Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Best Mesh Wi-Fi 2021: Mesh Routers for the Strongest Wireless Internet

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We all have struggles with our Wi-Fi. There are all sorts of hacks and best practices to help you get the best signal out of your router, but at a certain point a home can just be too big for a single router to handle. You’ll end up with rooms that get awful signal because there’s too great a distance and are too many walls between devices and the router. Even worse, devices with poor connections on your network can negatively impact the other gadgets on the Wi-Fi. If this is your predicament, a mesh Wi-Fi system can help you get out of it.In many cases, a Wi-Fi range extender may be simpler to turn to if most of your house is covered and you’re just struggling to get that last little bit of coverage to a corner of your house. But, if you’ve got a lot of space and many obstacles in the way of signal, a Wi-Fi mesh system is probably a better bet. These systems spread out around your house, creating an even network. They also take a lot less fuss to get set up, since they generally configure the network themselves. And, despite being composed of multiple nodes, they can create a single network, so your devices will easily switch to whichever node is delivering the strongest signal without you needing to lift a finger.

Here is a wide selection of mesh routers to choose from, so you can pick the model that’ll work best for your home setup, whether the priority is a wide coverage area or a boost to online gaming speeds. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can go to find the best mesh-wifi routers.

TL;DR – Here are the Best Wi-Fi Mesh Systems

1. Eero Pro 6

Best Wi-Fi Mesh System

Our Pick

Eero Pro 6

On Best Buy

Eero has long been ahead of the game when it came to mesh Wi-Fi. It was the first with a commercial solution, and its latest Eero Pro 6 continues to set a high bar for what a mesh Wi-Fi system should do. This new system is ready for serious wireless performance as a three-pack where, rather than having one router and multiple lower-power nodes, all three units are the same. This means you’ve got three Wi-Fi 6 units with quad-core processors, dual ethernet ports, and tri-band connectivity.

The Eero Pro 6 system can effectively cover a 6,000 square-foot home in high-speed wireless signal, and it can keep a staggering number of devices connected at the same time. Each unit also supports Zigbee, so the Eero Pro 6 can serve as a smart home hub. Since Eero makes its devices cross-compatible with one another, you can also add this setup to your existing Eero network and just make it that much stronger.

2. TP-Link Deco M5

Best Budget Wi-Fi Mesh System

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By their nature, mesh Wi-Fi systems tend to be a bit more expensive on account of the extra units required. TP-Link’s Deco M5 set takes some of this price pain out of the equation. For a little over $100, you can get a set with two units. For a small price bump above that, you can snag a three-unit set which should readily cover most apartments and small homes with a strong signal.

The Deco M5 is a dual-band system, offering one 2.4GHz band and one 5GHz band. This is part of where TP-Link has cut costs, as more premium options opt for tri-band setups that can dedicate one band for communication between the main unit and nodes in the mesh network. This perhaps plays into why the ideal setup for this system is with the main unit somewhere near the middle of the network and the nodes at opposite ends of the arrangement. Despite its shortcomings, if coverage is a larger concern than sheer speed, the TP-Link Deco M5 should do a decent job. If you pay for a Gigabit internet plan from your ISP, you may want to check out one of the faster kits, though.

3. Google Wifi

Best Mid-Range Wi-Fi Mesh System

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If you don’t have the greatest demands when it comes to delivering high internet speeds to a ton of devices, you can settle for the Google Wifi system and save a chunk of change while still getting a reliable option for whole-home coverage. Google Wifi uses the older 802.11ac standard and sticks to a dual-band system, but it’s also considerably more affordable than a lot of the competition at just over $200 for a three-unit setup.

With three units, you can cover a 4,500 square-foot home in signal and connect up to 300 devices. And, while three devices might sound harder to set up than one, Google offers a simple app to help you get things ready in no time. Google Wifi is also compatible with Nest Wifi systems, so you can add to an existing setup or mix and match as you upgrade in the future.

4. Netgear Orbi

The Best Non-Cloud Mesh Wi-Fi Option

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While Netgear’s Orbi system had some growing pains in the beginning, but several software updates have brought it up near the top of the pack, offering stellar performance at a competitive price. Orbi comes in many varieties, but the $300 Orbi Ultra-Performance kit is probably the one you’ll want to go with. You’ll get two full-featured units, each of which boast tri-band Wi-Fi with one band dedicated to backhaul between nodes.

