Best mesh router

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You’ll find in this post the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems you can get right now.

It’s worth noting that even if you have mostly Wi-Fi 5 or legacy clients, Wi-Fi 6 is still an excellent investment in terms of mesh range.

Thanks to the high bandwidth backhaul link, you can place the broadcasters farther out to get more extensive coverage without losing too much speed in the process.

A mesh is only necessary for a large home — more on that in this primer post about Wi-Fi systems in general. So those living in a medium or small home needing only a standalone router, check out this list of best Wi-Fi 6 routers instead.

Dong’s note: I last updated this frequently revised post on October 13, 2021.

Best Wi-Fi 6 mesh Wi-Fi systems of 2021: The lists

There is now a good selection of Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems on the market, and this post includes only those I consider the best among the many I’ve tested.

You’ll see them here in the reviewed order, latest on top — the number in front of their name is just numerical. I’ll add (or remove) the options as more systems become available. So do bookmark this page.

Scroll down to the bottom to see how their performance stacked up. Or check out these direct comparisons to see how some of them pan out as competitors.

A note to fans of the Amazon eero: Neither of the new eero 6 mesh Wi-Fi systems made it to these two lists. Not even close.

Why did I make two lists instead of just one? Well, read on and find out yourself.

Best dual-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems: Excellent for a wired home (or one with modest Internet speeds)

These mesh systems have only a single broadcaster of each of the two frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.) As a result, in a wireless setup, the speed of the satellite unit’s 5 GHz band is generally only half that of the router unit due to signal loss.

However, in a wired configuration, a dual-band mesh system will give you consistent performance throughout. So, if you have run your home with network cables, this type of mesh will deliver the best bang for your buck.

A dual-band mesh system with wired backhauls makes more sense than using a tri-band alternative. Tri-band mesh hardware is generally tuned for wireless use cases and might have issues using network cables as backhaul.

Note, though, if you have a modest broadband connection — one that has a download speed of 100Mbps or lower — a dual-band system will work out just fine, no matter how you plan to use it.

6. ZenWiFi XD8: The XT8’s wired alternative

If you have a wired home, the Dual-band Asus ZenWiFi XD6 is an excellent buy, especially compared to the Tri-band XT8 below.

This new mesh system has no Multi-Gig port, and that’s the only thing disappointing about it. But it’ll work out great for anyone with a sub-Gigabit Intenet connection. It’s a sizable upgrade to the XD4 mentioned below.

Note: Alternatively, there are many more Dual-band options with Asus’s AiMesh. Find your best combo in this post.

Pros

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

AiMesh 2.0 fully supported

Lots of network settings and useful features, including free real-time online protection for life

Presynced hardware, 160Mhz support

Cons

No Multi-Gig or Link aggregation

5. ZenWiFi ET8: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E is the new dual-band

If you want a future-proof mesh for a wired home, the ZenWiFi ET8 would be it.

This is one of the first Wi-Fi 6E purpose-built systems on the market, and as such, it has no band for dedicated backhaul. On top of that, the new 6GHz band’s range is short and therefore doesn’t work well as backhaul anyway.

But if you have gotten your home wired or can run a network cable to link the two hardware units, this set will give you excellent performance, especially if you have many 6GHz clients and a ton of useful features.

Pros

Reliable and extensive coverage with possible fast Wi-Fi performance in certain setups

Wi-Fi 6E ready, Multi-Gig WAN, and Dual-WAN support

Excellent as a standalone router

Tons of useful features and settings, flexible Wi-Fi customization

Cons

Comparatively slow performance in most use cases

No Link Aggregation or Multi-Gig LAN port

Only four network ports on each hardware unit


4. Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini: A reliable business mesh for a home

The SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini is designed for an office, but it’ll work fine with a wired home.

That’s because its local web interface resembles that of Netgear’s Nighthawk home routers. This mesh doesn’t have top-notch specs, but it sure is a viable and reliable option if you have a wired home (or office.)

Pros

Reliable Wi-Fi at comparatively affordable pricing

Lots of Wi-Fi settings, responsive web user interface

Mounting accessories included

Cons

No 160MHz bandwidth, modest specs

Slow throughput speeds on the Satellite unit

Insight trial starts without user consent


3. Netgear Nighthawk MK63: The beginning of EasyMesh

The Netgear Nighthawk MK63 is an entirely new type of Wi-Fi 6 mesh system. It’s the first on the market based on the EasyMesh initiative. As a result, you might be able to use it with supported hardware from other networking vendors in the future.

For now, it’s an excellent choice if you have a modest broadband connection or have wired your home with network cables. Similar to the case of the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini below, you do need a switch if you want to link all of the MK63’s hardware units together using network cables.

Pros

Reliable performance, excellent coverage

Cons

Modest Wi-Fi specs, no dedicated backhaul band

and limited number of ports switch required for wired backhaul configuration

Lacks basic Wi-Fi settings, no 160 MHz channel width

No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation

Finicky QoS, online protection require a mobile app and is not free


2. Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini: Representing the plenty of dual-band AiMesh options

The ZenWiFi AX Mini is more than just a miniature version of the ZenWiFi AX. It’s the first purpose-built AiMesh system that includes two distinct types of hardware, including a router and two satellites.

Most importantly, it’s the very first among its peers that features a fully functioning Guest networking feature, something that had been amiss from the get-go in Asus’s AiMesh ecosystem.

On the downside, this little mesh system is dual-band and has modest hardware specs. In any case, though, it’s an excellent and more affordable choice compared to the TP-Link Deco X60 below.

Note: Alternatively, there are many more Dual-band options with Asus’s AiMesh. Find your best combo in this post.

Pros

Guest networking works throughout the system

Useful network settings and feature

Cons

No dedicated backhaul band or 160MHz channel width support

No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation

Stripped-down, borderline useless QoS and Parental Control features

Limited number of network ports, switch needed for a complete wired backhaul setup

Non-pre-synced hardware, not wall-mountable


1. TP-Link Deco X60: Easy to use but wired backhaul is a must

The TP-Link Deco X60 is quite slow when working as a wireless mesh system. It also doesn’t have a lot of settings or features.

However, if you have wired your home Gigabit Ethernet, it’ll work out very well, for a price of less than $350 for a 3-pack.

Sours: https://dongknows.com/best-wi-fi-6-mesh-systems/

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems for 2021: Mesh Wi-Fi routers and points

The best mesh routers let you cover the largest of homes with speedy Wi-Fi, and upgrading to one of the latest Mesh Wi-Fi systems can upgrade the experience for every device on your network. With multiple devices creating a single, seamless Wi-Fi network, a mesh router is the best way to blanket a large home with signal, eliminating dead spots in the farthest rooms and even out in the backyard. Whether you're dealing with a multi-story home or signal-dampening brick walls, a mesh router can do what a standalone router simply can't, pushing strong Wi-Fi signal to every part of your home. 

Whether you want better Wi-Fi in the farthest room, the top floor of the house, or even getting coverage in the garage or backyard, even a basic mesh system is a step up. We've tested and reviewed the most popular mesh routers you can buy, from wireless-AC models to the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh kits, evaluating the performance, range and usability of each one to help you find the best mesh system for your home.

From everything we've tested and reviewed, here are the best mesh Wi-Fi routers to buy now.

What are the best mesh routers?

Our pick for the best mesh routers is the Nest WiFi, Google's own mesh Wi-Fi solution. It offers excellent performance throughout the house, and features easy setup and great smart home integration. It also has a killer feature the other best mesh routers can't match: Built in Google Home smart speakers in every mesh extension, giving you voice interaction that can extend to every room of the house. 

The Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852) is another mesh networking favorite, with great Wi-Fi 6 performance and easy setup. The individual units deliver some of the best data speeds available, and Netgear offers a range of extensions, including weatherproof outdoor extensions and the Netgear Orbi Voice, which has Amazon Alexa built in.

The best mesh routers right now

1. Nest WiFi

The best mesh router

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/dual band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No

Ports: Two 1-Gbps LAN

Peak Throughput: 653.2 Mbps

Size: 4.3 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches

Reasons to buy

+Excellent performance+Google Assistant built in+Easy setup

Reasons to avoid

-Short range-Minimal configuration options

If you want the best mesh Wi-Fi solution available, Google's Nest WiFi is the best you can get. It offers superb performance, a dead-simple setup process and it delivers Wi-Fi coverage that can expand coverage to handle everything from a small home to large estate.

But the Nest WiFi has something no other mesh kit does, with a Google Home smart speaker built into every mesh extension. The compact units let you control the router with voice commands, along with every other connected device in your house, from smart lights to your smart TV.

Adding additional Nest extensions adds new Google Home units in other rooms, seamlessly giving you a voice assistant in any room of the house. And if you still have an old Google WiFi system gathering dust, you can add those to extend the mesh coverage, too. If you want the best and simplest mesh WiFi solution for your home, this is it.

Read our full Nest WiFi review.

2. Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852)

The best Wi-Fi 6 mesh router

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: AX6000/Tri Band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No

Ports: Router – 1 WAN/4 LAN; Satellite – 4 LAN

Peak Throughput: 883.6Mbps

Size: 10.0 x 7.5 x 2.8 inches

Reasons to buy

+Top Wi-Fi 6 mesh performance+Malware protection+Excellent wall and ceiling penetration

Reasons to avoid

-Very expensive-Large

The Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852) is the Orbi we have been waiting for, combining everything we love about Netgear's premiere mesh Wi-Fi solution with the futureproof capabilities and blinding speeds of Wi-Fi 6. Easy setup and a great performance are the hallmarks of the Orbi model line, and the newest model doesn't disappoint.

The RBK852 serves up category leading performance with strong signal that punched through ceilings, floors and walls with ease, and built-in security blankets your home with a layer of online protection along with the zippy Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for the easiest and fastest mesh networking kit on the market, the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852) does the trick with excellent performance, particularly for those in older homes with lots of walls. When it comes to mesh Wi-Fi 6 devices, the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852) is the one to beat.

Read our full Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 (RBK852) review.

3. TP-Link Deco X20

Best value mesh Wi-Fi system

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No

Ports: 1 WAN Gigabit Ethernet, 1 LAN Gigabit Ethernet

Throughput: 574 Mbps (2.4 GHz)/1201 Mbps (5 GHz)

Size: 4.33 x 4.33 x 4.49 inches

Reasons to buy

+Small router and satellites+Inexpensive+Excellent range+Extra security

Reasons to avoid

-No dedicated backchannel for data-Lack of customization options

Inexpensive, small and easy to set up, TP-Link’s Deco X20 mesh networking kit is a cheap thrill that can help fill a home with Wi-Fi 6 data while protecting a family’s identities with an extra layer of online security. If you want mesh capability and Wi-Fi 6, the TP-Link Deco X20 is the best budget option for covering larger homes with better speed and capability than any older 802.11ac system can match. It even earned the runner up for best mesh router in our 2021 Tom's Guide Awards. Selling in a 3-pack of matching units, the Deco X20 covers up to 5,800 square feet, and can manage up to 150 separate connected devices.

