Mesh Wi-Fi may sound high-tech, but in practice, it is a simple way of ensuring that your home or business has a reliable wireless internet connection. Mesh Wi-Fi effectively allows multiple Wi-Fi routers to act as one seamless network. Pick one up today to say goodbye to signal dead zones.
The best mesh Wi-Fi shortlist:
Why should I upgrade my Wi-Fi?
Upgrading your Wi-Fi at home or in your business can vastly improve your online experience. An upgrade can improve upload/download speeds and wireless range and increase support for more devices.
Wireless internet connectivity is the centre of technology. This is a fact that we’ve all grown accustomed to, and the ease and convenience of wireless internet is now something many of us take for granted. So much so that when our signal drops or internet speeds flag even slightly, we find ourselves flustered and frustrated. This is true whether you’re missing work calls or staring at a buffering screen on Netflix.
While you’re out and about, a weak connection is blamable on lousy public networks and weak phone signals. However, when you’re at home, it feels much more personal and far less acceptable. While it can be tempting to pick up the phone and challenge your internet service provider on the slow speeds, in most cases, this isn’t going to help. More likely, the cause for weak wireless performance is a sub-par router and signal dead zones.
There are many reasons why a single Wi-Fi router may be struggling in your home or business. If you have a large property, a router may not have the range to handle long-distance connections. Similarly, if a router has to send its signal through walls, doors and floors, its quality will slow and degrade. Brick, metal and heavy wood can also affect signal quality. Household devices that use radio signals can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, including remote garage doors, microwaves, cordless home phones, baby monitors and Bluetooth devices.
Another issue that is of increasing prevalence is the number of devices trying to communicate with one router. A wireless router only has so much bandwidth available to it, and the more it has to split this between devices, the less each device will be able to access. This problem is likely to be encountered by those using the router provided by their ISP, as the free routers they provide are very basic.
If you live in a small house or apartment and have lots of wireless devices, you may benefit from an upgraded wireless router upgrade rather than a mesh Wi-Fi network. You can read about the best Wi-Fi routers here.
What does mesh Wi-Fi do, and how does it work?
A mesh Wi-Fi network uses one router connected to several remote nodes to create an extended wireless network. Sometimes the main router is referred to as the master and the nodes as slaves.
This extended wireless network acts as one seamless network, with one name and one password. A connected device will automatically connect with the nearest node and achieve a stable, consistent internet connection. The range of the nodes overlap and help to reduce dead zones and signal weak points.
In most modern mesh Wi-Fi systems, the master router and slave nodes communicate with each other wirelessly. Older systems were more expensive and relied on wired connections and cable installations. Today’s mesh Wi-Fi networks are designed to be very user friendly and are easy to set up. Many of the best Wi-Fi routers are compatible with mesh Wi-Fi systems and can integrate easily.
What are the benefits of mesh Wi-Fi?
• One network, one password
• Capable of handling an increased number of devices
• Seamless transition between access points with no signal drops
• More consistent internet speeds and reduced dead zones
• Easy to set up
As with all things, some things aren’t perfect. Because the nodes of most mesh Wi-Fi systems communicate wirelessly, there is a slight drop in speeds as the wired connection is passed down the line. For example, the third node in a mesh system will likely have a slightly slower speed than the master hub. The performance will still be higher than that of a simple Wi-Fi booster or extender.
The best mesh Wi-Fi 2021:
Nest Wi-Fi is the simplest and smartest mesh Wi-Fi option available. The system can be set up via the Google Home smartphone app. Here, parental controls, device priority and guest networks can be created, set and controlled, too. To add to the convenience, the network will self-optimise and choose the best broadcast channels to improve performance. All works as it should, quickly and efficiently.
The nodes, which Google calls "points", double up as smart speakers with built-in Google Assistant. While all the standard Google Assistant powers at hand, this also allows connections and internet settings to be controlled via voice command. Google claims that each node can handle up to 100 devices and simultaneous 4K streaming.
The security is solid too, with Google providing regular security updates to keep you as safe as possible from nefarious bugs and viruses.
Supporting over 150 devices and kicking out its signal across 7,000 sq. feet, the TP-Link X60 is a great choice for internet hungry households. Further, as a Wi-Fi 6 system, it can handle large quantities of data with ease, allowing for online gaming, video calls and 4K streaming to take place concurrently.
As with many mesh Wi-Fi systems, there’s a companion smartphone app to hand, allowing for streamlined setup and simple network management. Amazon Alexa is also compatible.
If you need to extend the mesh range further, additional nodes can be purchased and added.
When you absolutely, positively want to wipe all dead spots in your home, accept no substitute. Though expensive, the Netgear Orbi offers comprehensive and expansive Wi-Fi 6 coverage over an area of 10,000 sq. feet.