Each unit also has four Ethernet ports so you can wire up any stationary devices, and doesn’t rely on a cloud service like most mesh systems, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Netgear even makes an Orbi satellite with Alexa built-in, which is a cool accessory (though its speeds match Orbi’s slower units, not the Ultra-Performance kit linked above).

Finally, Orbi also comes with the ability to subscribe to Disney’s Circle service, which is chock full of fine-grained parental controls like time limits, bedtime, rewards, and more. If you have kids, this can be a valuable addition for $5 per month.

Netgear’s track record with the Orbi is a bit spottier than Eero’s, though, and despite a few more features, a seemingly higher-than-normal number of customer complaints makes us hesitant to recommend it as the go-to for everyone. Netgear has improved their system a lot, though, and time will tell if they’ve gotten better at releasing new features without glitches.

Ultimately, both systems have their advantages—Orbi with its higher number of Ethernet ports and parental controls, Eero with its security features and smaller design—and which one you choose will depend a lot on what you need.

5. Linksys MX10 Velop AX Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Best High-End Wi-Fi Mesh System

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Linksys MX10 Velop

On Dell

You can get an even more powerful Wi-Fi mesh network if all the pieces on the network are running Wi-Fi 6. That’s just what Linksys’s new MX10 Velop AX Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System offers. The system includes two nodes, each capable of offering up to 5,300Mbps in bandwidth on their own. You’ll get tri-band wireless with two bands dedicated to the 5GHz frequency for maximum speeds.

Wi-Fi 6 supports the latest encryption, so you can keep your home network safe, and each node has enough bandwidth to support 50 devices. If you want to expand your network in the future, you can simply add more MX5 Velop nodes to the system.

6. TP-Link Deco X20

Best Secure Mesh Wi-FI System

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TP-Link Deco X20

On Amazon

Your home network is one of the most useful things you can set up in your house. But, with more aspects of your home (especially with smart home devices added to the mix) relying on the Wi-Fi connection, you’ll want to make sure you get a device that has your security in mind. The TP-Link Deco X20 mesh Wi-Fi system can do just that.

The Deco X20 is a premium mesh Wi-Fi kit with the latest in connectivity through Wi-Fi 6. This allows for ultra-fast communication between the nodes and your devices. They also support the new WPA3 Wi-Fi security standard. TP-Link tops the kit off with built-in antivirus protection, parental controls to keep your children from accessing inappropriate content, and a lifetime subscription to TP-Link HomeCare for easy management of your network and these security features.

7. ARRIS SURFboard mAX

Best Budget Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System

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On Best Buy

Wi-Fi 6 routers don’t come cheap, and neither do mesh Wi-Fi systems. But, for a hardware setup that combines both Wi-Fi 6 and mesh capabilities, the ARRIS SURFboard mAX comes at a reasonable price, especially when considering it has some high-end features that will make for a strong home internet experience. You can get two units for $400.

Many affordable mesh options will stick to dual-band technology and often only feature Wi-Fi 5. These units, by contrast, have a 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. One of those 5GHz bands serves as a dedicated backhaul between the routers with 4×4 MIMO, allowing them to pass data back and forth at up to 4,800MBps. Meanwhile, you’ll get an extensive 5GHz network with speeds up to 1,200Mbps to really let you take advantage of whatever speeds your ISP provides, while Wi-Fi 6 lets even the 2.4GHz connection offer high speeds up to 600Mbps. And, if you need any devices wired, each unit has a Gigabit Ethernet port.

8. Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System

Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router

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Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System

On Amazon

The Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System is one of the first mesh routers designed to support Wi-Fi 6 and it surprisingly doesn’t cost much (or even costs less) than most of the other options on this list. That 802.11ax support means this Wi-Fi mesh system is powerful enough to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps of throughput. Additionally, the Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System supports the recently instated EasyMesh standard, so it’s easier to connect to other EasyMesh-certified products even those not made by Netgear.

For gaming and streaming, users can enable a Dynamic QoS feature that corners off and prioritizes your network bandwidth for these two tasks. You get a router and a satellite in the box (or two satellites if you opt for the bigger combo) and each unit can cover up to 1,500 square feet, so you shouldn’t have any trouble creating an expansive home network with the Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System.