With dual-band connectivity and two gigabit wired connections on each node, the Deco X20 offers great coverage and connectivity with easy setup and management. TP-Link gives you all the tools you need in the accompanying Deco app, which lets you set up your network quickly and control the individual features of the network with illustrated, easy-to-navigate menus. It also protects, with WPA3 encryption and a lifetime subscription to TP-Link HomeCare security and antivirus included with the set.

Read our full TP-Link Deco X20 review. 

4. Linksys Velop AX4200

Affordable Wi-Fi 6 for bigger homes

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Tri-Band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No

Ports: 1 WAN/3 LAN, USB 3.0 (per unit)

Peak Throughput: 507.7Mbps

Size: 9.6 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches

Reasons to buy

+Inexpensive mesh kit+Good throughput with dynamic tri-band operation+Three-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-No security software-Slow set up

The Linksys Velop AX4200 mesh kit offers tri-band Wi-Fi 6 that can cover a large home in Wi-Fi signal without the higher prices of many Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems. That was enough to get it named the best mesh router in our 2021 Tom's Guide Awards. With decent throughput and great range – the three-pack we reviewed can fill 8,000 square feet, and is easily expanded with additional units – this affordable mesh system offers simple configuration tools and a generous three-year warranty. It also has USB connectivity, a small touch, but one that some users will hugely appreciate.

But it's not the fastest mesh kit on the block, lagging behind more expensive competitors and offering none of the extra security and customization options you'd get from other manufacturers. That said, the three-pack Linksys Velop AX4200 is one of the best bargains in mesh networking at the moment, offering a relatively cheap way to set up a wide-ranging Wi-Fi network in a big house.

Read our full Linksys Velop AX4200 review.

5. Eero Pro 6

Wi-Fi 6 speeds with incredible convenience

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Tri-band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 7/No

Ports: 2 Ethernet on each unit

Throughput: 438.2Mbps

Size: 5.3 x 5.3 x 1.9 inches

Reasons to buy

+Great range+Dynamic tri-band operation+Easy fast setup

Reasons to avoid

-Devices have only two Ethernet ports-Moderate throughput close up-No USB ports

The Eero Pro 6 combines tri-band Wi-Fi 6 networking with a mesh setup that's quicker and easier than pretty much any mesh system we've reviewed, making it the best way to get great performance throughout your home without much hassle. With a single unit covering 2,000 square feet with reasonably fast Wi-Fi, the three-pack Eero Pro 6 will blanket up to 6,000 square feet with ease - and we set up the three-piece system in about 11 minutes.

It may not have the highest throughput, but the Eero Pro 6 mesh kit does well at mid-range distances where others peter out, is quick to set up and automatically adjusts just about everything. If you want granular customization, then tools like band steering, local DNS caching and home automation tools, it's got those, too. But the Eero Pro 6 does it's best when it lets you set it and forget it, giving you speedy Wi-Fi 6 without the hassles.

Read our full Eero Pro 6 review. 

6. Netgear Orbi RBK752

A less expensive version of the Wi-Fi 6 Orbi

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Tri-Band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No

Ports: Router – 1 WAN/3 LAN; Satellite – 2 LAN

Peak Throughput: 506.7 Mbps

Size: 9.4 x 6.5 x 2.0 inches

Reasons to buy

+Malware protection+Tri-band operation+Easy setup

Reasons to avoid

-Large-90-day support policy-Short range

The Netgear Orbi RBK752  is the smaller and cheaper alternative to one of the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems on the market, the highly ranked Netgear Orbi RBK852. Selling in a two-pack that can cover up to 5,000 square feet, the cheaper Orbi RBK752 has fewer internal antennas and a less powerful processor, which translate into reduced throughput and range. That makes it well-suited to mid-sized homes, but you'll want to step up to the 3- or 4-packs for larger coverage areas. They may be more expensive, but buying them as a package will be cheaper than adding single satellite units.

The cheaper Wi-Fi 6 Orbi doesn’t place as much emphasis on raw performance, but does manage to include an impressive array of customization options, and offers a way to get the ease of Netgear's excellent mesh networking gear and decent speeds throughout your home for less than the more expensive version.

Read our full Netgear Orbi RBK752 review.

7. Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

A great whole-home solution

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Tri-band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No

Ports: 1 WAN (2.5Gbps)/3 LAN (Gbps), USB 3.0

Throughput: 701.0Mbps

Size: 6.6 x 6.3 x 2.9 inches

Reasons to buy

+Good Wi-Fi 6 performance+Protects against malware+Tri-band design+Two-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-Can take long time to reconnect satellites-Short range

The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) puts Wi-Fi 6 mesh networking into an easy-to-use package that's excellent for all sorts of mid-range homes. With its tri-band design and Wi-Fi 6 performance, the Asus ZenWiFi AX comes through with the ability to fill a moderate-sized home with wireless data. It may not be the fastest mesh kit, but the ZenWiFi AX’s two-year warranty and built-in security can give a family network “administrator” the peace of mind that the data will get through.

The sleek-looking design isn't festooned with antennas, nor is it blinking with an array of lights. Instead the ZenWiFi keeps things sedate with a design that could be used as bookend on a shelf, and a size that makes competing mesh systems look downright bulky. Plus, if you already have an Asus router at home, chances are pretty good that you can add it to the ZenWiFi's mesh network for even more coverage area, making it a great way to expand the coverage without giving up current hardware that you love.

Read our full Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) review.

8. TP-Link Deco M9 Plus

Convenience meets security

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No

Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN, USB (“reserved”)

Peak Throughput: 570.5Mbps

Size: 6.0 by 6.0 by 1.5 inches

Reasons to buy

+Home Automation connections+Simple, straight-forward setup+Network security software

Reasons to avoid

-Need to use TP-Link Deco app

With a quick setup process and the ability to offer whole-home Wi-Fi connection while controlling all sorts of smart home devices, TP-Link's Deco M9 Plus Smart Home Mesh Wi-Fi System (sold in a three pack) can almost do it all. The Deco M9 Plus uses a trio of compact extensions that are easy to hide or mount on the wall and can cover up to 6,500 square feet with a strong wireless signal.

Built-in conveniences like security – including intrusion prevention, a malicious-content filter and infected-device quarantine – make it easy to manage your home network, but we did find the overall performance to be mediocre when the system had to deal with walls and ceilings.

While it lacks top performance, the Deco M9 Plus is still the best mesh Wi-Fi kit to get if you care more about a simple setup procedure than about top speed. And while each Deco unit has a built-in USB port, it's not enabled (yet), so there's no way to connect USB devices like printers and storage.

Read our full TP-Link Deco M9 Plus review.
  

9. Eero Mesh Wi-Fi Router

A great mesh bargain

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual Band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No

Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN

Peak Throughput: 342.1 Mbps

Size: 3.9 x 3.9 x 2.4 inches

Reasons to buy

+Easy setup+Small, easy-to-hide devices+Extra security available

Reasons to avoid

-Low performance-Expensive security options

If you want a simple Wi-Fi solution that won't leave dead spots in your home, the 2019 Eero mesh router is one of the best bargains in mesh networking today. The Eero three-pack of mesh devices is affordable, and each unit is easy to hide away, thanks to its compact design. While the range and performance aren't groundbreaking, it's easy to fill a home with capable Wi-Fi signal without spending an arm and a leg.

Set up is easily handled with a smartphone, and configuration is designed for anyone to use. There's even an option for robust network security, though it comes with a monthly subscription fee. You can also connect the Eero system to an Alexa smart speaker if you want to add voice controls to your home network.

Read our full Eero mesh router review.
  

10. Linksys Max Stream MR9600

Our favorite mesh-capable router

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No

Ports: 1 WAN/4 LAN gigabit per second, 2 USB 3.0

Throughput: 822.0 Mbps

Size: 11.0 x 6.8 x 5.6 inches

Reasons to buy

+Can create mesh network with other Linksys equipment+Small and easy to hide

Reasons to avoid

-Mediocre performance-Lacks port aggregation

The Linksys Max Stream MR9600 is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router that is among the smallest and least obtrusive Wi-Fi 6 routers, but promises huge coverage when you need it. Able to work either as a standalone router or to create a mesh network by linking it with other Linksys networking gear, the MR9600 offers the choice of a single unit for smaller homes and apartments, or it can be incorporated into a mesh setup with other Linksys networking devices, giving you the unique ability to expand coverage for larger homes.

The small size makes it easy to fit onto a shelf or desk, but the streamlined design does leave little room for ports -- with only a WAN port, four LAN ports and two USB 3.0 connectors, the rear panel of the Linksys Max Stream MR9600 is uncluttered, but we wish it offered the two-line aggregation seen on many competing Wi-Fi 6 models.

Read our full Linksys Max Stream MR9600 review.  

11. Netgear AX1800 4-Stream Mesh Extender (EAX20)

Best mesh extender

Specifications

Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band

Number of Antennas/Removable: 4 internal/No

Ports: 4 gigabit Ethernet

Throughput: 375.4Mbps

Size: 9.5 x 6.7 x 2.5 inches

Sours: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-mesh-router,review-5191.html
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Get one of the best mesh networks in 2021 set up in your home and you can say goodbye to Wi-Fi range and coverage problems: mesh networking beams Wi-Fi to parts of your home that standard routers cannot reach, and can improve speed and connection quality at the same time. They're particularly good for larger homes or for places where a single router really struggles.

We've put the best mesh Wi-Fi networks in the UK in 2021 to the test to see which ones really deliver the goods. We're not just interested in how far they reach: we're also looking at the quality of connections they deliver, how easy they are to set up and expand, and whether they represent good value for money compared to other Wi-Fi options.

For many of us, recent events have meant we're more dependent on our Wi-Fi than ever before: with so many of us learning, working and socialising online, Wi-Fi setups that were acceptable in The Before Times are often inadequate for the lives we're leading now: a Wi-Fi network that was okay for the odd Netflix binge might not be up to the challenge of the kids' Teams classrooms, the office's Skype calls or your Friday night Zoom catch-ups. 

A mesh network can help with that, ensuring that wherever you need a connection for your computer, console, laptop or tablet you can get a strong signal – and it can also ensure that you don't suffer any drops or quality issues when more than one person in your home needs to be online.

