Best mesh Wi-Fi systems 2019: How to get Wi-Fi everywhere you need it

What you need to know to banish Wi-Fi dead spots

The best mesh Wi-Fi systems
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If getting Wi-Fi coverage right across your home is a constant battle, a mesh system is the answer to your connectivity woes.

As our homes get smarter, and even more jam-packed with devices needing a gateway to the internet, our routers are under more strain than ever. And while it might not have been a big deal that you didn't get a Wi-Fi signal on your porch in the past, if you are trying to hook up a video doorbell it will be an issue now.

This is where a Wi-Fi mesh system comes in. Unlike traditional extenders, powerlines, and wired access points, the new generation of mesh systems don't require you to have a PhD in networking – they are designed to work straight out of the box, without you needing to know your SSIDs from your BSSIDs.

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Best mesh Wi-Fi systems

Here are our picks for the best mesh Wi-Fi system for your home. Whether you live in a mansion or a two-up, two-down with thick brick walls, we've got the right solution for your Wi-Fi woes.

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems reviewed and everything you need to know

Best mesh Wi-Fi: Netgear Orbi

Buy now: Amazon, | From $299.99

If Netgear’s Orbi system were a car, it would be a posh family SUV with an Alexa-enabled in-car entertainment-come-navigation touchscreen, and it would smell of new leather. It would doubtless have cup holders, over-achieving but really nice children, and the topic of conversation would be an art movement you’ve never heard of. It’s nice. That’s we’re saying here. Orbi is nice and very family-friendly.

It’s nice because first, like our imaginary SUV, it’s plush. All the routers and satellites look like they match a Farrow & Ball color named ‘smug white,’ are pleasingly curved like all future objects in sci-fi films and they glow reassuringly even when they’re trying to say they’re not working properly which, if it happens, is basically your fault.

Again, like our SUV, the Orbi family is seriously impressive — easily the most impressive systems we've tried. We looked at the Orbi Router, the Orbi Outdoor Satellite, and the Harman Kardon-designed Orbi Voice Smart Speaker, which doubles as an Amazon Echo. They’re all pretty excellent, really.

It’s a tri-band system with a dedicated backhaul so that the Orbi units stay in perfect contact no matter whatever other nonsense is going on in your home network.

The router can act as a standalone hub or work with whatever other modem/router you already have. What’s most impressive is that the Orbi Router really pumps out the Wi-Fi with strength and even when the satellites pushed on a mediocre signal it was still enough to stream 4K video at quite some distance.

The Orbi Voice speaker is perfection. The sound quality is top notch and the mics were superb at picking up our voice commands no matter the music volume. The blue, Alexa-acknowledge light was a little weak but it’s no major issue. The Outdoor Satellite was very good too; easy to set up, totally weatherproof, and comes with both a stand and simple wall-mounting kit. Designed to push Wi-Fi to outbuildings on your estate, again, it gives quite the boost and can be used indoors as well.

Naturally, the Orbi app is high-quality and features a network map that gives an accurate and very clear picture of what all the units in the mesh are up to and who’s connected to them - plus the ability to pause the internet or lock out devices as you see fit.

For deeper parental controls you need to switch to the Disney Circle app. It’s a very good app, which allows you to assign devices to the profiles of different family members and start filtering content down to a very impressive platform level (Amazon, YouTube, etc.).

For more granular control, including time limits, usage stats, ability to set different bedtimes, and even the option to set up a chore/reward chart, you’ll need to start paying a $4.99-a-month ($49.99 a year) subscription. There's also an additional $4.99 fee for Circle Go, that lets you monitor your kid's devices even when they're not connected to your Wi-Fi.

Expensive but seriously impressive, any choice of the Netgear Orbi products is an excellent shout. The mesh is solid and capable, there’s great signal strength, and all the different kinds of satellite and router units make it incredibly adaptable. Sure, they take up a bit of space on your sideboard but they look good while they do it.

A new Eero mesh router with Alexa controls was recently announced, its costs $249 for a three pack. We'll be testing it shortly.

