If you’ve found yourself suffering from a notorious Wi-Fi dead zone in your home, then a mesh Wi-Fi network may be precisely what you need. Mesh networks add nodes or satellite units that can be placed around the house to extend the reach of your Wi-Fi network.
But with so many to choose from, which one is the remedy for your networking ills?
1. Netgear Orbi RBK50
- Powerful Wi-Fi signal.
- Largest collection of devices.
- Advanced settings available.
- Connect to, and share Wi-Fi with QR codes.
- Built-in VPN support.
- Tri-band Wi-Fi.
- The Orbi’s design is not very discreet.
- Companion smartphone app missing key features.
Netgear has a reputation for making high-quality consumer networking gear, and the home mesh Wi-Fi network Orbi is no different. The RBK50 package comes with a router and one satellite device. To get extended coverage, you may want to add additional satellite devices.
Fortunately, their range is diverse, with devices for almost any application. For example, the Orbi Ultra-Outdoor is a weather-resistant unit that allows you to extend your Wi-Fi network beyond the confines of your home’s walls.
The company has done a good job of making Orbi accessible to everyone, with an easy-to-use smartphone app for setup and management. Fortunately, users looking for advanced features can still access the familiar Netgear router settings web page. While most day-to-day router management can be done via the app, it cannot currently update Orbi’s firmware.
Orbi does offer an easy to use in-built VPN and Dynamic DNS. Many other manufacturers don’t add support for these, so their inclusion here is welcome.
If you have a fondness for Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant, then you may want to consider adding the Orbi Voice satellite to your network. It includes Alexa integration and audio engineered by Harmon Kardon. The Orbi Voice satellites can replace any smart speakers you have and extend your Wi-Fi network at the same time.
While Orbi is one of the more expensive options out there, it does offer the most comprehensive set of features for a mesh Wi-Fi network.
2. Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD
- Built-in LCD Touch Screen.
- Visually pleasing design.
- Setup in less than two minutes.
- Hardware VPN via Teleport.
- Support for Ethernet backhaul.
- Free Support.
- A fully-featured companion smartphone app.
- No Dynamic DNS.
- Kit MeshPoints cannot be paired to another AmpliFi system.
The AmpliFi HD is Ubiquiti’s home mesh Wi-Fi network offering, and aesthetically it is unmatched. It is also one of the easier mesh networks to setup via its feature-packed companion smartphone app. The AmpliFi HD is a mesh Wi-Fi kit consisting of a router and two MeshPoints. You can add additional MeshPoints, however, bear in mind that the MeshPoints that came as part of the kit cannot be paired with other AmpliFi routers.
AmpliFi is the only home mesh Wi-Fi unit to feature a built-in touchscreen, which makes maintenance a breeze. Ubiquiti is also the only brand to offer a mesh network compatible, physical VPN device, called the Teleport. When we reviewed the AmpliFi Teleport, we were particularly impressed by how simple they made the process of setting up a personal VPN.
Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi range consists of three kits; AmpliFi HD, AmpliFi Gamer’s Edition, and the entry-level AmpliFi Instant. Cost considerations aside, during our review of the AmpliFi HD, we found that it has everything you need for a no-nonsense home Wi-Fi network.
3. Linksys Velop
- Tri-band Wi-Fi network.
- Requires little maintenance.
- Designed to optimize ventilation.
- Amazon Alexa integration.
- Stylish design.
- Units are wall mountable.
- No Dynamic DNS service.
- Lack of VPN support.
- The smartphone app isn’t as intuitive as others on the market.
- Only a single Ethernet port.
Linksys’ Velop Tri-band Mesh Wi-Fi System is currently the only one available through Apple’s website and, after a glimpse of them, you can see why. Although developed without Apple’s input, they share the company’s minimalist design aesthetic. The system is designed with expansion in mind so you can add as many units as you need.
While the Velop smartphone app is attractive, this comes at a cost. The app is harder to navigate and use key features than with other options on the market. Still, configuring the Velop as simple as following the in-app step-by-step guide. The mesh nodes only have a single LAN port, so you will need a network switch if you have more than one wired connection. There’s also the option to purchase additional Velop Wall Mounts if you need to keep surfaces clear.
