The 9 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems of 2021

Make spotty Wi-Fi a distant memory

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
Netgear Orbi at Amazon
"Boasting lightning-fast performance from anywhere in even the largest homes."
Best for Simplicity:
Eero Pro at Best Buy
"A quick and easy way to bring reliable mesh networking to your home."
"A mesh system for those who don't want to make any compromises on performance."
Best Integration:
Google Nest Wi-Fi at Best Buy
"With points that double as smart speakers, it's a great solution for Google Assistant users."
Best Versatility:
Asus ZenWifi AX XT8 at Amazon
"Offering ultra-fast tri-band Wi-Fi 6 support in a package that's highly configurable but also surprisingly easy to set up."
"Offering fast performance and a plethora of features customizable in the mobile app."
"Uses Powerline technology to reach places that most mesh Wi-Fi systems can't."
Best Security:
Gryphon Tower at Amazon
"Incorporating AI-based intrusion detection and Malware protection by ESET."
Best for Smart Homes:
Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi at EBay
"Takes the synergy a step further by serving as both a mesh Wi-Fi network and smart home hub."

The best mesh Wi-Fi network systems are designed to make sure that you get a top-notch online experience in even the largest homes. Unlike traditional wireless routers, a mesh Wi-Fi system is made up of multiple units that you can place around your living space wherever you’re experiencing poor wireless coverage or performance, ensuring you’ll get the smoothest possible streaming, surfing, and gaming everywhere you need it. We’ve rounded up the best mesh Wi-Fi network systems to cover even the largest and busiest connected homes.

Best Overall: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

Netgear Orbi WHole Home Wifi System
What We Like
  • Very fast with great coverage

  • Easy to set up

  • Highly configurable

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • USB ports don't support shared storage

One of most established names in home networking, Netgear takes the top spot on the list with the Orbi, a high-performance mesh Wi-Fi system that can easily cover even the largest homes with strong wireless coverage.

With a base router and one or more satellite units, the Orbi system boasted lightning-fast speeds during our tests, thanks to its MU-MIMO simultaneous data streaming and a number of customizable features. The tri-band system provides six internal antennas that can deliver speeds of up to 400Mbps to your 2.4GHz devices and 866Mbps on a single 5GHz band, while the additional 5GHz channel acts as a backhaul pathway to communicate between the router and the satellites so you'll get the same great wireless performance regardless of whether your devices are connected to the main router or one of the satellite units.

As an added bonus, Netgear's Orbi boasts a generous collection of Gigabit Ethernet ports, not only offering up three usable LAN ports on the main base station, but also four more on each of the satellite units, letting you easily wire in a smart TV or game console without the need to run extra wires back to your main router. A USB 2.0 port on each unit also provides options for sharing printers from anywhere in your home.

"The Netgear Orbi is one of the fastest and most reliable wireless routers on the market today." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester

Best for Simplicity: Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

Amazon Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System
What We Like
  • Easy to set up

  • Great wired speeds

  • Real-time content filtering & malware protection

What We Don't Like
  • Single Ethernet port

  • Lacks PPPoE support

  • Content filtering requires monthly subscription

The Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi system excels at getting you up and running with coverage for your whole home without the need for you to be a networking expert, thanks to its really intuitive mobile app. The full system comes with a trio of tri-band routers that our testing showed can collectively offer up to 6,000 square feet of coverage with 1Gbps of bandwidth throughout the system.

Each Eero Pro station can handle up to 128 wireless clients and offers two Gigabit Ethernet ports to hardwire in those devices that need maximum speeds or lower latency, such as gaming consoles. Alternatively, you can pick up a more affordable starter kit with two Eero Beacons instead, which sacrifice the Ethernet ports and second 5GHz band but also plug more discretely into wall outlets to offer 1,500 square feet of dual-band Wi-Fi coverage per beacon, and can even double as night lights around your home.