If you're looking into a mesh network while building a home office, then also take a look at T3's best webcams, best office chairs and best NAS drives buying guides.

Scroll down to discover T3's curated list of the very best mesh Wi-Fi systems you can buy, followed by some useful information about how they work, what to watch out for and which mesh network features really matter.

And don't forget to check the best Black Friday deals for mesh networking kit: routers often attract deep discounting in and around the Black Friday sales event, so you can often pick up high-end hardware without having to pay high prices. That's particularly handy if you're buying for a large home or office that requires multiple mesh points.

The best mesh networks you can buy today

(Image credit: Netgear)

1. Netgear Orbi WiFi 6

The best premium mesh network

Specifications

Connection: Tri-band AC6000

Reasons to buy

+Excellent coverage and speed+Quick and easy setup+Plenty of wired ports available

Reasons to avoid

-It's going to cost you-App could be better-Units are big and chunky

There are cheaper Orbi options (see below), but the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 is the latest and greatest mesh network system from Netgear – with full Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, it's able to reach blazing fast speeds, and uses a dedicated backhaul channel to make sure the connection between the router and its satellites is always rock solid.

It's certainly on the expensive side, but with a total of 6Gbps of bandwidth available to up to 100 devices, the kit will create a network that it's very hard to get the better of. Whether you want your Wi-Fi to reach right into the attic, or you need to connect up a slew of new smart home devices, the Orbi WiFi 6 can help.

Add in a straightforward setup process, an intuitive and easy to use app, and support for Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands, and you can see why the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 not only makes it on to our best mesh network list, but even won Best Home Networking Tech at the T3 Awards 2021.

(Image credit: Eero)

2. Eero 6

The best mesh network for most people

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6

Max speed: 500 Mbps

Reasons to buy

+Strong and stable Wi-Fi+App is polished and professional+Cover up to 460 square metres

Reasons to avoid

-Security extras require a subscription-No Ethernet ports on extenders-Lacks advanced customisations

Eero is a company with a strong tradition in the mesh Wi-Fi networking game, and that heritage is definitely on show with its latest offering: the Eero pack isn't quite the fastest option out there, nor does it offer the most advanced features, but it's a compelling blend of performance and features at the right price.

The system is incredibly easy to set up and use, and it has one of the most intuitive and polished apps we've come across in all our years of mesh Wi-Fi network testing. You can pause internet access, set up a guest network for your friends and much more, all with a few taps on your phone. It's now Wi-Fi 6 compatible for connecting up to the latest gadgets you've got in your home, too.

If you're looking for something that can be configured in minutes and that 'just works' – and we expect that most of you are – then you can't do very much better than the Eero 6 system. For a faster and more expensive option, have a look at the Eero 6 Pro set.

(Image credit: TP-Link)

3. TP-Link Deco P9

The best budget mesh network

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band AC1200

Reasons to buy

+Excellent mesh Wi-Fi performance+One of the more affordable options+Adds Powerline tech capabilities

Reasons to avoid

-Apps are occasionally clunky-Not the best-looking system out there-Your existing setup might be enough

One of the reasons we like the TP-Link Deco P9 mesh networking kit so much is because it gives you the flexibility of using mesh Wi-Fi alongside Powerline networking – so internet signals can travel through the existing wiring in your home, as well as through the air.

That gives you plenty of flexibility when it comes to trying to get wireless internet into every corner of your house, and the Deco P9 3-pack really does impress when it comes to blanketing your whole home with a Wi-Fi signal.

The accompanying app is simple and straightforward to use, and lets you prioritise devices as well as cut off the kids' connections to the web when it's bedtime. It's an all-round solid package, and definitely worth a place on your best mesh Wi-Fi shortlist – especially considering the competitive price.

The TP-Link Deco P9 has won the Best Home Networking Tech Award at the T3 Awards 2020, too, with the judging panel bowled over by its style and quality.

To see how this system stacks up against our number one choice, be sure to check out T3's Eero vs TP-Link Deco P9 comparison feature.

(Image credit: Google)

4. Google Nest Wifi

Google's mesh networking kit is getting better and better

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band AC2200

Reasons to buy

+Fast and reliable connection+Built-in Google Assistant

Reasons to avoid

-No Ethernet ports on the nodes-No support for the incoming Wi-Fi 6 standard-Google Assistant built into the nodes

As you can tell from our Google Nest Wifi review, we're quite taken with this upgrade on Google's Wi-Fi networking kit – it's faster, it's more reliable, it offers more coverage, and the satellite nodes now come with Google Assistant built in (so they're really mini smart speakers).

The app is as polished as you would expect from Google, enabling you to do everything from measuring signal strength to stopping the kids from staying on the internet for too long. Setup is very easy too, which is always something we like to see.

While you might get faster speeds from other kit, and there's no Wi-Fi 6 support here, there's no doubt this is one of the best mesh networking kits in the business – especially if you're already heavily invested in the Google ecosystem.

According to Google, a two-pack Nest Wifi hub is good for 210 square metres (2,260 square feet) of coverage, and in our testing we found it had very impressive reach as well as very low latency. It can even work alongside your existing Wi-Fi network to add a second network.

To see how this unit stacks up against our number one choice then check out T3's Amazon Eero vs Google Nest Wifi comparison feature.

(Image credit: Tenda)

5. Tenda MW6 Nova

An excellent mesh network kit for wide coverage on a budget.

Specifications

Connection: AC1200, dual-band

Reasons to buy

+Wide Wi-Fi coverage+Very attractive price+Alexa support

The white cubes that make up the Tenda MW6 Nova system are undeniably stylish, and they'll do a great job of getting Wi-Fi coverage all around your home – even if the top speeds don't quite match the very best that the competition can offer.

Even if the speeds aren't the maximum that the market can offer, this is still one of the best mesh network kits in the UK: you get a simple to use guest mode (to keep visitors away from your key equipment), straightforward parental controls, and support for Amazon Alexa control.

All that and the sort of reliable, far-reaching Wi-Fi that you've come on this page to find out about. To seal the deal, you can pick up a pack of three router nodes for a very decent price too.

6. Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353

The best mesh networking system for a lot of people

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6

Max speed: 1,800 Mbps

Reasons to buy

+Wi-Fi 6 support+Easy to set up+Smaller Orbi units

Reasons to avoid

-Only dual-band-Very white and plastic-Slightly clunky app

There are numerous Orbi packages to pick from when it comes to choosing the best mesh networking system for you, and this is the most affordable: you do miss out on some advanced features (it's dual-band rather than tri-band, for example), but there is support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard.

The units in this pack are smaller than they are in other Orbi systems as well, so they're easier to place around the house. As usual with Netgear hardware, everything is very straightforward to set up and configure – basically all you have to do is plug the boxes in, install the app, and follow the instructions.

With total speeds of 1,800 Mbps possible (though your broadband will probably fall far short of that), and coverage for around 488 square metres (with the three-pack option), this is a mesh networking system that you can rely on for getting dozens of devices online.

The BT mesh network takes the approach of sitting alongside your router rather than replacing it, which makes it a bit of a bargain as well – you can currently get three satellites devices for £199, which will only get you a single unit with some of the other solutions. This is well worth a spot on our best mesh networking kit of 2021 list.

This setup suits homes where you're locked into using the router that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has given you. If you've signed up with Virgin Media for internet and television services, for example, you can't get at the router (it's inside the main TV box) – BT Whole Home solves that problem.

BT has nailed the price then, but the design of these satellite notes isn't necessarily something we're going to be basing our interior design plans around. These white dishes on little metal stands aren’t exactly ugly, but do look like networking aerials, and that clear BT logo in the middle really doesn't help the aesthetics either. 

Other solutions are a little faster but the sheer square footage you can cover with three receivers is mammoth. BT also sells the Whole Home with two units or just a single one these days, so there are solutions to suit just about any living setup and budget, and the app includes plenty of smarts for monitoring and controlling internet access.

See how this mesh network stacks up against our number one choice in our Amazon Eero vs BT Whole Home comparison feature.

(Image credit: TP-Link)

8. TP-Link Deco X60

Say hello to Wi-Fi 6

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band AX3000

Reasons to buy

+Top speeds+Simple setup

Reasons to avoid

-Software is a bit clunky-On the expensive side-Plain design

If you want the very best speeds that modern-day wireless internet can offer, then you want Wi-Fi 6 – and the TP-Link Deco X60 fits the bill (it's a bit more powerful and a bit more expensive than the other TP-Link option we've featured below). Throughput of 3,000Mbps is possible, in theory, though note that your other devices will need to support Wi-Fi 6 to get the fastest speeds.

As usual with TP-Link, performance is impressive and rock-solid, and you won't have any problems setting up this mesh network around the home. The setup app even tells you whereabouts in your house or flat you should be putting the various satellite nodes, based on your current layout (you can pick up the TP-Link Deco X60 in either a two-pack or a three-pack).

Not only do the four antennas in each unit ensure a fast connection, they also mean you can connect more devices without any drops in speed and stability. No matter how many laptops and smartphones you need to hook up, the Deco X60 will be able to cope – and your connection will stay strong even as you move around the home.

It's hard to fault the TP-Link Deco X60, although it'll cost you a fair bit, and the software isn't quite as polished as it is on some of its competitors' systems. If you want the best speeds when looking for the best mesh network of 2021, then we'd say that this is a system that's well worth getting on your radar.

9. Linksys Velop

The best mesh network for experts and patient users

Specifications

Connection: Tri-band AC2200

Reasons to buy

+Scorching speeds+Huge range+Looks perfectly alright

With its vaguely Bluetooth speaker-like looks, the Linksys Velop networking gear doesn't score many points in terms of its design, but the satellite nodes do have a small enough footprint that you can effectively hide them away around the home. 

We found performance to be very good indeed during our testing: we barely saw any speed loss even with a fast 100/150Mbps optical fibre home internet connection. It was a shame then that setup was more fiddly than with the Vesop's competitors – we needed a factory reset and a bit of troubleshooting to get everything working properly.

Also in the negatives column, the Linksys Velop gear lacks a few extras that the likes of the Netgear boxes include, and you only get two Ethernet ports on the bottom of each box unlike the four on the Orbi nodes. You can however set priority devices in the app, and customise your Wi-Fi access in a variety of other helpful ways.

As far as buying choices go, you can pick up the Linksys Velop hardware in a bundle of one, two or three units. If you want to start off with just one router node, we're happy to report that it gave us just about the best wireless range we've seen from one of these mesh setups – even just one satellite is able to cover a very wide area, so you might not even need a mesh at all.