What we love

  • Fantastic range of units
  • Great app support
  • Superb signal strength
  • Alexa compatible

What we don't love

  • Expensive
  • Subscription for premium features

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems reviewed and everything you need to know

Runner-up best mesh Wi-Fi: Eero

Buy now: Amazon, | From $299.99

Eero popularized the mesh Wi-Fi system, and for a while managed to go it alone. The small networking startup was sticking it to giants like Netgear and Linksys, then it got gobbled up by Amazon – but it still makes one of the best mesh systems out there.

Eero's setup is so good that it'll guide you to working out which areas are best for placing the mesh nodes. All you have to do is carry around your phone as you choose where to put it.

Once your Eero system is all set up and ready to go, you're going to find some blazing fast Wi-Fi with a wide range. The three-mesh system will cover up to 4,500 square feet – that's a wide area of land that will blanket your yard easily. In fact, we've been able to nab Wi-Fi even across the street from our house.

Eero's app is well laid out. When you open it up, you'll get a quick look at your Wi-Fi's status, where it will tell you if everything is ticking along smoothly. You'll also get a quick look at all the devices in your mesh network and how they're doing. If one of them is down, you'll see it with either a green or red light outline. It will also let you know how many devices are connected to your network – and which ones are sucking down the most data.

At the bottom of the main screen you'll see the latest speed test. All of this information is crammed into a single screen on the main app. You can also create a guest network and there are family profiles that'll let you schedule pauses for dinner time or bedtime. You can't boost performance during certain periods though, as you can with Google Wifi.

Then there's Eero Labs, which will let you test out features like band steering – that remembers which band is best for which device and uses that next time – and smart queue management, which reduces latency by better managing traffic on your network.

Eero Plus, which is $9.99 a month or$99.99 a year, is an add-on subscription that gives you enterprise-grade security against dangerous websites, free subscriptions to 1Password password manager, VPN, and Malwarebytes malware protection. You'll also get content filtering so you can better manage what your kids are watching or visiting, along with ad blocking.

You can also get reports that show you how many threats are blocked. And you can block ads on all your devices, not just your desktop browsing. Your mobile devices are fair game, too. Eero's own added features, like content filtering and threat protection, aren't worth the subscription – but if you don't already have a VPN or a subscription to 1Password or Malwarebytes, Plus becomes worth it. That's $18 per month worth of subscriptions for around half the cost.

As for speeds, you're in the clear here. Eero can easily manage your connection for things like 4K streaming. You'll even have a good time downloading 4K games. In fact, we've regularly downloaded 4K games while 4K streaming and it hasn't broken a sweat.

There are a number of purchase options. We tested the three-mesh system, but you can also get a single Eero, or an Eero with a number of Beacons, which plug into your wall and expand your system.

It sure is expensive, but you're also getting the works. It has excellent, easy setup, the speed is great and it'll cover an area up to 4,500 square feet. Plus you can add more Eero nodes or the cheaper Beacons if you need. If you can spare the cash, the Eero system is worth it.

What we love

  • Excellent setup
  • Great speed
  • Eero Plus is a good deal

What we don't love

  • Expensive
  • No boost mode

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems 2019: How to get Wi-Fi everywhere you need it

Best mesh Wi-Fi for a smart home: SmartThings Wifi

Buy now: Amazon, | From $279.99

Samsung's SmartThings Wifi fixes two problems for smart home users - hub clutter and bandwidth congestion. The beauty behind this mesh Wi-Fi system is that it is a smart home hub and robust mesh Wi-Fi router in one, so you can get rid of at least one white box.

And, thanks to a collaboration with Plume, SmartThings Wifi uses AI to allocate bandwidth more effectively, adapting to your use by accounting for all your connected devices and selecting the optimal band and frequency channel to get you the fastest speed.

In our testing - in a smart home with over 55 connected devices - it worked like a dream and was a serious step up from our poor old AT&T supplied Arris modem/router box, which was literally sweating under the strain.

You can of course use SmartThings Wifi without the smart home hub, there's a toggle switch in the app to turn it off, but considering this system is a little cheaper than most and comes with a hub built in, there's no reason not to give it a go if you haven't started dabbling in the smart home yet.