The Eero Pro system is both versatile and expandable, letting you add as many more satellite units as you need, which can be a mixture of additional Eero, Eero Pro, or Eero Beacon units, and the company’s Eero Secure service offers a robust set of parental and malware controls, although you’ll need to pay an ongoing subscription fee for some of the more advanced features. One important caveat that might make this a deal breaker for some, however, is that Eero lacks support for the PPPoE protocol used by many DSL providers, so if that's you, then we'd recommend looking elsewhere unless you're willing to switch ISPs or jump through a few hoops to get it up and running.

“The Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi system is an expandable router-and-beacon networking solution that virtually anyone can set up with zero prior experience.” — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Splurge: Netgear Orbi AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System

Netgear Orbi AX6000
What We Like
  • Blazing fast performance

  • Excellent range

  • 2.5Gbps WAN port

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Lacks parental control features

  • No USB ports

Thanks to its great coverage, solid performance, and ease of configuration, Netgear's Orbi is already our top pick for the best mesh Wi-Fi system, but if you're looking to stay ahead of the curve by investing in the latest high-speed Wi-Fi technology, then you'll want to check out the AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 version, which offers amazing performance and coverage for even the largest and busiest homes.

Thanks to its use of Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology, it's one of the fastest mesh network solutions available, even when you have a lot of devices on your network; with the much higher network capacity offered by Wi-Fi 6, you can easily have up to 100 devices on your network. The Orbi system also maintains impressive speeds even at the edges of its range, so with 6Gbps of total bandwidth you'll be able to enjoy consistently fast speeds anywhere in your home; two units give you 5,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage which can be expanded by adding additional satellite units.

Netgear has also packed in four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each satellite station, giving you lots of room to connect wired devices such as game consoles for even better performance, and the main router on this higher-end model also offers a 2.5Gbps WAN port that's more than sufficient for the fastest home broadband connections available right now. The only disappointing thing with Netgear's Wi-Fi 6 Orbi solution is that for whatever reason the company chose to omit the more advanced anti-malware and parental controls and omit the USB ports found on the lower-end version, but if you don't want to make any compromises on getting the best performance possible, even if it means sacrificing some network management features, this is the mesh system for you. 

"The Orbi immediately impressed, notching a maximum download speed of 939 Mbps when measured at the router." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Integration: Google Nest Wi-Fi (2nd Generation)

Google Nest Wifi
What We Like
  • Attractive and simple design

  • Integrates with Google Home

  • Point units double as smart speakers

What We Don't Like
  • No Ethernet ports on points

  • Lacks a dedicated backhaul channel

Google’s Nest Wifi is a straightforward mesh system that provides some nice integration features for users of Google Assistant and Google-compatible smart home devices. The second generation of Google’s mesh solution, Nest Wifi’s satellite “point” units double as Google Assistant smart speakers, so it’s an especially great choice for those who are already invested in the Google ecosystem, as you can issue voice commands for everything from home control and checking the weather to sending messages and setting up calendar appointments.

Three units—a main base station and two points—provide up to 5,400 sure feet of coverage, and Google’s Home and Wi-Fi apps make this one an absolute cinch to set up and manage, so you can be up and running within minutes with little to no effort, and it even lets you set up a guest network for your friends and other visitors and let them get online simply by scanning a QR code.

The main downside to Nest Wifi is that the base station only includes one Ethernet LAN port, and you won’t find any at all on the satellite points, so you’ll need to add your own network hub if you want to hardwire in some of your devices at the router, and if you need to wire in devices at the points, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

“The Nest Wi-Fi router delivers up to 2,200 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage, with each Wi-Fi point adding up to another 1,600 square feet to that tally." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Versatility: Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8
What We Like
  • Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 support

  • Highly configurable

  • Advanced security features

What We Don't Like
  • Single LAN port

  • Middling 2.4GHz performance

Asus was actually one of the first manufacturers to embrace mesh networking technologies, with its standard AiMesh feature letting you join up just about any set of Asus routers into their own mesh network, and now its brought that expertise to bear in its new ZenWiFi AX XT8 system, where it's pulled out all of the stops in building one of the most advanced and highly configurable mesh Wi-Fi solutions we've yet seen. The ZenWiFi AX not only offers cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax support, but also tri-band Wi-Fi with advanced security features and a level of configurability that's belied by it's surprisingly easy setup.

