Wi Fi 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.
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 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!
These networks solve one of the most troubling problems with home WiFi, that of having dead spots in your home or work area. They provide better coverage by incorporating different hubs that 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 of these new 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, These 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 wifi network.
If you think that a wifi network might be the right fit for you then read on.
IS WIFI MESH 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, these 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 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 these new node type of 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 set up 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 Google wifi 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 for years to come.
- You won’t mind having Google beacon’s out around your house because they are very appealing to the eye.
- Google wifi 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.
- Google Wifi 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.
- Google wifi settings are limited if you lose the internet.
- It 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. Google 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, Google wifi 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 Google has a network that will work fine for you. You can check this product out over here on Amazon if you are interested in learning more.
EERO WIFI NETWORK
Eero has been on the market for a while and was one of the first consumer-grade mesh wi fi networks, so they’ve had time to improve the unit with the newer generations.
This is a true tri-band wi-fi mesh system with a dedicated band for communication between devices, and the Eero beacon’s 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 Eero beacon’s as you want.
- Eero has a 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 and that they don’t get NEARLY the tech support calls for Eero installations.
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 Eero’s 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. If you want to kick it up a notch you can pick up the Eero Pro for a bit more money which will cover up to 6,000 square feet of your home.
Does Eero work with Google Fiber?
Yes, you can set up the Eero as a gateway in a DMZ on the Google Fiber box so the Eero will handle all the routing and you will be able to use all of the services that Eero offers as well. You can find out more about how to do this over here.
How much is Eero WiFi a month?
Eero is free. It doesn’t cost you a dime. However, if you want to use any of their add on features then you’ll need to choose one of two packages which I have listed below.
Eero Secure – $2.99 per month
- Advanced Security
- Safe Filtering
- Ad Blocking
- Activity Center
- Weekly Insights
Eero Secure+ – $9.99 per month
- Advanced Security
- Safe Filtering
- Ad Blocking
- Activity Center
- Weekly Insights
- Malwarebytes Protection
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 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.
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 networkPROS
- 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.
My personal opinion of the Linksys Velop is that it was “just ok” and that if you are looking for something that works right out of the box without any tinkering (like the offering from Google or Eero) then I suggest you pick up the Google wifi. 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.
IS EERO OR GOOGLE THE BEST MESH WI-FI SYSTEM?
So is Eero the best mesh WiFi or is Google? I mean it’s clear to me that both Google wifi and Eero are both in contention for the top spot here.
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 WiFi costs more in general.
The Google network is very user-friendly, has great coverage and I think just about everyone including my 6 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 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 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.