Mesh networks have changed the way I look at wireless connectivity. As you know if you read much of my blog, I used to work for the local cable company and have had my share of fighting with wireless routers. Wifi range was always an issue with traditional wireless routers.
For years and years, I have fought with different home wifi systems and wireless routers in my home as well as other people’s homes and businesses.
Smart home devices are reliant on a strong solid wireless network, and as long as everything is working fine you don’t even think about your wireless router.
But home wifi systems are affected by all kinds of different things. Brick walls, old copper wiring in those walls. I’ve even seen a router that was sitting next to a mirror that completely screwed up it’s connection to anything else in the house.
Having a good wireless home network is important for smart home users. Whether you work from home or you just don’t want to listen to the complaints from other family members.
It’s only natural that you’d want the best Wi-Fi you can get. It’s got to be fast and the connection has to be strong throughout your entire home. Otherwise, you’ll end up throwing something. More than likely your wifi router which isn’t cheap, to begin with.
Wireless mesh networks have changed the game and not just a little bit. There is no more complaining or whining in my house about my wireless internet speed or my wireless connection from anyone. Not even me!
Mesh network companies don’t want you to even have to think about your WiFi connection. They just work! Mesh network companies are really able to achieve this type of wireless reliability thanks to using nodes, which act as tiny satellites.
The idea, typically speaking is that you place three nodes throughout your home, and if one were to go down, the remaining nodes would automatically work to keep your connection up and running.
Check out this video for a good solid explanation on Mesh Wifi networks.
You’ll never hear me tell someone they should just go buy a wireless router again. In this day and age, you need something that can effectively cut out all the noise and give you the perfect connection with the perfect speed in any room of your house.
If you just want wifi that works, then go grab yourself the Netgear’s newest traditional router and be done with it. Just don’t call me when you have to go out and buy additional access points that may or may not solve your wifi problems.
But if you want wifi that you won’t complain about, and wifi coverage that will never fail you then you should strongly consider a mesh wifi network.
If you think that a wifi mesh network might be the right fit for you then read on.
I’ve tested several wifi mesh systems and having worked as an installer in the home security industry; I can tell you definitively which ones were best for your smart home and why.
Obviously, there are a lot of mesh networks on the market. But I’m going to give you the skinny from my testing results on these four smart wifi systems.
Google Mesh Wifi
If you aren’t living under a rock then you know that Google is the king of the internet. With that said, obviously, they want you on it as much as possible!
Google Mesh wifi was extremely easy to set up and was fast right out of the gate. Their smartphone mobile app makes the accessibility to the back end of this system very easy. That means you don’t need to know the IP address or anything like that.
- You won’t mind having their satellites out around your house because they are very appealing to the eye.
- Google stays on top of security updates for this hardware.
- Setup takes no time at all. Very easy.
- Doesn’t focus on advanced features.
- Only allows you to access via the mobile app, so not as good for a techie type of person.
- Settings are limited if you lose internet.
- Only has two cable ports for an ethernet cable.
In my house, we use Google for most things so everything about it felt very familiar to us. The look and feel definitely has Google written all over it.
Setup of the Google mesh network couldn’t be any easier than they’ve already made it. You set up on of the satellite units and connect it to your modem. Once that is set up, then fire up the mobile app and you’ll get a notification that will get you going with ease. It walks you through setting up all three units and even gives you tips to help increase performance.
Each unit gives you about 1,200 square feet of strong signal moving through your house and the best part is that it automatically switches you from one to the next without a problem. The mobile app offers some great control features.
For example, you can prioritize one satellite device over the others for a set amount of time which works great for parental controls.
However, it lacks advanced networking features like dedicated port forwarding which could be a problem for some gamers. If you lose your internet connection you have no way to change settings. That in and of itself is, in my opinion, the biggest lack of features here.
If you aren’t a tech savvy person or just want something that stays automatically updated and secure then this mesh network will work fine for you. You can find them over here on Amazon if you are interested.
Eero has been on the market for a while and was one of the first consumer-grade mesh wireless networks, so they’ve had time to improve.
This is a true tri-band mesh system with a dedicated band for communication between devices, and the units themselves are small and are very eye appealing. The price isn’t as appealing, but let’s dive into the features and see if it’s worth it.
- You can have as many beacons as you want.
- Beautiful design.
- Setup was very easy.
- No ethernet cable ports (lan ports) on the beacons.
- You have to have a smartphone to set it up.
- Settings are someone limited.
A good friend of mine works for an installer for a big box technology store (I’ll let you guess which one). He says, even though a lot of people are truly invested in a Google ecosystem on their smartphones that Eero was flat out the best they have seen.
Would I personally recommend it based on that? Maybe, but we still have a good long way to go.
