The 9 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems of 2021

Make spotty Wi-Fi a distant memory

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If you live in a larger home and want to enjoy all that the modern internet has to offer, then you can’t afford to compromise on performance. This is where the best mesh Wi-Fi network systems come in, delivering a strong signal throughout your home, well beyond the limits of most standalone routers. 

Rather than beaming out your Wi-Fi signal from a single location, a mesh Wi-Fi system consists of multiple units that all work together, with each one acting as its own wireless access point to make sure you get the speed you need for streaming, surfing, and gaming no matter where you are in your home. The best mesh Wi-Fi network systems should be at the top of the list for anybody in a larger living space, but since most of these systems can also grow with you, they’re also great investments for the future. Read on for our roundup of the best systems to cover even the largest and busiest connected homes.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Netgear Orbi at Amazon
Boasting lightning-fast performance from anywhere in even the largest homes.
A really affordable way to make the move into Wi-Fi 6 mesh technology, with great range for the price.
Offers solid and reliable Wi-Fi 6 coverage for homes of up to 8,100 square feet.
A mesh system for those who don't want to make any compromises on performance.
Best Expandability:
Eero Pro at Amazon
Support for an effectively unlimited number of units means this system can grow with your needs to cover even the largest homes.
Best for Gaming:
Asus ZenWiFi XT8 at Amazon
Offering ultra-fast tri-band Wi-Fi 6 support in a package that's highly configurable but also surprisingly easy to set up.
Best for Smart Homes:
Google Nest Wi-Fi at Amazon
With points that double as smart speakers, it's a great solution for Google Assistant users.
Offering fast performance and a plethora of features customizable in the mobile app.
Uses Powerline technology to reach places that most mesh Wi-Fi systems can't.

Best Overall: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

Netgear Orbi RBK50 Mesh Wi-Fi System
4.5

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    4/5
  • Network Performance
    5/5
  • Software
    4/5
What We Like
  • Fast and reliable coverage

  • Easy to set up

  • Highly configurable

What We Don't Like
  • USB ports don't support shared storage

Netgear’s Orbi strikes an almost perfect balance of performance, price, and features among mesh Wi-Fi systems. This makes it an easy top pick as the mesh system for most people. With only two units, Orbi can provide fast and stable Wi-Fi over an area of up to 5,000 square feet, and this range can be extended even more simply by adding additional satellite units.

Netgear promises that Orbi can deliver at least 150Mbps anywhere in your home, which was more than evident in our testing. This means you’ll be able to enjoy smooth online performance throughout your living space without worrying about buffering Netflix 4K UHD streams or stuttering Zoom calls. Orbi accomplishes this by dedicating the fastest of its three Wi-Fi bands to be used as a backhaul channel, which guarantees maximum bandwidth between the main router and the satellite units. This means that you’ll get the same great wireless performance whether your devices are closer to the main router or one of the satellite units. 

This also makes the generous collection of four Gigabit Ethernet ports found on each unit even more useful. Since the 5GHz backhaul channel offers 1.7Gbps of bandwidth, you can wire in a smart TV or game console at a satellite unit and get the same performance as plugging it right into the main router. There’s also a USB 2.0 port on each unit for sharing printers around your home, and advanced security and parental controls offered through the partnership between Netgear and Circle with Disney. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access, Circle with Disney | Standard/Speed: AC3000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"The Netgear Orbi is one of the fastest and most reliable wireless routers on the market today." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester

Netgear Orbi

Lifewire / Bill Thomas

Best Value: TP-Link Deco X20 AX1800 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

TP-Link Deco X20 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
What We Like
  • Affordable Wi-Fi 6 technology

  • Small footprint

  • Great range

What We Don't Like
  • No dedicated backhaul channel

  • No USB ports

TP-Link has been building a reputation for itself recently with some surprisingly affordable Wi-Fi 6 routers, and the Deco X20 is no exception. This small but mighty mesh system represents a really affordable way to get into Wi-Fi 6 technology without emptying your wallet. 

