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With the world’s reliance on emerging technologies, having Wi-Fi in the home is pretty much essential. From listening to music to watching movies to communicating with others, a considerable portion of our lives rely on the internet. Gone are the days of dial-up, where the online device that had internet was your desktop computer. We require Wi-Fi on many devices throughout the home, from mobile phones to our laptops and Smart TVs.
Basic WIFI routers offer a decent connection when you’re in the same room. But the farther you get away, the weaker it becomes. Many factors can impact the quality of the signal throughout your home, even if it’s small. If you have more than one level, metal or concrete composition, or even just thick walls, your Wi-Fi connection will suffer. If you have family members in multiple rooms trying to use it, this could cause some problems.
You can get range extenders, which help extend the reach of your Wi-Fi to rooms that can’t get a good connection. The problem is that they aren’t able to produce the full bandwidth that your primary router does. Although you will have some connection, it will be prolonged and inefficient.
The other option would be to use multiple access points throughout your house. However, these access points will need to connect to your primary router through a wire. They aren’t ideal to have to lay around the house everywhere. Either way, you will usually have to log into multiple SSID networks as you move throughout your home. All this causes unnecessary inconvenience now that mesh routers have entered the market. They are the perfect solution to unstable connections and provide consistent fast Wi-Fi throughout your whole home.
What Is A Mesh Router?
Imagine a mesh netting spread evenly over your entire home or office. Essentially, that’s what mesh routers do, but with WIFI. A mesh router works through multiple receivers. These receivers can be set up throughout your home or office and will connect wirelessly back to your main router.
Unlike range extenders, your bandwidth will remain consistent throughout your home with mesh routers. The receivers will all be part of the same SSID network and have the same password. You will not need to connect to alternate channels as you move around your house like with a standard router and extender. These use two bands, 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and you will need to reconnect to each one depending on your distance from the routers. Mesh routers eliminate that hassle.
You can set up as many receivers as you want for optimal Wi-Fi coverage. If you are using them in your home, you can set up a couple in the most prevalent locations. If you are connecting a large office, then maybe you want to get a couple more. There is no limit to how many receivers you can hook up to your primary router. The best part is, they all hook up wirelessly, so no messy wiring required.
Once you set up your receivers, the network will essentially blanket the area between these points with fast and constant WIFI. Rather than all the separate nodes needing to communicate directly with the primary router, they can communicate with each other. It allows the connection to stay active throughout.
Can You Connect a Mesh System to Your Current Router?
You can get mesh systems that will plug into your current routers network port. What this will do is create a new Wi-Fi network that you can connect all your devices to. From there, you can place the additional receivers around the house. It can be somewhat confusing to set up, as this is not the standard installation procedure.
If you go this route, you will need to remember to switch the mesh router into ‘bridge mode.’ Also, ensure that you plug it into the proper port. You will want to look for your Gigabit ethernet port, as the second port will only have an output of 100Mbits. It will be much slower than the Gigabit port.
Realistically, installing a mesh router system renders your old router redundant anyway, so there is no real need to keep it. The majority of mesh systems are designed to replace your old router and act as your new primary router.
What About a Powerline Adapter?
Maybe, someone you know is using a powerline adapter. These adapters will transmit the internet through the electrical outlets in your home. It may be cheaper than upgrading to a mesh router but is not as effective. Powerline adapters would be helpful if there is just one room in your house where the Wi-Fi is struggling to reach. They will not offer a consistent connection through your whole home.
Additional Benefits of Using a Mesh Router
Since mesh router systems are relatively new to the market, they are packed full of innovative features. An app controls most systems. You will need to use this app to do the initial setup of your router, but it also has other functionalities.
Mesh router apps can show you how many devices are connecting to the Wi-Fi at any given time. It will also let you know which devices these are. It can be useful if you’re trying to limit usage or keep track of who is logged on to the Wi-Fi. If you have kids, you can use the app for its parental control function or alert you if your children are online past their bedtime.
Some routers can even schedule Wi-Fi access during specified times on individual devices. So, if you only want to allow your kids access until 10 pm, you can schedule that here.