A single ZenWiFi unit offers coverage of up to 2,750 square feet by itself, so each one you add increases that accordingly, with the standard pair of units offering 5,500 square feet. Further, since it uses Asus' aforementioned AiMesh technology, you can even add just about any other Asus router into the mix, or add the ZenWiFi system to your existing Asus router. 

Asus also has a well-deserved reputation for offering some of the most configurable routers available, and it brings that flexibility to the ZenWiFi by allowing you to choose how you use your third Wi-Fi band; while most tri-band mesh routers like Netgear's Orbi dedicate the third band to a backhaul channel, Asus lets you choose how you want to use it, so you free up that ultra-fast 4.8Gbps 5GHz band to be shared with your devices. Alternatively, if you have wired Ethernet connections available, you can even tell the ZenWiFi AX to use those for your backhaul, letting you get maximum performance from all three WiFi bands.

Best Design: Linksys Velop AC6600 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System

Linksys Velop
What We Like
  • Strong, consistent connection

  • Sleek Design

  • Great range

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Lacks some basic settings

  • Some features cost extra

Linksys' first whole home Wi-Fi system, the Velop Tri-Band AC6600, is one of the more attractive designs we've seen, with each of the sleek white nodes roughly the size of a Jenna tower and good-looking enough to sit on display rather than needing to be tucked away. You can put chase Velop nodes individually or in packs of two or three, with each one giving you about 2,000 square feet of coverage, so all together the complete system can blanket a 6,000 square foot home. 

The Velop AC6600 system uses tri-band Wi-Fi, but like most mesh routers, it dedicates the second 5GHz band as a backhaul channel, which means it can keep traffic moving smoothly between all of the nodes, but your client devices won't be able to take advantage of the additional 5GHz band, meaning that even though it's an AC2200 router, the maximum bandwidth available to your client devices is only 1,267Mbps.

Although the Velop offers a fairly simplified setup process thanks to the Linksys smartphone app, if you like to tinker with your network settings you'll probably want to look elsewhere, as it's configuration options are quite limited, as are features like parental controls, which are confined to blocking websites and manually disabling internet access from specific devices.

"The triband hybrid mesh network produced by the Velop did a good job of eliminating dead zones within my house."— Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Hybrid: TP-Link Deco P9 AC1200+AV1000 Whole Home Hybrid Mesh WiFi System

TP-Link Deco
What We Like
  • Powerline Backhaul covers dead zones

  • Expansive coverage

  • Parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • Middling Wi-Fi speeds

  • No USB ports

TP-Link makes some of the best Powerline network adapters on the market, so it's probably not surprising that with its Deco P9, the company has created a unique mesh Wi-Fi system that leverages Powerline technology to allow it to go to places where traditional mesh Wi-Fi solutions can't reach.

On the surface, the Deco P9 looks much like most of the other mesh Wi-Fi systems you've seen, with two or three cylindrical units that you place around your home to blanket it with Wi-Fi coverage. Where it differs, however, is that while most mesh Wi-Fi systems use actual Wi-Fi to keep the units in contact with each other, the Deco P9 uses the electrical wiring in your home instead, with a built-in AV1000 HomePlug AV2 backhaul channel. This not only ensures that all of its Wi-Fi bandwidth is available for your devices but also has the advantage of letting you place satellite units in areas where your Wi-Fi signal wouldn't otherwise be able to reach; you can get Wi-Fi into any area of your home where there's a power outlet available. 

Each Deco P9 unit offers dual-band AC1200 Wi-Fi, and although that may seem slow compared to other mesh Wi-Fi systems because the communication between them is handled over your electrical wiring, you get full AC1200 speeds from each one, meaning that as long as all of your devices are evenly distributed between them, three units could potentially give you 3.6Gbps of total available bandwidth. A pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports are also available on each station to let you wire in devices, so these can be used as traditional Powerline network adapters as well.

