The TP-Link EAP/Omada - lineup is completely broken. Everyone knows it. Nobody admits it.
Model: EAP225, OC200
Hardware Version: V3, V1
Firmware Version: Latest, Latest
TL;DR: The EAP/Omada-series is broken. It doesn't work. And nobody talks about it.
This is my very first post in this forum. It's a cry for help really.
This is a lenghty article on my former experience with TP-Link and why I believe - judging from my observations - that the Omada/EAP-lineup is broken at the current state and cannot be fixed. I deeply WISH/HOPE that someone can prove me wrong!!
From what I understand - and please correct me if I'm wrong here- TP-Link markets the Omada EAP-series Access Points as a "professional business-class Wi-Fi Solutions".
I have a fair share of experience from dealing with TP-Link network solutions in my past. I can remember the early 2000's, where just mentioning the name "TP-Link" was enough to frighten colleagues and friends, as their network "solutions" were some of the cheapest you could find on the european market, with a product quality to match their asking price.
I can remember Realtek being in this very position in the mid- to late 90's: Cheap networking products with lots of issues. But 10 years later in the 2000's, after Realtek could afford to push their own low-cost chipsets onto the market rather then creating NE2000-based rip-offs and with a matured Windows driver model, lots of this did not matter. Realtek cards became a cheap alternative for people on a budget that worked well enough for home networking tasks. Realtek's network cheapsets did not match the stability, featureset or performance of their business-class competitors like 3Com for instance, but they were never meant to. Realtek offered cheap, no-frills networking equipment for the underpaid tech-enthusiast.
In the 2000's, another competitor, by the name of TP-Link hit the market: Another supplier of cheap, quick'n'dirty networking equipment at that time. Unlike Realtek though, TP-Link offered a more broad portfolio of networking hardware, with WiFi solutions and switching equipment. At least on the central/western european market. Again: They offered some of the cheapest networking equipment you could get, with low-end, sublicensed chipsets at the expense driver stability back then. Ten years lather though, in the 2010's, TP-Link has evolved the way Realtek once has: TP-Link has become a reputable manufacturer of budget-networking equipment.
Their solutions were aiming at the lower price range of the market. TP-Link products are by no means the most feature-rich and do not offer breakthrough technology for high-end server applications. They offer cheap, no-frills technology from the past couple of years. Mature chipsets that are proven to work well and drivers that have evolved to a state that they are fit even for small business applications without causing the occasional bluescreens from time to time. Unlike Realtek though, TP-Link has not evolved to become a supplier or generic chipsets but a brand that is being recognized.
I have used plenty of TP-Link solutions, which in 95% of the cases worked just the way I had planned. Too many wireless adapters to list here. I Have used TP-Link Pharos CPE's to bridge longs distances between individual buildings and both their user interface, their reliability, their price point as well as their logging capabilities have been one of THE best I have ever encountered in my IT-centric job-life. The Pharos CPE's are proof, that TP-Link can create products for professional needs at a budget price. Yes, their performance throughput is somewhat limited compared to its competetition, but the price point they place it at is absolutely unrivaled. The CPE's feature set absolutely exceeds what any home owner really needs. At the same time, their feature richness and extensive logging makes me - an IT-enthusiast - really really happy. Debugging and optimization is easy: Just read the logs, monitor their sensors and adjust accordingly. I really loved this product!
I once placed a MR200 AC750 4G/WiFi Gateway where 4G/LTE was only "theoretically" available, far off on an pretty much abandoned island in Northern Europe. The reception was off the charts: 4G instant reception! The hardware is still running. It replaced a tiny ZTE-modem/Access Point and was worth every penny to my parents-in-law... Well, technically I had to pay for it, but that's not my point. I used the TP-Link Pharos CPE's mentioned above to beam the WiFi-dignal to a remote location: A guest house. To this day, the CPE's have NOT failed to do so for a single day! Power-outages excluded, of course!
The guest house had a CPE receiving the signal, running it straight into a TP-Link N300 gateway router, a WR841N. Now, this is one of the cheapest Access Points/gateway routers that money can buy nowadays - at a price of less than 20€. But they NEVER dropped a connection, never acted weird and never went wrong. This N300 was - and still is - one of the most reliable Routers that I "abuse" as Access Points just because they are so damn reliable... The thing is: They DO show their age by now. Their Fast-Ethernet-Ports can quickly become a bottleneck, and the lack of 5Ghz-WiFi makes them technologically outdated nowaday. But damn: These bricks are reliable!
Since I consider myself an IT-enthusiast on a budget and based on my former - almost exclusively positive - experience with TP-Link network solutions, I use them at home as well.
I use a TP-Link TL-SG108PE Gbit POE-Switch at home. Love it. Not a whole lot of features, but enough for my personal needs.
Now, my internet connection at home is a 450/25 MBit over DOCSIS 3.0... I'm an enthusiast, what can I say. Eventually, the WiFi seemed to be the bottleneck though, and it's overhead affecting hard-wired computers as well. I Have 4 kids and a wife. Hearing complaints from them as well as going through the logs of my trusty-but-rusty AVM-modem/gateway, I could conclude that the amount of smartphones, tablets and computers was just too much for it to handle. So I concluded that relieving my modem from WiFi-related tasks would be a good idea.
