Unlike a traditional wireless router, which broadcasts a single Wi-Fi signal within a limited area for your tablet, laptop or smart home devices to connect to, a mesh Wi-Fi system leverages multiple hardware access points, distributed around your home, to ensure complete Wi-Fi coverage. More extensive coverage means fewer Wi-Fi dead spots. This translates into significantly happier internet users.
To find the best mesh Wi-Fi system for your home network, we researched and tested the leading products on the market, and discovered the Nest WiFi(available at Amazon for $269.00) is the best mesh Wi-Fi system for your home because it is fast, flexible and easy to use in a two-story home. The mesh routers also have a hidden trick up their sleeve: they work as Google Assistant speakers, so they can play music or control your house by voice.
The Google Nest Wifi system is simple to set up, fast, and easy to use. Although it isn’t quite as fast as the WiFi 6 Linksys Velo AX, it is plenty fast enough for most users, covering our test house in speedy Wi-Fi with Internet download speeds of just over 400 Mbps at five feet from the router down to 100 Mbps at about 75 feet away. At all distances, we found that the connection was stable enough to view 4K YouTube video without glitches.
This fairly inexpensive kit comes with one Wi-Fi router and one mesh point, but extra mesh points can be purchased, and you can install a maximum of five. The Router and mesh points both share the same clean, white design and are about the size of a roll of toilet paper.
The main router includes two ethernet ports hidden underneath the body: one for connecting to your modem and one for connecting a non-Wi-Fi device. The mesh points that spread the base station’s Wi-Fi signal don't include these ports. That said, Nest Wi-Fi has an extra trick up its sleeve: it works as a Google Voice Assistant speaker. That means you can ask it to do things, such as play tunes from Spotify while you cook, or control smart devices. That could be a pro or a con depending on how you feel about things talking to you: personally, with three meowing cats and a barky dog, I have enough things in my house talking to me without Google joining in.
You should know that thanks to a recent firmware update, this mesh system will also work great with slower internet connections as well.
Good WiFi speeds
Includes Google Assistant voice control on satellite router
The Eero was one of the first mesh Wi-Fi systems, and that long experience shows: the system is simple to install and fast in use. It includes a kit of three mesh devices, each about the size of an egg timer, with two ethernet ports and a power input on the back. One of the ethernet ports is used to connect to your modem, the other can be used to connect a device without Wi-Fi. A single, dim LED on the top of the device shows the status.
Including three devices means that you can cover a slightly larger area than the two device kits: Eero claims it can cover up to about 5000 square feet. That depends on the shape of the house and what it’s made of, but extra mesh devices don't cost too much, so adding more won’t break the bank.
Installing the Eero is a pretty simple process with the Eero app, available for iOS and Android devices. This takes you through a step-by-step process, including testing the spot you put the devices to make sure they can all talk to each other. The app also notifies you if any of the devices go offline or have other issues.
Because Eero is owned by Amazon, it also tries to upsell you on subscribing to the Eero Secure service. This includes an ad blocker for $2.99 a month, or $9.99 for that plus a VPN, the password app 1Password, and the Malwarebytes antivirus app. That’s actually not a bad deal, but it feels a bit cheeky to start selling you on the upgrades as soon as you have installed the Eero.
The Eero wasn’t the fastest of the devices we tested, managing a download speed of about 330 Mbps within a few feet of the device and about 56 Mbps at 75 feet away. That’s still a respectable speed, though, and was fast enough to watch a 4K video without significant glitching.
I’m Richard Baguley, and I have been testing and breaking technology for over 20 years. In that time I have tested everything from automatic coffee makers to wearable computers. Until 2012, I was the VP of Editorial Development at Reviewed.com, where I created the testing protocols that are still used for products such as TVs, dishwashers, coffee makers, and refrigerators.
Before we updated this guide with new products, products were tested and reviewed by Samara Lynn, who has almost 10 years of experience testing consumer wireless technology including routers, extenders, cable modems, and more. She's also set up networking equipment professionally.
The purpose of a Mesh Wi-Fi network is to extend the coverage of a Wi-Fi network by adding smaller mesh routers. By coordinating with each other, this mesh of routers creates a single network that can cover a larger area than a single one. So, for our latest round of testing, we installed each mesh W-iFi system in a typical two-family suburban house with a gigabit internet connection from Verizon Fios in the basement. With a conventional, single Wi-Fi router in the basement, the Wi-Fi never quite worked on the deck at the rear and on the 2nd floor. So, we installed these mesh routers as the manufacturers recommended, putting one in the basement and one on the first floor.