Another fun perk is having an additional guest network available. This network will allow you to have a secure connection for guests to connect to, but it won’t be able to access your home devices. A guest network will prevent visitors to your home from gaining access to any shared folders. It will also protect your devices from being subjected to a virus that may be carried by your guests. ou
Look out for mesh router systems that offer Alexa Integration. It will allow you to control the system using only your voice. While it’s not an essential feature, it does add that extra level of convenience.
How Many Receivers Do You Need?
Most mesh router systems will offer about 400m2 of speedy Wi-Fi with just a couple of receivers. The number of receivers each household needs will vary based on a few different factors. As with regular Wi-Fi routers, things like thick walls, or even appliances can disrupt the signal. Though, most standard kits will have no problem covering your home with a consistent, fast connection.
Can I Set Up A Mesh Router Myself?
As we mentioned before, mobile apps control most mesh router systems. It will make the process of setting up your router pretty straightforward. It will walk you through everything you need to do to get it functioning.
If you don’t want to go the app route, most can usually be set up through an online portal, as well. Web portals don’t tend to have as many settings options as you will find through the app.
Glossary of Terms
Before we dive into how to choose a mesh router, we want to touch on some of the terms you will encounter during your search. As routers are a tech-based product, there is some technical jargon involved. It will make your search much easier once you know what all these terms mean.
AP steering – AP stands for ‘access point.’ AP steering will automatically connect you to the receiver that will give you the most reliable Wi-Fi connection. It may not necessarily mean the one you are physically closest to. Regardless, AP steering will handle it all for you to ensure you’ve always got the most efficient connection from anywhere in the house.
Backhaul – Backhaul is a part of your home network that links information from your access points back to your main router. If you’re looking at a mesh system with tri-band, it’s likely got a whole network devoted just to backhaul. It is possible to set up a wired backhaul by connecting your receivers to your router via ethernet cables. But that sort of defies the purpose of having a wireless mesh system.
Band steering – Band steering ensures that all devices connected to your Wi-Fi are automatically assigned the ideal channel. It will push any devices that are dual-band to a network that isn’t as congested, therefore freeing up bandwidth. That means all devices will experience a smooth and fast connection.
Beamforming – Beamforming isn’t standard with all mesh routers, but it’s an excellent feature to have. It focuses the radio waves directly from the router to the device. It ensures that less of the signal dissipates while it’s traveling from one point to the other. It can pick up the exact location of the device and transmit data in higher quantities.
Ethernet Port – A mesh router will have a minimum of two ethernet ports. One of these will be WAN designated, which stands for wide area network. This port connects the router into a broadband gateway, such as a DSL or cable modem. The other necessary port will be a LAN port or local area network. This port is used to plug directly into your computer or other devices. Many routers have multiple LAN ports, and you can pick one according to your needs.
Some mesh routers will also have hybrid ports that will automatically configure to either LAN or WAN, depending on what you plug into it. If you need additional ethernet ports, you can also get an ethernet switch, which you can plug into the LAN port.
MU-MIMO/Multiple Use, Multiple Input, Multiple Output – With the innovation of MU-MIMO, it means that routers can send and receive data from multiple devices at the same time. It gives a considerable boost to transmission speed, and there is no interruption or wait time for devices to connect. Old school routers could only communicate with one at a time. It would happen quickly, and it wouldn’t cause substantial wait times. Many would view it as a slow connection. But you will notice the difference when multiple people connect to an MU-MIMO.
Quality of Service – Quality of service means that the mesh router prioritizes data and decides where it allocates bandwidth. It will group the data into pockets, for example, if it’s file downloading or video streaming. You can use the quality of service to choose what you want to set as high and low priority, and the router will do the rest. This way, whatever your focus is won’t be interrupted by other, less critical functions.
Spatial Streams – The signals used by MU-MIMO are spatial streams. Each router can support a different number depending on a few factors. These include the number of antennae or radios inside your router. The amount of information carried by a spatial stream will also vary. It will depend on your bandwidth and how your router encodes data. Spatial streams all operate parallel to each other. So, they are all moving the same way, but the number you have will decrease congestion.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Mesh Router
Now you know what a mesh router is and how it works. We’ve also defined some terminology you will likely encounter in the rest of this article. Not two mesh routers are the same. To decide which one will be best suited to you, you should consider the following factors.