Overall, SmartThings Wifi is a really solid choice for a mesh networking system. It is super simple to set up - all three "nodes" are interchangeable so you can use either one as the main hub and the SmartThings app walks you through it.

This also means each one is a smart home hub, helping put its included Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth radios all around your home. The starter pack comes with 3 nodes, and will cover up to 4,600 square feet (1,500 square feet per node), enough for most people but you can add up to 32 nodes.

The system is a dual band 802.11ac router, so can switch between 2.4gHz and 5gHz as needed, and each hub has two ethernet ports for hardwiring any devices you might want. Backhaul support was added in recent update, so the nodes can also send data in the other direction.

To manage the network you need to download the Plume app. Plume's networking software is excellent, and normally you have to pay a subscription fee to use it, but its free with SmartThings system. With the app you can quickly see the status of your nodes, detailed info on data downloads and uploads, and a list of your most active devices and how much data they’re using. You can also see which devices are connected to which nodes. There are options for IP reservations, port forwarding, and other networking tools - but there are no advanced networking capabilities here - this is a device for regular users, not full-on networking geeks.

You can buy a single SmartThings Wifi hub for $99 that comes with all the same feature, but the three pack will get you the mesh networking benefits - although as we mentioned all the devices are identical. On the plus side, the nodes are nicely designed, if a little boring, but very small and slimline compared to competitors, making it easy to tuck them away.

For more on how to use SmartThings as a smart home hub read our full guide to getting started with Samsung's SmartThings

What we love

  • SmartThing hub built in
  • Easy setup
  • Two ethernet ports
  • Simple, compact design
  • Plume software is free

What we don't love

  • No boost mode
  • Two apps
  • No advanced networking capabilities
  • Only 65 foot range

Read our full review of Samsung's SmartThings Wifi here.

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems 2019: How to get Wi-Fi everywhere you need it

Best mesh Wi-Fi for a Google home: Google Wifi

Buy now: Amazon, | From $239

The Google Wifi devices are small and well-designed. The major irritation is that they demand a Google account. Most people reading this might be fine with that. After all, Google already knows us pretty well without the help of its Wifi pucks. However, it's worth considering that Google's routers will know every page you look at on the internet, even if you don't land on those pages via Google.

Checking through the "My Activity" section of Google's account information doesn't show a log of things you've done through Google Wifi and the company says in its privacy information that the company does not log this.

Setting up the pair of Wifi pucks was easy in testing. You scan a QR code and the app makes everything else happen. Use one puck to connect to your existing network with a cable, then adding extra devices will cause the app to build your mesh network. This is seamless and really well managed. There's quite a bit of tapping around the app itself, but it's not especially bothersome.

The information in the app is also pretty good. You can perform speed tests to see how the system is working and Google contextualizes these with English phrases like "that's lightning fast" – it's pretty user-friendly. You can also restrict access times to family members and boost certain devices for preset times. For example, if you're watching 4K Netflix on a TV you can give it high priority. That's incredibly useful.

There's also guest Wi-Fi if you want to let people use your connection without giving them full access to your network. Naturally, Google also integrates home products that can be controlled through the app. There are a decent number of these and for smart home fans it makes a lot of sense to buy Google products – especially if you're in their ecosystem.

In terms of the overall package, Google delivers something decent. However, in testing it was clear that it didn’t deliver results as fast as those from most other devices. The only slower product was Velop and not by very much. Now, the point of mesh networks isn’t to provide top speed, but to cover your house with a wireless signal. That said, all of these products do the mesh networking thing well, leaving speed as the main distinguishing feature (along with price).

In reality the speed offered here is more than enough for 4K streaming. The only problem you’ll have is if two TVs in your house are trying to stream in 4K or other heavy workloads are taking place.

An excellent performer and arguably the sort of product that will suit most normal users. Google has pretty much nailed the user experience for mesh Wi-Fi, given the ease and simplicity of setup – and that makes it a very good option.

What we love

  • Well designed and compact
  • Dead easy to install
  • Good power levels despite small size

What we don't love

  • Google's stranglehold on our data
  • No web interface, only an app
  • Expensive

The best mesh Wi-Fi systems for your smart home

Best mesh Wi-Fi for home networking: Zyxel Multy X

Buy now: Amazon, | From $295

The Multy X hardware is as ugly as its name. The twin pack tested here is pretty bulky and the units themselves win no awards for beauty. The impression given by these devices is that they're aimed at people who aren't bothered about looks but want a specific feature set.