While the X20 doesn’t offer quite the same blazing fast performance as the pricier alternatives on our list, it’s no slouch in the range department, with three units easily handling homes of up to 5,800 square feet. The dual-band AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 support also offers a comfortable 1.8Mbps of bandwidth, although it lacks the extra 5GHz backhaul channel found on more advanced mesh Wi-Fi systems. This means it may not perform as well on busy and heavily congested home networks—those with a dozen or more devices gaming, video calling, and streaming in 4K—but it should be more than enough for the online needs of smaller families. 

The Deco X20 is also a breeze to set up, thanks to TP-Link’s aptly named Deco app, which can help even the most inexperienced home networking users get up and running within a few minutes. It also includes TP-Link’s new HomeCare security suite, powered by Trend Micro, offering up anti-malware features and parental controls to keep your home network safe against intruders and your kids away from the darker corners of the internet. Each unit includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports, but sadly, there aren’t any USB ports for sharing external storage devices. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: HomeCare, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX1800 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2

Best Range: Linksys Velop AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (MX12600)

Linksys Velop AX4200 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (MX12600)
What We Like
  • Tri-band Wi-Fi 6

  • Expansive coverage

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Requires mobile app for initial mesh set up

  • Not suitable for multi-gigabit broadband services

  • Lacks advanced features

When it comes to getting maximum range out of your mesh Wi-Fi system, Linksys’ Velop MX12600 will give you the best bang for your buck, offering three fully Wi-Fi 6 capable mesh units for less than most other systems charge for only two. This means solid and reliable coverage for homes of up to 8,100 square feet at an affordable price. 

The Velop’s three identical AX4200 Wi-Fi 6 stations allow you to designate one as the main router that hosts your broadband connection, while placing the other two wherever you need the best and strongest coverage in your home. The Velop system also uses a dynamic backhaul channel, letting the system automatically decide whether to assign one of the three Wi-Fi bands to move traffic between the mesh stations or make it available for your Wi-Fi clients. Each unit also includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports, letting you hardwire in non-Wi-Fi devices or anything that just needs the fastest possible connection. Thanks to a high-speed USB 3.2 port on the back of each unit you can also connect multiple hard drives or other storage devices for sharing files or even streaming media.

Linksys’ mobile app also makes the system a cinch to set up, walking you through the process of getting the first unit online and then joining the other two into a single mesh network. Although you’ll need to use the mobile app for the initial configuration, you can manage the system from the more typical web interface once the mesh has been configured. The MX12600 system offers all the basic networking features you’d expect from a modern router, including elementary QoS device prioritization and some fairly rudimentary parental controls that should be enough for most typical users, but those hoping for advanced features like a built-in VPN server or online malware protection will want to look elsewhere. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX4200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Best Splurge: Netgear Orbi AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System

Netgear Orbi RBK852 AX6000 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
4.7

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    4/5
  • Network Performance
    5/5
  • Software
    4/5
What We Like
  • Blazing fast performance

  • Excellent range

  • 2.5Gbps WAN port

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Lacks some advanced features

  • No USB ports

With great coverage, solid performance, and easy configuration, Netgear's Orbi is already our pick for the best mesh Wi-Fi system overall. However, if you want to stay ahead of the curve by investing in the latest high-speed Wi-Fi technology, then you'll want to check out the AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 version, which offers amazing performance and coverage for even the largest and busiest homes.

Thanks to its use of Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax technology, it's one of the fastest mesh network solutions available, even when you have a lot of devices on your network; the much higher network capacity offered by Wi-Fi 6 means it can easily handle up to 100 devices without breaking a sweat. The Orbi system also maintains impressive speeds even at the edges of its range, so with 6Gbps of total bandwidth you'll be able to enjoy consistently fast speeds anywhere in your home. Two units give you 5,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage which can be expanded by adding up to five more satellite units.

