AP Transmit Strength and Speed Comparison (and Boost option) - Balance 20X, SOHO MK3, AP One AC Mini

I’m trying to compare the Wi-Fi transmission strength and speed of three Peplink products:

  • Balance 20X
  • Surf SOHO MK3
  • AP One AC Mini HW2

From the AP One series datasheet, it looks like the transmit power for the AP One AC Mini is 17dBm for 5Ghz (see: https://download.peplink.com/resources/pepwave_apone_datasheet.pdf) with a speed of 866Mbps. Is that with the “Max” transmit option selected? What does enabling the “Boost” option do? (In the following post, Peplink recommended enabling the “Boost” option: Getting better range out of AP One AC Mini).

The Surf SOHO MK3 advertises a max speed of 1300Mbps (5Ghz) (https://www.peplink.com/products/soho-series-surf/), but I can’t find the transmit power.

I can’t find the 5Ghz AP max speed or the transmit power for the Balance 20X.

Is there a reason you specifically need to know the max transmit power, as it is not always a simple number to give (regulatory limits are different from country to country and other reasons) or also the one you really need to care about in terms of which AP is potentially capable of higher throughput…

A higher transmit power will of course allow the signal to propagate further, and at a greater distance from the AP will also allow a client to potentially have a stronger signal (RSSI) and a better quality signal (SNR) which in turn potentially allows the successful use of a higher data rate over the air (“potentially” is important when you consider the typical capabilities of a mobile device in terms of its TX power and antenna setup compared to an AP), but it is not the main function you need to consider - I can have a device 1m away from an AP with a 3dBm TX power and get pretty good performance after all…

Regarding the “maximum speed” thing…

The numbers you are looking at here are the theoretical maximums based on three key functions:

  1. Channel bandwidth - i.e. 20/40/80/160MHz.

  2. Number of spatial streams (SS) on both the AP side and client side (this is the number of TX/RX radio chains aka Mimo available).

  3. The 802.11 PHY used - i.e. is it an 11n/ac/ax radio, the newer standards allow more complex modulation and therefore higher data rates to be realised.

In modern networks the “data rate” over the air is defined by the MCS rate used by the client and AP to communicate - at a simple level the wider the channel and greater the number of spatial streams in use the higher the potential throughput.

Most vendors like big numbers on their data sheets so they typically quote the “maximum throughput” based on using the widest channel supported by their equipment and with the maximum number of spatial streams possible in use.

If you look at the tables linked below, go as far to the right of them and then as far down as the hardware supports - that is the number the vendor likes to quote!

This is often a bit disingenuous and why as a wireless engineer I spend a large portion of my life dispelling myths about “gigabit wifi” and trying to set realistic expectations for what you may see in the real world when you add a bit of interference and many other external factors into the mix such as client capabilities (the numbers I design against for capacity planning purposes in densely deployed networks are nowhere close to the ones you see on data sheets both in terms of raw throughput and also how many clients you can load onto an AP).

To give you a bit of context, the majority of low end devices are 1SS (1x Tx and 1x Rx radio chain), mid/higher end stuff is typically 2SS and there are things like the Macbook Pro and other high end laptops that are typically 3SS. In the world of 802.11ax (WiFi 6) we have APs sporting up to 8SS - there are other reasons for this besides what the client has but let’s not get into that here as they are myriad and complex :slight_smile:

In the case of the devices you highlight, the AC Mini, 20X and the Soho Mk3 the fundamental difference between them is the number of spatial streams they support.

The Mini and 20X are 2SS, the Mk3 is 3SS (all are 11ac/Wifi5) and that really is all there is to it, the transmit power of the AP has nothing to do with what it is theoretically capable of delivering over the air.

You may see differences quoted for 2.4GHz vs 5GHz because when it comes to saving power and cost of the hardware it is common to install say a 2SS radio for the 2.4GHz side and a higher performing 3SS radio on the 5GHz side.


@WillJones Wow, thanks. That’s a lot of helpful details.

First, some corrections on my part. It looks like I misread the AP One Series datasheet and I found the transmit power for the SOHO MK3.

AP One AC Mini

  • Transmit Power: 2.4GHZ: 22dBm / 5GHz: 23dBm
  • Antenna Gain: 2.4GHz: 2.2dBi / 5GHz: 3dBi
  • Wi-Fi Interface: 802.11ac wave 2
  • Data Rates 2x2 MU-MIMO / 2.4GHz: 300Mbps / 5GHz: 866Mbps


  • Transmit Power: 2.4GHZ: 29dBm / 5GHz: 23dBm
  • Antenna Gain: 2.4GHz: 2.5dBi / 5GHz: 5dBi
  • Wi-Fi Interface: 802.11ac (but not “wave 2”?? and MIMO is SU-MIMO not MU-MIMO??)
  • Data Rates 3x3 MIMO / 2.4GHz: 450Mbps / 5GHz: 1300Mbps

Balance 20X (still can’t find details on the Balance 20X, which is odd since it is a lot more expensive)

  • Transmit Power: 2.4GHZ: ____ / 5GHz: ____
  • Antenna Gain: 2.4GHz: 2.5dBi / 5GHz: 5dBi (presumably same external antennas as SOHO MK3)
  • Wi-Fi Interface: 802.11ac wave 2
  • Data Rates 2x2 MU-MIMO / 2.4GHz: ____ / 5GHz: ____

So if I understand everything you’ve said, the AP One AC Mini HW2 and the Balance 20X would both have the same max theoretical speed at close range of 866Mbps (5GHz) because they are both 802.11ac wave2 with 2x2 MIMO, and the SOHO MK3 would have a higher max theoretical speed at close range of 1300Mbps (5GHz) because it is 801.11ac (wave1?) with 3x3 MIMO. Is that right?

Since the AP One AC Mini and the SOHO MK3 both have the same TX power at 5GHz (though the MK3 has higher antenna gain), they should have comparable range?

Does the Balance 20X have comparable TX power and thus range?

The reason I am asking is because I currently have a SOHO MK3 and an AP One AC Mini HW2 and expect to soon be upgrading to a fiber connection, which will require a router with a higher throughput than the SOHO MK3 (which is capped at 120Mbps). So I will need to get a new router, and at that point the SOHO MK3 would be available to be used as a third AP.

I’m trying to figure out the optimal placement of the three devices to provide the best coverage on three different floors. The Mini is mounted to the ceiling on the 3rd floor, so it will stay where it is. The middle floor should have the device with the “best” AP. In terms of speed, it seems like they should all be adequate, as the fiber connection will likely be 500Mbps. But I can’t tell (1) whether the MK3 would have better range than the 20X, or (2) whether the 20X is MU-MIMO, which might provide better real world performance for multiple devices.

What does enabling the “Boost” option do? (In the following post, Peplink recommended enabling the “Boost” option: Getting better range out of AP One AC Mini). But would doing that violate FCC regulations in the US?