Mikrotik Router hap ax3 Mini Review
I’m a sucker for a challenge. I spent the last week or so shifting from a pfSense firewall to an OPNsense firewall appliance. Since I was on a networking kick I decided to try my hand with a new Mikrotik Router. The Mikrotik hap ax3.
Mikrotik has a reputation for making highly configurable routers but they also have a higher degree of difficultly in that configuration. Setting a router up for the first time can be a bit intimidating if you have never seen anything like this before.
One of the best things about this router is the price. Go to BestBuy or Walmart and the so called Top Of The Line gear costs 3x’s as much as this router. I’m not kidding either. So called “Fast” or “Gaming” routers cost from $300 up to the moon. These routers are probably not as good or as fast and for sure not as secure as the hap ax3 at $139.
The average home networking user has NOT ever seen anything like this before. The reason I call this a Mini-Review is because there is just too many steps to document in setting one of these things up. In fact I won’t talk much about configuration at all.
Rather I will point you to the resources I used to get where I got. I should also mention that my router is configured as a wifi access point and is located behind an OPNsense firewall on a VLAN port. My whole point was to make a guest network that cannot communicate with my primary network. And I have succeeded in that endeavor.
I ordered my router from MultiLink Solutions and received it in 2 days. While the router has a default configuration file in it I found that it wasn’t plug and play like most Walmart routers. Not even close. While there are several ways to configure the device they have an amazing hunk of software called WinBox. It is even smart enough to find your router (when you of course are connected to it via an ethernet cable).
When you first log in it asks you to change your password and it gives you the option to delete the default configuration. Yep. That’s what you want to do. Blank slate. Then it gives you the ability to change EVERYTHING. You have never seen so many configuration options in your life. Below is just the screen to configure your interfaces (ethernet ports, WAN, LAN, Bridge ports, etc.).
Before you can think about seeing your favorite homepage, you have to configure:
- A network Bridge
- DHCP Client
- DHCP Server
- Firewall rules
And I probably left something out. So again, I simply aren’t going to list all the steps when I’ll show where I got my information. Essentially, I watched 3 YouTube videos. The first video got me about 90% of the way through.
This video filled in some blanks and reinforced and made the DHCP and DNS config easier to understand.
And finally, because this is a new router with WifiWave2, I watched this Mikrotik video on that setup as it differs a bit from the first two videos.
If you do what these fine gents tell you to do, you’ll have an operating router in about 30 minutes or so. I’m certain that fine tuning will come with time as I get more comfortable with WinBox but for now I am operational. Pay attention to the first video as it contains a section on security and shutting off services you may or may not use. And he writes some basic firewall rules as well. Great info.
Once you get your router configured be sure and watch this video on hardening for security.
Save Your Backup Configuration
That was a lot of work getting set up. Time to create a backup of your configuration so you can easily restore it if you need to. Open a New Terminal window within WinBox and type:
/system backup save
It will generate a file that goes in your File Folder. Also in the file folder about my red oval is a tab titled “Backup”. That is probably easier.
If you right click on the file there is a download option so you can store it off of the router. This is an easy way to recover from a disaster. Backups before and after you do stuff is always recommended.
Removed my main Netgear XR700 router and replaced it with the Mikrotik router now that it is all setup. There are frequent discussions about the range of Mikrotik routers however, mine has more range than the Netgear which costs a heck of a lot more. It occupies a lot less real estate and has a lot less flashing lights. I have 400GB download speed and Speediest says my speed quite a ways away and a wall or two in between the router is about 230GB. Conversely, my Netgear router was usually around 120GB down or so. Impressive.
My yard shed has 2 lasers that are on WiFi, a laptop, and two Shelly IoT switches. The shed is a fair distance from the house and all devices have a good signal. It was slightly spotty on the Netgear router.
Who Needs This Kind Of Router?
If you take a Walmart router out of the box and hook it up and it doesn’t work and you curse it and call the cable company, then the answer is ………..Not You. You need some rudimentary understand of internet and home networks. If you don’t know what DHCP or DNS or a Firewall is, then kindly move along. If you do know what those things are and want an inexpensive router that is FAST, SECURE, and somewhat future proof then a Mikrotik router is just for you.
It is challenging, that’s for sure. But the rewards are great.