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

Xiaomi Mi 360 security camera and Nanoleaf Canvas case behind a smartphone showing an error when connecting to a 5 GHz Wi-Fi network.

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

You might have encountered this when setting up a new smart home product: you installed its companion app, created an account, plugged in the gadget and you were good to go until you realized it will not connect to your Wifi. What is happening? You restart the app, the 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 do not receive the courtesy of an error message; in others, the developers are kind enough to point out the issue: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi.

The first time this happened to me was setting up the $1400 Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra. An extortionate 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 should return it. (Spoiler: It works, but it requires workarounds which I’ll cover later.)

Later, I encountered the same problem with a few Xiaomi smart home products (the Smart Standing Fan 2 and the 360 ​​Smart Security Camera), as well as the Nanoleaf Canvas Smart Light Panels and the Sensibo Elements Air Monitor. Each time I had to repeat the workaround to connect them while muttering my displeasure. I also had to do all of this again when I upgraded my home network and changed my access point. At that point the air monitor failed to even reset properly until I realized my mistake and switched to 2.4GHz. The growl was even louder then.

See, I can understand going for cheaper hardware choices on a $40 camera, but anything over $100 and newer than 2015 should support dual-band Wi-Fi by default. Everything else is just miserly. I expect compromises on a cheap camera, I don’t expect them on a high-end robot vacuum or air quality monitor.

So while that shouldn’t be a problem, it is. I have prepared a short guide to explain the 2.4 GHz problem on smart home devices and some tips and recommendations to avoid it before building your smart home or fixing it if/when you encounter it.

Why Some Smart Home Devices Only Support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi

sensibo elements air quality monitor showing green light for good air

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band is older and more widespread than 5 GHz. As a result, chips that only support it (i.e. no 5 GHz, no dual band) are cheaper and thus reduce the materials bill for smart home device manufacturers. This is the commercial explanation why some smart home devices only support 2.4GHz Wi-Fi.

But from a user-friendliness point of view, 2.4 GHz also has obvious advantages. It has a longer range and can more easily penetrate through walls and ceilings – two crucial attributes in the smart home. If you’re setting up your security camera outside, turning on your lights upstairs, or running your robot vacuum in rooms on the other side of the house, you need it to have a good signal in all those places and this is where the 2.4 GHz spectrum shines. .

And while 2.4GHz Wi-Fi has a lower bandwidth than 5GHz, that doesn’t matter much because smart home devices don’t need a constant high-speed connection. Most of them just send power on/off commands and other simple commands, so they just need reliable, low-bandwidth network access over a larger space.

So why is 2.4 GHz-only 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 on paper for smart home products, it becomes a bit of a hindrance when you add our modern routers into the mix. Many of them, whether stand-alone units 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 6E and 6GHz Wi-Fi frequencies.

Because 5 GHz Wi-Fi is faster, our phones prefer it and stay connected to it as long as it’s within reach. And therein lies the problem: if a smart home device can only connect to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, its app during setup will only see the 5GHz band your phone is currently connected to. , will deem it incompatible and will refuse to establish a connection. For example, Roborock and Xiaomi gray out 5GHz networks during setup and won’t allow me to connect to them, even though I know one of them is a dual-band network and supports 2.4 GHz.

The internet is full of people complaining about this issue on everything from their smart lights and security cameras to their robot vacuums and even their solar panels. The problem is compounded when your router doesn’t allow you to separate the 2.4GHz band from the 5GHz band, which means you can’t get past the setup process in the device app. Imagine throwing hundreds or even thousands of dollars at a product only to find it uses an older chip and can’t recognize your network.

How to avoid this problem?

The answer is simple. Before you buy a new smart home product, you should check its spec sheet and see the Wi-Fi details. Not all manufacturers will include them, so a bit of extra googling or digging into support docs could provide the answer. If you see 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz, the product will probably refuse to connect to your dual-band network. You can still buy it and use it, as long as you’re sure you can fix the problem.

Otherwise, any mention of 802.11ac or ax2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, or dual-band Wi-Fi means the product connects well to both networks and should not cause any problems.

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

There are a few workarounds to circumvent this setup roadblock and get your smart home device on the 2.4GHz band. Some of them are tedious and unreliable, others are not always possible.

Walk further

If you manage to move a few rooms away from your router, your phone could be out of 5GHz range and forced to upgrade to 2.4GHz. If you run the setup, your smart home device app will likely see no issues with the network and let you continue. This isn’t a foolproof solution as your phone can hang on to the 5GHz connection until it’s completely out of range.

Temporarily separate your router’s bands

synology wifi dual band smart connect off

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Synology Smart Connect router disabled

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

However, there is a trick to keep in mind. Because I want the split to be temporary, I made sure that the The 2.4 GHz network has the same SSID name and password than the common dual-band network I had previously set up. When I separate the networks, all my devices including my phone connect to the 2.4 GHz 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, choosing the band they prefer, and yes, that includes the new 2.4GHz smart home gadget only. Everything returns to normal. You can see how the Sensibo items are Roborock S7 MaxV are on the same network as my other devices, but they are using the 2.4 GHz band.

synology network center 2.4ghz devices

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

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

Set up a 2.4 GHz guest network… or get creative

If your router doesn’t allow you to separate the two networks, which is probably a problem on some low-end ISP routers, but can also happen on some good third-party routers — cough, Google Nest Wifi and Nest Wifi Pro, cough — then you have to start coloring a bit outside the lines.

Another option is to use another phone’s hotspot as a temporary go-between, as some phone hotspots may only be 2.4 GHz. So set up the access point with the same SSID name and password as your main network (but be aware that some of your other devices in the house will switch to it unless you turn them off for a while), connect your phone to this hotspot, set up your new smart home device, and then turn off the hotspot.

If that doesn’t work, you always have the option of grabbing an old 2.4GHz-only single-band router and using it to temporarily introduce your new smart home device with the same network SSID and password. If not, you can always try to return the product and save yourself all that headache.

It’s sad to see that it’s 2023 – more than a decade after 5GHz Wi-Fi was introduced – and some smart home devices still don’t support it. And yes, there are many, many other problems with the current startup of smart home devices, but not being able to connect them to your network due to a miserly product decision is, I dare say, the most big hurdle of all.

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