10. Zyxel Multy X Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System

Best plug-in mesh network boxes

Specifications

Connection: Dual-band AC1750

Reasons to buy

+Very fast connection speeds+Generous number of ports+Can be used with Alexa

There's a lot to like about the Multy X system from Zyxel, including the 3,000 Mbps maximum speed and the rock-solid strength of the connections. Oh and it works with Alexa too, so if you've got a few Amazon Echo devices dotted around the home then you can control your internet with your voice.

As well as excellent speeds, you get extras like three Ethernet ports on each of the nodes, plus a USB port – it's only USB 2.0, which is a shame, but it should be speedy enough to use a printer or external hard drive and share it around the network.

From the software angle, the supplied Zyxel app is a little rough around the edges but just about does the job. Other apps are friendlier and more intuitive but we got there in the end with the Zyxel app – and at the end of the day you just want fast, comprehensive Wi-Fi first and foremost from the best mesh network hardware, don't you? You don't even have to use the app if you prefer telling Alexa to turn off the internet instead.

On the downside, the kit is a little on the expensive side and isn't the most compact or well-designed system we've ever seen. Overall though, the problems are minor and the pluses are major, and we'd recommend putting this any shortlist of the best mesh networking gear in 2021.

(Image credit: Netgear)

11. Netgear XRM570 Nighthawk Pro Gaming WiFi Router and Mesh Wi-Fi System

A mesh network designed specifically for gamers

Specifications

Connection:: Dual-band AC2600 (router) / Tri-band AC2200 (extender)

Reasons to buy

+Optimised for the busiest games+Express lane for priority traffic+Very, very fast

Gamers have very different requirements to most other network users: a slight bit of network congestion or lag might not matter very much if you're updating a spreadsheet or chatting on Zoom, but it's pretty significant if you're in the middle of a Battle Royale against elite opponents. 

This package combines two strong products: Netgear’s gaming-focused XRM500 router and its EX7700 range extender. They’re pre-paired for quick setup.

The XRM500 is a dual band AC2600 router with four gigabit ethernet ports, a 1.7GHz dual core processor and the ability to create an “express lane” to prioritise a specific device and reduce congestion, lag and jitter – three things that can mean life or death in fast-moving games. It also has geofiltering to identify the closest servers and has been optimised specifically for Fortnite, COD: Black Ops 4, Overwatch, PUBG and other big names. The range extender is tri-band with the same FastLane tech, smart roaming for seamless connectivity and a 2.2Gbps ethernet connection.

What is a mesh network?

Rather than having one router serving up Wi-Fi to your home, these mesh network routers and nodes give you several access points, blanketing all the rooms in your home with the wireless internet connectivity you need – Netflix need never be interrupted by the buffering symbol again.

What's more, now is a great time to be shopping for one of the best mesh networks, as hardware manufacturers continue to introduce price drops and deals, even on newer systems. Before we get to our list though, let's first take a look at what mesh networks are, and how to choose the best mesh network for your home.

How to buy the best mesh Wi-Fi system for you

Bear in mind that there are other ways to extend your Wi-Fi and get rid of dead zones around the home, including Wi-Fi extenders and Powerline adapters. Before you start splurging cash on the best mesh Wi-Fi network gear, make sure a mesh networking kit is definitely the right choice for you.

It's easy to see the appeal of mesh networks: they're fast, reliable, and easy to set up (it's almost as if tech companies are waking up to how easy home Wi-Fi should be). Even if you've never had to configure your own wireless network before, the best mesh networking kits make it all very straightforward.

On a technical level, these mesh networks are made up of little Wi-Fi 'nodes' that talk to each other and get as a strong a signal as possible out to all your devices. As far as your devices are concerned, it's just one consistent wireless network.

Look for the speed, often written as something like AC2200 – that's the type of Wi-Fi (AC) and theoretical maximum speed (2,200 Mbps), though you probably won't get that in reality. You'll also need to decide on a number of nodes: two should do most homes, but bigger places might need more.

Sours: https://www.t3.com/features/best-mesh-network

The past couple of years have made it clear that having a dependable Wi-Fi network at home is essential -- especially if you're working or learning from home, gaming online with friends or calling up loved ones for regular video chats. And, if you've established such networking habits over the course of the pandemic, you might've noticed that the signal from your router isn't as strong as you'd like it to be in some parts of your house. Those wireless signals can only travel so far on their own before your speeds drop off, especially if your home's layout and construction are creating obstructions that those signals struggle to penetrate.

This is where mesh routers come in. With multiple devices spread throughout your home, a good mesh router is more like a team of routers that can relay your wireless signal back to the modem better than a stand-alone router, especially when you're connecting at range. With the right system, you could enjoy wireless speeds that are about as fast as your network is capable of through the majority, or entirety, of your home. Better yet, you won't have to juggle your connection between your main network and a separate extension network like you will with a simple range extender -- the mesh router will automatically route your connection accordingly within a single network.

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The rub is that mesh Wi-Fi systems are more expensive than range extenders and typically costlier than traditional, stand-alone routers, too. If your home is large, it might take a mesh setup with three devices or more to offer strong speeds in every room. The good news is that we've seen lots of new mesh competition hitting the market in recent years, and that's driven prices down significantly. Though we'd recommend aiming a bit higher, you can even find basic, entry-level mesh systems for as little as $20 per device.

Some of the best mesh Wi-Fi models include systems from Eero, which popularized mesh networking before being bought by Amazon in 2019, as well as the latest setups from Asus, Netgear Orbi and Google Nest. Mesh systems like those regularly sold for as much as $400 or even $500 a few years ago, but now all of these manufacturers and others offer multipoint mesh router systems -- including the main router and the additional satellite devices, or nodes -- that cost less than $300, if not less than $200.

We've still got lots of routers and mesh systems we'd like to try out -- including a growing number that use Wi-Fi 6 technology promising better performance and faster speeds. More mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, which means they can access a newly unlocked mass of bandwidth in the 6GHz band, should be arriving in the coming months, too, but it's probably much too early to invest in a system like that (and believe me, they won't come cheap).

Expect regular updates to this post as new Wi-Fi mesh routers like those make it to market. For now, here are the top mesh routers we'd recommend right now for anyone ready to make the upgrade.

Best overall

Nest Wifi

Chris Monroe/CNET

Nov 2019

Several years ago, Google Wifi became a breakout hit thanks to its easy setup and its ability to spread a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection throughout your home for all of your connected devices. Now, there's the Nest Wifi, a second-gen follow-up that adds in faster internet speed and a better-looking design, plus Google Assistant smart speakers built into each range extender. The price is a little lower this time around, too -- $269 for the two-piece setup above, with roughly the same area of Wi-Fi coverage as a three-piece, $300 Google Wifi setup from years back.

On average, the Nest Wifi notched the fastest top speeds that we saw from any Wi-Fi 5 mesh router (and faster speeds than the newest Linksys Velop system, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and costs more than twice as much). Plus, the two-piece setup offered enough signal strength to provide sufficient coverage at the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home. It also aced our mesh tests, never once dropping my connection as I moved about my home running speed tests, and I never caught it routing my connection through the extender when connecting directly to the router was faster, either.

The lack of Wi-Fi 6 support might seem like a missed opportunity, but the Nest Wifi does include support for modern features like WPA3 security, device grouping and prioritization and 4x4 MU-MIMO connections that offer faster aggregate speeds for devices like the MacBook Pro that can use multiple Wi-Fi antennas at once. It's also fully backward-compatible with previous-gen Google Wifi setups, which is a smart touch. All of it is easy to set up, easy to use and easy to rely on, making it the most well-rounded mesh router pick of the bunch, and the first one I'd recommend to just about anyone looking to upgrade a home network.

It was a little surprising that we didn't see a Wi-Fi 6 version of Nest Wifi in 2020 or 2021, but that might have been a savvy move on Google's part -- a mesh router will get the most out of Wi-Fi 6 if it adds in a second 5GHz band for dedicated traffic between the router and its satellites, and tri-band designs like that get expensive fast. Among dual-band mesh routers, I'd much rather have a top-of-the-line Wi-Fi 5 system than an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 system. Even among new competition, the Nest Wifi fits that bill.

Read our Nest Wifi review.

Best for large homes

Eero Pro 6

Amazon

Eero was an early pioneer of the mesh networking approach, and in 2019, it got scooped up by Amazon. Then, in 2020, we got two new versions of the Eero mesh router: the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6, both of which add in support for -- you guessed it -- Wi-Fi 6.

Each system is priced at a value, netting you a three-piece setup with two range-extending satellites for about as much as some competitors charge for a two-piece setup. That's great if you live in a large home and you need your Wi-Fi network to cover a lot of ground -- the additional mesh Wi-Fi network extender will make a big, noticeable difference in your speeds when you're connecting at range.

But between the two of them, I strongly prefer the Eero Pro 6, which costs $599 for a three-pack or less if you can catch a sale. Unlike the regular Eero 6, which disappointed in my tests with poor band-steering, the Eero Pro 6 setup I tested worked like a charm, spreading fast, reliable speeds across my entire home. Plus, it features a tri-band design with two 5GHz bands, which is key for optimal mesh performance. It's also a great pick for Alexa users thanks to a built-in Zigbee radio that lets you pair things like smart locks and smart lights with your voice assistant without needing any extra hub hardware.

$599 isn't inexpensive by any stretch, but it's about as good a price as you'll find for a three-piece, tri-band mesh router with full support for Wi-Fi 6. That makes it a worthy and sensible upgrade for large homes. And if you don't need a three-piece system, you could consider the Eero Pro 6 two-pack, which costs $399.

Read our Eero Pro 6 review.

Sours: https://www.cnet.com/home/internet/best-mesh-wifi-routers/

Router best mesh

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

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 – and click here to find them in the UK. If you're hoping to find a deal, you should head over to check out all the certified refurbished routers on eBay.

TL;DR – Here are the Best Mesh Router

1. Eero Pro 6

Best Mesh Router

Eero Pro 6

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz Lo, and 5GHz Hi ● Processor: 1.6GHz Quad-core processor ● Memory: 1GB ● Storage: 4GB ● Features: 4x4 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth LE 5.0, Zigbee, VPN passthrough, WPA3

The eero Pro 6 mesh router system can get your whole home up to speed for streaming and gaming alike. These classy little units fly under the radar thanks to a small design and omission of protruding antenna arrays, but they mean business when it comes to providing extensive coverage and fast speeds.