"With all 3 units installed in the attic, main floor and basement of my 4,000 square foot home I was able to enjoy complete coverage." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Security: Gryphon Tower Mesh WiFi Security Router & Parental Control System

Gryphon Tower Mesh Wi-Fi System
What We Like
  • Fast and powerful CPU

  • Easy setup with smartphone app

  • Good parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • Malware protection requires a subscription

  • Expensive

  • Limited configuration settings

In large part because of its comprehensive approach to security vulnerabilities, the Gryphon Smart Mesh Wi-Fi system is well worth its price tag. Today, everything from light bulbs to cameras to washing machines is connected online. Each connected device creates a security threat and that’s where the Gryphon comes in. Incorporating AI-based intrusion detection and Malware protection by ESET, Gryphon keeps an eye on all your electronics. Active malware filtering of incoming data streams alongside enterprise-grade security keep unwanted files and websites out. If a security threat is detected, the compromised device is quarantined off the network until resolved.

Managing of all this protection is the Gryphon smartphone app. The app allows any owner to view currently connected devices and browsing history. The app also assists with the plug and go setup that gets you online within minutes. Additionally, the smartphone app includes parental controls for creating a safe browsing environment for kids. Each Gryphon unit can cover up to 3,000 square feet of network coverage. Two synced Gryphon units create a true mesh network system for up to 6,000 square feet of connectivity. 

Best for Smart Homes: Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi Mesh Router and Smart Home Hub

Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi Mesh Router and Smart Home Hub
What We Like
  • Adaptive intelligent Wi-Fi network

  • Easy to set up

  • Doubles as a smart home hub

What We Don't Like
  • Smart hub configuration requires multiple apps

  • No USB ports

Mesh Wi-Fi, unlike range extenders, makes a lot of sense if you have many smart home devices throughout the house that need a constant internet connection. The Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi takes the synergy a step further by serving as both a mesh Wi-Fi network and a smart home hub all in one. With Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi, you can use the SmartThings app to control any of 100+ compatible devices like lights, doorbells, thermostats, cameras, and of course any SmartThings products you may have. You can also use voice commands from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and set up automated routines for when you wake up or leave the house.

A set of three SmartThings routers provides 4,500 square feet of coverage, and you can add up to 32 hubs. Each unit is a dual-band 802.11ac router, rated for 866Mbps speeds on the 5GHz band and 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Our testing revealed that while its performance may not match other top-quality options, this iteration of Samsung’s mesh Wi-Fi system incorporates Plume adaptive Wi-Fi technology, which uses artificial intelligence to continuously learn about your network and optimize performance. Besides recognizing which devices need the most capacity, this lets you monitor and personalize individual device/user access, such as for kids or guests. 

"If your main purpose is to blanket your home with reliable WiFi, the Samsung SmartThings Wifi Router is the most economical option." Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Final Verdict

If you want the ultimate combination of performance, reliability, and advanced features, Netgear’s Orbi is our top pick, as it’s backed by a company with over two decades of experience in building networking gear. However, if your needs are somewhat simpler and you want a system that’s reliable, versatile, easy to set up and can grow with your needs, the Eero Pro is hard to beat.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate mesh Wi-Fi systems based on design, connectivity, performance, and features. We test their wireless performance at varying distances, measure their effective range and bandwidth, and analyze their feature sets, including how well those features are implemented. We also consider each router as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the systems we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.

Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They began writing for Lifewire in January 2018, but you can also find their work on TechRadar. Bill has also worked as an editor at Future. 

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 

Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician, and writer based in southern Vermont. When he’s not reviewing tech products for Lifewire, he’s getting nerdy fixing them or solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective.

Andy Zahn began writing for Lifewire in April 2019. When he’s not obsessing over (and writing about) the latest gadgets and consumer technology, he can be found traveling and photographing the wild Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, or tending to a herd of obnoxious goats on a small farm in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens.

FAQ

What’s the Difference Between a Mesh Wi-Fi System and a Wi-Fi Extender? 

While mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi extenders are similar in concept—they both extend the reach of your wireless signal beyond your main router’s range—mesh Wi-Fi systems take a more holistic approach, guaranteeing that everything will work together seamlessly while also saving you the trouble of configuring and managing each extender separately. 


Are Mesh Wi-Fi systems faster?

