Peplink makes professional level routers and I am a big fan. Most of their routers, however, are very expensive. I was a big fan of their cheapest model, for home and small business use, the Pepwave Surf SOHO. For years the Surf SOHO was available in the U.S. for $200. Sometime around September or October of 2022, the Surf SOHO was discontinued. That left the Balance 20x as the cheapest available Peplink router for home use with Wi-Fi. The Balance 20x was a big step up in horsepower, but it cost $450 (one version of the 20x cost $550).
Nothing changed in 2023, except that Peplink admitted they were working on a replacement for the Surf SOHO. Not just a new hardware generation (there were 3 hardware generations of the Surf SOHO) but a big change. Then, in December 2023, a Peplink video finally said something about the replacement (fast forward to 35 minutes, 50 seconds). It will be called the B One (a miserable name in my opinion) and there will be two versions, one with an internal 5G modem and one without. The new B One replaces both the Surf SOHO and the Balance 20x.
The B One was initially expected to be released in November or December 2023. Then, it was expected in January 2024. In mid-January 2024, on this Peplink Forum item a customer said they were told by 5G Store (a retailer of Peplink products) that the B One has "no concrete release date" but that it is hoped to be available late February or March.
Configuring: This site has a detailed walk-through of the initial configuration of the Surf SOHO. I would expect the B One to be very similar. The Balance 20x was very similar, although a few features were in different tabs. If I get my hands on a B One (not sure) I will add a page here on configuring it.
February 8, 2024: The B One is now in stock at Amazon.com. No reviews yet. The Amazon links to the B One spec sheet and FAQ are both still wrong. And, they link to a copy of the User Manual that is very old (April 2023 firmware 8.3) and probably all wrong since the product is so new. Just another indication of how trustworthy Amazon IS NOT. Also, someone asked 5G Store about concurrent WAN connections (see the B One web page at 5gstore.com) and the answer was vague and unclear and said nothing about Wi-Fi as WAN. Was this an oversight? Or, can Wi-Fi as WAN not be used concurrently with Ethernet WAN and/or USB WAN? Don't know.
February 6, 2024: First in-stock sighting is at 5G Store at the expected price of $299 US. 5G Store also put out a 2 minute unboxing video.
January 26, 2024: Someone emailed me that the B One showed up at Amazon.com. This may have been Amazon jumping the gun. For one thing, all their links, to a Spec Sheet, to an FAQ and to a User Manual are wrong. Also, the router is out of stock. And, the B One is not shown on the Peplink website in the SOHO Series section. Finally, there was no Announcement in the Peplink Forum. So, take the details below with a grain of salt.
January 30, 2024: The B One (without 5G) was officially announced today (though not yet in stock).
- From the Peplink Forum: B One - Impressive Capability with Incredible Value by Emily Cheng
- On the Peplink website: B One. Note the specs here omit the fact that WPA3 is supported. Someone did a simple copy/paste.
- A B One FAQ (PDF)
- The User Manual (PDF) dated January 2024 for firmware 8.4. The initial version seemed like a Beta release, lots of obvious issues.
- A B One Data Sheet (PDF). For comparison see the Surf SOHO data sheet.
Having ingested some of this, these are the highlights as I see it, comparing the new B One without 5G to the older Surf SOHO and Balance 20x.
- It costs $299 US, more than the Surf SOHO ($200) but much less than the Balance 20x ($450)
- It does not include a 4G/LTE/5G modem. The B20x has this, the Surf SOHO does not. No doubt, this goes a long way towards the lower price compared to the B20x.
- The speed rating is full gigabit, a huge step up from the 120 Mbps of the SOHO but the same as the B20x.
- The maximum recommended (not a hard coded limit) concurrently connected devices is 150 for the B One. On the B20x it was 60, on the Surf SOHO it was 25.
- It has two Ethernet WAN ports, the SOHO and B20x each had one
- The older type A USB port on both the SOHO and B20x has been replaced with a type C USB port
- The USB port can make an Internet connection with a USB cellular modem, a Peplink MAX Adapter (a high end cellular modem) or an Ethernet cable via an adapter. The documentation is inconsistent on whether you can also tether an Android phone to the USB port. The Data Sheet says you can, but the FAQ does not mention it. The manual (page 16) says you can tether to an Android phone. ?????
- It can function as an Access Point controller, which makes managing APs much easier. The B20x can also do this, the Surf SOHO could not.
- There are 2 W-Fi antennas, same as the B20x, the SOHO however had three
- It supports Wi-Fi 6 (aka 802.11ax). Wi-Fi 6E strikes me as a waste anyway.
- It supports an Enterprise flavor of Wi-Fi encryption. The marketing material only mentions WPA/WPA2 Enterprise (mixed mode) with no mention of dedicated WPA2 Enterprise or WPA3 Enterprise. I am pretty sure the marketing data is a copy/paste of old information. The Surf SOHO running firmware 8.3 supports WPA2 Enterprise. The B20x running firmware 8.3 supports both WPA2 Enterprise and WPA3 Enterprise. The B One manual mentions both WPA2 Enterprise and WPA3 Enterprise (page 173). Sigh.
- The B one can create up to 16 SSIDs and up to 16 VLANs, the same as the B20x. Not sure what the Surf SOHO limits were, and of course, the manual does not say.