Indeed, the dedicated backhaul in the Multy is good news as it gives dedicated capacity for one Multy to send data back to the router-connected device. This might not be obvious in most circumstances, but under high loads you’ll find it useful.

To that end the Multy has four Ethernet sockets. One is used to connect to your cable/ADSL or fibre router, so can’t be used for anything else, and is clearly marked as such. This will be excellent if you’re using it to connect to an AV system and need to wire in things like an Apple TV, Nvidia Shield or games console. There won’t be massive speed advantages to this, but you might find it useful if devices themselves struggle to get a strong signal.

Set up is straightforward. There's an app which is reasonably easy to find – make sure you search "Zyxel Multy." One thing we noticed was that the app setup is done per phone, this means that if you switch phones you won't be able to configure the system unless you reset it.

Multy supports Amazon Alexa, which lets you use voice to disable the guest network, switch off groups at bedtime, and perform a speed test. It’s handy if you’re building a smart home but you’ll need to register for a Zyxel account before it will work.

One interesting thing to note is that the speed test in the Zyxel app is terrible. It doesn't seem able to correctly measure speed. Tests with the app were much more consistent and the system performs really well.

There is a nice signal strength meter too, which can help you position your second device at just the right distance from the primary. Try and get the second somewhere that it can talk to the first, but still give your mesh network more range.

Like many of these products, Multy has a guest network option in the app too. There are options to add devices to a parental timer, with scheduling to cut off access at set times. There's also a more instant "block" button for situations where you need to stop a device's access to the net.

This is the system to buy if you have serious home networking requirements. This whole package feels much more like a traditional router than the other devices. The Zyxel is the most technically capable and offers the most features for a high-end users. Consider this one if you need both speed and more connectivity options.

What we love

  • Fast
  • Serious networking options
  • Good for cord-cutters
  • Alexa support

What we don't love

  • Big, ugly hardware
  • App issues
  • Speed tests unreliable

The best mesh Wi-Fi systems for your smart home

Best mesh Wi-Fi on a budget: Linksys Velop

Buy now: Amazon, | From $199.99

The Velop is the best looking of all the mesh devices we've tested. A simple enough look, an elongated rectangle, but it’s smart and compact. Putting them at various places around your home won’t attract a lot of attention. It could almost be an air freshener. The unit also has a cable tidy on the bottom to feed in the Ethernet cable (to connect to your main ADSL or fiber modem) and power supply. It’s neat. There’s also a power switch down there and a second Ethernet socket to connect a device directly.

You have to create an account to use Velop. This is annoying and it’s one of three things about this pack that put it bottom of our list. Nothing here is a dismal failure, but given the pricing it feels like your money would be more wisely spent elsewhere – unless the Linksys has other features you want.

One of Velop’s other selling points is that it works with Alexa. This is – as with Multy – a pretty neat idea. However, there is a weird feature that allows you to ask Alexa your Velop Wi-Fi password. The only way this can possibly work is if your Wi-Fi password is stored in the cloud – which we know it is from the requirement to have a user account.

This isn’t an entirely great idea. Someone could, in theory, shout “What’s my Wi-Fi password?” through your letterbox and listen to the Alexa response. From there they’re on your wireless network and can access anything.

The app is simple enough, setup is automated as with the others, and it looks nice. There are the usual features, like switching off access to some users at certain times. However during our tests it was possible to put the app into a loop that it couldn’t recover from. It seems that adding a second network device in without following the correct process was the problem here.

The other issue we discovered was that the Velop had very odd and inconsistent speed test results. The first time we ran them it managed only 90.3Mbps in the same room as the main router. A re-test saw that massively jump to 219Mbps in the office and 164Mbps in the master bedroom. It could be that the system updated itself, or it could be that it's not able to deliver consistent results.

While the app is slow, and the speeds weren't that consistent, this is a good-looking device, that while expensive, is extremely simple to set up.