Technically speaking, a mesh Wi-Fi system won’t offer better performance than an equivalent traditional router when you’re sitting right beside it, but since speed always falls off due to a weaker signal as you move farther away from your router, it can make a huge difference in larger homes. The purpose of a mesh Wi-Fi system is to give you consistently faster speeds no matter where you are in your home by making sure there’s always a wireless access point at closer range. 


Do I need to replace my existing router?

In most cases, the answer is yes. Although there are some mesh Wi-Fi systems that are designed to work with existing routers, you’ll generally get better performance and a much better user experience if you simply go with a full mesh Wi-Fi system. That said, if you’re a cable internet subscriber, you’ll still need to hang onto your cable modem, although if you’re using a cable modem/router combo, you should be able to disable the router portion and use it strictly to manage your cable connection.

The Ultimate Mesh Wi-Fi Network Buying Guide

Every wireless router, no matter how many antennas it has or how powerful it is, suffers from the same issue: radio signals weaken when they pass through walls, floors, and other obstructions. Mesh Wi-Fi network systems are designed to solve this problem by placing a number of nodes throughout your home or business, creating a uniformly strong signal with no dead spots.

Unlike traditional routers with wireless extenders and access points, mesh systems are designed from the ground up to work as a node-based system. Setting up a mesh Wi-Fi network system is typically a lot easier than connecting range extenders to an existing system, and they automatically pass your connection from one node to the next as you move around your home.

The main drawback of mesh Wi-Fi network systems is the price, as they tend to be more expensive than traditional routers. You can typically buy a nice router and some extenders for less than a mesh Wi-Fi starter kit, but if your situation really calls for a mesh system, it’s well worth the additional investment.

Netgear Orbi
Lifewire 

Wireless Router Standards and Bands: Less Variety Than Traditional Routers

When you buy a traditional router, you are presented with a lot of choices in terms of available router standards and supported bands. Since mesh router systems are uniformly high end, most of those choices are wiped away. Every competent mesh Wi-Fi network system supports at least the 802.11ac standard as a minimum and is backward compatible with older standards. If you're willing to pay a premium for a more future proof solution, you can even get systems with 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support.

There is some variety in terms of bands, as some mesh systems are dual-band and others are tri-band. Dual-band mesh routers are capable of connecting to your devices via either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and tri-band systems add a second 5GHz signal for additional connectivity or for exclusive use by the nodes to communicate with each other and the base station (also known as a "backhaul" channel). There are no single-band mesh systems.

While tri-band mesh routers are theoretically better, the nature of mesh systems and the way nodes are able to pass data between each other, means that dual-band systems are also able to work quite well. Further, unless your tri-band system uses the third band as a backhaul channel, you'll need to have more than two or three 802.11ac 5GHz devices on your network to take advantage of the third band, since each of your devices can only connect to a single band at a time.

Range: Massive Coverage By Adding Nodes

When selecting a mesh Wi-Fi network system, the size and configuration of your home should take center stage. Mesh systems have greater range, by design than traditional routers, but they aren’t all created equal.

Most mesh systems are designed to cover about 4,000 to 6,000 square feet, while a couple are rated to cover up to 20,000 square feet, or even have a theoretically unlimited maximum coverage.

If your house isn’t that big, but you’re dealing with dead Wi-Fi zones due to issues with signals passing through floors and walls, then pretty much any mesh system will work just fine. If your house is below 2,000 square feet, you may even be able to save money with a good long-range router and a Wi-Fi extender to erase the odd dead spot.

Google Wi-Fi box

However, if you have a particularly large house, need to pass Wi-Fi signals from one building to another, or have other specific size or configuration concerns, then you should select a mesh system that provides a larger maximum range.

For larger homes, and complicated configurations, mesh Wi-Fi systems are highly superior. They can provide more bandwidth, cover more space, and even extend Wi-Fi from your home to another nearby structure if the distance isn’t too great.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the coverage area since each system has a recommended area for the basic starter kit and a maximum area if you add additional nodes. If you have an especially large home, make sure to go with a system that’s capable of providing complete coverage, and keep in mind that some systems are limited in terms of how many extra nodes you can add.

Speed: Mesh Systems Are Typically Fast

Since mesh Wi-Fi network systems are uniformly high end, they tend to be fairly fast as well. There is some differentiation, but you won’t have the opportunity to save money by going with a slower option.

