Mesh WiFi falls under the category of WiFi booster. It is a whole-home WiFi system, which sets it apart from other WiFi boosting devices like range extenders and MoCA adapters. This indicates that the system’s components are all communicating with one another. A mesh system consists of a mesh router that is directly connected to your modem and a number of nodes that are dispersed throughout your home.
Your home is covered in WiFi thanks to mesh WiFi nodes. There is a robust WiFi signal anywhere there is a node. Even though your home’s mesh router, modem, and nodes are all located in different rooms, they are all connected to the same mesh network and use the same SSID and password.
Mesh WiFi solutions exist that are more cost-effective for smaller spaces or less expensive ways to increase your WiFi. There are specific features to look for in the ideal Mesh WiFi system, though, assuming you have a big house and the money to buy one.
What to Look for in a Mesh WiFi System
Wi-Fi mesh networks are fantastic, but they may be a little tricky, so do your research before making a purchase. To make sure you get the Wi-Fi mesh system that is right for you, it is best to think about the traits you should look for before making a purchase.
1. Coverage Area
A Wi-Fi mesh system’s coverage area can range from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet, depending on the model. So, the first order of business is to decide the area you’d like to cover. Remember that high-end mesh systems boast impressive coverage areas, but physical obstructions and concurrent device usage can affect performance.
The coverage area also depends on the nodes’ number, quality, and installation point. Look for a mesh Wi-Fi system that provides consistent speeds and coverage across all nodes—checking out buyer reviews is the best way to judge this.
As you expand your wireless network, you will need more nodes. It is important to select a system that can handle the number of nodes required to cover your home (or office, etc.) while allowing for easy expandability.
Consider the compatibility with other third-party nodes as well. This allows you to mix and match nodes from different brands. Check if the system supports this feature, as not all of them will.
Some systems include extra nodes out of the box, while others may require you to buy them separately. Take these additional costs into mind as you might end up spending more than initially expected.
3. Ease of Use and Installation
One of the goals of mesh Wi-Fi systems is to simplify your network setup rather than complicate it. So, be sure to consider how easy or difficult the installation process is before purchasing.
You’ll want to look out for a user-friendly interface that lets you configure your network. While you’re at it, look out for companion mobile apps that streamline the setup process and let you monitor network status and usage from your phone.
Adding new nodes to your existing system should be easy, but some systems can be inconsistent when you mix and match nodes from different brands. Always look for reviews that mention these factors to avoid headaches in the future.
4. Wi-Fi Standards and Speed
While the main purpose of mesh Wi-Fi systems is to expand the coverage area, Wi-Fi standards and speeds are just as important. Before buying any home network device, it is important to familiarize yourself with different Wi-Fi standards. Most modern systems will support Wi-Fi 6/6E, while older models will be limited to Wi-Fi 5.
Read Also: What is The Concept of Wifi Mesh?
Wi-Fi 5 provides a theoretical maximum speed of up to 3.5 Gbps. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6 can achieve a theoretical maximum speed of up to 9.6 Gbps. Of course, real-world speeds will be significantly lower. The main benefit of Wi-Fi 6 is better stability with multiple devices, lower latency, and improved efficiency.
If your workflow involves transferring or downloading large files, Wi-Fi 6 is the better choice. However, talk to your ISP and ensure your current connection will support the newer standard before you buy anything.
5. Dual-Band vs. Tri-Band
Continuing with the theme of speed and stability, it is also important to understand the differences between Wi-Fi bands. Dual-band systems use two frequency bands, namely 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The former is usually more stable and better for connecting multiple devices, but 5GHz Wi-Fi is usually faster.
Similarly, Tri-Band Wi-Fi gives you access to three different channels. This consists of one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. The advantage is increased bandwidth and less network congestion across all your devices.
That said, Tri-band mesh systems can get expensive, so make sure you can take advantage of all that bandwidth if you intend on going that route. Other than that, it’s safe to say that most users should be fine with a dual-band Wi-Fi setup.
6. Security Features
When buying a mesh Wi-Fi system, always look for the latest security standard, WPA3. It’s best to avoid network devices that don’t support it, as it is common in most modern mesh Wi-Fi systems.
If you have children and want to control the content they access, look for a system that offers robust parental control. These features allow you to set restrictions on specific websites, block certain content categories, or limit internet access during certain times.
You should also look for a system that has a robust firewall and intrusion detection systems. These features can detect and block activities such as unauthorized access or malware attacks. Regular firmware updates are just as important for addressing security vulnerabilities.
7. Ethernet and USB Ports
While most mesh Wi-Fi systems are completely wireless, it is sometimes better to have access to a wired connection. Since an Ethernet connection is usually faster and more stable, it is better for devices such as gaming consoles, NAS servers, and workstations.