So on a saturday morning, I put two of my smallest kids into my car and went off to a computer store. I though I should give the TP-Link EAP-series a shot. These Access Points were competitevly priced, marketed to cater to the needs of small businesses and I could easily enhance the WiFi if the EAP's prove to be working well with a cloud controller. At this point of time, I have already had positive experience with TP-Links CAP-series Auranet Access Points as well. They worked great with an AC50 controller at a customer's site. But I could read between the lines, that TP-Link was going to EOL the CAP Auranet-series in favor for their newer EAP Omada-series family. So to not jump onto a dead horse and go get EAP-family AP's made all the sense in the world to me, considering how well I have seen the TP-Link's CAP's perform.
We all went home after I have purchased an EAP115 Wireless Access Point. It was super cheap and just for testing basically.
And boy, did it work well! I cannot claim that the WiFi range was any better, but it handled multiple connected devices magnitudes better than my old gateway/modem-combination device. But the EAP 115 had two major flaws:
1) The 2.4 GHz band is overrun in my environment, by neighboring, competing WiFi's. So while range indoors was not problematic, bandwidth was.
2) The 100 MBit Fast-Ethernet-Connection on the EAP115 was - obviously - a major bottleneck in my network, considering the 450 MBit internet link.
So what was the most logical step up from there? The EAP225 obviously. The EAP245 was too expensive for me and did not seem to offer a viable benefit over the EAP225, so I could not see any reason to upgrade my home network to anything beyond an EAP225. I ordered me an OC200 controller online at the same time, since I already had plans in my head to extend my WiFi into my garden as well. I was also ready, to quip my 100m^2 apartment with more than one AP as well, since I anticipated the 5 GHz WiFi's penetration to be problematic among the thick concrete walls I live at...at least from my experience.
My experience with the EAP115 was so positive, that I recommended the EAP/Omada-system to a customer who was - at this time - moving into a new house, 3 floors: basement, ground floor, attic. With a huge garden around.
From this point on though, everything went wrong.
The OC200 was easy to setup in my apartment, and the EAP225 was unproblematic to adopt. No issues here whatsoever.
The 5GHz WiFi offered an incredible bandwidth, video streams from multiple different devices were super smooth!
There were only two tiny problem though...
I'll start with problem one:
Every couple of minutes, internet access was simply gone for a few seconds. The phone/tablet/whatever device was still connected to the WiFi, but in repeated intervals of idontknowhowmany minutes, there is no internet connection despite my device being connected to the WiFi. After 30 seconds up to a minute or so, the problem is gone, and internet access is back. If - during this time - you disconnect from the WiFi and reconnect again, you're good again: Instant WiFi with internet sccess. But if you just sit there and wait, it may take up to a minute to get back internet access.
I initially thought, that this was just a problem unique to the very device I was holding in my hands...But I was wrong. ALL devices connected to my OC200-managed EAP225 show this behavior. They "lose internet access" for a brief period of time...And this occurs multiple times an hour. To EVERY SINGLE device, connected to this Single-Access-Point-WiFi, mind you... A configuration fault perhaps, I thought. After consulting this TP-link forum, I disabled feature after feature that some users in this forum alluded to as potentially being problematic. So I ended up with the most mundane WiFi configuration, which was:
- 802.11bgn 2.4 GHz only (no 5 GHz). Also tried different modes, like ac-only...
- 20 MHz Channel Width only (increased reach, but crippled bandwidth)
- No VLAN Tagging
- No Rate Limit
- Fast Roaming Disabled
- Airtime Fairness Disabled
- Band Steering Disabled (useless if no 5GHz anyways)
- No scheduler or scheduled tasks
- WMM enabled
- Reboot Schedule enabled (shortly after the daily reboot of my modem)
- setting a static IP, netmask, gateway and (external) DNS server for both, the OC200 and the EAP225 - JUST IN CASE!
Did any of this solve the "internet is gone for a minute" though? No, absolutely not. Even after "playing around" with all of these setting - No change.
And there's another problem I have.
Problem number two:
Random device is disconnected from WiFi at random. Yep, I hold two mobile phones in my hand, both connected to the WiFi, and one of them just disconnects, loosing WiFi-connection... Now, If I go into the Andoid WiFi network settings right after this has happened, the SSID is not there. It's gone. Not detected. For reals! All other SSID's are still there, just this one isn't...Again, after 30 seconds or a minuted, it's being detected again. The phone is auto-connecting to it and you're good to go again! While the second phone I hold in my hands is perfectly fine while all this happens... Can this be real? This happens to ALL(!) devices, subscribed to the WiFi SSID. Just not at the same time. They kind of "rotate through"... This sounds almost unbelievable, but I have seen this happening with my very own eyes, multiple times, very many times actually. Now, those "WiFi devices" are mostly android smartphones, some Xiaomi, a Huawei, a Samsung, a Kindle Fire HD and an Apple iPad. But they all experience this very behavior: They get disconnected all of the sudden, and the WiFi network SSID has disappeared. It will come back shortly, in 30 seconds, maybe a minute max.