Next, we tested how well the mesh worked by performing speed tests throughout the property. These tests included three Speedtest.net tests and streaming an HD video file. These tests were performed on a Dell XPS 13 laptop and a Samsung Note 10+ smartphone and were repeated in different locations and times to see how well each mesh system worked under stress.
The older products in this guide from our first round of testing were evaluated in a pre-war, four-story apartment building located in a busy metropolitan area with lots of other business and home wireless networks nearby. 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 Wi-Fi environment.
We used a Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) cable broadband connection with a service level of 400 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload and our tests were monitored on a Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Laptop/Tablet combo, a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone with the latest version of Android, and an LG smart TV with wireless connectivity.
What You Should Know About Mesh Routers
What is a Mesh Wi-Fi Router?
Mesh routers really aren’t that different from traditional routers, and if you have used the Wi-Fi 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 systems are vastly superior to Wi-Fi repeaters, which just boost the existing signal. Instead, mesh systems add new signals which spread the bandwidth further than simply boosting it.
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 Wi-Fi system, which can give you the Wi-Fi coverage you need in a system designed to handle it.
Terms You Should Know
The following terms are important in understanding how to choose the best mesh Wi-Fi systems for your home:
Wi-Fi 6: The latest version of the Wi-Fi standard. Released in 2019 and also known by the technical name 802.11ax, the new standard increases both the amount of data that can be sent over a Wi-Fi network and the number of devices that can join a network. The speed is increased to a theoretical maximum of 11 megabits per second (Mbps) from the 3.5 of the older 802.11ac standard that most modern devices use. More devices can also be connected, which makes managing mesh networks that include large numbers of devices easier.
Dual and Tri-Band: All of the Wi-Fi mesh systems that we tested are dual-band, meaning that they support signals in the 2.4Ghz and 5.8GHz signal band. Some of them, including the Linksys Velop, are tri-band, meaning that they also support additional signal bands in the 5GHz range. That doesn’t mean that you automatically get to use the extra band, though: most Wi-Fi devices can only use the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands. Instead, the additional 5GHz signal is used by the mesh routers to talk to each other, so they can share data without using up the valuable signal space that they use to talk to your devices.
MIMO: Multiple In, Multiple Out. Modern routers use multiple antennas that can send and receive multiple signals at the same time. By synchronizing these signals, they can increase the amount of data that can be sent. The amount of antennas and signals that can be sent and received at once is usually described by two numbers, which indicate how many of these synchronized signals they can send and receive. The Eero Pro, for instance, uses 2x2 MIMO, so it can send and receive 2 signals at once. The latest Wi-Fi 6 routers expand this further with MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-In Multi-Out), which allows multiple users to use this technique at the same time.
Is It Worth Waiting For Wi-Fi 6?
One interesting thing that our tests revealed is that the long-awaited Wi-Fi 6 routers are not much faster than their older cousins. Although the manufacturers tout increased speed as a reason to upgrade, we found that the Wi-Fi 6 Netgear Veloop AX10 WiFi router wasn’t significantly faster than the other systems. It did have a slight edge in our tests at the longest distance between router and device, though: it achieved higher data rates at a distance of about 75 feet from the main router on the edge of the property. The difference wasn’t huge, though, and the connection on the other Wi-Fi mesh routers was still very usable. At the moment, it seems that Wi-Fi 6 is more about creating a future-proof network than a quantum leap in performance, and it just isn’t worth the extra cost for most users.
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.
What About Parental Controls?
It varies from system to system, but our top mesh Wi-Fi 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 online content that 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 in 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 Wi-Fi Systems We Tested
Linksys MX10 Velop AX
The Linksys Velop AX is composed of two Linksys MX10 routers, imposing white towers with a single LED on top. At just under 10 inches tall, they look like a pair of cubist sculptures. That might be fine if you live in an art gallery, but it doesn’t blend in well with most home decors, especially with several network cables poking out of the back of the case.
Although they stand out, we found the installation process pretty low key: just plug one of the routers in and connect to your modem and then, run the Linksys app and step through the install process. The app uses Bluetooth to detect the router, so you don’t even have to enter a long product name or code. When the second router is ready to go, you just plug it in and run the app again: the process of connecting the two to form the mesh is handled by the app. The two identical routers also offer four-gigabit ethernet ports that can be used to connect non-Wi-Fi devices, even across the mesh network: connect a non-Wi-Fi device into the second router and it behaves as if it was wired into the network directly. The same easy to use app allows you to monitor the mesh, prioritize traffic from certain devices, create a separate guest network, and other admin tasks.