4. Google Wi-Fi
- Competitive pricing.
- Minimalist design.
- Easy setup.
- No Dynamic DNS.
- Cannot split Wi-Fi bands.
- Lack of support for VPNs.
- Collects anonymized data by default.
- Single Ethernet port only.
The search engine giant Google also offers its own mesh Wi-Fi network system. Google Wi-Fi is an elegantly designed device that could be mistaken for a hockey puck. As there is no differentiation between the mesh units, you can add extra Google Wi-Fi units whenever you need to.
Google Wi-Fi’s strength is its simplicity. Setting up the network is as easy as scanning the device’s QR code using the companion smartphone app and entering your password of choice. While some may benefit from this simplicity, it’s also Google Wi-Fi’s most significant downside. There are no advanced features and no additional settings for power users.
There are other notable considerations too. The system doesn’t offer Quality of Service (QoS) settings, so there is no way to identify bandwidth hogs. Another concern is that Google collects anonymized data by default, although this can be disabled. As the system is unable to split the Wi-Fi bands, this means that any devices that require a 2.4GHz network will find themselves unable to connect.
5. Eero Home Wi-Fi System
- Wide range of third-party apps available.
- Tri-band Wi-Fi.
- Lots of in-app network control.
- Excellent form factor.
- Good performance.
- Not available outside the U.S. or Canada.
- Requires phone number to register.
- No Dynamic DNS.
- Single Ethernet port only.
The second generation of the beautifully designed Eero Home Wi-Fi System added Alexa support to the highly rated mesh Wi-Fi network. Despite these product improvements, there have been privacy concerns raised since Amazon acquired the company.
However, if you are a regular Alexa user, then you’ll find the tight integration between the two services a considerable benefit. Similarly to Alexa, Eero integrates seamlessly with a selection of third-party apps and services. This does come at the cost of $99 per year, although that’s good value for what you’re getting. Integrations include the password manager 1Password, Malwarebytes Premium, and the Encrypt.me VPN service.
Although these features make Eero stand out from the competition, the system’s range is not as good as some of their competitors. To get the same range as a single Orbi or Velop unit you’d need to purchase an Eero and an additional beacon. That said, the Eero Home Wi-Fi System is a compelling offer for a feature-packed product at a mid-range price.
6. Luma Whole Home Wi-Fi
- Available in white, grey, or black.
- Dedicated security features.
- Ethernet point available on all mesh units.
- USB 2.0 port on the device.
- No bridge mode to existing router.
- The smartphone app is difficult to navigate.
- Not the best value option available.
- RAM and storage specifications are underwhelming.
The Luma Whole Home Wi-Fi system is often compared to Eero, with both systems maintaining a focus on usability and features. The Luma devices are hexagonal shaped and are available in three colors, which help the units blend into your home. They also have a USB port which can be used to charge your various devices.
The company offers a subscription service called Luma Guardian which costs $5 per month. This is a security service aimed at protecting your network’s security and your privacy. It includes a VPN service, antivirus software, and ISP reporting so you can ensure you get the speeds you pay for.
Due to their unique design, Luma devices need to be placed upright, which can make it easy to knock them over and makes cable management a little tricky. However, one area that Luma has the advantage over the rest of the market is their support for Multi-User Multiple in Multiple Out (MU-MIMO). This service prevents congestion or delays when multiple devices try to access the network simultaneously.
Which Mesh Wi-Fi Network Should You Buy?
There are many different mesh Wi-Fi networks available on the market, and which one you choose will be a matter of your use case and budget. However, AmpliFi HD is unmatched on the market in terms of devices and user experience. Netgear’s Orbi also offers a compelling proposition with its range of indoor, outdoor, and smart home devices.
That said, if you’re considering a mesh system due to poor Wi-Fi performance at home, there may be reasons your Wi-Fi is so slow and fixes you can try first.
Read the full article: The 6 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks for Your Home