Best Wi-Fi Mesh Network Systems for Homes

Setting up a Wi-Fi home network so that it fully covers a house with wireless signal can be surprisingly difficult. Even products rated for large coverage areas based on controlled testing in a laboratory can work great in one home and seem totally powerless in another. To be sure, homes tend to be hostile environments for Wi-Fi: brick and plaster walls, a jumble of radio traffic from other home gadgets (including the microwave oven), odd corners that are difficult to reach (but also the best places to hang out), and so on.

Wi-Fi Mesh Network Technology

Traditional solutions for Wi-Fi signal coverage issues in homes include:

  • Relocating the router to a better location and adjusting the orientation of its external antennas
  • Upgrading external radio antennas on the home broadband router to more powerful aftermarket versions
  • Adding a second router or a wireless range extender device to the network
  • Moving clients to locations that avoid dead spots in wireless coverage

Although these methods work in some situations, they tend to be inconvenient and only partial solutions. For many years, business networks that use Wi-Fi in office buildings address the problem by installing a set of wireless access points (APs) to blanket office areas with Wi-Fi coverage, then group all of those APs together into a single network attached to the company’s servers and Internet access – a method known as Wi-Fi mesh networking.

Wi-Fi Mesh Network Systems in Homes

The mesh network systems described below attempt to fully solve Wi-Fi coverage problems in homes. While larger businesses can afford to hire professional installers to ensure every last detail of their network is handled, most consumers are looking for simplicity first. The below products cost more than most existing home networks setups  – buyers are paying a premium for convenience and style in addition to the goal of top performance and reliable signal coverage everywhere they need it.

All of the routers shown in the category offer 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity using built-in antennas. Units can sometimes be purchased individually in addition to the starter packages shown.

1
Eero Home Wi-Fi System

eero Home Wi-Fi System
eero Home Wi-Fi System. amazon.com

​Eero is a startup company based in San Francisco, California (USA). They bill their flagship product as the first Wi-Fi mesh network solution for consumers. Available starting in February 2016, the Eero system (buy on Amazon) contains three devices. One of them is intended for use as a traditional broadband router while the others work as wireless access points supporting the router.

All of these devices feature an identical hardware configuration so that any one of them can be assigned as the router. The wireless signal from each unit covers up to 1,000 square feet (for a total of 3,000 square feet or about 277 square meters).

Plugging an Eero unit into a broadband modem activates its router setup software, usable through a smartphone app. Alternatively, the units can be setup to work in wireless bridging mode and connected to an existing home router. Each Eero devices features two (2) Ethernet ports that can be used for connecting a broadband modem and/or other wired devices plus a USB port. (An Ethernet switch must be plugged into the Eero if needing to expand the number of ports.) The unit's case features rounded corners and a relatively small size (4.75 inches / 12 cm width and height) in line with current trends for the industrial design of home network technology.

2
Luma Home Wi-Fi System

Luma Home Wi-Fi System
Luma Home Wi-Fi System. amazon.com

A startup company based in Atlanta, GA (USA), Luma bills their flagship system as the world's first "Surround Wi-Fi System."  The kit contains 3 Luma devices each with AC1200 802.11ac Wi-Fi support that can be set up and controlled via the Luma smartphone app.

Luma emphasizes security and parental control as key features of its product, which includes a pause button on the app that temporarily shuts off Internet access. Other protection features include automatic malware scans of clients and alert messages when any unrecognized devices join the network. 

This product officially began shipping on 16 June 2016 with some publicized complaints from pre-order customers. The unit is compact - measuring only 4.6 inches (less than 12 cm) on its longest side. The back of the unit features two (2) Ethernet ports and one USB port.

3
AmpliFi (Ubiquiti Labs)

Ubiquiti AmpliFi
Ubiquiti AmpliFi. amplifi.com

AmpliFi comes from Ubiquiti - an established name in enterprise communications but lesser known to consumers. 

The company sells three different kits - AFi, AFi-LR, and AFi-HD. AmpliFi LR (the midrange version) became available first, starting 20 July 2016, with the others shipping later. All three offer very large coverage areas suitable for almost any residence - 10,000 square feet (about 929 square meters) for the base model and 20,000 square feet (about 1858 square meters) for the LR and HD versions.

Each full kit (buy from AmpliFi, U.S. only) consists of 3 units - one router (called a "base station") and two access points (called "mesh points"). Unlike other products in this category, the router and access points have decidedly different form factors (the access points being taller and thinner, suitable for directly plugging into electric outlets). To reach the lower price points, the base and LR models offer only 802.11n level support for clients while the HD model offers full AC.

4
Netgear Orbi AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System

Netgear Orbi Mesh Router System (RBK50)
Netgear Orbi Mesh Router System (RBK50). amazon.com

Available for purchase as of 23 September 2016, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 (buy at Amazon) contains a wireless router (RBR50) and one wireless access point Satellite device (RBS50).  Each unit promises to cover up to 2,000 square feet (about 185 square meters). The system uses tri-band Wi-Fi signaling between the router and satellite to increase the performance of this wireless connection.

Orbi operates in an AC3000 configuration (aggregate 3 Gbps of network bandwidth). Satellites use the 1750 Mbps channel on 5 GHz.

The industrial design of Orbi reflects current design trends to use curved surfaces rather than box-like shapes. Both the router and its satellites share the same form factor. Positioned vertically, the unit stands approximately 9 inches (22.6 centimeters) high and 6.6 inches (about 17 centimeters) wide - somewhat larger than other products in this category. The back of unit contains four (4) Ethernet ports plus one USB port for connecting a broadband modem. On the Router, one of the ports serves as the Internet port for connecting a broadband modem with the other three available for connecting wired clients. On the Satellite, all four ports service Ethernet clients (and cannot be used, say, for connecting a second Internet line).

Netgear has a long history of producing broadband routers for the consumer market. The company bills Orbi as the world’s first home mesh network system using tri-band Wi-Fi technology. The Orbi system can either replace an existing home broadband router or add a second home network with its own name (SSID).

5
Securifi Almond 3 Home Wi-Fi System

Securifi Almond 3 Home Wi-Fi System
Securifi Almond 3 Home Wi-Fi System. amazon.com

Securifi is a company who burst onto the consumer router stage in 2012 with the introduction of Almond, billed as the world's first touch screen router. The company has continued improving their tech and releasing new router models over time, including the Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System. Available starting 31 October 2016, this package includes three (3) Almond 3 units each supporting AC1200 802.11ac.

Unlike other systems in this category, the Almond 3 is designed to support other types of wireless communication besides Wi-Fi - radios for Bluetooth and the popular home automation system standards ZigBee and Z-Wave are all integrated. Each unit features (3) Ethernet ports plus 1 USB port and covers an area of 1,300 square feet (about 120 square meters).