- It supports 4 WAN connections: 2 Ethernet WAN ports, Wi-Fi as WAN and the USB port. How many of these can be concurrently active and load balanced? Peplink does not say. The B One is advertised as Dual WAN (in the Data Sheet and the FAQ for example) but that might simply be referring to the Ethernet WAN ports. It is not clear. I looked for Wi-fi as WAN in the User Manual and it is not there. In addition, Peplink has a WAN-on-VLAN mode and a Synergy mode, both of which are beyond my understanding. Neither is mentioned in the marketing material. ?????
- Peplink makes a big deal about connecting a Starlink antenna (or two) to the B One. They claim the B One has some features that Starlink requested, but don't say what those might be. Not sure if this is a marketing thing or a techie thing. Can't a Starlink antenna connect to a Netgear or Asus router?
- For the Surf SOHO and B20x the meaning of the lights on the front was simple: Green was good. Specifically, this applies to the Status light and the Wi-Fi light. According to the B One manual, however, this has changed. Blue now means good.
- The model number (for the version without 5G) is B-ONE-T-PRM
- The branding is Peplink, no more Pepwave. That said, the name B One is miserable for multiple reasons. One (see a reason right here?) is that the B One and B Two are very different routers.
- Upgrading: can we import a configuration backup file from either the Surf SOHO or B20x to a B One ?????
Things all three routers have in common:
- All have 4 gigabit LAN ports, and they are the good type: made of metal with LED lights. Cheap consumer routers have plastic Ethernet ports with no LED lights.
- All models offer secure DNS (DoH) and you can specify a specific NextDNS profile as part of the server name.
- Physically the B One, B20x and Surf SOHO are almost identical in shape, size and coloring
- VPN: They all support site-to-site VPNs with PepVPN. Not sure about site-to-site with OpenVPN. All three can function as VPN servers running OpenVPN or L2TP. None support WireGuard. The Surf SOHO and the B20x could add an OpenVPN client to the router for a small charge ($20?). The B One can also function as an OpenVPN client, but it is not clear if there is an extra charge for this. Both the datasheet and the web page list Feature Add-ons and neither list includes a VPN client.
- They all have Wi-Fi as WAN, a feature that lets the router use an existing Wi-Fi network from another source (such as a coffee shop, hotel, RV campsite or cellphone hotspot) as its connection to the Internet. Wi-Fi as WAN on the B One is part of the base product, as it was on the Surf SOHO. The Balance 20x got this feature late in life as an add-on for an extra
- When purchased new, they include one free year of cloud-based remote management using the Peplink InControl2 system. Use of InControl2 is always optional as all Peplink routers have a web-based interface.
- All three include two on-board copies of the Peplink firmware. This is a G-R-E-A-T feature. If you have issues with the a new firmware version, it is very easy to reboot the router into the prior known-good version.
The big question, for me at least, when considering an upgrade from the Surf SOHO to the B One, is the settings/configuration.
If Peplink follows form, anyone upgrading from the Surf SOHO to the B One is in for major hassle. Typically, the configuration backup files from one model of Peplink router can not be restored to a different model router. Someone like me, who has made dozens of configuration tweaks would need to spend many hours re-inventing the wheel to get the new router configured as I need it. This has been an interesting issue:
- December 2023: I asked about this in the Peplink Forum and no one suggested that a configuration backup from a Surf SOHO could be imported to a B One.
- Early February 2024: 5G Store is a major Peplink retailer and when the B One was first available, their B One page confirmed that the settings could not be copied over.
- February 9, 2024 (give or take), 5G Store changed their tune. Their B One page now says: "After purchasing the B One from 5Gstore.com, send your Surf SOHO config file to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your 5Gstore Invoice number for your B One. We will convert the config from Surf SOHO to B One and email it back to you (should take around 1-2 business days)".
I took them up on their offer.
My first attempt was rejected because the Surf SOHO was running firmware 8.2.1 and they will only convert 8.3.
- February 23, 2024: Success! I sent 5G Store a configuration file from a Surf SOHO running firmware 8.3 and, in a few days, they sent back a B One compatible version of the file. It was a simple thing to import this config file to the B One. Some thoughts:
--It is always best to modify configurations using an Ethernet connected device
--Change the router password and Wi-Fi passwords before making the config backup that goes to 5G Store. If the router is configured to send emails, change the password there too. All these temporary passwords can be the same.
--You may want to disable Wifi before making the config backup for 5G Store just so that the Surf SOHO and its B One clone can both be powered-up at the same time.
--Note that the syslog is tied to the hardware, so the logs on the Surf SOHO do not carry over to the B One.
As for moving from a Balance 20x to a B One, I have not seen anything about importing the settings. That said, moving from a Surf SOHO to a B One is a big step up. Moving from a Balance 20x to a B One without 5G is not a big step up, so very few people will probably need this service.
There seems to be one B One User Manual even though there are two models, one with 5G and one without. The model with 5G is not yet out, so we will see if it gets its own manual or not. The current manual (dated Jan. 2024 and firmware 8.4.0) does not have any mention of the B One 5G at all. Also, it seems to be a generic Peplink Balance manual rather than one dedicated to the B One model(s). For example, it includes references to an internal cellular modem that the cheaper B One (model B-ONE-T-PRM) does not have. Also, the manual seems dated. It refers to 3G and 4G but not 5G. In firmware 8.3 the Event Log got a new DHCP tab that is not shown in the manual, so clearly that screen shot is from 8.2 or earlier.