If you live in an apartment or small home, your Wi-Fi coverage is probably great. If you live in a building or home with more space, you may have spotty coverage. For example, I get a great signal – and speeds – near the front of my house where my office and main router are located. In my master bedroom, or on my patio at the back of the house, it’s a different story altogether.
You can always take an old router you have and turn it into a repeater by installing custom firmware like DD-WRT. I did this and it works, but it steals bandwidth from other devices around the house and honestly isn’t that reliable. It’s great for a quick fix if you have an old router and don’t want to spend more money, but it’s not a comprehensive solution.
So, what do you do? How can you expand coverage to the rest of your home or property? Let’s dive in and find out!
What Are Mesh Routers?
Mesh routers are router that have multiple access points on a single network. Traditionally, mesh networks and related equipment have been used by corporations and organizations to cover large areas, like office buildings, with a singular network so that employees can move around without losing a consistent internet connection. The technology works similarly to cell phone towers that allow people to stay on the phone despite moving around large areas.
The technology has since been adapted for the consumer market, so you can take advantage of mesh networking in your home.
Why You Need Them?
Boiling it down to extreme basics, a conventional router takes the internet signal and broadcasts it [wirelessly] to a small area. But a major drawback of regular routers is the signal they broadcast is exclusive and limited. There’s generally only one access point and all your devices connect to that single hub, which juggles pretty much all internet traffic.
So, when you’re using a phone in your living room and your spouse is using a laptop in the bedroom, both devices are connected to the router in the office. It has to juggle all connections simultaneously. Traditional routers don’t necessarily do a poor job of this, but there are a lot of factors they must contend with like total traffic, available bandwidth, distance, objects or obstructions, and even walls or appliances.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before that a microwave can affect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals?
A mesh router is specifically designed to eliminate dead zones and broadcast a signal to a much wider area. A single device acts as the main router or portal, if you will, and connects to the modem. Then, several additional access points – called “satellites” – are placed in the nearby area and boost the signal from the main device by rebroadcasting it. The signal is stronger and wider, and this helps the network overcome some of those obstructions like offending walls or appliances.
There are some pros and cons to using a mesh router over a conventional one. So, it’s best to look at the benefits and decide if they’re right for you or not.
Mesh Router Pros
- Reliable internet coverage over large areas
- Customized scalability for your home
- Able to manage high internet usage across multiple users
Mesh Router Cons
- Mesh router systems can be more expensive
- Increased complexity compared to single routers
- Energy consumption is slightly higher
Installation and Ease of Use
For the most part, installation and ease of use are simple and easy. Just like a conventional router, you connect the main unit to the modem and then set up your home network. The satellite units or additional extenders can be placed around your home to boost the signal and connect directly to the main unit, with little to no input from you.
To connect to the internet, most mesh routers come with a smart phone app so that you can set everything up easily at your convenience. Settings like parental controls, device authorization, and more are often controllable from a smart phone app as well.
Mesh routers are generally more expensive than conventional routers. This is because they require more equipment. It also means they use a little more power in the long term.
Most of the devices on this list range from $300 to $1,000.
Best WiFi Mesh Network Router Systems – 2018
Based on our research, here are the best mesh routers you can install in your home to expand Wi-Fi coverage.
10. Luma Surround WiFi: Best Security Control and Safety Features
The Luma Surround is easy on the eyes, and has some great security features to boot.
The Luma Surround system comes with three routers – remember those satellites we talked about? The big focus of Luma, however, is security and safety for your family. Not only does it include several security features that its competitors don’t, it also has a robust parental control system to help you keep your kids away from questionable content. Namely, the malware scanning and blocking support provide an additional layer of protection for all devices using your network.
It’s easy to set up, and the instructions will recommend placement for the various routers. Some things users have noted is that the coverage can be finicky, and the routers can be tough to stand up due to their shape and size. Other than that, the customization and control options are exceptional.