Likely the reason you are considering a mesh router in the first place is for additional coverage. The coverage you require should be the first thing you think about when choosing a router system. Mesh systems are virtually limitless. As you can add as many receivers as you want throughout your home or office, you can continue to extend your coverage.
You should consider how much coverage you will need in your house or if you’ve got any structural components that would limit it. Some routers offer more base coverage than others, so go into your search knowing approximately how many square feet you are going to need.
Next, you will want to consider how much speed you need. It will come down to what you use your Wi-Fi for. If you use it sparingly, for sending emails or checking Facebook, then you won’t need to worry so much. Mesh routers will almost all be able to share the standard 40Mbps bandwidth throughout your home.
That said, if you’ve got the budget for it, faster speeds will never hurt. As technology progresses, likely, you’ll want to upgrade anyway. If you constantly need to download or send huge files, like video, then a router than supports higher speeds is essential. Some mesh routers can hit speeds of 1733Mbps.
3. Number of Units
You technically will only need your router, plus one additional node for the mesh network to function. That said, you can extend your coverage with extra nodes placed around your home or office. Each node will provide a point for the coverage to connect to, like a big piece of mesh netting. You’ll want to check how much coverage the base mesh router will offer to see how many units you will need.
4. LAN Ports
LAN ports are a big one to consider if you’re a gamer. Inevitably, the connection will always be faster through a direct link to your router. You can connect your gaming PC or laptop through an ethernet cord. The more LAN ports it has, the more devices you can connect at one time. It is useful if you like to have LAN parties, where multiple people are playing at the same time. Even if you aren’t a gamer, and want to connect a few computers in your home office, this can be a great feature.
There are many mesh routers available on the market, from budget to expensive. Before shopping around, make sure you know what your budget is. What you are willing to spend on the system will dictate what kind of features you will be able to get with your mesh system. If you’re on a budget, not to worry. You can get mesh routers at a relatively reasonable price, and they still do the job. Below, we will have some recommendations for routers at a variety of price points.
Although a router is not a piece of décor, it will be visible and part of your home. Since you will have multiple nodes scattered around your home, you will want them to blend in with your rooms. Ideally, you want a node that looks somewhat esthetically pleasing, as you’ll have to see it all the time. Since they are a newer piece of technology, most of them have a streamlined and modern build.
Dual-band Vs. Tri-band
You will notice that some routers will be dual-band and some tri-band. But what does this mean? Is one better than the other?
Dual-band mesh routers will utilize two separate frequencies to connect to your devices. The main network band is 2.4GHz, and the secondary is 5GHz.
Tri-band mesh routers use three frequencies. Again, the first network band is 2.4GHz, and the second and third are 5GHz.
Dual-band routers will always be more congested, and therefore speed potential is lower. As an example, on a dual-band, the 2.4GHz band will give you a max of 450Mbps speed. But the same 2.4GHz on a tri-band router will produce rates of up to 600Mbps. That’s because a tri-band has more frequencies, and therefore each one is less congested.
Hub-and-spoke Vs. Mesh Network
Where hub-and-spoke differs from mesh networks is in the connection between nodes. In a hub-and-spoke setup, each node communicates directly back with the primary router. It means that nodes that are farthest away from the router will experience slower connection speeds. That’s because the signal has to travel further. With a mesh system, all the nodes communicate which each other. So instead of the signal needing to go back to the main router each time, it just travels to the nearest node.
The Best Mesh Routers – Reviews
With all the above considerations in mind, we’ve reviewed the ten best mesh routers on the market. Our ten picks cover all the bases. From budget to investment and from basic to packed with features, our list includes them all.
1. Google Wi-Fi – Best Looking Mesh Router
If you want a simple swap to a mesh system with no hassle, then Google Wi-Fi is for you. It has, in our opinion, the most simple setup procedure of any mesh routers on the market. Its mobile app is user-friendly as it makes it very easy to control the settings of your router or run speed tests. Google is a household name we all can trust, so if you’re hesitant when purchasing a new system, you can rest assured this one is good quality.
It offers a stable and reliable connection between nodes with 1500 square feet of coverage per node. It comes in a pack of three access points, which will give you a total of 4500 square feet of mesh coverage. Each access point features 4GB of eMMC flash memory plus 512MB of RAM. They also have a quad-core Arm CPU in each and a Bluetooth radio.
