Table Of Contents
- How Do Mesh Networks Work?
- Why Is A Mesh Network Better?
- Does Mesh Wi-Fi Replace A Router?
- Is Mesh WiFi Better Than A WiFi Extender?
- What Is The Best Mesh WiFi Router?
- Google Nest WiFi Mesh Network
- Eero Mesh WiFi Network
- Netgear Orbi Mesh Network
- Linksys Velop Mesh Network
- Which Mesh WiFi System Was Best?
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 coverage was always an issue with traditional wireless routers.
For years and years, I have fought to get good coverage 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 coverage, and as long as everything is working fine you don’t even think about your wireless router coverage.
The best mesh networks on the market right now are:
- Google WiFi
- Netgear Orbi
- Linksys Velop
- Google Nest Wifi
How Do Mesh Networks Work?
Mesh nodes are small radio transmitters that function in the same way as a wireless router. In a wireless mesh network, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a Cable Modem. That one wired node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes that are close by.
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 on the wall 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 about how their computers won’t connect to the Wireless network.
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.
Why Is A Mesh Network Better?
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 networks solve one of the most troubling problems with home WiFi, that of having dead spots in your home or work area. Mesh networks provide better coverage by incorporating different hubs which communicate with one another simultaneously.
The difference is immeasurable! 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. You really do see a difference in coverage, even the everyday user.
The fact that you can set these up through their own independent app makes setup extremely easy for these devices. That’s a noticeable difference right out of the box.
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. This is coverage that most of us tech types have dreamed of for years!
Check out this video for a good solid explanation on Mesh Wifi networks.
Does Mesh Wi-Fi Replace A Router?
Yes, Mesh WiFi can help eliminate dead zones where you don’t get good reception. Rather than broadcasting Wi-Fi signals from a single point, mesh router systems have multiple access points. One point links out to the modem and then acts as a router, while one or more other access points, often called satellites, capture the router’s signal and rebroadcast it.
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 coverage with the perfect speed in any room of your house.
Routers That Just Work
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 coverage 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.
Is Mesh WiFi Better Than A WiFi Extender?
I’ve never been a fan of WiFi extenders as they do require more time to set up and configure, but aren’t replacing your existing network so you can keep your existing router. From a money standpoint on average, mesh networks can cost as much as $300+, whereas a good WiFi extender can cost as little as $50 over on Amazon.
So this is really subjective and it may depend on your situation. A lot of people are really happy with their router and they just need better coverage. That can typically be achieved by heading out to Walmart and buying a WiFi extender.
But what I tell people who ask me, is that if you are planning on buying a brand new router, then just buy a Mesh Network, you’ll end up having less problems down the line.
What Is The Best Mesh WiFi Router?
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 network units on the market. But I’m going to give you the skinny from my testing results on these four smart wifi systems.
Google Nest WiFi Mesh Network
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 wifi was extremely easy to setup and was fast right out of the gate. It’s important to understand the difference between this and a normal router. Their smartphone mobile app makes 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.
A lot of people seem to be bothered by the fact that this device only has two ethernet ports to connect into. Honestly, the way I look at that is that nowadays we don’t have that many items physically plugged into the router anymore for the average homeowner anyway. So I think it’s really subjective how many ports you need, but in my opinion, two ports should be plenty in 2019 and way beyond!
- 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 product.
- Setup takes no time at all through the app. Very easy.
- If price is a consideration, then this unit is the way to go.
- Doesn’t focus on advanced features.
- Only allows you to access via the mobile app, so kind of dumbed down 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 wifi mesh network couldn’t be any easier than they’ve already made it. You set up one 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 Google WiFi 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 node without a problem. The mobile app offers some great control features though and makes it easy to setup.
For example, you can prioritize one satellite device over the others for a set amount of time which works great for parental controls. Way better than your everyday average wireless router.
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 with this device. That in and of itself is, in my opinion, the biggest lack of features here.
Final Thoughts On Google Wifi
If you aren’t a tech-savvy person or just want something affordable that stays automatically updated and secure then this mesh network will work fine for you. You can check this product out over here on Amazon if you are interested in learning more.
Eero Mesh WiFi Network
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 the unit with the newer generations.
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 in design. The price isn’t as appealing, but let’s dive into the features of the Eero device and the tech behind it and see if it’s worth it.
- You can have as many beacons as you want.
- Beautiful design.
- Setup through the Eero app was very easy.
- Very fast speed on wired or wireless.
- No ethernet cable ports (LAN ports) on the beacons.
- You have to have a smartphone to walk through the app setup.
- Settings on the unit are somewhat 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 product 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 the Eero unit. 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 for the unit to get the coverage you want. 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 products then you will love how well the provider breaks everything down for non-tech types.
Eero WiFi 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 Orbi Mesh Network
Netgear’s Orbi system isn’t a true mesh wireless system like we’ve been discussing here. It extends your wifi coverage with satellite units, yes.
But those satellites are only connected to the base, not each other. However, it is a true tri-band system product that will give you a darn fast network speed throughout your home and equally powerful coverage.
- 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.
- The device is bulky.
- Costs a fair chunk of change to add satellites.
- Setup was a little bit confusing. But the app has gotten easier to use over time.
This wireless mesh 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 device 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.
My Thoughts On The Orbi
These units are bulky and take up a lot of space, I’m not a big fan of that design. 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 WiFi network.
- Easy to use and setup was flawless.
- Fast speed and accessible from anywhere on the internet.
- Integrates with Amazon Alexa.
- The price is a little more than I’d want to pay.
- Huge in stature and can’t be mounted. Not a good design at all.
- 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 speed. I literally noticed about double the internal network speed that I noticed with Google WiFi’s mesh network system.
It does have a more robust wireless radio than the Google WiFi’s mesh network. It uses a 3×3 wireless radio vs. the 2×2 wireless radio of the Google WiFi. I’m sure that this is how they are excusing the absorbent cost of the Velop.
The set up of the Velop device 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 unit 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 device over on Amazon.
Which Mesh WiFi System 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. I try to remember that you get what you pay for here when it comes to coverage. It really does make a difference and that’s why I’m so passionate about this and to be honest that’s why Mesh WiFi costs more in general.
Google’s Mesh network is very user-friendly, has great coverage and I think just about everyone including my 8 year old could set one up for that reason it’s my top pick.
I’m really blown away with how quickly their app gets the entire thing up and running. Their app was one notable difference that makes the Google Wifi unit better than most for the average user.
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 so that you get the right coverage.
Netgear’s Orbi wifi mesh was way 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.