Netgear has also packed in four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each station, so you'll have plenty of room for wiring in devices like game consoles for maximum performance. The main router on this higher-end model also offers a 2.5Gbps WAN port to make sure you're ready for the fastest home broadband connections. The only disappointing thing with Netgear's Wi-Fi 6 Orbi solution is that for whatever reason the company chose to omit the USB ports found on the lower-end version. Power users may also be disappointed by the lack of advanced configuration settings compared to other Wi-Fi 6 routers, but if you don't want to make any compromises on getting the best performance possible, even if it means sacrificing some network management features, this is the mesh system for you. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"The Orbi immediately impressed, notching a maximum download speed of 939 Mbps when measured at the router." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Netgear Orbi AX6000

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Expandability: Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

Eero Pro kit with two Eero Beacons
4.3

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    3/5
  • Network Performance
    4/5
  • Software
    5/5
What We Like
  • Very easy to set up

  • Practically unlimited expandability

  • Real-time content filtering & malware protection

What We Don't Like
  • Limited Ethernet ports

  • Lacks PPPoE support

  • Content filtering requires monthly subscription

If you’re looking for a mesh Wi-Fi system that offers a “just works” level of simplicity, then the Eero Pro is the one to get. Not only will the really intuitive mobile app have you up and running in only a few minutes, with basically no networking expertise required, but it also lets you monitor and manage your configuration from anywhere. 

Unlike many other mesh Wi-Fi systems, Eero also lets you mix-and-match between three different types of units. Powerful Eero Pro stations offer fast tri-band Wi-Fi, while more affordable standard Eero units provide only dual-band coverage. Each one also offers two Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting network devices that need a wired connection. You can also deploy Eero Beacons more discretely around your home, which plug into any wall outlet to add an extra 1,000–1,500 square feet of wireless coverage. While the Beacons omit any wired Ethernet ports, as an added bonus, they can double as night lights around your home. 

One of the best parts about Eero’s system is that there’s also no practical limit to how many units you can add to form the optimal mesh network for your needs. While three Eero Pro units will give you 6,000 square feet of coverage, you can get even more by just adding more Eero units as your needs grow. An optional Eero Secure feature, available for a small annual subscription fee, also provides a robust set of parental and malware controls. Sadly, as great as Eero’s system is, it’s also one of the very few routers that lacks support for the PPPoE protocol used by some ISPs, which can be a dealbreaker unless you’re willing to set it up behind another router. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: Eero Secure, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band/Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2

“The Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi system is an expandable router-and-beacon networking solution that virtually anyone can set up with zero prior experience.” — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best for Gaming: Asus ZenWiFi XT8 AX6600 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Asus ZenWifi XT8 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (Charcoal)
3.8

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    4/5
  • Network Performance
    4.5/5
  • Software
    4/5
What We Like
  • Compact, fashionable design

  • Lots of advanced features

  • Parental and security controls

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Although Asus’ AiMesh technology will let you combine almost any set of Asus routers to form a mesh network, the company’s ZenWiFi XT8 takes that a step further. It’s a holistic mesh system that works right out of the box to seamlessly give you maximum coverage and performance throughout your home with a minimum of fuss. It’s also one of the most advanced and highly configurable mesh Wi-Fi systems available, making it a great pick for those who like to tinker. Don’t worry, though, as Asus’ mobile app makes it so easy to get up and running that you won’t even notice how much power it packs under the hood. 

The ZenWifi XT8 not only offers cutting-edge 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 technology, but it also packs in many of the gaming enhancements that have become synonymous with Asus routers. The low latency means you’ll get lag-free performance in all of your favorite online games. While the ZenWiFi system lacks the full suite of game optimization features found on Asus’ ROG series of routers, it still includes the adaptive QoS feature to give your gaming traffic a nice boost.

A single ZenWiFi unit can cover up to 2,750 square feet by itself, so each one you add increases that accordingly, meaning a standard two-pack is good for up to 5,500 square feet. Further, since it uses Asus' aforementioned AiMesh technology, you can even add other Asus router models into the mix, or even add the ZenWiFi system to your existing Asus router.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX6600 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"Swapping out my old router for the ZenWifi changed my gaming life—the first time I checked my internet speed, I saw speeds skyrocket to 300Mbps."Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

ASUS ZenWiFi AX6600

Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs

Best for Smart Homes: Google Nest Wi-Fi (2nd Generation)

Google Nest Wi-Fi (2nd Gen)
4.4

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    4/5
  • Network Performance
    5/5
  • Software
    5/5
What We Like
  • Attractive and simple design

  • Integrates with Google Home

  • Point units double as smart speakers

What We Don't Like
  • No Ethernet ports on points

  • Lacks a dedicated backhaul channel

Google’s Nest Wifi is a straightforward mesh system that provides some nice integration features for users of Google Assistant and Google-compatible smart home devices. The second generation of Google’s mesh solution, Nest Wifi’s satellite “point” units double as Google Assistant smart speakers, so it’s an especially great choice for those who are already invested in the Google ecosystem, as you can issue voice commands for everything from home control and checking the weather to sending messages and setting up calendar appointments.