Now I have these two issues that sound...almost unbelivable, I admit. Maybe I only have a faulty unit, a faulty OC200 or a broken EAP225. Possible!
I also installed the same hardware at a customer's site, based on the recommandation of my positive experience with the EAP115...An OC200 clound controller with three EAP225 access points.... guess what?
Exactly the same problems:
1) Devices get kicked out of the WiFi multiple times a day, and WiFi not appearing in the WiFi settings after this has happened and
2) ALL devices connected to the WiFi periodically have "no internet access" multiple times a day. Again: A mixed bag of android devices from different generations and some Lenovo notebooks.
This remote site has currently two active Access Points as I don't dare to bring up the third one. Not even talking about the Outdoor EAP's as long as this basic indoor network isn't even working properly... This site was originally planned as a 5GHz/2.4GHz-hybrid WiFi. But I dumbed it down to the most basic settings (as listed above) to try get to the root of the problem...I just can't seem to find it:
- Yes, the customer's site is 2.4GHz WiFi only ATM.
- The customer's house is made of wood, perfect reception on the ground level, very little signal shielding
- Yes, all devices have good, if not very good connection to the AP
- Yes, the channels are set to 20 MHz width now, which improved range but crippled bandwidth
- Yes, I use non-overlapping channels (1 and 6).
- Yes, I disabled the "Force Disassociation"-feature as this only resulted in devices ping-ponging between the two access points, regardless of their reception
- No, there is no noticable interference on these or adjacent channels.
- Yes, the AP's are placed with enough distance between each other
- Yes, I use the latest firmware version on the EAP and the OC200
- Yes, the problem was there before
- Yes, I ried a factory reset. No, it did not help
Another observation I made this very weekend at the customers site:
We had friends over and tried to relax after a week of hard work.
- two notebooks were idling around and connected to the AP upstairs (AP2)
- 6 android smartphones were connected to the AP ground floor.
- One of the android devices were used to read simple news articles on the internet.
- One android device was watching YouTube videos in 480p.
At this point, Internet was becoming choppy on the one device watching YouTube. So I connected to the OC200 immediately which gave me a utilization of > 95% on the 2.4 GHz WiFi...with only 6 mobile devices connected to the AP...Is this ok? I would not expect the AP to crap out with only 6 devices being connected to it and only one device utilizing it properly by watching YouTube videos.
Again, running a WiFi Analyzer showed me no overlapping networks on adjacent 2.4GHz channels..
General information (applies to both sites):
- No, I use no VLAN Tagging
- Using EAP 225v3
- All EAP's and the OC200 are in the same 24bit subnet, no router in the middle, a simple setup really
- All EAP's are powered through the TP-Link POE-Switch
- The POE-Switch shows no bad RX/TX packets
Also, initially enabling Band Steering on the OC200 with 5GHz and 2.4GHz WiFi created more problems than I hoped it could solve: All devices ended up in the 2.4GHz Wifi eventually dispite having adequate or very good 5GHz reception. And even if it did work properly, the connected devices being "trapped" into different networks being mutually unreachable kind of defied the whole purpose of a network.
I am very confused and irritated by TP-Link's Omada lineup. As far as I can tell, it is marketed as catering to the needs of businesses. SMB if you will. But I cannot get it to work properly in my own apartment. I also cannot get it to work properly on a simple 3 floor house. Yet, even the cheapest, crappiest Netgear Gateway router has a logging function that will give me hints, like "device X encountered condition Y, because of reason Z, so measure N was taken". This kind of logging is very insightful and helpful for me as a user/admin. On the OC200 on the other hand, users connect and disconnect for no appearant reason all the time, and the only indication of this condition would be the red graph taking a slight dip on the "recent activities" screen. Is that correct?
Honestly, is that a joke? No logging is taken whatsoever? Yes, I can see login and logout attempts on the OC200 and I can see connect/disconnect notifications of the AP's reporting to the OC200 after a power loss or during the nightly reboot. But aside from that, absolutely nothing that would be insightful or helpful to me to debug this problem.
PLEASE anyone tell me I am too daft to properly use this GUI. Tell me where I have to look for an insightful log. Tell me what it is that I misconfigured, that my EAP's drop connections or internet access to its connected devices left and right without logging such events.
Because I simply cannot believe that TP-Link is pushing such a turd of a hardware lineup to the market, selling it as a "business solution"...
Also: After reading through this forum I get the impression, that the EAP245 does not (yet?) allow the use of upper DFS-channels on the 5GHz WiFi...Now, that chinese manufacturers left and right start patching their smartphones to exclude Band 1 on 5GHz, which basically eliminates all 5G-channels <100, I don't even want to think of what I would have gotten myself into, had I purchased an EAP 245... But that's not my point here, really.
I am sincerely desperate at this point.
I have used many different products from many different vendors at any given price range imaginable but never had ANY problems remotely like this.Please anyone help me! Please anyone tell me that I am an idiot and how I screwed up because I did not set this one magic checkbox that makes everything run fine...