I’ve tested dozens of smart home devices; this is the feature i hate the most

Xiaomi Mi 360 security camera and Nanoleaf Canvas box behind a smartphone showing an error connecting to a 5GHz WiFi network.

Xiaomi Mi 360 security camera and Nanoleaf Canvas box behind a smartphone showing an error connecting to a 5GHz WiFi network.

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

You may have stumbled upon this while setting up a new smart home product: you installed the companion app, created an account, plugged in the gadget, and you’re ready to go until you realize it’s not connecting to your wifi . What’s up? You restart the app, phone, your router and try all sorts of other tricks to no avail. The app refuses to see or connect to your network. In some cases you will not get an error message; in others, the developers are kind enough to point out the problem: 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi.

When this first happened to me, I set up the $1400 Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra. A staggering price didn’t stop this robot vacuum from having a cheap Wi-Fi chip, and I wondered if it would ever work on my dual-band router or if I’d have to return it. (Spoilers: It works, but that requires workarounds, which I’ll get to later.)

I later encountered the same problem with a couple of Xiaomi smart home products (the Smart Standing Fan 2 and the 360 ​​Smart Security Camera), as well as the Smart Light Panels Nanoleaf Canvas and the air monitor Sensibo Elements. Each time I had to repeat the workaround to connect them together while muttering my dissatisfaction. I also had to do this all over again when I upgraded my home network and changed my access point. At this point the air monitor wouldn’t even reset properly until I realized my mistake and switched to 2.4GHz. The rumbling was even louder.

See, I can understand your going for a $40 camera with cheaper hardware, but anything over $100 and newer than 2015 should support dual-band WiFi by default. Everything else is just stingy. I expect compromises in a cheap camera, I don’t expect them in a premium vacuum cleaner robot or air quality monitor.

While this shouldn’t be a problem, it is. I’ve put together a little guide to explain the 2.4GHz issue on smart home devices, along with some tips and recommendations to avoid it before you Build your smart home, or fix it if/when you come across it.

Why some smart home devices only support 2.4GHz WiFi

sensibo elements air quality monitor with green light for good air

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The 2.4 GHz WiFi band is older and more common than 5 GHz. As a result, chips that only support this (i.e. no 5GHz band, no dual band) are cheaper, thus lowering the bill of materials for smart home device manufacturers. That’s the business explanation for why some smart home devices only support 2.4GHz WiFi.

But from a usability perspective, 2.4 GHz also has some clear advantages. It has a longer range and can penetrate walls and ceilings more easily – two attributes that are crucial in the smart home. Whether you’re mounting your security camera outdoors, turning on your lights upstairs, or running your robot vacuum into rooms across the house, you’ll need a good signal in all of those places, and that’s where the 2.4GHz spectrum shines.

And while 2.4GHz WiFi has a lower bandwidth than 5GHz, it doesn’t matter much since smart home devices don’t need a constant high-speed connection. Most of them simply send on/off and other simple commands, so all they need is reliable, low-bandwidth network access over a larger area.

Why is pure 2.4GHz support problematic at home?

Synology WRX560 router next to a Google Nest Audio with blue light in the background

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

While 2.4GHz sounds great for smart home products on paper, it becomes a bit of a drag when you throw our modern routers into the mix. Many of them, whether standalone devices or mesh systems, are at least dual-band. That means they support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, not to mention some new ones that also include Wi-Fi 6E and 6GHz frequencies.

Because 5GHz WiFi is faster, our phones prefer it and stay connected to it as long as it’s within range. And therein lies the problem: if a smart home device can only connect to 2.4GHz WiFi, during setup its app will only show the 5GHz band your phone is currently connected to, considers it incompatible and refuses to connect. Case in point: Roborock and Xiaomi hide 5GHz networks during setup and won’t let me connect to them even though I know one of them is a dual-band network and supports 2.4GHz.

The internet is full of people complaining about this problem, from their smart lights and security cameras to their robot vacuums and even solar panels. The problem is compounded when your router doesn’t let you separate the 2.4GHz band from the 5GHz band, meaning you can’t get past the setup process in the device’s app. Imagine throwing hundreds if not thousands of dollars into a product only to find that it uses an older chip and can’t see your network.

How to avoid this problem?

The answer is simple. Before you buy any new smart home product, you should check its data sheet and Wi-Fi details. Not every manufacturer will include these, so a little extra googling or digging in support docs might yield the answer. when you see 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, the product is probably refusing to connect to your dual-band network. You can still buy and use it as long as you are sure you can solve the problem.

Otherwise any mention of 802.11ac or ax2.4GHz and 5GHz or dual-band WiFi means the product can easily connect to either network and should not cause any problems.

How to set up 2.4GHz smart home products on a dual-band network

There are some workarounds to bypass this setup block and get your smart home device on the 2.4GHz band. Some of these are fiddly and unreliable, others are not always possible.

Walk further away

If you manage to get a few rooms away from your router, your phone may be out of the 5GHz range and need to switch to 2.4GHz. Then, when you start setup, your smart home device’s app probably won’t detect a problem with the network and you can proceed. This isn’t a foolproof solution as your phone may hang on the 5GHz connection until it’s completely out of range.

Temporarily split your router’s bands

synology wifi dual band smart connect off

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Synology Router Smart Connect off

Depending on your router, you may be able to split the two bands into separate Wi-Fi networks. On my Synology WRX-560 the option is called Smart Connect and I have to turn it off to get standalone 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. On other routers, look for options like “separate,” “split,” or “decouple.” Support docs or a Google search are your friends on this journey. Some brands also go a different route, with eero for example you can temporarily disable the 5GHz frequency instead of splitting the two bands.

However, there is a trick to keep in mind. Since I want the breakup to be temporary, I made sure of that The 2.4GHz network has the same SSID name and password like the shared dual-band network I set up earlier. When I disconnect networks, all my devices including my phone connect to the 2.4GHz band and I can set up my new smart home device without any errors in the app. Then when I combine the networks again all my devices reconnect to the router and pick their preferred band and yes that includes the new 2.4GHz only smart home gadget. Everything just goes back to normal. You can see that the Sensibo Elements Roborock S7 MaxV are on the same network as my other devices, but they use the 2.4GHz band.

Synology Network Center 2.4GHz devices

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

If this option is available in your router’s settings, it will be the most reliable. You don’t have to rely on luck or go through any headache-inducing processes to run it, although it does take a bit of digging to find it the first time.

Set up a 2.4GHz guest network…or get creative

If your router won’t let you separate the two networks, which is likely an issue with some low-end ISP routers but can also happen with some good third-party routers — Cough, Google Nest Wifi and Nest Wifi Pro, Cough — then you have to start coloring a little outside the lines.

Another option is to use another phone’s hotspot as a temporary middleman, as some phone hotspots can only use 2.4GHz. So set up the hotspot with the same SSID name and password as your main network (but note that some of your other devices in the house will switch to it if you don’t turn them off for a while), connect your phone to this hotspot, Set up your new smart home device, then turn off the hotspot.

If that doesn’t work, there’s still the option of taking an old 2.4GHz-only single-band router and using it to temporarily associate your new smart home device with the same network SSID and password close. Otherwise, you can always try to return the product and save yourself all this headache.

It’s sad to see that we’re in 2023 – more than a decade after the introduction of 5GHz WiFi – and some smart home devices still don’t support it. And yes, there are many, many other issues with the current launch of smart home devices, but not being able to connect them to your network due to a stingy product decision is, dare I say, the biggest hurdle from all.

#Ive #tested #dozens #smart #home #devices #feature #hate

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