Three units—a main base station and two points—provide up to 5,400 sure feet of coverage, and Google’s Home and Wi-Fi apps make this one an absolute cinch to set up and manage, so you can be up and running within minutes with little to no effort, and it even lets you set up a guest network for your friends and other visitors and let them get online simply by scanning a QR code.

The main downside to Nest Wifi is that the base station only includes one Ethernet LAN port, and you won’t find any at all on the satellite points, so you’ll need to add your own network hub if you want to hardwire in some of your devices at the router, and if you need to wire in devices at the points, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2

“The Nest Wi-Fi router delivers up to 2,200 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage, with each Wi-Fi point adding up to another 1,600 square feet to that tally." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Google Nest Wi-Fi

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best Design: Linksys Velop AC6600 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System

Linksys Velop AC6600 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System
4.1

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4.5/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    3.5/5
  • Network Performance
    5/5
  • Software
    5/5
What We Like
  • Strong, consistent connection

  • Sleek Design

  • Great range

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks some basic settings

  • Some features cost extra

Linksys' first whole home Wi-Fi system, the Velop Tri-Band AC6600, is one of the more attractive designs we've seen. Each of the sleek white nodes is roughly the size of a tower of Jenga blocks, and they look nice enough to sit on display rather than being hidden away. Linksys sells Velop nodes individually, or in packs of two or three, and each one will give you about 2,000 square feet of coverage, so a complete system can blanket a 6,000 square foot home. 

The Velop AC6600 system uses tri-band Wi-Fi, but like most mesh routers, it dedicates the second 5GHz band as a backhaul channel. This means it can keep traffic moving smoothly between all of the nodes for maximum performance throughout your home. The downside, however, is that your devices won't be able to take advantage of the extra 5GHz band, so even though it's an AC2200 router, the total bandwidth available to your client devices is only 1,267Mbps.

Although the Velop offers a fairly simplified setup process thanks to the Linksys smartphone app, if you like to tinker with your network settings you'll probably want to look elsewhere, since its configuration options are fairly limited. There's also no malware protection to speak of, and parental controls are confined to blocking websites and manually disabling internet access from specific devices.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC6600 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"The triband hybrid mesh network produced by the Velop did a good job of eliminating dead zones within my house."— Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Linksys Velop AC6600

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Best Hybrid: TP-Link Deco P9 Hybrid Mesh WiFi System

TP-Link Deco P9 Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi System
4.8

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Setup Process
    4.5/5
  • Connectivity/Ports
    5/5
  • Network Performance
    5/5
  • Software
    5/5
What We Like
  • Powerline Backhaul covers dead zones

  • Expansive coverage

  • Parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • Middling Wi-Fi speeds

  • No USB ports

TP-Link makes some of the best Powerline network adapters on the market, so it's probably not surprising that with its Deco P9, the company has created a unique mesh Wi-Fi system that leverages Powerline technology to allow it to get wireless coverage into places where traditional mesh Wi-Fi systems can't reach.

On the surface, the Deco P9 looks much like most of the other mesh Wi-Fi systems you've seen, with two or three cylindrical units that you place around your home to blanket it with Wi-Fi coverage. Where it differs, however, is that while most mesh Wi-Fi systems use actual Wi-Fi to keep the units in contact with each other, the Deco P9 runs over the electrical wiring in your home instead, using the AV1000 HomePlug AV2 protocol as its backhaul channel. This not only ensures that all of its Wi-Fi bandwidth is available for your devices but also has the advantage of letting you place satellite units in areas where your Wi-Fi signal wouldn't otherwise be able to reach. So, you'll be able to get Wi-Fi into any area of your home that has a power outlet handy. 