The system can handle multiple high-quantity requests, allowing for simultaneous streaming, online gaming and downloads. The system carries tri-band backhauling, which ensures that communication between nodes does not impede the user experience. Comprehensive network security is provided by Netgear Armour, though after a 30-day free trial, this service does require a subscription.
Voice commands are supports via an external Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices.
The Linksys MX8400 is a capable mesh Wi-Fi solution. The double pack supports a range of 6,000 sq. feet and over 80 devices. The Linksys app is a capable ally during installation and can be used to access several user-friendly settings.
As a Wi-Fi 6 router, it carries the ability to handle impressive speeds across many connected devices. This, and being a tri-band system, means that there is plenty of bandwidth for home-workers, box-set bingers and online gamers to co-exist peacefully.
ASUS is no stranger to routers and regularly produce some of the best available - the ZenWi-Fi XT8 is no exception to this rule. Each node of the system covers up to 2750 sq. feet, and Wi-Fi 6 brings great speeds and device capacity to this wide network.
Amazon Alexa is built-in and skills are supported, meaning that this can easily integrate into an established Alexa-based smart home or be the beginnings of one. Installation takes place via the user-friendly smartphone app. The security is also excellent.
Wi-Fi 6: A Buyer’s Guide and FAQ
What is Wi-Fi 6?
In short: Wi-Fi 6 improves on Wi-Fi 5 technology by upping the maximum Gbps of a router and introduces features that better manage multiple connected devices. The result is not necessarily faster overall internet speed but improved speeds across devices using one router - an essential property in the age of smartphones, tablets and smart home devices.
In detail: Wi-Fi 6 the latest generation of Wi-Fi, also known as 805.11ax. At the base level, it does what it always has - connect you to the internet wirelessly. But the technology in Wi-Fi 6 improves in several areas.
The flashiest fact about Wi-Fi 6 is that it has a maximum speed of 9.6Gbps, a significant jump over the fifth-generation 3.5Gbps.
However, if you’re a normal bod living in the UK, this number doesn’t affect you. While some folks are lucky enough to get nearly 100Mbps, the average internet speed in the UK is only 35Mbps (via Cable).
What that juicy 9.6Gbps does mean for UK internet users is that each device connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router has more speed available to it. This couples with OFDMA and MU-MIMO technology, which allows a router to support more devices, and receive and process an increased number of requests.
Effectively, the extra Gbps and clever communication technologies in Wi-Fi 6 prevent devices from bottlenecking each other. More devices no longer mean slower speeds.
OFDMA - Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access
MU-MIMO - Multi-user, multiple input, multiple output
What else does Wi-Fi 6 do?
In addition to improved speeds and performance with multiple devices, Wi-Fi 6 has better security, as it requires the use of WPA3 (a security measure that hackers hate), whereas Wi-Fi 5 only supported it as an optional extra.
Wi-Fi 6 can directly beam a signal to a device for reduced signal loss and interference and carries some handy energy-saving features.
You can read more about Wi-Fi 6 on the official Wi-Fi Alliance website.
Is Wi-Fi 6 better for 4K streaming?
Wi-Fi 6 has improved stability and bandwidth, meaning that the consistent connection required for uninterrupted 4K streaming is attainable. Additionally, because Wi-Fi 6 can handle multiple devices without degrading individual performance, anyone streaming in 4K won’t have such a harsh effect on other users and visa-versa.
Should I use 2.4GHz or 5GHz?
As CenturyLink explains in its blog, wireless routers transmit the internet to your Wi-Fi-connected devices via radio frequencies. There are two frequency bands uses - 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
2.4GHz is a frequency that has a long-range and is better at travelling through surfaces and obstructions. However, it has a relatively low data rate and therefore offers slower internet speeds. It’s also a popular frequency for many household products, including microwaves and Bluetooth devices, making the wavelength pretty congested.
5GHz is a short-range frequency with a high data rate. It’s also less prone to interference as fewer devices currently operate on this frequency.
Devices that are close to the router and require high speeds (gaming, video calls, streaming) should use 5GHz where available. Devices further from the router performing less data-intense tasks (smart home hubs, web-browsing laptops, or smartphone messaging) will be fine on 2.4GHz.
Note that not all devices can work at 5GHz. Check compatibility before any router purchase.
What is tri-band?
Tri-band is a feature found on some routers. It means that the router can send information over three radio bands, one 2.4Ghz and two 5Ghz. This means that there are three channels to connect to, giving more user choice and preventing them from becoming cluttered.
Some mesh Wi-Fi networks will hold onto one of these channels for master-slave communication, thus keeping user channels clean and not impeding the user experience.