One solution to this issue is mesh networks. Rather than one router, several WiFi mesh routers are connected together across a location. Devices such as laptops, tablets, and game systems connect to the closest WiFi mesh device, which forwards the traffic from one mesh device to the next until it reaches the main WiFi router. From there, it goes out to the Internet, and the process repeats.
For this process to be successful, it requires that the WiFi mesh be able to quickly transfer WiFi packets between devices, keep traffic routed to the correct device.
The question is — which WiFi mesh network is better for your home? We’ll explore each product offering and help you decide which product would be better in your home.
Let’s start with the most well-known product line: Google Wi-Fi. Google is one of the most well-known companies in the world, and their Google WiFi system has received stellar reviews since its debut.
Google WiFi costs $129 for a single pack or $299 for a 3 pack. This means that the cost of an individual pack goes from $129 a unit to $100 a unit, saving almost 33% over buying a single pack alone. Google advertises that a single unit covers 1500 square feet, while a 3 pack covers 4500 square feet of coverage.
That coverage is likely going to be a little bit less than the actual 1500 or 4500 square feet since there can be different circumstances. What is the home made out of, how many other electronic devices are operating within the same location, and other related factors.
Connecting the Google WiFi system requires the use of a cell phone or tablet running Google Android or Apple iOS. The steps are simple, but do contain a paradox: why order just one Google WiFi router?
Let me explain. To set up the Google WiFi system, it’s these five steps:
If there’s only one Google WiFi router, it likely won’t have a greater range than whatever WiFi system is being used to provide WiFi already. This is just replacing one WiFi router with the one from Google.
Where the Google WiFi system shines is when there is more than one mesh device added in. The same steps are used above to add another device, only all the new devices need is a power connection, and to be added to the WiFi network created. Every new Google WiFi mesh device added increases the range of the total network.
For $300, this covers around 4500 square feet. It’s simple to set up, but does require a Google account, and a device that can run either iOS or Android (sorry, Windows Mobile users - you’re out of luck).
Eero has a similar approach to the Google WiFi process, but with some differences.
The first element is going to be the range of prices. Google comes in at $129, but as mentioned above, that just gets you one Google WiFi router for your trouble, which doesn’t do much good in a mesh network. That requires at least two or more devices.
Eero seems to understand that. Their primary offering is $299 that includes 1 eero (which is the primary system), and 1 eero beacon (which extend the network). Or, users can pay $18 a month for 24 months with a down payment (pending credit, terms of the loan, and other factors). This offers around 2000 square feet of coverage.
With Google WiFi, its “Bring your own Cable Modem or other Internet router.” Eero has another offering that puts everyone into one bundle for $549 that includes:
This would give 3000 square feet of coverage as well as the cable modem that you’d have to buy anyway to connect to the Internet with your cable provider.
So if we’re discussing differences, both eero and Google WiFi offer around the same coverage — Google with one device gives 1500 square feet, and eero with the base system and the beacon is 2000 square feet. With the complete basic setup, Google WiFi (with 3 units) offers 4500 square feet of coverage, while eero with it’s complete home system (1 eero and 2 beacons) 3000 square feet.
Setting up eero routers is almost exactly the same as setting up Google WiFi:
The differences between Google WiFi and Eero comes down more to aesthetics than anything else. Both offer a reliable mesh network, both have easy-to-follow instructions that require an Android or Apple iOS device. Google has a lower price point, but that low price point doesn’t deliver an actual mesh network unless you pay the high price point anyway.
Just putting in a mesh network doesn’t guarantee that it will extend the range of the network. Of all of the mesh devices or beacons are in the same location, it’s not extending — they’re just there.
To extend the range, it’s best to place them just far enough they’ll still have a strong connection to the WiFi network, and provide extra WiFi coverage to dead zones or where the WiFi network is weak.
So how to even know what sections are working well or not without playing a kind of WiFi Marco Polo — taking a tablet or laptop and going around the house to find out what works and what doesn’t. Or waiting until your grandmother says she can’t play Fortnite from her room in the attic.
It has a free version that can be used to gather vital statistics about the strength, signal to noise ratio, and other information that can let you chart out how the network performs at different locations in the house. It can discover all of the WiFi networks, so if there’s too much traffic, or if there’s another WiFi signal interfering with the one we’re using.
For registered users, NetSpot has a feature I love called Heat Maps. You load a map of the building you’re in (or make one, it’s pretty simple to do as just a basic picture). Click on the map, and let NetSpot do a scan, then move from place to place and do another scan. Once done, NetSpot will show a color map that shows how strong the signal is across the building.
This helps you figure out where to put the various mesh network devices, whether it’s Google or eero, in the best location. Move them around, then do another scan until everything is in the most optimal location. NetSpot works with either product — if there’s a WiFi signal, then NetSpot can show how the signal strength is affected by device placement.
Deciding which mesh network will come down to personal preference, whether to spend all of the money up front like with Google, or do it piece by piece with eero. Google offers a cheaper entry point, but eero has more complete solutions.
Whichever you choose, make sure to know your WiFi signal strength across your residence or building before you go buying devices you might not even need. Start with Netspot, get an understanding of your network and then you’ll know if you even need a mesh network. Then whatever decision you make regarding Google WiFi or Eero will be based on knowing your real needs and not just guesswork.