9. Ubiquiti AmpliFi: Best System for Speed Freaks
The AmpliFi HD includes a speed indicator on the front that can display additional information, like the date and time.
The Ubiquiti AmpliFi – also known as the AmpliFi HD – is for anyone looking to get the absolute most of out their wireless network. That is, if you’re the type of person that wants to squeeze every bit per second out of your high-speed internet connection, the AmpliFi is your man. It even has a nifty speed meter on the front of the main unit that tells you just how good your connection is currently.
It’s a three-piece solution that includes the main router – a boxy looking hub – and two satellites, which plug directly into a power outlet. It’s one of the few systems to support the “turbocharged” Wi-Fi 802.11ac standard. Plus, you can customize and control the entire network from a mobile app. Total coverage can reach up to 20,000 square feet.
8. Portal: Best Mesh Router for Crowded Areas
Portal doesn’t include satellite units, but you can buy multiple routers to set up a mesh network.
If you live in an apartment, high-rise, or densely populated community you might run into a few coverage issues. When you have multiple Wi-Fi networks crammed into a small space the radio signals can interfere with another, especially when they’re using the same channels.
Portal makes use of a special “fastchannel” system – also called Dynamic Frequency Selection or DFS for short – that uses a larger selection of wireless channels to keep your traffic clean and optimized. It’s incredibly easy to use and has a companion mobile app. As soon as you plug it in, the router will automatically detect the best channel and settings for your area to provide the best coverage for your home.
Unlike some of the other systems on this list, if you want a mesh network you’ll need to buy multiple Portal routers. But just one additional unit – two total – can double your coverage area from 3,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet.
7. Asus HiveSpot: Easiest to Conceal
The Asus HiveSpot and HiveDot are two different mesh router systems, launching later this year.
Technically, Asus has two mesh-type routers coming soon including the more expensive HiveSpot and its brethren the HiveDot.
The HiveSpot is modular, with three different units you place around your home to spread wireless coverage. They resemble wide discs or oversized hockey pucks, like a much larger Amazon Dot. Asus calls it a “tri-band” system because two of the units handle the 5GHz band (with a top speed up to 867 Mbps) and one that uses the 2.4GHz band (top speed up to 400 Mbps). One of the higher speed units is used solely to connect the satellite units to main setup. The advantage of this is that the additional units are fed a clean signal with little to no signal loss or interference across the entire network. It works well too.
Of course, Asus’ routers won’t be available until later this year. We’ll update this section as soon as that changes.
6. Plume Adaptive Wi-Fi: Easiest to Set Up and Use
The Plume system has no router, instead the “pods” connect to outlets and pass traffic through a cloud-based system (you still need a modem).
Plume is unique. There’s no router at all. You can pick up the adapters – which Plume calls “pods” – anywhere from 2 to 10 depending on how many you need to fill up your home. They plug into wall outlets and Plume’s cloud system handles all the traffic optimizations.
One of those pods connects to a wall outlet near your modem, and then directly into the modem via an Ethernet cable. Then, it’s as easy as plugging in pods around your home and opening the mobile app. It will automatically run diagnostics and get your network up and running in no time. All data is managed remotely via a cloud system, but Plume does not collect or analyze any of your data so you don’t have to be concerned about your privacy being breached. Within 15 to 30 minutes after setup, you’ll be able to use your network, and up to 24-hours later optimizations will be complete.
5. Securifi Almond 3: Most Versatile and Full Featured
To set up a mesh network with the Securifi Almond 3, you need to place multiple units around your home.
Similar to Portal, the Almond 3 is a single unit that can be set up in multiple locations to create a mesh network. So, if you want to strengthen your signal you’ll need to buy several units. The Almond 3 is a boxy-looking unit, that resembles a tablet or miniature TV. On the front is a touchscreen panel which you can use to customize and interact with the system.