Each Deco P9 unit offers dual-band AC1200 Wi-Fi, and although that may seem slow compared to other mesh Wi-Fi systems, because the communication between them is handled over your electrical wiring, you get full AC1200 speeds from each one. This means that as long as all of your devices are evenly distributed between them, three units could potentially give you 3.6Gbps of total available bandwidth. A pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports are also available on each station to let you wire in devices, so these can be used as traditional Powerline network adapters as well.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC1200/AV1000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2

"With all 3 units installed in the attic, main floor and basement of my 4,000 square foot home I was able to enjoy complete coverage." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

TP-Link Deco P9

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Final Verdict

Netgear’s Orbi (view at Amazon) offers the best combination of performance, reliability, and advanced features at a price that’s pretty reasonable for everything you’re getting. If you’re looking for an affordable way to jump into the sea of Wi-Fi 6 mesh technology, however, TP-Link’s Deco X20 (view at Amazon) is a great way to get your feet wet.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.

Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They praised Netgear's Orbi for its speed and reliability.

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He is an expert in consumer technology, including mesh Wi-Fi network systems.

Rebecca Isaacs is passionate about how technology can improve daily life. She works in higher education, and when she’s not checking out the latest tech gadgets or writing about them, she’s snuggling up with a good book and her beloved cat, Hobbes. Rebecca has been covering consumer tech, games, and networking devices for Lifewire since 2019, with a particular focus on Wi-Fi adapters and mesh Wi-Fi systems.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. He tested the Nest Wi-Fi router on our list and appreciated its large coverage area and integration features for smart home devices.

Andy Zahn began writing for Lifewire in April 2019. His areas of expertise include smart home and consumer technology, such as mesh Wi-Fi network systems.

FAQ
  • What’s the difference between a mesh Wi-Fi system and a Wi-Fi extender?

    While mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi extenders are similar in concept in that they both extend the reach of your wireless signal beyond your main router’s range, mesh Wi-Fi systems take a more holistic approach. This guarantees that everything will work together seamlessly, saving you the trouble of configuring and managing each extender separately. 

  • Are mesh Wi-Fi systems faster?

    Technically speaking, a mesh Wi-Fi system won’t offer better performance than an equivalent standalone router when you’re sitting right beside it. Since speed always falls off due to a weaker signal as you move farther away from your router, however, mesh systems can make a huge difference in larger homes. The purpose of a mesh Wi-Fi system is to give you consistently faster speeds no matter where you are in your home by making sure you're never too far away from a wireless access point.

  • Do you need to replace your existing router?

    In most cases, the answer is yes. Although there are some mesh Wi-Fi systems that are designed to work with existing routers, you’ll generally get better performance and a much better user experience if you simply go with a full mesh Wi-Fi system. That said, if you’re a cable internet subscriber, you’ll still need to hang onto your cable modem, although if you’re using a cable modem/router combo, you should be able to disable the router portion and use it strictly to manage your cable connection.

"(Mesh Wi-Fi networks) replace the units of your current router and offer long-range signals to connected devices. So if you complain of not having a strong Wi-Fi connection in your space, you may need to use a mesh Wi-Fi system to improve the connectivity of all the electronic devices in your office or home." — Sam Brown, Radio Engineer

What to Look For in a Mesh Wi-Fi Network

Every wireless router, no matter how many antennas it has or how powerful it is, suffers from the same issue: radio signals weaken when they pass through walls, floors, and other obstructions. Mesh Wi-Fi network systems are designed to solve this problem by placing a number of nodes throughout your home or business, creating a uniformly strong signal with no dead spots.

Unlike traditional routers with wireless extenders and access points, mesh systems are designed from the ground up to work as a node-based system. Setting up a mesh Wi-Fi network system is typically a lot easier than connecting range extenders to an existing system, and they automatically pass your connection from one node to the next as you move around your home.

The main drawback of mesh Wi-Fi network systems is the price, as they tend to be more expensive than traditional routers. You can typically buy a nice router and some extenders for less than a mesh Wi-Fi starter kit, but if your situation really calls for a mesh system, it’s well worth the additional investment.

