If you need to improve or extend your Wi-Fi coverage, you have two options. The first is an extender, and the second is a mesh router. An extender, otherwise known as a repeater, retransmits your Wi-Fi’s data stream. A mesh router acts as a Wi-Fi hub in whichever room you put it.
Both options will improve a weak connection over a broad area, but mesh routers are better for a full replacement, and they’re generally easier to set up. Here’s a list of the best on the market today, starting with Nest’s excellent app-managed mesh routers.
Best mesh routers
- Nest Wi-Fi
- Samsung SmartThings Mesh Router
- Eero Home Wi-Fi System
- TP-Link Deco
- Ubiquiti Amplifi HD Wi-Fi System
- NetGear Orbi
The Nest Wi-Fi system is a mesh Wi-Fi solution that offers aC2200 speeds designed for large spaces — two models can cover as much as 4,400 feet when linked together, and you can make the system larger or smaller depending on how many units you buy. We liked Google’s first attempt at mesh Wi-Fi for its ease of use, but Nest Wi-Fi makes it even easier to set up and manage the router, especially if you have any experience with the Google Home app.
They’re also smart. Specifically, they have speakers and include Google Assistant, so you can give them voice commands and use them throughout the day (as opposed to most routers, which just sit there). The speakers aren’t quite big enough for impressive music, but they’re great for changing your schedule or getting updates and answers to your questions. If you have other Nest or Google Assistant devices around the home, then you can also control them via these routers. You can read more details in our full review.
Note that you have options to buy anywhere from one to three units ofdepending on the space that you want to cover.
Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi is a mesh router and smart device controller rolled into one. A single device can cover around 1,500 square feet, while three devices properly positioned can cover around 4,500 square feet. The smart hub home technology supports more than 100 devices, and may be particularly useful for those who have a mix of various smart devices around the home, both old and new: It supports Zigbee, Z-Wave, and cloud to cloud communication technologies.
Like Google Wi-Fi,also has adaptive channel switching to find the best connection for devices. However, the smart home controls do require micromanagement of apps and some research. For example, while the router works with other SmartThings devices, it doesn’t work with Samsung Connect Home devices, and so on. Make sure you know what’s supported before buying.
The Eero mesh router system uses a primary router hub and two “beacons” to extend the network over a wider area, ultimately wide enough to cover a two to four bedroom home comfortably. You can add more beacons for even larger areas, too, and they can even serve as nightlights if you want. The second generation of the system also got a speed boost and compatibility with other services like Alexa for control (thanks to Amazon’s current ownership of the company, one optional package throws in a free Echo Dot). The Eero app is also very easy to use and makes setup a breeze.
We also appreciated security features like one-time passwords for limited app access, the ability to “pause” the internet quickly for parental control, and only WPA2 encryption allowed. The package comes with a free year of subscription to Eero Plus, which adds even more security features such as browser filters. The more affordable parental control options out there.a nice family option, but does add an ongoing cost to the router when there are
The set of threedevices can extend a wireless network up to 4,500 square feet and can connect more than 100 devices at once, which may be a nice feature for a public or business environment. The control options offer plenty of customization options too, including device prioritization, filtering internet content, and Wi-Fi pausing for the kids. When left to its own devices, the Deco uses adaptive routing to choose what looks like the fastest connection for devices in a first-come, first-served basis. You also get three free years of Trend Micro antivirus security. All in all, it’s one of the best packages for businesses that want to provide reliable Wi-Fi to their customers.
The comes with a main router hub that features a very nifty round screen that can display your current router speeds and other useful information at a glance. Then it uses two antenna-shaped “mesh points” for extending the network even farther — up to an impressive 10,000 square feet for extra-large spaces. The mesh points use a very handy set of LEDs to show signal strength so you can choose the best spots to place them. If you’re a big fan of on-device information, this system has your back — but there’s also an easy app to use for setup and management.
Orbi’s mesh network takes mesh routers in a whole new direction. Orbi’s system consists of three devices, rather than the traditional one-unit setup with additional repeaters. Orbi’s mesh network uses a tri-band hub and identical devices that act as satellites, covering up to 7,500 square feet.
Orbi makes setup quick and easy, but there are plenty of advanced features for those who like to add custom options to their home network. You can set parental permissions, protect from online threats, and tweak your network using Orbi’s mobile app. The system uses its own frequency to communicate between the Orbi units, saving that precious WiFi band for Orbi-to-device data transmission.
For those who can’t live without their personal digital assistants, Orbi is compatible with both Alexa and Echo devices. The main downside is the price. This system costs more because you need to purchase at least two Orbi devices, and the price goes up as you add more satellites.
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