Only one of the units need be plugged into your modem, while the rest only need power and can be placed anywhere in your home. It’s remarkably easy to setup and like most of the other mesh routers here, there’s a mobile app you can use to check on your network remotely.
The Almond 3 can also act as a hub, connecting with your other smart home devices – similar to the Wink. It’s compatible with Amazon Echo, Nest, Philips Hue, GE, and Yale automation tech. The Echo support even means you can use Alexa to talk to the Almond if you fancy voice commands.
4. Linksys Velop: Best Administrative Tools
The Linksys Velop works with Alexa (Amazon Echo), and has a robust selection of administrative tools, including parental controls.
The Linksys Velop offers “tri-band” speed for full wireless coverage throughout your home and property. It works a lot like some of the other systems here, with one of the units connected to a modem and the others placed sparingly around your home. But what sets it apart is the robust set of administrative options for your network. It offers parental controls, device and bandwidth prioritization options, speed testing tools, auto diagnostics and even an optional guest network. Yes, that means you can have a freely accessible “guest” network like you see at businesses and hotels.
Of course, the Linksys Velop works great with Alexa, and can also be controlled from a mobile app. What more could you ask for?
3. Eero 2: Most Reliable Mesh Router
The Eero is extremely reliable and performs great.
An update to one of the earliest mesh routers to hit the market is the Eero 2nd Gen Home Wi-Fi System. Even though it’s up against some stiff – and a lot more numerous – competition it still manages to place pretty high on the list. That’s because it offers exceptional reliability, performance, and ease of use. To setup, you simply connect one of the units to your modem, plug in the others around your home, and pop open the mobile app. That’s it. Eero will analyze your home layout and setup and tell you how far – or near – to place the satellite devices.
It’s also one of the best performing routers on this list, which is why it earned a place in the top three. There’s a great app which is Alexa compatible, available parental controls, and users say it offers a stable connection throughout your entire house. No wonder they gave it 4.6/ 5 stars!
2. Netgear Orbi Pro: Most Impressive Signal and Performance
The Netgear Orbi is a bit bulky, but it offers awesome performance, second only to Google WiFi.
The Netgear Orbi Pro is the upgraded and improved version of the original Orbi by Netgear. This router is great for people at any technology level and offers an unbelievable 5,000 square feet coverage.
Users on Amazon gave of 4.5 stars out of 5 because it has a super easy install, has strong coverage in a wide area, and has a great user interface. The Orbi provides 3 networks which people use for home or business applications. For your home, that means you can have one for, one for your kids which you can set on a timer, and one for guests. For your small business, you can have one for business use, a dedicated customer portal, and a guest network. It’s an extremely versatile unit.
1. Google WiFi: Absolute Best of the Best
In many ways, the Google WiFi units resemble Amazon’s Echo devices, only with a pearly white finish.
Google Wi-Fi is our number one pick for a lot of great reasons. It looks a lot like Amazon’s Echo devices, except adorned in a pearly white finish – as opposed to black. The system is comprised of three routers working in tandem to cover 4,500 square feet of space. They offer 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and the strength of the signal is impressive, to say the least.
But where Google’s mesh router really stands out is with its mobile app. The UI is intuitive, clean, and super easy to use. The customization options are robust, and the best way to describe the whole experience is with a single word: responsive. You can’t go wrong with this one, and Google has a great support team to help you get things set up – or troubleshoot if you run into issues.
Mesh routers are remarkably similar to conventional routers, with a few exceptions. For starters, they generally come bundled with multiple units – a main hub and numerous satellite devices or receivers. You connect the main unit to your modem and the rest you place sparingly around your home. The ultimate goal for all of these models is the same, however. They offer improved performance and much more reliable Wi-Fi coverage around your home, effectively eliminating dead zones.
So, if you ever get tired of poor Wi-Fi signal or speeds in the far reaches of your home, these mesh routers are definitely for you.
What do you think of our list of the best mesh routers? Did we miss anything you would have included?