Netgear Orbi
Lifewire 

Wireless Router Standards and Bands: Less Variety Than Traditional Routers

When you buy a traditional router, you are presented with a lot of choices in terms of available router standards and supported bands. Since mesh router systems are uniformly high end, most of those choices are wiped away. Every competent mesh Wi-Fi network system supports at least the 802.11ac standard as a minimum and is backward compatible with older standards. If you're willing to pay a premium for a more future proof solution, you can even get systems with 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support.

There is some variety in terms of bands, as some mesh systems are dual-band and others are tri-band. Dual-band mesh routers are capable of connecting to your devices via either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and tri-band systems add a second 5GHz signal for additional connectivity or for exclusive use by the nodes to communicate with each other and the base station (also known as a "backhaul" channel). There are no single-band mesh systems.

While tri-band mesh routers are theoretically better, the nature of mesh systems and the way nodes are able to pass data between each other, means that dual-band systems are also able to work quite well. Further, unless your tri-band system uses the third band as a backhaul channel, you'll need to have more than two or three 802.11ac 5GHz devices on your network to take advantage of the third band, since each of your devices can only connect to a single band at a time.

Range: Massive Coverage By Adding Nodes

When selecting a mesh Wi-Fi network system, the size and configuration of your home should take center stage. Mesh systems have greater range, by design than traditional routers, but they aren’t all created equal.

Most mesh systems are designed to cover about 4,000 to 6,000 square feet, while a couple are rated to cover up to 20,000 square feet, or even have a theoretically unlimited maximum coverage.

If your house isn’t that big, but you’re dealing with dead Wi-Fi zones due to issues with signals passing through floors and walls, then pretty much any mesh system will work just fine. If your house is below 2,000 square feet, you may even be able to save money with a good long-range router and a Wi-Fi extender to erase the odd dead spot.

However, if you have a particularly large house, need to pass Wi-Fi signals from one building to another, or have other specific size or configuration concerns, then you should select a mesh system that provides a larger maximum range.

For larger homes, and complicated configurations, mesh Wi-Fi systems are highly superior. They can provide more bandwidth, cover more space, and even extend Wi-Fi from your home to another nearby structure if the distance isn’t too great.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the coverage area since each system has a recommended area for the basic starter kit and a maximum area if you add additional nodes. If you have an especially large home, make sure to go with a system that’s capable of providing complete coverage, and keep in mind that some systems are limited in terms of how many extra nodes you can add.

ASUS ZenWiFi AX6600

Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs

Speed: Mesh Systems Are Typically Fast

Since mesh Wi-Fi network systems are uniformly high end, they tend to be fairly fast as well. There is some differentiation, but you won’t have the opportunity to save money by going with a slower option.

If your home internet connection isn’t very fast, then there really isn’t any benefit to choosing a faster mesh system over a slower one. The rule of thumb is that if you pay for a router that’s faster than your internet connection, then you’ve wasted your money unless you need the performance for your own media server. You can check your internet connection speed with any of these free speed tests if you aren’t sure what it is.

If you have a consumer-grade internet connection, the fastest connection you are likely to have available is 1Gbps, or 1,000Mbps, through cable or fiber. Due to the way mesh systems work, with individual nodes communicating with each other and the base station as well, some mesh systems provide remarkably high wireless connection speeds between different devices on the same network. In fact, some mesh systems can offer overall maximum speeds of 3,000Mbps to 6,000Mbps; although you obviously won't get this from any one device, this kind of bandwidth allows more devices to get connected at their maximum possible speeds.

If you stream media from a local server or transfer a lot of large files between your devices, then you will see some benefit from a speedy mesh system even if your internet connection speed isn’t that great. If you primarily use your Wi-Fi just to connect to the internet, then a system that offers speeds in the 1,200Mbps range is more than fast enough for even the fastest internet connections unless you have a large family competing for bandwidth, but even then keep in mind that even full 4K UHD streaming generally uses far less than 50Mbps for each stream.

Backhaul: Getting Maximum Speeds Between Nodes

When it comes to mesh Wi-Fi systems, it's important to remember that each of the satellite nodes has to maintain a separate connection back to the main router. With only so much bandwidth to go around, this means that devices connected to a satellite unit could end up experiencing lower performance than they do when connected to the main router—especially if there are a lot of them in the same room.

