Rock Space AC2100 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System Review
Designed for homes up to 6,000 square feet, the Rock Space AC2100 Mesh System ($ 249.99) is a tri-band Wi-Fi system based on 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) technology. It uses three discrete nodes that are easy to install and manage, and it comes with basic parental controls. It is enough effort, but you can find better performing systems. You’ll pay a bit more for our Editors’ Choice award winner, the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8, but in return, you get better overall performance and more features.
No USB or multi-Gig LAN ports
The Rock Space AC2100 system uses three identical cube-shaped nodes to provide up to 6,000 square feet of coverage. The box includes the nodes, three power adapters, a LAN cable and a user guide.
The nodes are squares, measuring 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches (HWD). They are matte black, with a dark gray fabric covering on top. A small LED indicator that passes through the fabric lights up green when there is a good connection, yellow when the connection is good, and red when the connection is lost.
The base of each node contains one gigabit LAN / WAN port, two gigabit LAN ports, a reset button, and a power outlet. You don’t get USB ports with this system like you do with the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8, nor do you get multi-gig connectivity for wired clients.
The Rock Space AC2100 is a tri-band system powered by a 900 MHz dual-core processor and 256MB DDR3 RAM. It is capable of achieving maximum (theoretical) data rates of up to 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 867 Mbps on each of the 5 GHz bands. That’s a total maximum of 2,034 Mbps, hence the designation AC2100.
The system does not have Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology, instead using the older Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) protocol. But it does support modern intricacies such as MU-MIMO (simultaneous data broadcasting), beamforming (direct data transmissions to the client) and band steering (the router decides which bands to use for optimal performance) .
The Rock Space system is managed using the RS WiFi mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The app offers basic parental controls that allow you to suspend internet access for specific users and their devices, as well as create access schedules. However, you don’t get the age-appropriate web filters and usage reports you get with the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 and Gryphon AX Mesh systems. It also lacks security scanning tools that protect your network and all your connected users from malware and virus attacks.
Wireless settings are also limited. You can change your network name and password, but there are no security (encryption) or channel selection settings, and you cannot separate radio bands either.
The RS WiFi application opens to a My WiFi screen which contains a network map of all connected nodes. There is a network speedometer at the top of the screen that displays real-time upload and download speeds and the My WiFi, Settings, and Connected devices buttons at the bottom of the screen. Tap any node icon to view its connection quality, location, IP address, and MAC address.
Tap the Connected devices button to open a screen that displays all connected devices by name. Tap a device to see which node it is connected to and how long it has been connected. The My WiFi button takes you back to the main screen wherever you are in the app, while the Settings button opens a screen where you can access the wireless settings mentioned above, create a guest network, assign rules for Port forwarding and enable Parental Controls.
Enabling the Fast Roaming setting allows the system to quickly transfer clients as they roam around the house. Meanwhile, the Capacity Driven Mode setting can be used to improve performance when more than 30 clients are connected to the network at the same time. The app offers Quality of Service (QoS) settings, but there are no app-based settings. Instead, you’re limited to adjusting overall upload and download speed goals.
The installation and configuration of the Rock Space system was easy. I turned off my modem, connected a node to it using the supplied LAN cable, and powered on the modem and node. I connected my phone to the node using my phone’s Wi-Fi settings, opened the app, and hit Setup at the bottom of the welcome screen. The app identified my internet connection type (dynamic IP) and asked me to enter a Wi-Fi name and password for the new network. After about 30 seconds, the new network was created. I powered on both satellite nodes and they were automatically added to the network. To complete the installation, I gave each node a location and updated the firmware.
The Rock Space system struggled a bit to keep pace with similarly priced mesh systems in our throughput performance tests, especially when measuring the performance of the main router. The score of the 358 Mbps router node on the proximity test (same room) was 77 Mbps slower than what we saw with the Meshforce M7 router and 143 Mbps slower than the EnGenius ESR580 router. The Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 router had a high score of 549 Mbps, which is 191 Mbps faster than the Rock Space. Likewise, the Rock Space router score of 183 Mbps at a distance of 30 feet was behind the Meshforce M7 router (205 Mbps) and the EnGenius ESR580 router (198 Mbps), while the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 led with a score of 228 Mbps.
The Rock Space did better on our satellite node tests, where speeds are often (but not always) slower than the main router node. It delivered 310 Mbps on the nearby drive, which was faster than the EnGenius ESR580 node (222 Mbps), but a bit slower than the Meshforce M7 node (323 Mbps). The Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 node leads the pack, with a score of 441 Mbps. The Rock Space Knot also showed good reach in our 30ft test. Its score of 303 Mbps beats the Meshforce M7 node (298 Mbps) and the EnGenius ESR580 node (178 Mbps), but not the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 (329 Mbps).
In addition to measuring flow speeds, we test wireless signal strength with an Ekahau Sidekick diagnostic device and Ekahau’s Survey software. (Ekahau is owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of PCMag). This combo generates a heat map with the signal strength represented by colors. Dark green areas on the map indicate stronger signal readings, and lighter green and yellow areas indicate weaker signal. The circles represent the location of the router and the satellite node.
As the map shows, the Rock Space system provided a relatively strong Wi-Fi signal throughout most of our test house, but the signal became weaker in the lower left bedroom.
Lacks some features
The Rock Space AC2100 tri-band mesh system offers easy installation and a pleasing aesthetic, but it has poor performance and limited functionality. The system comes with parental controls, but they are very basic and lack the granular controls you get with other systems.
You’ll spend around $ 80 more for the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 mesh system, but the extra cash buys you stronger parental controls, lifetime anti-malware tools, USB connectivity, and superior performance. For these reasons, it remains our Editors’ Choice for Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems.
Rock Space AC2100 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System
The bottom line
The Rock Space AC2100 is a tri-band mesh system that is easy to install and manage, but lacks functionality and performance.
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