The Velop system is fast as well: close to one of the routers with a Wi-Fi 6 equipped laptop and phone, I measured the speed of the Internet connection at over 350 Mbps, and at a very respectable over 100 Mbps in my yard and second floor, spots that a single router was previously unable to reach. That’s a little bit faster than the other routers we tested, thanks to Wi-Fi 6, which increases the maximum speed of the network by squeezing more data into the same radio signals as older types.
You are paying a lot for a little more, though. Its price for a two router package is more than double the price of our top pick, the Nest Wi-Fi system. But it is fast and easy to use, and the multiple gigabit ports would make it a good pick if you need to connect multiple devices to the network as well, such as desktop PCs.
Four gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting non-WiFi devices
WiFi 6 doesn’t offer many benefits to most users yet
The Pro version of the Eero offers all of the features of its cheaper sibling, plus support for the 6GHz Wi-Fi band. That didn’t make much difference in our tests: I found that the speed of the Eero Pro was comparable to the other dual-band devices. It doesn’t support the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, but it provides a bit more bandwidth if there are a lot of devices in your home, a feature that we didn’t test. The kit that we tested uses one Eero Pro and two Eero beacons, small devices that plug straight into a wall socket.
Installation is simple, using the same Eero app that the model base model Eero uses. This takes you through the step-by-step setup process, including testing the spots you place the devices, to make sure they can all talk to each other and notifying you if any of the devices go offline or have other issues. The app also tries to upsell you on the Eero Secure service.
Although the Eero Pro has all of the good features of the Eero and a few extra bits, it is more expensive. We tested a kit that included three devices: one Eero Pro and two Eero beacons, which costs almost twice as much as Amazon’s base model Eero (our Best Value Pick). The benefits it offers aren’t really worth the added expense.
Tri-band support offers more bandwidth for multiple devices
As the name suggests, the TP-Link Deco M9 is designed to fit in with, well, your deco(rations). The two devices look rather like ceiling-mounted smoke detectors. However, most smoke detectors allow you to hide any cables behind them, while the Deco M9 leaves them poking out of the top in an ugly mess. That’s a pity because the design of the Deco M9 is an otherwise attractive router, As it is, you can see the power and network cables plugged into the side of the device.
Set up and administration of the Deco M9 devices is done through the TP-Link Deco app, available for iOS and Android devices. It is pretty simple to use, taking you step-by-step through the process of installing and testing the mesh network.
We found the Deco M9 mesh network to be pretty fast and capable of covering our entire test area.
It isn’t as fast as mesh systems that support the more recent Wi-Fi 6 standard, but we did find that we got speeds of up to 319 Mbps about five feet from the router, and up to 83 Mbps in more distant spots in the yard and second floor of our test space. The Deco M9 also fancies itself as a smart home hub, as it includes a ZigBee radio that can talk to devices like smart locks and sensors.
Good coverage over the whole test area
Protruding cables ruin the smoke detector-like design
The most expensive mesh router setup we looked at by far, was the Netgear Orbi RBK852. It’s composed of one router and one satellite device, each of which supports tri-band Wi-Fi and four-gigabit ethernet ports. The router device also includes a 2.5-gigabit ethernet port, so it will work with multi-gigabit Internet connections, as well as four-gigabit ethernet ports.
We tested it with a gigabit connection from Verizon FiOS, found it capable of achieving a top download speed of 436 Mbps close to the router and a very impressive 170 Mbps at a distance of 75 feet away. That is significantly faster than the other mesh router systems, especially at a distance.
While it's super-fast and has excellent range, it's unfortunately very expensive. At $699 for the two device setup we tested, it is way more expensive than others. For comparison, you could buy a Google Nest Wi-Fi setup with a maximum of five Wi-Fi points that it supports for the same. There really isn’t a way to justify this cost, except perhaps where the market is positioning Wi-Fi 6 systems.
Very fast access across the whole test range
Four gigabit ethernet ports for connecting non WiFi devices
The Google Wi-Fi mesh router system has been replaced by Google's Nest WiFi (our current Best Overall winner). However, it can still be found on Amazon as a factory refurb. With its easy setup and respectfully fast data speeds, it's still worth your consideration.
While the Netgear Orbi Wifi System (RBK50) isn't the most recent or speedy model in Netgear's current hardware lineup, it does offer a number of interesting features. With each node containing Harmon/Kardon speakers, it can be used to stream audio to any room where a node has been placed—although a mid-range Bluetooth speaker streaming content from your smartphone or computer will likely provide superior audio quality. Setting up the RBK50 is completed entirely using a free iOS/Android companion app.
Easy management via smartphone app
built-in speakers for music streaming
Long in the tooth
Slower than some more recent products
Can't match the sound or utility of a good Bluetooth speaker
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