• Google Wifi (3-Pack)

  • Amazon Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons

  • How We Tested

  • What to Know About Mesh Routers

  • How Do I Get Faster Internet Speeds? Why Is My Internet So Slow?

  • Other Mesh WiFi Routers We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Mesh WiFi Routers of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Google Wifi (3-Pack)

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Easiest Setup

    Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons

    Skip to the full review below
Google-Wifi-System-Standin
Credit: Google
Best Overall
Google Wifi (3-Pack)

Google’s offering for mesh home WiFi is a solid choice for most consumers. We tested the Google WiFi three-pack option - it ships with one router that connects to broadband, and two nodes to extend the WiFi signal.

Setup is simple enough that any child with an iPhone (or Android device) could manage it, but the performance and features here are not child's play.

Google WiFi provided the best Internet speed with a cable connection that has 400 Mbps download service level -- with Google WiFi reaching throughput speeds of up to 120 Mbps at certain points in testing. That is incredible performance in our testing environment: a multi-dwelling apartment building in a highly-populated area with lots of other WiFi routers competing on the same wireless radio bands. A standalone home in a less-densely populated area is likely to see even stronger performance.

As mentioned, Google WiFi is simple to set up and even guides you through the best placement of the nodes for optimal performance and coverage. The setup uses Bluetooth so if you don’t have an Internet connection beforehand, there is no problem setting the system up and it can be set up just using a smartphone.

The companion app (available at the App Store or Google Play) offers full control of the home network via a smartphone. Parents can set Internet access schedules or block adult content from children’s devices.

Its small nodes are unobtrusive and should be easy to place in any room. The main router and the two nodes each have dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, so you can hardwire a gaming console, smart TV or other Internet-connected device to them.

Google WiFi is such great networking hardware that it is baffling why there is currently no integration with Google Home or Google’s Smart Assistant. Especially since you can manage many other smart home devices through the app. It would be ideal if you could use Google’s smart assistant to reboot the network or find out which devices are connected or kick your kids offline from the office.

Still, Google WiFi is our top pick for a mesh networking solution. It’s affordable, not among the most expensive we tested, has an adequate feature set, and is easy to set up and configure.

Mesh WiFi Winner Eero
Credit: Reviewed.com / Brendan Nystedt
Easiest Setup
Amazon Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons

Eero is a breeze to set up and is a solid alternative to Google WiFi. One of the first mesh networking solutions to come to the market, Eero has since been acquired by Amazon this year for $97 million —that’s how valuable the world’s largest ecommerce considers this product.

And with good reason. Eero offered Internet speeds on par with Google Wifi in our testing- although the Eero’s speed was not as fast at a distance, as Google’s.

And the setup and configuration are almost automated. Eero detected the broadband connected instantaneously and provided detailed instructions on the best places throughout the testing area to install the nodes.

Most home users will be satisfied with the feature set. It supports parental controls, setting up firewall rules to control the type of Internet traffic that comes in and leaves your network, and supports control of third-party smart home devices.

A few caveats: Advanced features including ad-blocking, robust security, and granular control over devices connected to the mesh network will cost you a yearly fee. Also, there is currently no integration with Amazon’s Alexa.

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How We Tested

The Tests

We tested all nine routers in a pre-war, four-story apartment building. Testing was performed on floors one, two and three. The building is made of stone and plaster and has a lot of metal doors and fixtures—a very challenging WiFi environment.

To add to that challenge, the building is in the middle of a busy metropolitan area with lots of business and home wireless networks.

The current network in the testbed is a cable broadband connection with a service level of 400 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload. The router is a Netgear Nighthawk X45 AC2600 Smart WiFi Router.

The cable network is Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) and bandwidth was tested using the Fast.com Internet speed test application.

Each router system was set up, upgraded to the latest firmware and tested at least an hour after configuration. Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Laptop/Tablet combo was the laptop used for testing and as well as a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone with the latest version of Android. Also used to test streaming capabilities and performance load on the wireless network - an LG smart TV with wireless connectivity.

The Tester

My name is Samara Lynn, and I’ve tested consumer wireless technology including routers, extenders, cable modems and more for almost 10 years. I’ve also set up networking equipment professionally.