With the eero Pro 6 mesh system, you’re getting nodes that support tri-band Wi-Fi, combining a 2.4Ghz band and dual 5GHz bands. This provides tons of bandwidth to support all the connected electronics in your home as well as to maintain stable, high-speed communications between each node in the system. They’re also supporting Wi-Fi 6 to improve the speeds available to compatible devices. And, if you want to wire anything up or run a wired backhaul between nodes, each unit has dual Ethernet ports on the back. If you’re setting up a smart home, you can also take advantage of the Zigbee hub built into each node.

2. TP-Link Deco M5

Best Budget Mesh Router

TP-Link Deco M5

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-Band IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 (5GHz), IEEE 802.11b (2.4GHz) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz ● Signal Rate: 400Mbps (2.4GHz), 867Mbps (5GHz) ● Processor: Quad-core CPU ●Features: MU-MIMO, Auto Path Selection, Self-Healing, AP Steering, Band Steering, Beamforming, Bluetooth 4.2

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 Mesh Router

Google Wifi

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-Band IEEE 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz ● Processor: Quad-core ● Memory: 512MB ● Features: MU-MIMO, Beamforming, Band Steering, Parental controls, WPA3

A lot of mesh setups cost a serious sum, but you don't have to go in for one of the most premium platforms if you just need a system that covers some extra distance and a lot of devices with fairly standard Wi-Fi. The Google Wifi system is a straightforward system, and it gets bonus points for its minimalistic and compact design.

With Google Wifi, you can get a three-pack for just $200, which is enough to cover up to 4,500 square feet and up to 300 connected devices. The Google Wifi nodes use dual-band Wi-Fi 5, giving you a 2.4GHz band for connecting most devices and a 5GHz band that can deliver faster speeds for needier devices like TVs and computers. You can also take advantage of the Ethernet ports on the nodes to connect certain devices if you have a node positioned near a device that would benefit from a wired connection. The Google Wifi system is also interoperable with the Nest Wifi system, so you can add it to an existing Nest Wifi setup or add Nest devices to your Google Wifi later if find them at a lower price later on.

4. Netgear Orbi

The Best Non-Cloud Mesh Router

Netgear Orbi

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz ● Signal Rate: 866Mbps (5GHz), 400Mbps (2.4GHz) ● Processor: 710MHz processor ● Memory: 512MB ● Storage: 512MB NAND Flash ●Features: Implicit & Explicit Beamforming, MU-MIMO

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 Atlas Max 6E

Best Wi-Fi 6E Mesh Router

Linksys Atlas Max 6E

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6E) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz ● Signal Rate: 1,147Mbps (2.4GHz), 2,402Mbps (5GHz), 4,804Mbps (6GHz) ● Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core processor ● Memory: 1GB ● Storage: 512MB NAND Flash ● Features: 4 x 4 MU-MIMO, WPA-3 encryption, USB 3.0 port

The Linksys Atlas Max 6E is built for some of the most demanding home Wi-Fi setups, and its speeds won’t leave you hanging. This three-node mesh Wi-Fi system has heaps of bandwidth, allowing it to communicate with all of your client devices and transmit data between nodes even under heavy loads. How heavy are we talking? Well, the 2.4GHz band alone can handle over 1,000Mbps, and with all three bands combined, each node offers up a signal rate of 8,400Mbps.

Showing its commitment to performance, the Linksys Atlas Max 6E includes 4x4 MU-MIMO on not just the 6GHz band but also on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. That not only makes the connections to client devices more capable but also helps with communication between nodes. And, since this kit is built for speed, you’ll even find a 5Gb WAN port on each unit to ensure you’ve got a ton of bandwidth for even the best home internet connection.

6. TP-Link Deco X60

Best Secure Mesh Router

TP-Link Deco X60

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-Band AX3000 IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz ● Signal Rate: 2,402Mbps (5GHz), 574Mbps (2.4GHz) ● Processor: 1GHz quad-core processor ● Features: MU-MIMO, OFDMA,QoS, beamforming, WPA3

You want your Wi-Fi to go fast, but you also want it to be secure, and the TP-Link Deco X60 mesh system does both. On the speed side of the fence, the Deco X60 system runs dual-band Wi-Fi 6 with a 5GHz network that has 2,402Mbps of throughput. That might be more than your internet provider can put to use, but some of that will help each Deco X60 unit communicate with one another. Meanwhile, MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and beamforming will keep the connections to your phone, computer, and other devices stable and speedy.

When it comes to security, you’ll be able to set up your network with the latest WPA3 encryption. The TP-Link Deco X60 can also run its HomeCare Antivirus network security tool, which includes a Malicious Site Checker, Port Intrusion Prevention, and Infected Device Isolation, and can provide notifications and logs. You can also keep your kids safe with a suite of parental controls.

7. ARRIS SURFboard mAX

Best Budget Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router

ARRIS SURFboard mAX

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band AX6600 IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 5GHz ● Signal Rate: 4,800Mbps (5GHz backhaul), 1,200Mbps (5GHz), 600Mbps (2.4GHz) ● Features: 4x4 dedicated backhaul

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 4x4 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 (MK83)

Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router

Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System (MK83)
Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System (MK83)

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band AX1800 IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 5GHZ ● Signal Rate: 1,800 Mbps (5GHz), 1,200Mbps (5GHz), 600Mbps (2.4GHz) ● Processor: Quad-Code 1.5GHz processor ● Memory: 512MB ● Storage: 256MB Flash ● Features: QoS, OFDMA, Ethernet backhaul, WPA-3

Netgear has spruced up its Nighthawk mesh Wi-Fi system with the new Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 MK83 platform. While the predecessor to this mesh setup ran dual Wi-Fi bands, this latest model bumps that up to tri-band Wi-Fi to include an additional 5GHz signal. Between the three bands, the system is able to max out at 3,600Mbps of bandwidth, which can help keep speeds between your devices and the nodes uncongested. You'll also get the option to set up your network with a wired backhaul for more consistent performance.

For its functionality, this Nighthawk system is actually surprisingly affordable, coming in at just $400 for a three unit setup that includes a base station and two satellites. The base station and nodes all feature multiple ethernet ports, so you have the option to wire up select devices. And, keep in mind that this is a Wi-Fi 6 system, so client devices that use Wi-Fi 6 can take full advantage of the speeds available.

9. Google Nest Wifi

Best Wi-Fi Mesh Router for Smart Homes

Google Nest Wifi

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-Band IEEE 802.11s ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz ● Wifi Point: Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) IEEE s ● Processor: 1.4GHz quad-core processor ● Memory: 1GB ● Storage: 4GB Flash ● Features: 4x4 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth LE, WPA-3 encryption, Transmit beamforming, Google Assistant built-in, 40mm speaker driver

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. Asus ZenWiFi ET8

Fastest Mesh Router

Asus ZenWiFi ET8

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-Band IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6E) ● Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz ● Signal Rate: 574Mbps (2.4GHz), 1201Mbps (5GHz), 4804Mbps (6GHz) ● Beacons: Tri-band (2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz) IEEE 802.11ax ● Processor: 1.5GHz quad-core processor ● Memory: 512GB ● Storage: 256MB ● Features: MU-MIMO, beamforming, OFDMA, up to 160MHz bandwidth, 2.5Gb WAN, USB 3.1 Gen 1, Alexa, IFTTT, Adaptive QoS, WAN Aggregation

A lot of mesh Wi-Fi setups may be focused on coverage of the number of devices you’ll be able to support, but the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 system is focused on speed, and it delivers. This mesh system combines identical base stations, so you can use nodes interchangeably. And, the system doesn’t settle for just Wi-Fi 6 but actually steps it up to Wi-Fi 6E. That upgrade brings you a 6GHz band on top of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands that’ll support more of your legacy devices.

With Wi-Fi 6E, you’ll be looking at some extreme bandwidth. The 5GHz band is capable of Gigabit speeds, and the 6GHz band can hit 4,804Mbps. The link between the nodes in the mesh system will also stay strong thanks to these available speeds. Topping it off, the system includes 2.5GbE ports for the WAN connection, so these are ready for extremely fast internet connections. And, they have USB ports on them, so you can easily set them up for fast network storage.

What to Look for in a Mesh Router

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

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

Sours: https://www.ign.com/articles/best-mesh-router
Best mesh router in 2021

Best mesh Wi-Fi routers 2021: the best wireless mesh routers for large homes

Look to the future and invest in one of the best mesh Wi-Fi routers available. That way, your network can reach every nook and cranny of your home or office. This new solution to network coverage is particularly great for covering large areas or handling a large number of connected devices. And, if you’re rocking an older router, they make more sense than adding a Wi-Fi extender.

What makes these systems special is their unique design. Instead of one router covering your whole space, you get a main one along with several satellite units so you can place them all around whatever area you want inside your network. That way, you eliminate weak or dead spots and make sure you have a continuous signal, perfect for those who have a large office or home all sharing bandwidth. They’re also perfect for those using multiple devices at a time and many of these router systems support Wi-Fi 6.

We’ve gathered our top picks of the best mesh systems here, starting with the Google Nest Wifi. We’ve carefully handpicked each of these so you know you’re getting a great router. There is no better way to upgrade your network. And, take a look at our price comparison tool so you can find the best deal while you’re at it.

1. Google Nest Wifi

Google Wifi and Home together at long last

Specifications

Speed: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4 GHz/5 GHz simultaneous dual-band

Connectivity: Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports

Features: Advanced security chip, Nest Wifi point with Google Assistant, privacy control

Reasons to buy

+Excellent design+Smart speaker(s) included+Even simpler controls

Reasons to avoid

-No major performance gains-Not worth replacing existing mesh

What’s better than the best mesh router? Well, a mesh router with a smart speaker, that’s what. Especially if you’re a smart home fiend, you will appreciate the pure genius of this upgrade in Google’s Wifi line. The Google Nest Wifi kicks things up a notch, taking Google Wifi’s incredible yet simple design and performance then merges it with the convenience of a smart speaker so you’ve got a two-in-one device in an even sleeker and more attractive package. And, if you’re tired of the color white, this one also comes in Mist and Sand colors. As far as the best mesh Wi-Fi routers go, the original Google Wifi is still the one to beat. This one just gives it that extra oomph.

Read the full review: Google Nest Wifi

2. Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

Wi-Fi 6 meets mesh routers

Specifications

Speed: 802.11ax 4804Mbps down

Connectivity: 2.5 Gigabit Wan, 3 x Gigabit LAN, Gigabit Wan, USB 3.1

Included mesh nodes: 2

Features: MU-MIMO, Traffic Analyzer, Adaptive QoS, AiProtection Pro

Reasons to buy

+Great Wi-Fi performance+Good security features

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-Limited to two routers

With the Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8), Asus has managed to introduce Wi-Fi 6 to that other cutting-edge tech in connectivity; mesh routers. While it is among the more expensive options out there and limits you to two mesh routers, the Asus ZenWifi AX offers blazing fast speeds as well as plenty of flexibility in its setup – such as the option to set up one or two networks using the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. With excellent security features to boot, this is a fantastic choice if you’re looking at the best mesh Wi-Fi systems.