9. Google Nest Wifi

Best Wi-Fi Mesh System for Smart Homes

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Google Nest Wifi

On Best Buy

Google’s Nest Wifi mesh network system is ready to make your smart home that little bit smarter. Aside from offering the benefits of a powerful mesh network, each Nest Wifi point also doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker. That means you’ll not just be expanding your network as you add Nest devices, but you’ll also be ensuring easier control over your smarthome.

This system is designed with smart homes in mind, and is aiming to support the 802.15.4 Thread on the 2.4GHz band for future smart home connectivity, and each point in the system can support up to 100 connected devices.

10. Netgear Orbi AX6000

Fastest Mesh Wi-Fi System

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Netgear Orbi AX6000

On Best Buy

If you’re going to get a new router, you may as well get one that’s ready for the speeds of the future. The Netgear Orbi AX6000 mesh Wi-Fi system is just that. This setup creates a mesh network that can support a 2.5Gbps WAN connection as its backbone, so you can turn your high-speed fiber or multi-gig cable connection into a potent Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. This is where the Netgear Orbi AX6000 system gets its edge on the competition.

The router and satellite node connect to one another with a dedicated 5GHz connection supporting 2.4Gbps speeds, ensuring extreme bandwidth is available regardless of which node your phones, computers, and tablets connect to. Each also features a second 5GHz and a 2.4GHz band for your device to connect. All of this is done using the new Wi-Fi 6 standard for extra fast speeds that won’t get bogged down by slow devices on the network.

What to Look for in a Wi-Fi Mesh System

The first thing you should consider when getting a Wi-Fi Mesh system is whether you need one in the first place. Wi-Fi mesh systems are mostly useful for large houses, apartments, or just homes with a lot of walls—all situations where a single wireless router would have trouble providing a strong signal everywhere.

If you live in a studio or one-bedroom apartment, you’re going to be better off with just buy a single router and the same goes for single floor houses. However, if you start encountering odd Wi-Fi dead spots in your home this is exactly what Wi-Fi Extenders and Wi-Fi Mesh systems are designed to combat. Wi-Fi Extenders are a good solution if you already own a router and just need to strengthen your wireless signal in part of your living space, but they require you to manually switch networks. Wi-Fi Mesh systems on the other hand automatically switch you between the base unit and satellites to ensure you’re getting the best signal at all times.

Where to Get the Best Mesh Wi-Fi in the UK

Eero Pro 6
TP-Link Deco M5

Best Budget Wi-Fi Mesh System

TP-Link Deco M5

Google Wifi
Netgear Orbi
Linksys MX10 Velop AX Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Best High-End Wi-Fi Mesh System

Linksys MX10 Velop AX Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

NETGEAR Nighthawk Whole Home Mesh WiFi 6 System MK62

Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk Whole Home Mesh WiFi 6 System MK62

How to make the most of your Wi-Fi Mesh System

Mesh Wi-Fi is an impressive technology, but each unit in the system is still a wireless access point at the end of the day. That means you need to consider many of the same home network best practices with each node as you would with a standard wireless router.

To ensure each node is able to perform it’s very best, you should carefully consider positioning. You’ll want to keep nodes out in the open (don’t stuff them in closet), ideally high up, and away from any barriers that can block the signal, especially metal barriers.

Some systems may automatically try to optimize the network, but if you live in an area with a dense population, this can be difficult. If you really want to get the most out of your network, you should try to see how many networks you can already detect in your home, and consider setting up your home network on different channels than the ones you see all your neighbors using.

Another smart step you can take to get the most out of your Wi-Fi is actually to use Ethernet connections wherever you can. If you have a smart TV right next to a node, you should plug it directly into the node. This will give the TV a more stable connection, will cut down on the signal clutter in the area, and will improve the wireless connections for other devices that don’t have a wired connection as a backup.

You also need to treat your mesh Wi-Fi like any other wireless network and give strong consideration to its security. You’ll want to give it a strong password and disable unnecessary extra features like WPS, which could let people get around your password with the press of a button. You might also consider whether you want to create an additional guest network you can let visitors access that is walled away from the main network and can have more frequent password changes.

Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.

Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark


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