The Best Mesh Wi-Fi SystemsMesh WiFi Systems
In our increasingly online world, it’s pretty impossible to enjoy a sweet life without a reliable home Wi-Fi network. We’re always checking email and Facebook, watching Netflix, or listening to Spotify. Your home Wi-Fi needs to stay strong and fast, whether multiple people are using your network and no matter where you all are in the house. That last point is where a mesh Wi-Fi system comes in handy.
What to Look for in a Mesh Wi-Fi System
Most modern wireless routers are designed to provide good coverage to various rooms throughout a medium-size house, but when you start factoring larger homes, multiple floors, or dense structural elements, that coverage goes from great… to barely decent at best.
For years people have made do with range extenders and extra access points, two solutions which require more tech savvy than most of us are comfortable with, such as setting up new network SSIDs. Worse, once set up, you often have to switch over to a new access point as you move throughout your house, a hassle no one wants to deal with.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems tackle both of these issues. For one thing, they’re incredibly easy to set up. For another, the way they’re designed allows for a consistently strong signal throughout your home. Mesh Wi-Fi systems leverage nodes, which are physical satellites you’ll place throughout your home to communicate with each other and the router. Because the nodes use mesh technology to talk amongst themselves, rather than only back and forth with the router, they’re able to maintain a stronger signal across a larger area.
However, these additional pieces of hardware introduce a new factor into choosing your home Wi-Fi: design. Routers can be stashed under furniture where no one sees them. Nodes are placed throughout your home, so you need to like how they look.
Besides design, the other top things you’ll want to look for in a mesh Wi-Fi system include speed, coverage, and ease of set up.
Best Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: Our Top 5 Picks
- Best All-Around Mesh Wi-Fi System: TP-Link Deco M5 Whole-Home Wi-Fi System
- Budget Pick: Google Wi-Fi System
- Best High-Speed Mesh Wi-Fi for Gaming Setups: Netgear RBK50 Ultra-Performance Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
- Best Mesh Wi-Fi for Large Homes: Linksys Velop Tri-Band Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
- Best Mesh Wi-Fi for Small to Mid-Size Homes: eero Home Wi-Fi System (1 eero + 2 eero Beacon)
Best All-Around Mesh Wi-Fi System: TP-Link Deco M5 Whole-Home Wi-Fi System
The TP-Link Deco M5 offers everything you want out of a mesh wi-fi system, and more. The three-node pack provides consistent Wi-Fi for over 100 devices up to 4,500 square feet. Best of all, it’s extremely affordable.
Your purchase includes a 3-year subscription Trend Micro Antivirus software, going above and beyond the standard WPA2 encryption most routers offer. The Parental Controls are more sophisticated with TP-Link, as well. Often, you have to manage devices individually, but with TP-Link, you can group all of your kids into a single profile for more efficient management. You can also define their age ranges in the Deco app and it will automatically filter out content. Plus, you can do all this with a simple command of your voice, thanks to Amazon Alexa integration. For even more functionality, you can upgrade to the Deco M9 Plus, which doubles as a smart home hub.
Price: $164.97 on Amazon. Save now with these TP-Link promo codes.
How We Chose the Best Mesh Wi-Fi Systems
How’d we choose the TP-Link as the best mesh Wi-Fi system? We ranked it against the best options out there, on all the features that matter.
The coverage areadescribes the square footage in which the Wi-Fi signal will stay relatively strong. Most mesh Wi-Fi systems have a defined coverage area, which you can expand with additional nodes.
The Linksys covers up to 6,000 square feet, making it our top pick for large homes. Our Editor’s pick, the TP-Link, covers up to 4,500, as does the Google Wi-Fi. The Netgear Orbi adds in another 500 feet, but we don’t feel this is necessary for most homes. At only 3,000 square feet, the eero barely competes here, making it our pick for smaller homes.
The product details of a mesh Wi-Fi system will display speed as the letters AC with a bunch of numbers behind it. These numbers translate to Mbps maximum speed. While it’s unlikely you’ll ever enjoy that maximum speed, it gives you an idea of how fast one system will be compared to another.
The winner here is the Netgear Orbi RBK50, which offers maximum speeds up to 3,000Mbps. Our Editor’s Pick, the TP-Link, is about half that fast, which is why it’s also half the price. However, the TP-Link’s maximum speeds of 1,300 are more than enough for the average user. Only people who need ultra-performance for video gaming will really benefit from the faster speeds of the Netgear.
Part of the beauty of mesh wi-fi systems is that they’ll seamlessly switch among different frequency bands to maintain a consistent Wi-Fi signal. You can also prioritize devices in the system’s smartphone app. For the non-tech-savvy, this essentially tells your system to assign particular devices (like a gaming console or the laptop you’re using) to higher radio bands. This way, these devices maintain the top speeds, allowing for 4K streaming and gaming, while other devices can get by operating on lower speeds.