What to Know About Mesh Routers

Mesh routers really aren’t that different from traditional routers, and if you have used the WiFi at a coffee shop, airport, school, work, or hotel then you’ve already used one. Basically, instead of having one main router that broadcasts the signal for your entire network, it’s broken up into multiple access points and (with specific tri-band mesh routers) multiple bands your devices can all share.

This lets your network broadcast from multiple places, but with a single sign-on and ID. The system (and your devices) then decide which access point is best and shuffles you around accordingly, without you having to do anything.

While this may seem more complicated, in practice it’s actually much easier. Mesh routers usually have simpler screens for setting up your network, companion apps that make your initial installation a breeze, and come pre-paired out of the box.

Mesh Routers vs WiFi Repeaters

Mesh systems are vastly superior to WiFi repeaters, which offer very limited bandwidth and range extending power that will still be limited by your single router’s ability to broadcast its WiFi signal through all the obstacles inside your house.

Though there are setups where a repeater can do nearly as good of a job as a mesh system (such as if you have a low-speed internet plan or your repeater is wired directly into your router by an ethernet cable), in most cases you’ll be better off with a mesh WiFi system, which can give you the WiFi coverage you need in a system designed to handle it.

Can You Add Access Points to a Mesh System Later?

Yes, you can. Though it’s easier for some systems than others, nearly every mesh system allows you to add additional access points down the road. Just know that in most cases you’ll need to pair it to your network, unlike the initial setup where all the access points typically come pre-paired right out of the box.

Is it Worth Waiting for WiFi 6 support?

WiFi 6, also seen as 802.11ax, is a new wireless standard that supports a much higher rate of speed than some earlier protocols. It has some huge advantages for networks that support it, but it requires updated devices that have the radios to access it (just like 802.11n and 802.11ac before it).

Some newer phones already have WiFi 6 / 802.11ax support built into them, but it’ll take quite a while for every device in your home to support it. It’s all backwards-compatible, of course, but unless you have all brand-new devices, a brand-new wireless router, and a very fast internet plan, you won’t see the benefits of WiFi 6. You may just be better off upgrading to a newer mesh system today.

What About Parental Controls?

It varies from system to system, but our top mesh WiFi systems all offer some level of parental controls. This can include shutting off access to specific devices, setting up guest networks, and for some systems even controlling which websites the user can and can’t access.

Parental controls are an important part of making sure that your kids can access the internet for things like schoolwork, but won’t accidentally stumble into content they shouldn’t see. Even if you’re accustomed to your router just being a “Set it and forget it”-style appliance in your home, we’d encourage you to check out the controls that a newer system will provide.

How Do I Get Faster Internet Speeds? Why Is My Internet So Slow?

These are the two most common questions we see about people’s home networks, and the answer often comes down to having a router that can’t provide the maximum speed that their internet plan is supposed to provide, can’t handle the amount of traffic from multiple phones, laptops, and smart devices, or simply can’t provide the range to cover your whole house.

Mesh systems tackle all three of these problems with a system that is designed to support multiple users doing everything from streaming video, to playing video games, to video chatting with relatives all at the same time.

Though having multiple access points obviously provides improved coverage and top speed, much of the secret sauce is in how the router itself manages the flow of traffic. A high-end router can be like a smoothly paved highway, but if you’ve got slow-moving cars taking up every lane, your top-end speed is going to be limited. Smarter networks shuffle these needs around, so that one single band or access point isn’t overwhelmed at any one time.

Mesh systems also do a better job of handing you off from one access point to another, so if you’re streaming something on our phone and you head from the living room to the kitchen, you are just moving from one high-quality signal to another, instead of away from the only source of internet signal in your house.

Can I Add a Mesh System if I Have Cable or Fios?

Yes! If you’re currently renting a router or modem/router combo from one of the big cable companies, you can usually replace it completely with a mesh system. This will not only give you faster, more reliable internet coverage, but it’ll save you money every month.

If you are using cable, you may want to replace both your modem and your router. Your modem talks to your ISP, your router is what your devices use to share your internet connection. For cable internet, you need both. If you’re renting a modem/router combo and just want to replace your router, then you may need to turn the “router” part of that “modem/router” into what is called “bridge mode.” You should be able to do this easily in the router’s settings, but you may need to call your internet service provider or search online to figure out how.

