Not only does every member of your family own a smartphone and a computer, but now you also have a myriad of smart home gadgets that all connected to the same old WiFi router that you got from your ISP who knows how long ago.
It’s no wonder that your download and upload speeds have become abysmal, and that your Internet connection drops more often than ever before. The solution is seemingly obvious: you need a new WiFi router.
But before you go to Amazon and order a top-selling model, pause for a second and let us explain what options you really have to strengthen your home wireless network. Namely, we want to talk about the difference between mesh networks and traditional hub and spoke networks.
Most home users rely on the star topology. This topology is characterized by a central router connected to the Internet and peripheral devices, called nodes, that connect to the Internet through the central router.
The main advantage of this network topology is how easy it is to set it up. In most cases, all you have to do is plug two cables into the central router and select a WiFi password. The main disadvantage, on the other hand, is the inherent lack of scalability.
Because all devices that want to connect to the Internet have to go through a single central router, it’s very easy to reach the point when the router simply can’t process more information in real-time, which results in slowdowns and lags.
You could, of course, get a better router, but that would just buy you some time without really solving the underlying problem. Mesh networks represent a much more future-proof solution.
A mesh network is comprised of multiple access points that all connect directly to one another. For a mesh network to function, only one access point has to be connected to the Internet, but it’s also possible to connect more than one access point to the Internet for performance reasons.
Instead of going directly to a single central router, data on mesh networks hops from node to node until it reaches an access point connected to the Internet. If one node on a mesh network goes down, the network can automatically heal itself and reroute the data. A new node can connect to a mesh network automatically, simultaneously strengthening the network while taking advantage of the network’s bandwidth.
The main disadvantage of mesh networks lies in their complexity. Until relatively recently, there weren’t that many consumer-grade home mesh network systems that could be deployed without much configuration right out of the box. The situation has changed, however, with companies like Google entering the market with affordable home mesh WiFi solutions ready for mass adoption.
Generally speaking, mesh networks excel at covering large areas with a strong, even WiFi signal. If you use a WiFi surveillance tool such as NetSpot to measure and visualize the strength of your wireless router, you’ll notice that the signal gets progressively weaker as you get farther away from the router in a uniform fashion.
Let’s say you want to increase the strength of your home WiFi to cover your backyard. You purchase a stronger wireless router, which does the job but also extends the reach of your home network to every other direction, potentially exposing you to hackers and people looking for a free Internet access.
A mesh network allows you to extend your home WiFi network any way you want. With the help of NetSpot, you could configure your home mesh network to cover your home with a strong wireless signal but not go any farther than that. NetSpot can also help you troubleshoot common networking issues and discover nearby wireless networks, which could be causing an interference.
These days, mesh routers come with all sizes and shapes, and their cost has become relatively affordable over the years. You want to select a router from a reputable manufacturer who can provide timely security updates for many years to come.
You also want the router to be easy to manage and work without much configuration right out of the box. Be on the lookout for hidden fees and annual payments as not all manufacturers are upfront about the real cost of their solutions.
Below are three best WiFi routers and home mesh systems. All three come from established companies, all three are easy to set up, and all three can help you cover your home with a strong wireless signal.
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The eero Home Wi-Fi system is a likable home mesh solution that starts at $299 for the basic bundle, which includes an eero WiFi router and one eero beacon that seamlessly covers the typical home in fast, reliable WiFi.
To cover a larger area, you can purchase additional eero beacons for $149 and easily add them to your eero home mesh network. Both the eero router and eero beacons are elegantly small and ready to be mounted on the wall.
Google’s mesh WiFi system brings speed and reliability at an attractive price. A single Google WiFi point can cover a small home or an apartment, while three Google WiFi points are enough to cover even a large home. The price of a single WiFi point is just $119, and a pack of three points costs $269.
The Linksys Velop is a modular, high-performance WiFi mesh system for home and business users alike. The system is available in a one-, two-, or three-pack, giving you the flexibility to choose the right solution for you.
Velop works with all home types, from multi-store mansions to ranch-style homes to apartment buildings. A pack of three access points costs $449, and a single access point costs $197 when purchased individually.
Mesh networks are easy to scale up or down according to your own needs. Each node receives and sends information and talks to other nodes on the mesh. If one node goes down, the other will proceed communicating with those available, so your WiFi connectivity won't get affected much.
Probably the main disadvantage you'll find to a mesh network solution is its complexity at the initial setup. Also if you are on a low power wide-area network, you might experience some latency issues. Just like being able to receive and send data at the same time can be an advantage, it may also put extra load on smaller battery-powered nodes.
All-in-all mesh networks are a great solution for a larger home with a network stretched over several floors, and thanks to its failure-proof setup, a mesh network is satisfyingly stable.
There is no compact answer to this question. But we'll try to get into it briefly.
Mesh networks can be quite expensive and are not that easy to set up in the very beginning. If your router is of the latest model, doing quite great, and you are just looking at fixing some dead spots, you might not want to spend a lot of money on a completely new system, you may be just as happy with a WiFi extender or a booster.
If you are inclined to set up a mesh network with its neatly looking access points that extend wireless signal into every corner of your space, then we think you'll be happy with your decision. A WiFi survey software like NetSpot can help you extend your wireless network in an optimal and practical way.
Here are the three best WiFi routers and home mesh systems in our opinion. They are developed by respectable brands, are reliable and quite easy to set up, and will help you achieve a great wireless coverage.