Read the full review: Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

3. Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6

Superb Wi-Fi performance

Specifications

Speed: 802.11b/g/n/ax 2.4GHz 2,400Mbps, 802.11a/n/ac/ax 5GHz 2,400Mbps, 802.11a/n/ac/ax 5GHz 1,200Mbps

Connectivity: 1 x Gigabit or 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet WAN or LAN port, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, Link Aggregation Mode4 optional; 2 x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports

Included mesh nodes: up to 4

Features: Insight App, 4 SSID wireless networks, up to 4X more devices than with WiFi 5

Reasons to buy

+Easy to deploy+6Gbps backhaul

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-Hardly inconspicuous

Sprawling mansions and big companies have demanding network coverage needs that only the best mesh Wi-Fi systems can meet, which is why such routers as the Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6 exist. This is a powerful piece of kit, even at its most basic configuration, delivering superb Wi-Fi connection over a remarkably large area. If you want the most powerful mesh Wi-Fi, you’ve found it. However, it also comes at a lofty price that most households shouldn’t spend. Invest, but only if it makes technical sense.

Read the full review: Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6

4. Linksys Velop WiFi 6 AX4200

Sours: https://www.techradar.com/news/best-wireless-mesh-routers

Similar news:

Wi-Fi that sucks can be more frustrating than no Wi-Fi at all, and the culprit in many cases is one router trying to cover too much house. Mesh-networking kits take the weight off just one router, instead spreading multiple access points around your house to improve the range and performance of your Wi-Fi. After spending hundreds of hours evaluating and testing 52 Wi-Fi mesh-networking kits in home and lab environments, we’re confident that the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) set is the best mesh router for most people who need one.

Most people, however, don’t need mesh Wi-Fi, and if you live in an average home or apartment, a regular router is just fine.

While many recent reviews tout either of this year’s new standards, Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, as the solution to all your wireless problems, based on our tests and research, we continue to recommend a Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) mesh kit as our pick and budget alternative. Wi-Fi 5 (and some Wi-Fi 4) laptops, phones, and other devices will continue to dominate your home for the next few years, and the premium that Wi-Fi 6 demands just isn’t worth it yet.

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a great choice for folks who want to set up a lag-free Wi-Fi network all over their home, as well as anyone who needs a mesh network that can better wrangle the growing number of smart devices in a home. It’s a bit slower overall than our upgrade pick, but that’s like saying an eagle isn’t as fast as a falcon, and it’s easy to set up and manage.

The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) is the right choice if you currently use or are planning on upgrading to a gigabit or faster internet connection. The XT8 is almost a mirror twin of our pick, the CT8, but it includes extras such as Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and WPA3 security. Neither are critical inclusions right now, but both will help keep the XT8 from becoming obsolete for a longer period of time. For nearly $100 more than the CT8, the speed improvements won’t be worth it for most people in most homes. But the upgrade is worth the added expense if you’ve already invested in gigabit internet service and need a powerful mesh setup to work with all that bandwidth. It’s the upgrade pick for those who need the latest technology to squeeze out the fastest connection, always.

TP-Link’s Deco S4 will spread solid Wi-Fi 5 signals to dozens of devices throughout a large home, but it doesn’t have the top speed of our picks. And if you have more than 50 devices on your network—increasingly possible when you add smart home products on top of phones, laptops, and streaming boxes—there’s a higher chance the S4 will be overtaxed. Its price reflects that, so Deco S4 is the choice if you need to serve a few folks in a large home, and if your broadband internet service is 500 megabits or slower.

Why you should trust us

Before joining Wirecutter in 2018, Joel Santo Domingo tested and wrote about PCs, networking, and personal tech for PCMag.com, Lifewire, HotHardware, and PC Magazine for more than 17 years. Prior to that, Joel was an IT tech and system administrator for small, medium-size, and large companies.

Metaphorically, Joel has been a wire cutter for decades: Testing wireless home networking has been a part of his life for the past 20-plus years through all versions of Wi-Fi, back to the wireless phone extension he tacked onto the back of his Apple PowerBook. He did that so he could connect to the internet from his desk, his couch, and his bed seamlessly (a rarity for the time).

Who mesh-networking kits are for

If you have a house that a single powerful router can’t cover well (probably some homes bigger than 2,300 square feet or so, depending on the layout), a large apartment or small house with signal-killing interior walls (such as lath-and-plaster, brick, stucco, or concrete blocks), or one with a very long or tall, narrow plan, like a three-story townhouse, you should consider a mesh-networking kit. But before you toss everything out and get a mesh kit, you should try moving your router to a central location—in smaller houses a single router can actually be more effective than mesh networking.

Even one device with a poor connection can bring the quality of the entire network down.

If you already have a good router that you like, and you need just a little more range in part of your house, you might consider adding a wireless extender. (Here's our comprehensive guide to wireless extenders.)

Another option are mesh extenders, which like mesh-networking kits, automatically hand you off from router to extender and back, using the same network name; that makes the mesh experience a little more seamless. The takeaway is that mesh extenders may improve coverage in dead spots if you already have a decent wireless router, though they showed mixed results in our extender guide testing compared with full-blown mesh networking kits.

A wired network is always faster than a wireless one

A graph showing the wired vs the Wi-Fi throughput.
A graph showing the latency of wired vs Wi-Fi

If your house is wired for Ethernet, you don’t need a mesh-networking kit. You can run Ethernet cable to inexpensive wireless access points and outperform the best mesh-network kits we cover here, at a much lower cost. Mesh shines when you don’t have wires, don’t want wires, and have lots of trouble spots (or one really big trouble spot) with poor or no coverage.

A mesh kit won’t necessarily make your internet faster at short to medium range. As shown in the performance testing of standalone routers, the best Wi-Fi mesh kits did just as well as our upgrade standalone router pick, the Asus RT-AX88U. Mesh can offer better coverage and lower latency in a wider area, which makes your connection feel faster throughout the house because your devices aren’t grabbing at faint wisps of signal.

Mesh shines when you don’t have wires, don’t want wires, and have lots of trouble spots (or one really big trouble spot) with poor or no coverage.

A good standalone Wi-Fi router can handle multiple devices, as long as those devices all have good connections. Even one device with a poor connection can bring the quality of a single router’s network down, eating up all of the available airtime, starving the rest. The best mesh networks ensure good connections between devices, the base unit, and any satellites, reducing the situations where a poorly connected device can slow down the others. This reduces latency—the time you’re sitting waiting for the website, game server, or streaming service to respond and send data back. Replacing poor connections with better ones is what helps mesh shine.

But for spaces that a single router can’t cover, the most important thing about mesh-networking kits is how they’re designed to work together—the manufacturer has specifically tuned the units to establish fast, reliable “backhaul” connections with one another. That’s something you can’t get just by adding another access point or wireless extender to your existing router.

How we picked the best mesh network

The Wi-Fi mesh networking kits we tested lined up side by side.

For past versions of this guide, we tested absolutely every mesh kit we could find—but these days the number of mesh kits is growing, and we’re getting pickier. We researched dual- and tri-band mesh kits from each of the major router manufacturers, including Asus, D-Link, Eero, Netgear, and TP-Link. We also looked for routers from lesser-known manufacturers with strong reviews from tech experts or potentially interesting features that set them apart.

For this round, we dropped some of the poorest-performing kits from our previous rounds of testing (such as the D-Link COVR-C1203, Linksys Velop dual-band kit, and Zyxel Multy U kits). We also considered kits that cost more than $500. As you’ll see below, they weren’t necessarily better or faster than kits that cost half as much. If your home is particularly large or problematic, we’d recommend you look into hiring an IT professional to design and install a combination wired and wireless mesh network.

That left us with almost 30 kits from 11 manufacturers (AmpliFi, Arris, Asus, D-Link, Eero, Motorola, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, TrendNet, and Ubiquiti) to test, in order to find the best Wi-Fi mesh network kit.

We determined our recommendation using the 10 criteria below, drawn from research and extensive testing. To simulate the real-world activity of a busy home network, instead of testing maximum throughput from the mesh system to a single laptop, we used six laptops, spaced around 3,000 square feet of a three-and-a-half-story suburban home. We tested for speedy throughput (streaming simulated 4K video and file downloads), good coverage in spots around the house, and short latency (simulating three simultaneous browsing sessions on a busy network). We repeated each test set six times and averaged the results to smooth out spikes. See the How we tested section below for more details on our testing method and results.

We used similar criteria to our router reviews, tailored to fit our ideal mesh-networking kits:

  • Ease of setup and administration: Setting up a new network is often hard, but it doesn’t need to be. You should be able to get your home on the internet in less than half an hour with a mesh network.
  • Good speed test results: Speed claims on the box don’t mean much in the real world. In our tests, network speed —or throughput—varies from “This YouTube video will never finish loading” to “You can download a video game in an instant.” Generally, we looked for the mesh kits that performed above average, and we dismissed the slower routers.
  • Good range test results: You should be able to connect to a well-placed mesh kit from anywhere in your house. We tested each kit to see its maximum potential when close to the base unit, as well as in trouble spots in the home, to see how well the mesh signals could be successfully routed around obstacles like appliances and walls.
  • Low latency test results: Slow internet sucks. Latency—or lag—is the time spent waiting for the next thing to happen. A great mesh kit minimizes that wait even if the network is busy serving other devices.
  • Multiple Ethernet ports: Ethernet ports on a mesh kit’s satellites let you connect devices such as TVs, streaming boxes, and gaming consoles away from the base unit, giving them the benefit of unfettered access to the internet bandwidth you’re paying for. Ethernet ports on the satellites or nodes also let you extend the network with wires, using wired backhaul.
  • Expandability: You should be able to add more nodes later to extend and improve coverage even farther, if you discover dead spots or move into a larger house.
  • A fast processor and RAM: A router with a speedy multi-core processor and extra RAM can handle more connected devices and provide improved performance. The slow processors found in most cheap routers can still drag things down, no matter how good the radios that broadcast the Wi-Fi are. Not all manufacturers disclose the CPU and memory inside of their routers, but when we find outstanding specs, we do consider them when deciding what to test.
  • Nice-to-have extras: Fast, reliable Wi-Fi is what matters the most in a mesh kit, but more expensive optional features bring other benefits, too. The things we like to see that justify spending more for a mesh kit include speedier connections (like 2.5-gigabit ports and 802.11AX/Wi-Fi 6), built-in security (like WPA3), extra Ethernet and USB ports, VPN connections, and parental filtering.
  • Price: You can buy a mesh kit for $80; you can also spend over $1,000. But we don’t consider the cheapest or the fastest to be the best. When considering both features and our test results, we looked for “the best for the most for the least.” Right now, paying around $300 buys you excellent performance and features that offer real benefits. Spending 50% ($150) more buys small improvements for few people like those willing to tweak settings to achieve even better connections.