If you have Fios, then the big box (called an ONT) that was installed in your home effectively is your modem, so the only box you should have to worry about is your router. If you just use Fios for the internet, then you can easily replace it by plugging the ethernet cable from your ONT into your new router.

If you get TV from your Fios provider, things are a bit more complex. You may need to keep your router (or buy a replacement) so that it can still pass things through like your channel guide and On Demand videos. In that case, you’d also change the “router” part into a bridge, but keep the box to handle those things. It’s a more complicated setup, but at the end you don’t want (and usually can’t have) two routers on the same network, or everything will get mucked up.


Other Mesh WiFi Routers We Tested

AmpliFi HD Mesh WiFi System

This attractive mesh networking system lets you set up the network via a touchscreen. Once configured, the smart LCD screen shows the network speed.

The kit also has two mesh nodes points. They are long antennas that plug in flush to a wall and swivel so you can adjust for best signal pickup. The Amplifi system uses a downloaded app for setup. One issue was that the WiFi network had some problems restarting after a firmware upgrade. After a reboot of the router and nodes, the issue was resolved.

The router has five Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can hardwire several devices to it. The apps’ features include parental controls, setting access rules and setting up devices into groups.

Netgear Orbi WiFi System (RBK50) AC3000

Netgear is a longstanding leader in the consumer WiFi market, so it’s no surprise that it has a quality mesh networking solution. The Orbi Ultra-Performance Whole Home Mesh WiFi System comes with an Alexa assistant.

It’s a gorgeous system of devices that also serve as an audio system—it features Harmon/Kardon speakers. It also has an app-based setup. The app walks you through setup of the router, nodes (Netgear refers to them as “satellites” and getting Alexa up and running. Features include parental controls offering Internet time limits and usage monitoring.

Linksys Velop Intelligent Mesh WiFi System, Tri-Band, 3-Pack

Like Netgear, Linksys has been in the business of home WiFi networking for a long time. The Velop Home WiFi system is easy to set up through the Linksys app and gives instructions on where to place the wireless nodes.

The nodes stand upright at about 7-inches tall so there may be some limits in placement. But the software has a very user-friendly interface and features that include parental controls, guest WiFi access and the ability to ability to prioritize which devices get the strongest wireless signal.

While the Velop’s performance was not as strong as other mesh networking solutions we tested, it does have integration with Alexa and you can easily see all devices connected to your home network via the app.

Zyxel Multy X

Zyxel designed its mesh networking system to cover large spaces, The Multy X system uses six internal antennas plus three wirelesss radio bands, one of which is a dedicated backhaul just to connect the nodes.

It’s an impressive feat of engineering. Yet, the solution did not offer the performance of our top pick. Also, at over 9-inches wide, the nodes are quite large and that means you may have some limitations on where to place them.

Yet, the Zyxel offers an advanced feature set that may be of more interest to advanced users who want granular control over their home network.

Synology MR2200ac

Synology is known more for its excellent lineup of storage devices but it has thrown its hat in the mesh networking ring with its MR2200 ac.

The router can be setup using a web browser or app. But it’s the browser-based web interface that really lets you get down to the nitty-gritty configuration and settings. Synology fans will be happy with the interface - it’s obviously derived from the management console of Synology’s network-attached storage devices.

The router is quick to install and delivered solid performance in testing, but seems designed more for advanced users and may frustrate the average home user who wants to quickly get a mesh network running and then pretty much forget about it.

Mercku M2 Hive System

Mercku’s mesh networking system is designed for large spaces, even larger than the other mesh networking system we tested -- spaces up to 6,000 square feet. That is because it ships with a router and four mesh nodes - the most of any system we tested.

It’s a great idea, but in testing there were a few issues with Mercku. It took a few attempts using the app for the router to pick up the powered on nodes - but it eventually did. Also, the Mercku is not as feature-rich as other mesh networking systems we tested, the setup is not as user-friendly and the parental controls are very basic.

The Mercku system did not deliver as speedy performance as the other mesh networking solutions we tested. Plus, the tiny hive nodes have very small LED which makes it hard for those who may not have the greatest eyesight to see the connection status of the nodes.


Meet the tester

Samara Lynn

Samara Lynn

Contributor

Samara Lynn is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

See all of Samara Lynn's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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