If your home internet connection isn’t very fast, then there really isn’t any benefit to choosing a faster mesh system over a slower one. The rule of thumb is that if you pay for a router that’s faster than your internet connection, then you’ve wasted your money unless you need the performance for your own media server. You can check your internet connection speed with any of these free speed tests if you aren’t sure what it is.

If you have a consumer-grade internet connection, the fastest connection you are likely to have available is 1Gbps, or 1,000Mbps, through cable or fiber. Due to the way mesh systems work, with individual nodes communicating with each other and the base station as well, some mesh systems provide remarkably high wireless connection speeds between different devices on the same network. In fact, some mesh systems can offer overall maximum speeds of 3,000Mbps to 6,000Mbps; although you obviously won't get this from any one device, this kind of bandwidth allows more devices to get connected at their maximum possible speeds.

If you stream media from a local server or transfer a lot of large files between your devices, then you will see some benefit from a speedy mesh system even if your internet connection speed isn’t that great. If you primarily use your Wi-Fi just to connect to the internet, then a system that offers speeds in the 1,200Mbps range is more than fast enough for even the fastest internet connections unless you have a large family competing for bandwidth, but even then keep in mind that even full 4K UHD streaming generally uses far less than 50Mbps for each stream.

Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi Network & Hub

Ports and Connectivity: Nodes Can Have Ports

Mesh Wi-Fi system base stations and nodes tend to be simpler and more modern in design in comparison to traditional routers, which means they tend to lack the massive external antennas and arrays of ports you may be used to seeing on routers.

With that said, every mesh router has at least one Ethernet port, and some have up to four. If you want to connect multiple devices, like a computer, game console, and printer to your base station, then you should look for a mesh Wi-Fi system that has four or more Gigabit Ethernet ports. If you select a device that has only a single port, you’ll have to purchase an additional network switch if you want to hardwire in something like a PC or gaming console.

In addition to the base station, you will often find ports on mesh Wi-Fi system nodes. Some have none, but most nodes will offer at least one Ethernet ports, and some have up to four each. If you have multiple home offices, with multiple desktop computers, printers, and other devices scattered throughout your home, then nodes that include Ethernet ports can come in very handy.

Smart Home Integration: Which System Do You Use?

Most mesh Wi-Fi network systems support a single smart home integration system, and a few support more than one. Alexa is the most commonly supported, with integration from manufacturers like Eero, Linksys, Netgear, and more. Philips Hue, IFTTT, and others see less integration.

If you already have some smart devices in your home, and you’re already tied into either the Alexa or Google Home ecosystem, then that should inform your decision regarding which mesh Wi-Fi network system to choose, but keep in mind that you don't technically need your router to support your smart home assistant unless you need to be able to control its features with voice commands, such as enabling your guest network or blocking access to your kids' devices.

If you're an Apple HomeKit user, then the iPhone maker has taken a different approach. You won't find any routers that can be controlled via Siri, however, a few mesh systems are adding HomeKit-specific security features to keep your smart home devices protected from network intrusions, which is something that neither Google Home nor Amazon Alexa yet offers.

Security and Parental Controls: Check For Hidden Costs

Since mesh systems are high-end equipment, they typically include robust security options and parental controls. There are a handful of systems that don’t include either, so look for those if you don’t have kids and prefer to manage security on individual devices.

Mesh systems that include robust built-in security and parental controls typically allow you to manage both through the same app that you use to manage the rest of the network. Each one has its own system though, so make sure to check out the specifics if security and parental controls are important to you.

Some mesh Wi-Fi systems are capable of scanning for viruses and malware at the router level, blocking ads at the router level, and blocking sites for specific devices at the router level.

The most important thing to check in this area is whether or not the security and parental controls of the mesh system you’re interested in require a subscription. Basic security options are often free, but the best-advanced protections and parental controls often come at the cost of an ongoing monthly subscription, so make sure to take that into account.