In addition, we consulted customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg, plus professional mesh kit reviews and performance rankings from CNET, Dong Knows Tech, PCMag, PCWorld, SmallNetBuilder, and Trusted Reviews, to determine our list of contenders. After identifying every model that met our criteria, we tested throughput, latency, features, and general user experience in a large test home.

It can be hard to buy a great router without testing them side by side because the connection speed classes stamped on the box don’t actually mean much. These classes come in the form of initially impenetrable alphanumeric jumbles such as “AX6600” or “AC1750.” In this case, “1750” stands for 1.75 gigabits per second. They refer to theoretical maximum ceilings defined in the specifications of wireless protocols, but have little to do with the speeds you’ll get in the real world.

One more thing: Don’t confuse the test results in our guide with the internet speed you’re paying for. For example, the Asus ZenWiFi AX is capable of throughput over 600 megabits per second at close range with no obstructions, but you still can’t get more than about 100 megabits per second from the internet if you have a 100-megabit plan from your ISP.

The best Wi-Fi mesh kit: Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8)

Our pick for the best Wi-Fi mesh networking kit the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8).

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a great choice if you want to set up a lag-free Wi-Fi network all over a larger home, as well as if you need a mesh network that can handle a growing number of smart devices in a home. In a variety of tests spread out around a three-story home, the CT8 was able to outperform kits costing considerably more, and it was relatively painless to set up.

If you’ve read multiple mesh reviews, our choice of a Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) mesh kit as our pick might come as a surprise when many manufacturers and reviewers seem to be pushing everyone toward Wi-Fi 6. But we tested each of the mesh kits with a mix of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 devices—just like you’re likely to have in your home for a few years yet—and the Wi-Fi 6 kits we tested didn’t match the CT8’s good speed and excellent coverage.

The raison d'être of a mesh network is to provide good Wi-Fi performance all over the house, not just near the base unit. The CT8 was one of the fastest mesh kits in our test scenario. It was just behind its more expensive sibling, the ZenWiFi AX (XT8), at close range and in the attic where the test laptop was all but guaranteed to connect through a mesh point. And it actually topped the XT8 in one of the bedrooms that proved a particularly tough testing spot.

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

The laptop in the bedroom in question (WC3 in our graphs) was challenging because it was close enough to connect to a slower 2.4 GHz signal through multiple walls and appliances between it and the base unit—but WC3 could grab a faster 5 GHz signal if it chose to connect through a satellite or mesh node. This isn’t an unusual use case in homes that would particularly benefit from a mesh setup, but only 9 of the 27 mesh kits tested well in this situation, with the CT8 on top. Four notable kits, the Netgear Orbi RBK852, RBK853, Nighthawk MK83, and AmpliFi Alien came close, but all cost at least $100 more than the CT8.

A bar graph of stacked median latency in which our two top picks are within the top 5 lowest latency results.

In our overall latency tests, the CT8 finished in the top five. In these tests, raw speed in the form of throughput, in megabits per second (Mbps), isn’t the only thing that matters. Our latency test showed how routers handled the added stress of multiple devices accessing the network simultaneously. High latency, or lag, can make an otherwise speedy connection seem to drag, especially when the network is busy. The 12 finalists bunched at the top of this test were all tri-band kits that use their third radio band to facilitate communication with other network nodes, rather than your phones or laptops. That factor alone wasn’t a guarantee of success, however: The Netgear Orbi RBK752 was a tri-band kit that performed more like two of the dual-band kits (the Deco X20 and the Eero Pro with 2 Beacons).

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) next to its AC adapter.

A great router or mesh kit like the CT8 is relatively easy to set up, even if you don’t know much about technology. We try to avoid kits that have inscrutable setup processes or options screens, and some of our previous mesh network picks, like the Eero Pro, have emphasized simplicity and ease of use over customizability. But kits with too few settings can also make it hard to troubleshoot problems when trying to set up smart-home devices. The CT8 is just as simple to set up initially as some of our previous picks, but once installed, you have access to more settings that can help you tune the network to your home’s situation. For example, if you find that some devices or laptops in your home keep trying to connect to weaker (but ostensibly “speedy”) signals that provide an unreliable connection, you can set the Asus mesh network to reject weak connections and shunt the devices to the slower but more reliable bands.

The CT8 (and its XT8 brother) also come with subscription-free AiProtection Pro network protection, which includes service optimizations that can prioritize voice and video communications over gaming, among other options. AiProtection Pro’s internet security helps prevent malware from infecting your phones and PCs, and also offers options intended to filter objectionable content from your children’s devices. These are services that would cost extra on the Eero, Motorola, and Netgear mesh kits.

It only took 10 to 15 minutes from taking the CT8 routers out of the box to connecting laptops to the new network. By default, the network is to exclusively use the second 5 GHz band (hence tri-band) in between the two CT8 routers for speed. If you need (or like) to tweak your network settings for specific cases such as gaming or content streaming, or because you need to give critical devices priority over others, the CT8 offers lots of switches and sliders to change those settings in its administration console.

Close up of the ports on the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8).

It’s physically large, but that gives the CT8 the benefit of extra space for more connection options. Since the router and node are the same, they both have three rear-mounted Ethernet ports and one WAN port (to connect the main unit to your modem). That translates into extra connections for wired devices like streaming boxes, TVs, and game consoles. If you place the mesh node in your den or home office, you can connect your laptop or desktop PC to it for better speeds. It also means that you can connect the second CT8 to the first with an Ethernet cable for quicker speeds between mesh nodes (aka “wired backhaul”), if your home is wired for that.

The CT8 and the XT8 have the ability to rename the 2.4 GHz network separately from the 5 GHz network. This is relatively uncommon among mesh network kits—the AmpliFi Alien, Asus ZenWiFi siblings, D-lInk mesh routers, Linksys mesh kits, Netgear Nighthawk MK83, and the Ubiquiti Dream Machine were the other tested mesh networks that can configure separate network names.

Like most mesh networks, the CT8 comes with smart connect on by default. Smart connect (aka bandsteering) works great for laptops and phones: The device in your hands will automatically switch between 5 GHz (short range, but faster) and 2.4 GHz (long range, but slower) as needed throughout the day, using the same network name (SSID, see below). However, some 2.4 GHz smart devices like cameras and smart bulbs have issues with connecting to networks that have one network name. The latter is an ongoing problem with most mesh networks, which lock out settings in the name of simplicity. Changing the network name will alleviate this problem, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the expanded mesh network coverage, though you will lose the ability to roam from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz automatically on your laptops and phones.

If your household is like mine and you’re adding smart-home devices every year, you’ll need all the help you can get to manage them. Asus routers include added Amazon Alexa compatibility, so you can turn on a separate guest Wi-Fi network using your Echo smart speaker, for example. In addition to Alexa support, the CT8 offers the much geekier IFTTT (If This Then That) protocol to automate functions, such as an alert that sends you a check-in email when your kids come home from school and connect their phones to the Wi-Fi.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) next to other mesh units to compare size.

The CT8 mesh units aren’t the largest in our roundup, but they’re close. Asus has made some effort to build as minimalist an exterior as possible, but the CT8 units are a lot larger than the Eero Pro or Netgear Nighthawk MK62 nodes.

The CT8 base unit and satellite look identical, so that could be an issue if you ever move them to another location. Thankfully, when you set them up for the first time, it doesn't matter. You can connect your cable modem or gateway to either node when you’re first installing the mesh, and that unit will act as the base unit after everything is set up. If you ever move things around and try to use the satellite as a router, an error light will alert you to the problem.

WPA3 isn’t available on the Asus ZenWiFi CT8. (It is available on the XT8, our upgrade pick.) WPA3 is the newest WPA security standard, but lack of WPA3 isn’t a dealbreaker yet, since devices with WPA3 security are still rare. WPA3 will probably be more important in a business environment, like offices and shared hotspots in cafes, in any case.

The CT8 is expandable, but an extra unit goes for about $200 (since they’re the same routers with all the same electronics inside), a significant amount of money for an additional mesh point. Some other mesh kits use proprietary nodes, with different components inside (Google Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi’s simpler nodes come to mind), which means that expanding the network is often cheaper than with the CT8.

Upgrade mesh Wi-Fi pick: Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

Our upgrade pick the Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

The Asus WiFi AX (XT8) is the right choice if you currently use a gigabit or faster internet connection like Verizon’s FIOS (or plan to soon)—otherwise, you may only get minimal benefit for the much higher price. The XT8 is almost a twin of our pick, the CT8, but it includes a couple of extras for users who need a more powerful mesh network to work with all that bandwidth. It’s our first pick to support Wi-Fi 6 (instead of Wi-Fi 5, common for the past seven to eight years) and improved security called WPA3. Among other improvements, Wi-Fi 6 should help keep the XT8 relevant in a rapidly changing smart home with more and more devices to manage. The XT8 can also serve a strong, responsive signal to all corners of a larger than average home, and it outperformed the pack in speed and latency in almost all of our tests.

A great router should provide many years of reliable service, and buying one with more recent technology can future-proof it for longer. The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) looks like our top pick, but it adds compatibility for the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, along with extra WPA3 network security. Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers have only been widely available since spring of 2020, are still far more expensive than Wi-Fi 5 routers and don’t bring a huge performance leap to most homes.

The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) next to its AC adapter.

The XT8 mesh kit was a top-four performer in most of our tests, and we think the extra performance will help if you have gigabit internet service; And it was one of the few mesh kits we tested with a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) port to support faster-than-gigabit connections, if your modem and internet provider supports them. So far, gigabit capable doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get gigabit speeds for all of your devices at all spots in your home. The XT8, TP-Link Deco X90, and TP-Link Deco X68 came the closest to providing this though, each achieving a throughput of over 600 Mbps at close range—almost 30% faster than our main pick, the Asus Wi-Fi AC (CT8).

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

When you take raw speed out of the equation, our main pick and upgrade pick are much closer than you’d think in other tests. Their hardware differs slightly, but the CT8 and XT8 use the same Asus routing software, and they performed similarly when all six test laptops were taxing the network at the same time. The the XT8’s latency (the time you’d be waiting for sites to respond when browsing them) was only a few percent faster than the CT8. By this measure, the XT8 was lockstep with the other top performers.