Google Wi-Fi doesn’t operate on dual or tri-band network systems. They combine their bands into one. That means that you’re unable to choose which band you connect to, and that could be a recipe for lag. That said, it does utilize beamforming, which focuses the signal, ensuring it stills operates at a fast rate.
Besides the functional aspects of these mesh routers, they look cool too. They resemble white hockey pucks and will sit inconspicuously on your desk or shelving unit. Of all the routers on the list, this one is probably the most esthetically pleasing that you can buy. Its modern design is sleek and doesn’t stand out too much.
- User-friendly app with easy setup
- Esthetically pleasing
- Good price point
- No parental controls
- Only one frequency
- No USB ports on nodes
For a seamless and secure switch to a mesh router, Google Wi-Fi is the best option. Its design is the nicest you can get, and although it doesn’t have tons of features, it still does the trick.
2. Linksys Velop – Best Mesh Router for Optimal Coverage
For anyone needing coverage for a large home or office, the Linksys Velop delivers a vast range. It’s the best mesh router you can get in terms of the coverage. It can provide speedy coverage to a 6000 square foot area with just three units. With this much range, you wouldn’t need any additional receivers. The units themselves can be moved, stretching the coverage as much as you want. You can also get a kit with just two nodes, which would be a bit cheaper but only offer about 3000 square feet of coverage.
The receivers are a bit more imposing, with a tower-like design, but still looks quite sophisticated. They don’t have any USB ports, so you would be unable to hook up additional storage units or printers to the receivers.
It is a tri-band router and uses one of its networks specifically for backhaul. It ensures that the other two channels don’t get over congested. The router will automatically pick which of the three bands are least crowded at any given time and make sure to keep backhaul to that channel.
It’s also MU-MIMO enabled, which also adds a boost to the network speed when there are multiple people online.
- Fast Wi-Fi connection over a large area
- MU-MIMO enabled
- Not as many receivers needed for widespread coverage
- Quite expensive
- No USB ports on nodes
The Linksys Velop is an excellent option for large families who live in big houses. The extra coverage it provides, as well as its MU-MIMO capabilities, will make up for its high price tag.
3. Zyxel Multy X – Fastest Mesh Router
There are many reasons you could need a super-fast router. If you are often sending or downloading large files, like videos, you’ll need a reliable connection. If you’re a gamer, or work from home, you can’t afford to be operating on a sub-par connection. That’s where the Zyxel Multy X comes in.
It may not be a looker, and it takes up a lot of surface area, but this allows it to pack a big punch. Since its body so large, it can house larger antennae — the bigger the antenna, the farther its reach. Big antennae can also communicate much quicker than their smaller counterparts. It’s a tri-band, with the third band designated to backhaul. The 5GHz band averages speed around 867Mbps.
Each node has four ethernet ports, which is more than most mesh routers will feature. That means you can plug devices directly into the nodes for even speedier connections. Another bonus is its Alexa integration, so you can use your voice to control your router.
The only issue that unlike most mesh nodes, the Zyxel Multy X works on more of a hub-and-spoke system. The nodes all communicate directly back to the main router. That said, they are looking to add chaining features soon, which will allow each node to communicate with each other.
- Super-fast speeds
- Alexa integration
- Four ethernet ports per node
- Not too pretty
- Large and bulky
If you’ve got the need for speed and rely on a fast connection, then the Zyxel Multy X mesh system will meet your expectations.
4. Gryphon Secure Mesh Router – The Best Mesh Router for Security
You’re not the only one who heard stories of hacked networks and stolen personal information. If you want to ensure all your data is safe, then you can’t beat the protection from the Gryphon Secure mesh router.
Not only does this mesh router deliver incredible speed performance, but it also looks pretty cool as well. You can have up to a limit of three receivers, which is dissimilar to most mesh systems that allow unlimited receivers. That said, the three enabled units offer great coverage. With only two units connected to the router, you can have up to 6000 square feet of Wi-Fi connection, which is impressive.
With consumers turning toward Smart home products more and more each day, the risk of security threat rises. So many of the devices we use daily connect to the internet, from washing machines to televisions and even coffee makers. The Gryphon Secure system features intrusion detection, virtual private network service, and ESET malware protection. All of the security features can be controlled via an easy to use app.