Setting up the Netgear Orbi router
Netgear 

Accessories: May Need to Buy Extra Nodes

When you buy a mesh Wi-Fi network system, the most common configuration is to purchase a starter kit. The contents of these kits differ from one manufacturer to another, but you’ll typically get a base station, one or two nodes, and all the cables required to connect everything.

Before you buy your mesh system, check the range of the base station and nodes and come up with a rough estimate of how many nodes you will need. If you have a large house, you may find that you need more nodes than the starter kit includes. You can always go back and add more nodes later, but a little math ahead of time can get you pretty close.

Aside from potentially purchasing extra nodes, you may need to pick up a longer Ethernet cable. The Ethernet cables included with most mesh systems are fairly short, so make sure to buy a longer one if you need to place your main router more than a few feet from your modem.

If you want to plug devices into your nodes, and the nodes have Ethernet ports, then you may also need to buy cables for that purpose. You’ll typically find enough Ethernet cables packed in to account for each node, but they may not be long enough depending on how far away you want to place your devices.

If you do need to purchase additional cables, make sure to buy high-quality CAT 6 or CAT 7 Ethernet cables, and keep them as short as possible unless you only care about reliability and aren’t concerned about speed.

Brands/Manufacturers

Most of the major router manufacturers have a mesh Wi-Fi system, and a handful of newcomers have also made very interesting contributions to the field. Here are some of the most important mesh Wi-Fi system manufacturers that are worth checking out as you search for your ideal system.

Netgear

Netgear has been in the router business for more than two decades, and their Orbi is an Alexa-enabled mesh Wi-Fi system that’s capable of handling about 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of space depending on the system. While it’s on the pricey side, Netgear’s Orbi has a lot of great features, like up to four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each of their stations. Keep in mind that most of the Orbi systems only support up to three satellites, but that should give you more than enough coverage for all but the most massive homes.

Asus

Asus is a relatively latecomer to the game in terms of offering self-contained mesh systems, but the company has actually been offering its AiMesh technology on almost all of its routers for years, allowing any two Asus routers to be configured to participate together in a mesh network. This has given the company a lot of experience with mesh networking, and its new ZenWiFi systems take advantage of that expertise, and much like the rest of Asus' lineup of routers, they also offer the most highly configurable mesh Wi-Fi systems you'll find right now, which is great if you're an advanced user who likes to be able to tweak your settings for maximum performance.

Linksys

Linksys is a well-known brand name with decades of history that has been owned by the likes of Cisco and Belkin. Their Velop is one of the more expensive Wi-Fi mesh systems on the market, but it offers up to 6,000 square feet in coverage and tri-band connectivity for speeds of up to 867 + 867 + 400 Mbps per node on the two 5GHz and single 2.4GHz bands.

Google Wi-Fi

Google

Google is a newcomer to the router space, but their Nest Wi-Fi router is an intriguing option. It doesn’t work with Alexa, so it’s a bad choice if you’re deeply entrenched in Amazon’s ecosystem, but it does work very well with Google Home. Additionally, every Nest Wi-Fi node also functions as a smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant functionality.

Eero

Eero is another relative newcomer that has some very interesting hardware. The router base station and nodes are quite small, and there are now a couple of different versions available. The basic model only offers a single Ethernet LAN port on the main router, but the newer Eero Pro models also provide two Ethernet ports on each satellite. You can also choose two extend your network with additional tri-band Eero Pro units as satellites, or the lower-profile dual-band Eero Beacons, making it a more flexible system. The primary unit covers about 1,750 square feet, and each node adds about 1,500 square feet, with no theoretical limit as you add more nodes. Eero is also the first mesh system to offer Apple HomeKit support.

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network

Buying a mesh Wi-Fi network system is a lot like buying a regular router, and all of the same technology and terminology applies. In fact, you can check out our guides to the best wireless routers and the best Wi-Fi extenders for more in-depth information on the subject.

Beyond that, look for a tri-band system if you have multiple family members or roommates competing for streaming or gaming bandwidth, make sure the system you choose is compatible with your current smart speakers and other smart home devices if you want to use voice control, and pay special attention to the parental controls if you have kids. Some of the best, most comprehensive offerings are locked behind a subscription, so keep that in mind as well before you pull the trigger.

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