at the time when we tested it, the user interface is available only in English.
One neat feature is the help system: if you don’t understand what a setting does, move the mouse cursor on top of its name and, if you see a question mark displayed, click the left mouse button. Then, a tooltip is shown with more information about that setting.
When you are done configuring everything, start connecting your network devices. One thing that’s different about mesh wireless networks is that your network devices see only one network being broadcast. Modern smartphones and laptops that support the 802.11ac standard will see your network and connect to it using the faster 5GHz frequency. Cheaper or older devices that support the 802.11n standard will connect to the network on the slower 2.4 GHz frequency. In theory, this is great. However, we sometimes had issues with modern devices like the Surface Pro or Nexus 6P getting connected to the 2.4 GHz frequency instead of the 5 GHz one. This led to these devices getting slower WiFi connections. To fix this issue, we had to disconnect them from the network and reconnect them. Then, ASUS Lyra connected our devices to the appropriate frequency.
The design of the ASUS Lyra devices looks great. If you are bothered by the LED on the top that lights up depending on the status of each hub, you can turn it off with one switch from the mobile app. One feature that many users will appreciate is that the ASUS Lyra hubs can be used anywhere: on desks and any furniture, as well as on walls. If you need to place them so that they don’t get in the way, you can do that with ease.
Performance-wise, we were very pleased with the ASUS Lyra and the aspect that we appreciated the most was the area of coverage offered by ASUS Lyra. It was awesome to see that we had no dead spots in our apartment. Also, many users will enjoy the design of the ASUS Lyra hubs and the fact that they can be placed on all kinds of surfaces, including on walls.
To learn more about the real-world performance offered by ASUS Lyra, as well as our final verdict, read the next page in this review. We share plenty of measurements.