Close up of the ports of the Asus WiFi AX (XT8).

Aside from Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 compatibility, and the speedy 2.5 gigabit port, the XT8 is functionally identical to the CT8. The extra $120 upgrade may make sense for a small slice of people, but we aren’t recommending any of the even more expensive Wi-Fi 6 mesh kits. The next step up from the XT8 is a practically commercial-grade network, where you’ll find features that most people would never touch (and might need an IT degree to understand).

We’ve read user reviews and received reports that the Asus XT8 (and CT8) have had problems with dropped wireless connections. A recent firmware update has been released to improve system stability. We have added the XT8 to our long-term testing rotation and will continue to monitor posts that crop up about issues, and we are open to reevaluating our picks in the future.

Budget mesh Wi-Fi pick: TP-Link Deco S4

Our pick for best wifi mesh networking kit on a budget, the TP-Link Deco S4.

The TP-Link Deco S4 is half the price of our top pick, provided steady wireless coverage to our test home of 3,000-plus square feet, and we estimate it would work well with up to 50 devices and if you have 500 Mbps internet service or slower.

A line graph of the average web browsing latency results for the 10 top performing wifi mesh kits.

The Deco S4 was one of the few dual-band mesh networks that performed well on our web browsing latency test. This relatively inexpensive mesh kit was able to quickly feed simulated web traffic to our three test laptops while three other laptops were streaming 4K video and downloading files simultaneously. Notably, this $150-ish mesh kit outperformed the $350 Netgear Orbi RBK752 and the $250 TP-Link Deco X20 under the same conditions. A slight hiccup on this test was a barely imperceptible slowdown in one of the two 4K streams, where the average throughput was a fair 22 Mbps, when we were looking for at least 25 Mbps for a good score. The second concurrent 4K stream scored a perfect 29.9 Mbps.

Since the Deco S4 is a budget mesh kit, a few upgrades expected in pricier mesh kits are absent. Like the Asus CT8, it’s a Wi-Fi 5 mesh kit and lacks WPA3 security. As stated above, that’s not a dealbreaker at this time as most home PCs, phones, and streaming devices use Wi-Fi 5 and WPA2 security. The Deco S4 is also limited to two Ethernet ports per node, but that’s better than the Eero 6, which only has one free Ethernet port on its base router (and none on the add-on nodes). The Deco S4 is easy to set up and administer, since it has fewer settings to fiddle with than the Asus ZenWiFi mesh kits. The S4 also lacks an integrated internet security suite and has more basic parental controls.

The cylindrical TP-Link Deco S4, next to its AC adapter.

The TP-Link Deco S4 is physically smaller than the Asus ZenWiFi twins, and are easier to hide in your home. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

A close-up of the ports on the TP-Link Deco S4 wi-fi mesh networking kit.

Each Deco S4 unit has two Ethernet ports, so you can connect them together with wires, or hardwire a desktop PC directly to a Deco unit. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

If you have an internet plan faster than 500 Mbps, the Deco S4 might limit speeds in some situations, as it lacks top throughput rates that pricier mesh kits can claim. Transfer speed was an excellent 430 Mbps at 10 feet with no obstructions, but slowed to 170 Mbps when bounced through one of the distant nodes over 30 feet away and two stories up, and a slower but still smooth 48 Mbps through several walls on 2.4 GHz to our worst-case laptop in a bedroom. In any case, you’ll be fine if you’re subscribed to a 500 Mbps or slower plan.

Other great Wi-Fi mesh kits

Along with the standalone routers, our mesh networking picks have been out of stock due to a surge in home network upgrades during the work-from-home era. If you click on the “See all buying options” button on the CT8 or XT8’s Amazon page, you’ll likely be presented with a list of third-party sellers who are offering the router with a markup in price. While a consumer-grade mesh kit is unlikely to be copied by counterfeiters, reseller’s markups may push the price beyond $500, which is more than we’d recommend paying for these kits. In this case we have a few alternatives.

Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6

While the Asus CT8, XT8, and Ubiquiti Dream Machine have optional settings for tweaking their network performance, there’s something to be said about a mesh network you set up once, and almost never have to think about again (aka “set it and forget it”).

The Eero 6 is very simple to set up, so it would be a natural fit for folks who want to minimize their time fiddling with router settings. The Google Nest Wifi is another easy-to-set-up and solid-performing mesh network, but the Eero 6 has Wi-Fi 6 for more longevity and future proofing. All Eero and Eero Pro kits now have a temporary off switch for its 5 GHz network, to make it easier to connect smart devices like cameras and doorbells. It has support for WPA3 security, but that’s one of the few settings you can change beyond network name and password—its quest for simplicity removes even basic niceties (it has only one extra Ethernet port on the base unit, and none on the satellites). Eero offers a pricier package that adds four additional Ethernet ports for about $70.

During our testing, the Eero 6’s performance was competitive when our laptop was connected to the base router, but throughput dropped off precipitously when the signal was bounced through its satellites. That means it is suitable for homes with 500 Mbps (or slower) broadband connections. Eero also charges between $30 and $120 per year for their Eero Secure and Secure+ subscriptions, which are necessary for parental controls and anti-malware protection—services that the Asus ZenWiFi kits include for free.

Like its budget-priced cousin, the Eero Pro 6 is easy to set up and removes many router settings for simplicity’s sake. However, as a three-pack of identical Wi-Fi 6 routers, it’s one of the most expensive mesh kits we’ve tested so far, almost double the price of the Asus ZenWiFi CT8, our pick.

The Eero Pro 6 has two Ethernet ports on each router, which will allow Ethernet backhaul connections between the routers, as well as local wired connections. They’re also tri-band routers, with latency and throughput performance that is competitive with the Asus ZenWiFi models. Like other Eero kits, you have to register the Eero Pro 6 online with Amazon and administer the mesh network in the cloud. Technically, bad actors could monitor your data via this login, though Amazon and Eero assure us that they safeguard your data and online activities. Like the other Eero kits here, online security and parental controls require a $30-120 per year subscription. The Eero Pro 6 is a solid alternative as a simple, set-it-and-forget-it networking solution, if you can absorb the monetary costs, but ultimately, we prefer the Asus WiFi AC and AX over the Eero Pro 6 due to its lower purchase price and included extras like parental controls and internet security.

Netgear Nighthawk MK83

The Netgear Nighthawk MK83 is a good plan B if the Asus ZenWiFi AC or AX are out of stock, or if they are priced $50 to $100 over the MK83. The Nighthawk is well suited to a 3,000-square-foot or larger home with gigabit internet service, topping our throughput test and finishing in the top 12 on our latency tests.

The Nighthawk three-piece kit’s router and satellites are physically smaller than the ZenWiFi routers, and include two Ethernet ports on the satellites and three on the router for plenty of wired connections. Notably, the MK83 outperformed the pricier (and physically larger) Netgear Orbi RBK852 and RBK853 on our tests. Two shortcomings keep the MK83 from replacing our upgrade pick: lack of a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port and extra fees. Parental control and network internet security are an extra $70 per year as part of Netgear’s Armor service. You’ll also need to spring for a $50 technical support fee if you have any issues during the MK83’s 1-year warranty period after the initial 90-day trial period expires. The $50 fee extends the technical support and warranty period to two years.

What about Ubiquiti?

Every time we update our router or mesh-networking guides, readers ask us about enterprise-level networking options like Ubiquiti’s UniFi networking line. Its rack-mounted models are decidedly overkill for most homes, but the more recent UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) seems tailor-made for homes and small businesses. We tested the Wi-Fi 5-compatible UDM in our router guide, but we also wanted to see how it would work with a Ubiquiti mesh extender.

the UniFi AP BeaconHD mesh node

If you link one or more (awkwardly named) Ubiquiti UniFi AP BeaconHD Wi-Fi MeshPoints to the UniFi UDM, you’ll have a mesh network with more expandability and settings to tweak. Pairing the BeaconHD with the UDM has a few more steps than the Asus ZenWiFi, but only took a few extra minutes overall. The BeaconHD is a wireless-only extender like Eero’s Beacons, however, so you’ll need another solution if you want a mesh node with an Ethernet port. The BeaconHD improved the Wi-Fi signal to the rest of the house, but as our tests show below, other mesh kits performed a bit better.

A bar graph of stacked throughput for large file transfers in which our two top picks are within the 6 highest results.

The UniFi Dream Machine and BeaconHD provided strong service all over the home, but other mesh kits outperformed it and were easier to set up. Graph: Wirecutter

A bar graph of stacked median latency in which our two top picks are within the top 5 lowest latency results.

Latency was a similar story: The UDM and BeaconHD were in the middle of the pack when we tested on a busy network. Graph: Wirecutter

The UDM’s administration app and web interface look polished and professional compared with those of home routers, and they offer plenty of settings and graphic monitors familiar to network engineers. But to folks who just want a simple-to-use router, Ubiquiti’s interface could look like an impenetrable wall of technical details.

Screenshot of a browser showing Ubiquiti’s UniFi controller.

If you’re an even more technical sort and have a (possibly humongous) home with some truly troublesome coverage zones, you might wonder how a UDM/BeaconHD mess setup compares with a more traditional multiple-access-point setup such as Ubiquiti’s UAP line of devices. Access points like the UAP only transmit Wi-Fi in certain rooms around your home, with wired Ethernet connections back to the router rather than chaining wireless connections between each access point. If you don’t have Ethernet wiring or can’t install it, you can’t use UAP. This arrangement is a much simpler option than mesh, as you don’t have to worry about building materials like stucco blocking a wireless signal between the router and the access points.

If you can run Ethernet cables and use standard access points instead of a mesh kit, you should consider it.

The UniFi software on the UDM (or a controlling PC with the app) lets you administer the UAP access points. It’s not that hard to use, but it definitely feels techy enough to scare off some less-technical people.

For the tests in our 2017 house, the UAP-AC-Lite access points were in the same sites as our multi-hop configured mesh kits—one in the network closet, one atop the living room TV stand, and one downstairs in the den.

Browsing throughput of Ubiquiti vs Mesh

The $80 UAP-AC-Lite units came pretty close to the top of our 2017 charts for throughput, despite that model being the least expensive version in Ubiquiti’s AP line. They didn’t quite take home the gold, with Netgear’s much more expensive Orbi RBK53 kit squeezing out a few Mbps more as tested, but they came close enough that you’d need to squint to tell the difference.

Throughput doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Latency still tends to be a better measure of how your Wi-Fi network feels, and in latency the two UAP units beat the Orbi system (and every other mesh kit we tested in 2017) everywhere.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wi-fi-mesh-networking-kits/


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