What we love

  • Less expensive
  • Great looking
  • Compact
  • Hassle-free setup process
  • Alexa compatible

What we don't love

  • Not as fast as the others tested
  • Buggy app
  • Weird Alexa password issue

The best mesh Wi-Fi devices and systems for your smart home

The best mesh Wi-Fi on a budget (UK): BT Whole Home Wi-Fi

Buy now: Amazon, | £149.98

The BT system is the cheapest by far, and its discs sport an interesting design. They're not ugly and they aren't pretty. They are interesting and people will ask "what's that?" But they don't look like any other Wi-Fi device.

BT has clearly designed this system to be workable without an app. These devices have a web interface where you can configure them and they come pre-programmed with a username and password. These are secure enough, and generated in a factory somewhere and paired to the device. A little plastic tab is fitted to each, which can be removed and given to guests or used to key in passwords to your devices.

Getting more than one disc working is also interesting. You need to plug the second in and connect it to your router at the same time as the first. It will then get its settings from the original disc. This is actually kind of brilliant, as again it means the app isn't a requirement.

That said, the app does help with disc placement and is worth using for the instructions for pairing the devices to make the mesh network. It does also show you clearly which network devices are connected to and it also allows you to group devices so they can be shut down. Kids messing about? Shut off their tablets or Netflix boxes – it's a simple but useful addition. Again, a guest network is on offer here too, which is a useful feature.

The only missing thing is device prioritization, which can be useful if you need one network product to be given the fastest possible access.

But BT has really understood "normal" customers here. This won't appeal to the router fanatics but it does offer simplicity over everything else.

The BT Whole Home Wi-Fi is the cheapest product we tested. There's also a reassuring familiarity to how the system works – it's just like any BT hub. In terms of speed, it matched all the other devices, maxing out the test broadband.

For all their apps and features the others are left standing by the BT system. BT has a phone app like the rest, but the crucial thing here is that you do not need it. That means this system is instantly more suitable for users who aren't tech-savvy. It is, of course, UK-only though.

The expectation here was that the BT would be the most average of the mesh networking devices we tested. In reality, that wasn't the case. It performed well, moved data very quickly and cost the least. It's a much better product than you'd probably expect from the UK's incumbent phone provider. It's not well-suited to advanced users, but it's a solid performer.

What we love

  • Great price
  • Simplicity
  • Nice design

What we don't love

  • Bit basic
  • Needs a BT router

Best mesh Wi-Fi systems reviewed and everything you need to know

Best mesh Wi-Fi for a problem house (UK): Devolo Magic 2

Buy now: Amazon, | £169.99,

It’s hard to be objective about the Magic 2 but we’ll do our best. It has extra features like parental controls, access scheduling, and guest networking capabilities but they’re all rather buried and hard to use within an app that’s too heavy with networking acronyms and long strings of numbers. So, if you’re after something straightforward, then you’re digging in the wrong place. But in terms of core functionality the Devolo Magic 2 is excellent.

Devolo is everything many of these others whole-home kits are not. It’s designed to stay the hell out of your way, to be plugged in and forgotten about. It’s a hybrid mesh/powerline system of units, which look like big plug adaptors and give you the best of both worlds, connectivity-wise.

Each pumps out a pretty reasonable signal but can also rely on your home’s electrical system to bypass any ridiculously thick or damp walls which would otherwise halt even the strongest Wi-Fi radio. For us, that meant over 4,000 square feet-worth of superb internet access in every corner of our test house from the three-unit Devolo Magic 2 (2-1-3) setup.

What’s more, because of the physical design — they’re attached direct to your sockets — there’s no need to make room for any odd-looking boxes on your sideboards and window sills and no cables to worry about either. Each one also has a mains passthrough, which means that you also don’t lose any electrical socket access, although they will take up more than their fair share of a space on a 4-way extension or similar. There’s also two Ethernet ports on each unit if you want to get old school.

Like all good mesh systems, it uses both 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels and its dedicated backhaul is over the powerlines rather than wireless. That’s generally great but you may come into difficulties if you’re looking to add on some other networking kit in a DIY-type fashion. It’s also worth noting that, unlike some others on this list, the Magic 2 mother unit cannot replace your router but, frankly, who needs it to?