This system runs a high price tag, but it saves the cost of having to purchase all the secure features extra.
- Malware protection
- VPN service
- Easy to use app
- Has a limit of three units
The Gryphon Secure Mesh Router is the best mesh router on the market when it comes to security. With it, you can rest assured that you and your family’s information is safe and secure while you browse. It may cost a bit extra, but it is worth it for peace of mind.
5. Netgear Orbi RBK50 – Best Mesh Router for Expansions
If you’re a fan of additional features and want to be able to upgrade as you go, then the Netgear Orbi RBK50 gives your tons of expansion options. The router itself has three ethernet ports, and each node (they call them satellites) has four ethernet ports. It means you can plug in many other devices, which is a huge perk. You may rely on a NAS box to stream your media or have a printer that doesn’t hook up to Wi-Fi.
Netgear also offers many add-on units that can up your Wi-Fi coverage and add extra functions to your mesh system. Once you have the base model, you can build on it as you need new upgrades. The base comes with one satellite, which they state will provide 5000 square feet of coverage.
Other additions include the Orbi Voice, which is a smart speaker and Orbi Outdoor, which is a node built specially to be outdoors. Though we have to add, these upgrades aren’t cheap. But on top of its features, it also delivers a high-speed connection thanks to its dedicated 1733Mbps backhaul network.
- Tons of ethernet ports
- Flexible, with many upgrades available
- Good speed
- Additional units are expensive
- The band settings are hard to get used to
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 offers a ton of customizable options so you can build this mesh router to be perfect for your needs. You can plug a ton of devices into the router and its satellites. It means there are lots of options there for connecting your devices.
6. Eero Mesh Wi-Fi Router – The Smallest Mesh Router
The mesh router from Eero is the smallest one on our list, in both physical size and coverage size. If you’ve got a smaller home, say with just a couple of bedrooms, it will do you just fine. Eero was one of the first mesh routers on the scene and has built up a decent name for itself on the mesh router scene.
It’s straightforward to set up and use. You can have it running within minutes of taking it out of the box. The mobile app talks you through the setup procedure, so even if you’ve never set one up before, you’ll be fine.
You can purchase a two-pack or a three-pack. One unit(called beacons), can cover about 1000 square feet. There is no limit to how many you can get, but you want to be careful not to overload. With this model, in particular, the more beacons you get, the slower the connection is.
It is a tri-band router, but there isn’t one channel specifically for backhaul. For this reason, it can have a hard time keeping up with a ton of devices connected at the same time. It is better suited for those with a smaller home with limited users.
It does have some cool features though. It’s got Thread radio which is a new network that connects home devices like appliances, thermostats and door locks. The beacons also have a nightlight feature that automatically turns on when it gets dark in the room. You can also program these night lights to go off at specified times.
- Small and unobtrusive design
- Easy to setup
- Nightlight feature
- Low coverage per unit
- No dedicated backhaul channel
- Speed quality can decrease with additional units
The Eero Mesh Router is perfect for those who live in a small home and don’t need a massive amount of coverage. It has some fun features that can integrate into a Smart Home setup, and the Eero name is trusted in the industry.
7. Samsung Smart Things – Best Mesh Router for Smart Homes
Are you a sucker for trends? Have you upgraded every device in your home to its ‘Smart’ alternative? Then it’s needless to say that you need a decent mesh system. Using computers and laptops is usually limited to one or two rooms, like an office space. When you introduce lights, televisions, coffeemakers, and window shades, all operating through the internet, you need something reliable. The Samsung Smart Things is the best mesh router for a Smart Home.
Not only does this mesh router function as a router, but it is also a hub for all your smart devices. It’s Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth compatible on top of regular Wi-Fi. There are over one hundred different devices than can be controlled via this router. You can also integrate Alexa or Google Assistant to manage the Smart Things system.
The basic set will come with three hubs and offer about 4500 square feet of coverage. You can add as many hubs as you want, up to 32. We’re willing to bet you won’t need more than that! Each unit is dual-band, providing a 2.5GHz and a 5GHz band. Because of this, the networks can tend to get congested since there isn’t any extra for the backhaul.
