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Wireless Reviews

Nova Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
At a glance
ProductTenda Nova Whole Home Mesh WiFi System (MW6)   [Website]
SummaryVery inexpensive Realtek-based three node AC1300 class mesh Wi-Fi System
Pros• Three mesh nodes for not a lot of money
• Simple setup
Cons• App connection to router isn't reliable
• No QoS or device priority mode

Typical Price: $150  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

It's been just about two years since we reviewed eero, the first mesh/distributed Wi-Fi System to ship. This once bright and shiny Wi-Fi market segment is old news now, with plenty of competition, some company exits and eroding margins as discounting becomes more common. So anyone coming to market with a Wi-Fi System at this point needs to bring something good to the party attract buyers.

Enter the three-node Tenda MW6 Nova Whole Home Mesh WiFi System. Tenda's usual marketshare-grabbing weapon of choice is price and the Nova is no diferent. Nova has typically sold on Amazon for around $200, but is now down to $130 (!) as I write this.

Nova is not your typical Qualcomm-based three-pack mesh system, because it uses Realtek chipsets. And while it's set up and managed via iOS or Android apps, it relies on Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth to make the intial setup connection.

All three 3" cubes in the kit are the same, with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single power port. Each contains a two-stream dual-band AC1200 class radio supporting maximum link rates of 300 and 867 Mbps for 2.4 and 5 GHz, respectively. In case you care, Nova also supports MU-MIMO, which delivers little benefit in general and even less in a two-stream design.

Tenda Nova connectors

Tenda Nova connectors

There's a single LED at the top of each cube that glows steady blue when each node is happy and uses the other colors shown below from the installation guide for other states.

Tenda Nova LED color decoder

Tenda Nova LED color decoder

Inside

Tenda released the FCC ID photos, which were used to identify most of the main components The first photo is the view with the bottom cover removed, showing heatsinks and antenna connections. The two Ethernet ports sit on a small rider board that attaches to the main board via a connector.

Nova inside

Nova inside

The next photo shows the board removed from the case with connector board, heatsinks and RF can tops removed. It's not clear enough for component ID, but the FCC file has component close-ups that were.

Nova board top

Nova board top

The bottom of the board is normally covered with a heatsink plate with raised areas that connect to the gridded areas via thermal pads for additional heat transfer.

Nova board bottom

Nova board bottom

The table compares Nova's key components against TP-Link's Deco M5, which looks to be Nova's main price competitor. Since I have no way to get accurate pricing on components, I can't say whether Deco's single Qualcomm SoC design is cheaper to build than Nova's two SoCs.

  Tenda Nova TP-Link Deco M5
CPU Realtek RTL8197FS 802.11bgn WiSoC (single core)
Qualcomm IPQ4019 (quad core)
Switch/Ethernet ? QCA8072
RAM 128 MB 256 MB
Flash 16 MB 32 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - In RTL8197FS
- Skyworks 85331-11 2.4 GHz front end(x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks 85303-11 2.4 GHz Front End (x2)
5 GHz Radio - Realtek RTL8812BRH 802.11ac/abgn PCIe WLAN Network Controller
- Skyworks 85743-11 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Qorvo PA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
Bluetooth N/A CSR 8811 Bluetooth 4.1
IoT N/A N/A
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

What I can say is that Nova's design is, according to WikiDevi, essentially the same used in Tenda's AC10 and AC10U routers. Note that the 128 MB of RAM is embedded in the RTL8197FS and there is no Bluetooth radio, as previously mentioned.

More Wireless

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