There are a lot of cool things about Eero. It has a dedicated communication band, which delivers a fast network even at an extreme distance. It also offers the ability to use as many beacons as you need. This is a great feature for those with larger homes.
Set up was almost as easy as the Google Mesh Wifi method. You need to set up the program which walks you through the whole procedure utilizing friendly, easy to comprehend language.
If you are not knowledgeable about networking terms you will enjoy the friendliness of this mesh network, and if you are a company selling these then you will love how well the provider breaks everything down for non-tech types.
An Eero is slightly more expensive for a typical three pack style system. And like Google Wifi, there are not enough configurations to satisfy users that are hardcore about their wifi systems.
The Eero system functions nicely in the event that you have some time to detect the best topology for your installation. The trick for me appeared to be to not put the beacons so that they were equivalent signal strength out of any one particular client.
If you’d like to check them out, you can find them over here on Amazon.
Netgear’s Orbi system isn’t a true mesh wireless system like we’ve been discussing here. It extends your wifi with satellite units, yes.
But those satellites are only connected to the base, not each other. However, it is a true tri-band system that will give you a fairly fast network speed throughout your home.
- You don’t have to set up an account.
- There is no speed loss due to the forwarding of the mesh network.
- The base and satellite work together out of the box.
- It’s bulky.
- Costs a fair chunk of change to add satellites.
- Setup was oh so confusing, a non-tech type person would not do well with this.
This system is for advanced users who want a mesh-like system but with all the control you would have with a regular router. You login directly with the IP address which will get you to the regular Netgear screen that you know and love. The Orbi system also offers advanced features that many everyday users may not care about like advanced QOS and port forwarding.
Having said all that, the Orbi system has one other thing to note. The Orbi uses a dedicated band for communication between the satellite units, most other consumer mesh products use the same band your network data does, this can cause approximately a 50% data loss for each “hop”.
The average user will never notice the difference though. But it could make a difference for you if you are streaming a lot of data or transferring large files on your internal network.
These units are bulky and take up a lot of space, I’m not a big fan of that. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless they really feel the need to be able to use port forwarding or have more control over the back-end interface. If you would like to find out more or check the current price, you can do so over here on Amazon.
The Linksys Velop mesh wifi system features a primary node that replaces your wireless router and modem, and then two additional nodes that you place throughout your home to increase the actual coverage of your wi-fi network.
- Easy to use and set up.
- Fast and accessible from anywhere on the internet.
- Integrates with Amazon Alexa.
- Huge in stature and can’t be mounted.
- No dedicated band control
I have a hard time even writing this to be honest with you because I couldn’t find a lot of things that I absolutely loved about the Linksys Velop. Which was surprising considering that it has support for Alexa built in.
That made me think that it would be great for a smart home. Yes, it does support connection to Alexa although I really had no need nor desire to control my internet with my voice.
I had issues getting it to connect properly with Sonos. I think I literally worked on that every night for a week before I got the system to work right without any kind of static or buffering.
I didn’t find the system to be that much faster than any of the other networks and for the price that didn’t impress me one bit. The pure size of the mesh nodes would scare off most users who are looking for something that is sleek and pretty to look at.
Not only that but the power supply that you plug into the wall was just as beefy as the system itself. There’s no place to plug anything else in…period….end of story.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten my nasty comments out of the way I will say that the system was fast. I mean seriously fast. I literally noticed about double the internal network speed that I noticed with Google’s mesh network system.
It does have a more robust wireless radio than the Google mesh network. It uses a 3×3 wireless radio vs. the 2×2 wireless radio of the Google Wi-Fi. I’m sure that this is how they are excusing the absorbent cost of the Velop.
The set up of the Velop was about what I expected and as fast as most of the other systems that I have set up and tried. In general, the Velop was “ok”, but for most people that don’t live in a mansion that is 4,000 sq. feet or bigger, then I would ignore this system and move on.
If you would like to read other reviews or check out the current price here is a link to the Velop over on Amazon.
Which Mesh WiFi Network Was Best?
Everyone has their opinion about Mesh networks, and I really think that it depends on the user and what they will be using it for. Google’s Mesh network is very user-friendly and I think just about everyone including my 7 year old could set one up for that reason it’s my top pick.
I found that the Velop was just out of the realm of what I needed. I wasn’t blown away with what you pay for and what you get personally. But if you have a very large house it may be exactly what you are looking for.
Netgear’s Orbi wifi mesh was a bit too big for my taste and I’m not convinced that the technology is quite up to stat with the others mentioned here. At the end of the day, I think that the Eero was my personal favorite and seems to be the most well-liked system all around. Very easy to install and very smart home network friendly.
I hope that you found this article useful and if you are curious about how to secure your smart home network, then you should definitely check out that article while you are here as well.