- Both a mesh Wi-Fi router and a smart hub
- Can connect over 100 Smart devices through the hub
- Expand your network with up to 32 units
- Only dual-band, which limits the speed
- Need two separate apps to access all its functions
If you’re staying ahead of the curve and transitioning your home to a smart home, then jump on the bandwagon with the Samsung Smart Things mesh router. The devices you can connect to it are endless. Though it’s not the fastest, it’s got a ton of versatility.
8. TP-Link Deco M9 Plus – Best Mesh Router All-Around
For a mesh-router that delivers a wide range of features, it’s got to be the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus. That is if you can afford it. It combines elements from all the others on our list to provide an all-around excellent mesh router system.
Firstly, it is effortless to get set up. It comes equipped with anti-virus and parental controls, so you know your network is safe. Other security features include malicious content filter, intrusion prevention, and it quarantines devices that seem shady.
The design is compact and can be either wall-mounted or hidden on a shelf. With three units, you can get up to 6500 square feet of coverage, all with a steady signal. It can struggle when it comes to going through thick walls or ceilings.
This mesh router also serves as a smart hub, so you can use it to control many of your Smart Home devices.
- Dual purpose, both a mesh router and Smart device hub
- Compact design
- A ton of security features
- Very expensive compared to other mesh systems
- The network connection can be interrupted by structural barriers
If you have the budget for it, then we’d recommend investing in the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus. It has some great features all around, combining perks from many other models into one small package.
9. Luma Whole Home – Best Mesh Router for Parents
Kids are going online at younger ages each year. It can be a scary reality for parents as there is an infinite amount of content online, and not all of it is pleasant. Children cannot sense potentially risky situations when online. For this reason, we’ve got the Luma Whole Home.
The design of the Luma Whole Home mesh router system is with the protection of children in mind. It has a ton of parental controls, so you won’t need to be concerned about what they are viewing. You can control all the settings through their mobile app. On the app, you can program a filter rating that is acceptable for your children. These include five choices: G, PG, PG-13, R, or unrestricted. You can add each of your children as a user and tailor the filter to them individually. You can also pause the internet at any time, which won’t allow any access.
On top of its list of parental controls, it also provides reliable speed and coverage. The kit comes with three units, each with dual bands. They also each have a quad-core processor and band-steering that ensures each device connects to the least congested band.
- A long list of parental controls
- The mobile app controls all the settings
- Only dual-band the connection can experience congestion if many people are connected
For any parent, your priority is keeping your children safe and happy. Many fantastic learning tools and games on the internet can benefit your child. Some things are not so pleasant, and you want them to remain protected. The Luma Whole Home mesh router system is made for this purpose. It’s the best mesh router for families with kids.
10. Tenda Nova MW3 – Best Budget Mesh Router
Since we wanted to cover everything on this list, our last pick goes to pretty much the cheapest mesh router you can find. We just wanted to show you that it doesn’t cost a lot to upgrade to a mesh system. This one is an excellent value for money.
Similar to others on the list, you can purchase either a two-node or three-node kit. The two nodes won’t have as much reach as the three nodes will, but it’s cheaper. Each unit is quite compact and looks like a small white cube. They are too small to fit substantial antennae inside, and therefore they don’t have a massive range. They are best suited to someone who lives in an apartment and only needs minimal coverage.
They send signals between each other from the primary router, meaning that each one works as a Wi-Fi hub. They are still a ton better than if you only had one main router to connect your entire house. Though it may not have the coverage of some of the pricier options, it’s a good stepping stone into the world of mesh router systems.
Where this mesh router wins is in the price. You can get a three-node mesh system for the same price as it would cost for a standard, medium level router.
- Very inexpensive
- Compact design
- Not much coverage
- Not very fast
The Tenda Nova MW3 may not be the best pick for someone who needs to download or upload huge files. It will be best for someone who needs Wi-Fi for regular usage and is looking to transition to a mesh router system. For the price, it’s the best mesh router for those on a budget.
Though mesh routers are a relatively new technology, they are catching on quick. The reliance on the internet for so many aspects of our lives means we require steady Wi-Fi. Mesh router systems provide an all-over Wi-Fi connection, regardless of where you are in your house. It will eliminate frustration with slow speeds and congested networks.
New technology can be overwhelming. But now you’re armed with some great information about mesh routers and have ten great options to get you started.