As working from home looks more and more like a permanent shift for many industries, having good Wi-Fi coverage in your workspace is more crucial than ever. If you've been getting by on degraded signal and poorly-performing extenders, it may be time to replace your router with a multi-point mesh system, which covers your entire house in a single, efficient Wi-Fi network.
SKIP AHEAD How to find the best mesh Wi-fi system for you
Best mesh Wi-Fi systems
If you’re looking to upgrade your home Wi-Fi and have determined that mesh a mesh Wi-Fi system is right for you, here are some of your best options.
Best mesh Wi-Fi system overall: Amazon Eero
1. Eero Pro 6
Eero was one of the first names in consumer mesh Wi-Fi, and they still offer some of the more robust, easy-to-use systems on the market. Now owned by Amazon, the latest Eero Pro 6 system isn't their most. Affordable but it is their best thanks to tri-band radios and Wi-Fi 6. For three units, the price is fairly competitive, too, and should cover even larger homes nicely. There's also an older, Wi-Fi 5 version if you want to save a bit of money.
Best feature-heavy mesh Wi-Fi system: Asus
2. Asus ZenWiFi AX
Some people just want to set up their router and forget about it. Other, more tech-savvy folks may like to tweak and tinker with settings to optimize every bit of their network. Asus has always offered a host of options for more advanced users, and their latest ZenWiFi AX system merges Asus' powerful feature set with wide mesh coverage. The Wi-Fi 6 (or AX) version is a bit more expensive per-unit than Eero, but may be worth it if you want to up the ante.
Best affordable mesh Wi-Fi system: Netgear
3. Netgear Orbi RBK13
Netgear has been in the networking business for ages, and its Orbi systems have long been reliable staples in the mesh Wi-Fi market. Orbi currently has a lot of different mesh kits for sale, but one of their most compelling options is this entry-level 3-pack, which offers a basic mesh system for a pretty unbeatable price. You don't get Wi-Fi 6, ethernet ports or tri-band antennas — for the price, though, it's better than the degraded signal you're probably getting from your old, standalone router.
Best affordable, feature-heavy mesh Wi-Fi system: Asus
4. Asus ZenWiFi AC
If you aren't itching for the latest Wi-Fi 6 speeds and features, Asus' ZenWiFi AC offers similar benefits to the ZenWiFi AX, albeit with Wi-Fi 5 (or AC) antennas.
Best mesh Wi-Fi system for Google Assistant-based homes: Google Nest
5. Google Nest Wi-Fi
Google's Nest Wi-Fi might not be as advanced as its competitors and it doesn't have Wi-Fi 6 on board. But for the price, it's a great system that's easy to use — and it contains Google Home speakers built into each unit, which is quite a substantial value-add if you'd planned on grabbing a few of those anyway.
Best mesh Wi-Fi system for you
Mesh Wi-Fi systems, like repeaters, spread your Wi-Fi farther than a single router can do on its own. But unlike repeaters, each unit intelligently talks to the others, only routing the traffic it needs to, negating some of the slowdown that can come with cheaper extenders. While shopping for a mesh system pits you against an onslaught of confusing technical jargon, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are a few important features that stand out above everything else when you’re choosing the right mesh Wi-Fi system for you:
Number of mesh Wi-Fi units
Some mesh systems come in packs of two while others come in packs of three — some may offer an option between both. As you compare price, make sure you're comparing apples-to-apples in terms of the number of units included. Medium-sized homes may be able to get by with only two mesh units, while larger homes might require three.
Number of bands
Like standalone routers, mesh Wi-Fi systems often come in dual-band and tri-band variants. Both will do the job but I highly recommend tri-band models, since they're able to dedicate an entire band to communication between units—called backhaul—which can keep speeds snappy.
Mesh Wi-Fi speed
Many routers will sport a number on the product page like "1200Mbps" or "3000Mbps." This doesn't actually tell you how fast your internet will be, which will realistically depend on your internet package, how far away you are from the router and other factors. It does tell you how much bandwidth the mesh Wi-Fi system will maintain available to all the devices connected to it. In other words, it isn't an exact figure you can bank on, but it does give you a general idea of a mesh system's capabilities in terms of speed, especially when multiple people are online at once.
Some mesh systems offer ethernet ports on the back of each unit — others don't. If you have ethernet wiring in your house, or are willing to hire an electrician to add some, you will get a much, much better experience by using it. Wireless mesh will work in a pinch but I can't tell you how perfect a well-wired mesh Wi-Fi system can be in a home with ethernet.
Every few years, Wi-Fi technology leaps forward and 2020 is one of those years. The latest mesh systems will use Wi-Fi 6, which offers faster theoretical speeds, better congestion handling, and — for some newer phones and laptops — better battery life.
Wi-Fi 5 (or "AC") mesh systems can save you some money, on the other hand, and should be sufficient if you're willing to use a slightly older standard.
Extra mesh features
More advanced mesh systems might come with extra features, from simple parental controls to more advanced traffic routing features for tech-savvy folks.
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