It’s not for everyone, but we love this kit. The add-on network control features are not the best and GUI on the app is pitched at too techy a crowd, but, in terms of actual speed, coverage and reliability, the Devolo Magic 2 is a proper winner. Whether your problems are big spaces or thick walls, it’s got your back.

What we love

  • Dead simple to set up
  • Fantastic coverage and range
  • Low visual impact

What we don't love

  • Horrible app
  • Networking features hard to use
  • Backhaul hard line only

What is a mesh network? Whole home Wi-Fi explained

What is a mesh Wi-Fi system?

You may hear a home mesh setup described in many different ways, as no one has really settled on a common name as of yet. Whole-house-wireless is a bit of a mouthful and Wi-Fi system sounds too vague – but if you see these labels, you're probably looking at the box of a mesh Wi-Fi system.

And they all aim to do the same thing – make the Wi-Fi signal in your house stronger throughout and more reliable for your connected tech. You'll usually get two or three mesh modules (technically referred to as nodes) in a box, or they will be on sale individually so as you can add as many as you need, depending on the size of your home. The beauty of a mesh network is that it's modular, so you can keep adding nodes to the setup (assuming your bank balance allows it) – there's no maximum node count.

The idea of a mesh network is that, unlike repeaters and extenders that just relay your router's Wi-Fi signal with deterioration, the nodes all communicate with each other, so even the one furthest from the router has a great signal as it hops around the system from one node to another. It's not just a one-to-one signal from a device back to the router.

Now, they all work slightly differently, and that means that you'll need to stick with one system – you can't mix and match as they'll just interfere with each other. On the whole, mesh systems use a combo of the 5GHz and 2.4GHz spectrum to fire signals around between the nodes, and to your Wi-Fi enabled tech. There are tri-band options, there are dual band options, and there are options that boast Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO).

What is a mesh network? Whole home Wi-Fi explained

Will I have to replace my router?

Although a mesh system is designed to essentially take over your router's Wi-Fi duties, don't go throwing it into the bin just yet. Chances are, you'll still need it. That's because the router that your internet service provider (ISP) gave you, or the one you bought to replace it, probably contains a modem. The modem is what connects to the internet; the router part is the transmitting of that connection over Wi-Fi. So, while a mesh system will replace the router part, you'll still need to rely on the built-in modem.

That's why your first step of setting up a mesh system is to plug one of the modules into your existing router/modem using an Ethernet cable. Only one mind – the rest will simply pick up its signal and start sharing the Wi-Fi love. Now, you might see mesh devices with multiple Ethernet ports on them. That's simply so you can wire some devices to your network if you want to.

The accompanying app will grab your existing network's credentials (username, password and so on) and beam them around the other modules. No need to set up new networks, no need to reconfigure your connected gadgets, and no need to worry about the best Wi-Fi channel – all of this will be taken care of within the app. Of course, you'll be free to tinker as you see fit but if you want to just plug and play, you can.

The best mesh Wi-Fi systems for your smart home

What features should I look for in a mesh WiFi system?

The first thing you need to think about is how much coverage you need, if you are in a small home your money might be better spent on one really good home Wi-Fi router.

Mesh networks really come into their own in larger homes, where there's a lot of area to cover, and where there are plenty of solid brick walls. Modern homes often have internal walls which are not solid brick, allowing Wi-Fi signals to move more easily as they can pass through them.

However 5GHz Wi-Fi, which offers the best speed, is blocked more easily by any material in its way, especially plasterboard. Slower 2.4GHz wireless does a better job with walls, but won't let you stream 4K video, for example, and download speeds will be lower.

As to specific feature, some systems allow you to pause the Wi-Fi (for the whole house, on certain nodes, or indeed specific devices); some allow you to set up guest networks (permanent or temporary); and some even give you a breakdown of what devices are connected and how much data they are using.

For even more about mesh Wi-Fi, including tips on how to place your nodes, whether you need tri-band, and if you should opt for a Wi-Fi only or hybrid system, read our guide on How to build a better mesh Wi-Fi for your smart home.

TAGGED    smart home

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