Most tri-band mesh Wi-Fi systems solve this by dedicating one of the two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands to be used as a "backhaul" channel, guaranteeing maximum performance between the main router and all the satellite units. Although this means that client devices only get dual-band Wi-Fi support, it eliminates slowdowns caused by network congestion when too many devices are connected to a single point, while also ensuring that you get consistent speeds no matter where you are in your home.

How this backhaul channel is assigned and managed varies between different mesh Wi-Fi systems. For some, it's a fixed channel that can't be reassigned, while others will let you make the choice yourself, or even try to manage it dynamically based on bandwidth requirements. Generally, however, it's a good idea to leave the backhaul channel enabled, as you won't get any better performance by offering up that third Wi-Fi band to your devices if you're slowing down the path to your main router.

It's also important to note that backhaul channels are only available on tri-band mesh Wi-Fi systems, since a dual-band Wi-Fi router doesn't have the extra 5GHz frequency band to give away. This makes dual-band mesh Wi-Fi systems less suitable for busy homes, although they can still offer a really affordable way to for smaller families that don't have too many devices vying for bandwidth. 

As an alternative, most mesh Wi-Fi systems can be used with a wired backhaul connection instead. If you're willing to run Ethernet cables around your home, you can get maximum wireless performance and free up the third channel on many tri-band systems. For most users, however, the point of buying a mesh system is to avoid the need to run wires.

Ports and Connectivity: Nodes Can Have Ports

Mesh Wi-Fi system base stations and nodes tend to be simpler and more modern in design in comparison to traditional routers, which means they tend to lack the massive external antennas and arrays of ports you may be used to seeing on routers.

With that said, every mesh router has at least one Ethernet port, and some have up to four. If you want to connect multiple devices, like a computer, game console, and printer to your base station, then you should look for a mesh Wi-Fi system that has four or more Gigabit Ethernet ports. If you select a device that has only a single port, you’ll have to purchase an additional network switch if you want to hardwire in something like a PC or gaming console.

In addition to the base station, you will often find ports on mesh Wi-Fi system nodes. Some have none, but most nodes will offer at least one Ethernet ports, and some have up to four each. If you have multiple home offices, with multiple desktop computers, printers, and other devices scattered throughout your home, then nodes that include Ethernet ports can come in very handy.

Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Smart Home Integration: Which System Do You Use?

Most mesh Wi-Fi network systems support a single smart home integration system, and a few support more than one. Alexa is the most commonly supported, with integration from manufacturers like Eero, Linksys, Netgear, and more. Philips Hue, IFTTT, and others see less integration.

If you already have some smart devices in your home, and you’re already tied into either the Alexa or Google Home ecosystem, then that should inform your decision regarding which mesh Wi-Fi network system to choose, but keep in mind that you don't technically need your router to support your smart home assistant unless you need to be able to control its features with voice commands, such as enabling your guest network or blocking access to your kids' devices.

If you're an Apple HomeKit user, then the iPhone maker has taken a different approach. You won't find any routers that can be controlled via Siri, however, a few mesh systems are adding HomeKit-specific security features to keep your smart home devices protected from network intrusions, which is something that neither Google Home nor Amazon Alexa yet offers.

Security and Parental Controls: Check For Hidden Costs

Since mesh systems are high-end equipment, they typically include robust security options and parental controls. There are a handful of systems that don’t include either, so look for those if you don’t have kids and prefer to manage security on individual devices.

Mesh systems that include robust built-in security and parental controls typically allow you to manage both through the same app that you use to manage the rest of the network. Each one has its own system though, so make sure to check out the specifics if security and parental controls are important to you.

Some mesh Wi-Fi systems are capable of scanning for viruses and malware at the router level, blocking ads at the router level, and blocking sites for specific devices at the router level.

The most important thing to check in this area is whether or not the security and parental controls of the mesh system you’re interested in require a subscription. Basic security options are often free, but the best-advanced protections and parental controls often come at the cost of an ongoing monthly subscription, so make sure to take that into account.