Many mesh systems will have multiple Ethernet ports on the main hub, while the additional nodes will feature just one or two of these ports. This will vary from model to model, so make sure the system you’re looking at has enough ports for your needs.
Some systems also feature USB ports that let you update the firmware or connect external storage devices and printers.
8. Price and Value
Mesh Wi-Fi systems tend to be more expensive than standalone routers. This is mainly because they consist of multiple interconnected nodes, which adds to the cost. However, if you know what you’re looking for, you can easily find a reliable system that won’t break the bank.
Look for features you need rather than falling prey to marketing gimmicks. While a Gigabit connection sounds nice, there’s no point in getting a high-speed Wi-Fi system if your internet plan doesn’t support those speeds.
Some systems also have separate “gaming features,” such as optimized low-latency modes. Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a gimmick most of the time. Prioritize features that matter to you, look for a system that fits your budget, and make the purchase accordingly.
An effective mesh Wi-Fi system enables you to create an unbroken Wi-Fi service that spans your entire area. It’s wonderful that these systems are now more reasonably priced than ever, making them more widely available. When it comes time to make the buy, make sure you take into account all of the aforementioned factors.
There is one more item to think about before you do that. Ethernet is still faster and more stable than Wi-FI, despite the fact that it is now the standard method of connecting to the internet. This is crucial for gamers, who want a quick and reliable connection to play online.
How do I Choose The Best Mesh WiFi System?
A mesh WiFi system is great for you if you are looking to get rid of WiFi signal dead spots in your home. But there are things to consider when choosing a system and if you should even have mesh WiFi at all.
Before choosing to go with mesh WiFi as a WiFi boosting solution, ask yourself a few questions:
- What are your wireless Internet needs?
- What is your budget?
- Is your home large or small?
- Realistically, how much coverage do you need in your space?
The answers to these questions can determine if mesh WiFi is right for you. If you primarily use a WiFi connection, have a high budget, and live in a large or multi-level home that needs full coverage, then mesh WiFi is great. If you don’t check most or any of these boxes, there are more affordable and accessible alternatives that you can use to get better WiFi coverage.
There are a few things you will want to consider when choosing a mesh WiFi system:
What is your budget?
You will want to pick a system with the highest possible WiFi specifications that fit within your budget. Ideally, you will want a system that supports WiFi 6 and is backward compatible to WiFi 5.
Are you a fully wireless household?
If you have wires (Ethernet or Coax) in your home that you plan to use, consider getting a system that supports Ethernet or Ethernet over Coax backhaul.
If you are fully wireless and don’t need an always-reliable wired connection for things like online gaming, then don’t worry about it. A fully wireless mesh system is a great choice. For fully wireless mesh, make sure to pick a system with WiFi 6 for high-speed communication.
How important are security features?
Your answer here should probably be “very important.” So, consider which safety and privacy features a mesh system has to offer before diving in. For higher security, you may need to pay for a higher tier system. But in the long run, it is worth it to keep yourself and guests on your network protected.
How important are app control and configuration features?
Today, pretty much all mesh systems are controlled through an app on your smart device. This is super convenient for control and easily configuring the system from wherever you are. Something to consider when investing in a mesh system are the app features and controls. Decide on how much control and visibility is enough for you. This can help you decide between systems if you are down to a few choices.
Mesh systems have many advantages and disadvantages. But at the end of the day, the system that checks the boxes for your budget and WiFi needs is the right one for you.
Mesh Network Pros and Cons
Pros of Mesh WiFi
- Mesh routers don’t need additional routers, and each node acts as a router itself. It means you can change the network size quickly and easily.
- Each node receives millions of data in encrypted form and translates them. It provides a lot of redundancy, which keeps the mesh system running even if any problem arises.
- With nodes connected, signals from the main hub travel long distances. Coverage of some devices can go as high as 8,000 Sq Ft.
- It integrates some latest technologies like OFDMA, MU-MIMO, and beamforming to send signals to multiple devices without losing speeds by much.
- Most mesh units integrate the latest security standards, WPA2/WPA3, and VPN passthrough to keep your shared data safe and secure.
Cons of Mesh WiFi
- Each node has to send the received messages, act as a router, and track messages throughout the day, which increases the complications by a notch.
- Finding the right place for your router and satellites is crucial in dictating the overall coverage, and the process is a bit more tricky than it seems. It’s important you keep the main hub and nodes at a distance to experience a seamless connection throughout your space.
- A low-power network can have latency issues and therefore need you to upgrade the entire mesh system.
- Each node needs a power source to run.
- These systems cost much more than a traditional single router.