Mesh Wi-Fi can be either tri-band vs dual band. Bands refer to the frequencies—2.4Ghz or 5GHz—on which the internet signal travels from your router. Dual band systems, like the Google Wi-Fi, have one of each band, while tri-band systems have one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands, allowing them to steer more of your devices onto the higher frequency 5Ghz band. Essentially, tri-band systems support more devices to enjoy faster speeds, as you’ll have three times the bandwidth.
With the exception of Google, all of the options on our list are tri-band systems, including our Editor’s Pick, the TP-Link.
Ease of Setup
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are extremely easy to set up. They come with a mobile app that walks you through the process, including where you should place each node in your house. You’re up and running within minutes.
When it comes to setup, most of our picks are fairly competitive. All of the apps have a nice interface and are intuitive to understand. If anything, the Google Wi-Fi might just barely eke out a win here because so many of us are already familiar with Google products.
There’s more physical hardware with a mesh Wi-Fi system than traditional routers. You’ll have the router, and one or more nodes. Fortunately, all of these will be designed to blend in with the rest of your home and look good while doing it. Having said that, some of them have a better design than others.
This one is really up to personal preference, as you may prefer a certain color (only the Linksys offers black nodes in addition to the default white), or you may have a strong preference for circular disk shapes over taller designs. We feel that the TP-Link and Google offer the most widely palatable looks, with their flat white disks. Although, some people might enjoy the simplicity of plugging in the Eero node.
The two we’d call attention to here would be the Linksys and Netgear. At 7 to 10 inches high, they’re both fairly tall, and may be somewhat awkward to place.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems also come with additional perks, like Parental Controls and voice control.
Voice control often replicates the same actions you can take in the app, such as the ability to pause and restart internet access, or to restrict an individual device or person. All of the systems on our list integrate with Amazon Alexa for voice commands.
Now, let’s talk about the Parental Controls. There’s some differences in the details here, but at a top level, Parental Controls allow you to restrict certain sites and set time limits on use (such as past your kid’s bedtime). This standard offering is what you’ll find with the Linksys and Eero systems.
Others, like the Netgear Orbi, also allow you to view your family’s internet history and set up auto-filters based on your children’s age. Our Editor’s Pick, the TP-Link Deco, does all that and then some, including the ability to group multiple devices under one profile for more efficient management.
Budget Pick: Google Wi-Fi System
Google’s home Wi-Fi system has the most competitive pricing on our list, and it’s easy to purchase nodes according to your coverage needs. One node covers up to 1,500 square feet, while three cover homes up to 4,500. Google recommends two nodes for homes between 1,500 to 3,000. P
eople have come to expect easy and simple UI from Google, and their Wi-Fi app (free for Android and iOS) delivers. Setting up and prioritizing devices takes just a few taps. You can even enable family controls, which pause the Wi-Fi on specific devices. Each node includes two LAN ports.
Price: $239.99 on Amazon. Save now with these Google promo codes.
Best High-Speed Mesh Wi-Fi for Gaming Setups: Netgear RBK50 Ultra-Performance Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 provides coverage up to 5,000 square feet, and that’s with only two nodes. However, those nodes are pretty noticeable, at over ten inches tall. The Orbi app, which is Amazon-Alexa compatible for voice control, makes it easy to get set up and manage your system within minutes—using your fingers or solely your voice. Parental controls are courtesy of Circle with Disney, which allows you view your family’s internet history, set up auto-filters based on age, and pause the internet for individuals or devices.
Where Netgear really wins is its connectivity. Rather than a LAN port or two, you get 8 ethernet ports to plug your devices directly into the system. Based on the connectivity options and high speeds, this is the best mesh Wi-Fi system for gamers.
Price: $313.97 on Amazon. Save now with these Netgear promo codes.
Best Mesh Wi-Fi for Large Homes: Linksys Velop Tri-Band Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
Linksys three node setup can provide Wi-Fi up to 6,000 square feet. That’s one of the largest ranges we’ve seen, making it our pick for large homes with multiple floors. Whether you’re playing video games or streaming in 4K, Linksys will support all corners of your house. However, at over 7 inches tall, the nodes are also big in stature, which may be a dealbreaker for some.
Considering the size of their square footage, it makes sense that Linksys offers additional security features families will particularly enjoy, such as Parental Controls to filter out certain types of content, limit screen time on various devices, and pause the internet as a whole “for family time.”
Price: $437.87 on Amazon. Save now with these Linksys promo codes.
Best Mesh Wi-Fi for Small to Mid-Size Homes: eero Home Wi-Fi System (1 eero + 2 eero Beacon)
Eero stands out for its innovative design. Instead of noticeable nodes that take up room on countertops and come with power cords of their own, the eero nodes are small enough to plug into the wall directly. As a cool perk, they also double as a nightlight!
Eero’s TrueMesh technology acts like a smart home device, analyzing your use patterns over time and by device, so it can optimize the Wi-Fi signal accordingly. Although, you can also prioritize devices in the app. Each node has a range of up to 1,500 feet, so this is better for small to medium-sized homes with two to four bedrooms.
Price: $378.99 on Amazon. Save now with these Eero promo codes.