Accessories: May Need to Buy Extra Nodes

When you buy a mesh Wi-Fi network system, the most common configuration is to purchase a starter kit. The contents of these kits differ from one manufacturer to another, but you’ll typically get a base station, one or two nodes, and all the cables required to connect everything.

Before you buy your mesh system, check the range of the base station and nodes and come up with a rough estimate of how many nodes you will need. If you have a large house, you may find that you need more nodes than the starter kit includes. You can always go back and add more nodes later, but a little math ahead of time can get you pretty close.

Aside from potentially purchasing extra nodes, you may need to pick up a longer Ethernet cable. The Ethernet cables included with most mesh systems are fairly short, so make sure to buy a longer one if you need to place your main router more than a few feet from your modem.

If you want to plug devices into your nodes, and the nodes have Ethernet ports, then you may also need to buy cables for that purpose. You’ll typically find enough Ethernet cables packed in to account for each node, but they may not be long enough depending on how far away you want to place your devices.

If you do need to purchase additional cables, make sure to buy high-quality CAT 6 or CAT 7 Ethernet cables, and keep them as short as possible unless you only care about reliability and aren’t concerned about speed.

Orbi AX6000

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Brands/Manufacturers

Most of the major router manufacturers have a mesh Wi-Fi system, and a handful of newcomers have also made very interesting contributions to the field. Here are some of the most important mesh Wi-Fi system manufacturers that are worth checking out as you search for your ideal system.

Netgear

Netgear has been in the router business for more than two decades, and their Orbi is an Alexa-enabled mesh Wi-Fi system that’s capable of handling about 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of space depending on the system. While it’s on the pricey side, Netgear’s Orbi has a lot of great features, like up to four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each of their stations. Keep in mind that most of the Orbi systems only support up to three satellites, but that should give you more than enough coverage for all but the most massive homes.

Asus

Asus is a relatively latecomer to the game in terms of offering self-contained mesh systems, but the company has actually been offering its AiMesh technology on almost all of its routers for years, allowing any two Asus routers to be configured to participate together in a mesh network. This has given the company a lot of experience with mesh networking, and its new ZenWiFi systems take advantage of that expertise, and much like the rest of Asus' lineup of routers, they also offer the most highly configurable mesh Wi-Fi systems you'll find right now, which is great if you're an advanced user who likes to be able to tweak your settings for maximum performance.

Linksys

Linksys is a well-known brand name with decades of history that has been owned by the likes of Cisco and Belkin. Their Velop is one of the more expensive Wi-Fi mesh systems on the market, but it offers up to 6,000 square feet in coverage and tri-band connectivity for speeds of up to 867 + 867 + 400 Mbps per node on the two 5GHz and single 2.4GHz bands.

Google

Google is a newcomer to the router space, but their Nest Wi-Fi router is an intriguing option. It doesn’t work with Alexa, so it’s a bad choice if you’re deeply entrenched in Amazon’s ecosystem, but it does work very well with Google Home. Additionally, every Nest Wi-Fi node also functions as a smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant functionality.

Eero

Eero is another relative newcomer that has some very interesting hardware. The router base station and nodes are quite small, and there are now a couple of different versions available. The basic model only offers a single Ethernet LAN port on the main router, but the newer Eero Pro models also provide two Ethernet ports on each satellite. You can also choose two extend your network with additional tri-band Eero Pro units as satellites, or the lower-profile dual-band Eero Beacons, making it a more flexible system. The primary unit covers about 1,750 square feet, and each node adds about 1,500 square feet, with no theoretical limit as you add more nodes. Eero is also the first mesh system to offer Apple HomeKit support.

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network

Buying a mesh Wi-Fi network system is a lot like buying a regular router, and all of the same technology and terminology applies. In fact, you can check out our guides to the best wireless routers and the best Wi-Fi extenders for more in-depth information on the subject.

Beyond that, look for a tri-band system if you have multiple family members or roommates competing for streaming or gaming bandwidth, make sure the system you choose is compatible with your current smart speakers and other smart home devices if you want to use voice control, and pay special attention to the parental controls if you have kids. Some of the best, most comprehensive offerings are locked behind a subscription, so keep that in mind as well before you pull the trigger.

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