(Pocket-lint) – There’s nothing like a Wi-Fi dropout to hit you off your stride. Whether you’re midway through a marathon on Netflix, or you work from home and can’t afford to lose connectivity with your office, there’s no good time for your network to have a wobble.
We’ve looked at routers that you might be able to replace your bog-standard one with elsewhere, as a way of getting some extra range and stability, but if you’re serious about making a home network that can expand to cover big areas, and doesn’t risk flakey connections depending on where you stand, you’ll probably want to invest in a mesh Wi-Fi system.
These systems effectively extend and strengthen your home Wi-Fi network, to make sure that it can reach even your most remote corners and provide even coverage throughout your home. Better yet, they’re no longer the preserve of IT experts and techies. There are now countless mesh Wi-Fi systems on the market which offer nearly plug-and-play simplicity so that you can reap their benefits without needing a degree in electronics.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best of the best to create a list of options for you to explore, and choose between if you’re thinking of going down the mesh Wi-Fi route.
Our guide to the best mesh network setups to buy today
It took Google a couple of iterations to perfect its mesh offering, but Nest Wifi is something special. It’s supremely easy to set up, and within a few taps on your phone, you’ll have a strengthened network that can be extended at will with extenders that also pack smart speaker capabilities and Google Assistant.
The system’s design is super clean and anonymous, letting them blend into the background in your home and provide silent benefits, and super parental controls make it perfect for parents. It’s not the absolute cheapest on the market by any means, but it’s still reasonably priced, and because it’s Google you can rely on solid software support for years to come. Sometimes the biggest names know what they’re doing, and Google has hit a home run here.
Eero Mesh Wi-Fi System
Eero is far from the new kid on the block, but in the last couple of years, its outlook has changed significantly after being bought out by Amazon. Now, after that merger, its first new generation of mesh extenders are as impressive as you’d hope, although they surprisingly don’t have Alexa built-in.
These diminutive little extenders are really affordably priced and have that Nest Wifi invisibility factor that will see them blend into the background of your home, quietly ensuring quick networking and easy connections. A great companion app to manage your settings lets you keep in control of everything, and that price means that Eero now offers a superb entry-point to home networking.
Netgear Orbi RBK13 Whole Home WiFi System
Netgear is one of the premier names in networking full stop and its mesh networking sub-brand – Orbi – pretty much guarantees a premium product. Here we’ve got a 1.2Gbps dual-band system consisting of a base and two satellites that you can easily add to. It helps that the boxes are also small. When testing it out we had one on top of a sideboard in the living room and it doesn’t seem out of place.
The app setup is really easy and enables you to manage access and you can easily create guest networks and apply a single SSID to your whole network.
The only negative is that the satellites don’t have Ethernet ports, so if you want to connect up devices like a TV that doesn’t have Wi-Fi or an older games console, you’ll need to look at a slightly different solution.
BT Whole Home Mini
While the standard Whole Home setup features 2600Mbps maximum throughput speeds, this lower-priced solution takes the speed down to 1,200Mbps.
This is still great if you’re not going to be streaming several high bandwidth things like console games services or 4K Ultra HD video at the same time in addition to connecting tens and tens of devices.
With mesh systems, coverage is really the name of the game and you can still cover almost as sizeable a home with the Mini discs as with the full-size discs.
These Mini discs come in dual or triple packs – the triple pack is our pick and all the discs have Ethernet for connecting wired devices to your network.
Devolo Magic 2 Whole Home Kit
Devolo’s traditional strength is in Powerline technology and so it has a twist on the mesh network idea – this gives you three powerline plugs, but two of the units are designed so that they create a 2,400Mbps mesh Wi-Fi network to augment the new-generation G.hn Powerline tech (the Magic 2 is twice the Wi-Fi speed of the Magic 1).
That means you can take the mesh network to further off areas of your house such as an attic room or annex – perhaps where your office is located.
Essentially, it gives you a lot more options than just nodes. Each Powerline plug is passthrough, so you don’t lose a power outlet, while each also has dual Ethernet ports for ultimate connectivity of devices like set top boxes.
TP-Link Deco X60
This Wi-Fi 6 system is well-priced compared to many alternatives and performs pretty well. It’s our top Wi-Fi 6 choice at present.
The system is relatively easy to install through an app and has excellent range while there are decent HomeCare parental controls should you require.
We’ve seen better throughput speeds from some other Wi-Fi 6 devices but as a system this is great and it supports Alexa should you really want voice control.
If you’re not fussed about Wi-Fi 6, check out the Deco M9 Plus.
Linksys Velop MX10600
While lower speed versions of Velop are available, this one is future-proofed to the nines as it is Wi-Fi 6 compatible. The MX10600 comes with two units in the pack, though you can get it as a triple instead.
Setup is really simple and uses the Linksys App to help you place extra units without losing effectiveness.
The system supports a maximum throughput speed of 5.3Gps, an almost bafflingly fast rate, but you do pay for the quality here – as a pair these are fairly expensive and the single unit price adds an unnecessary premium if you want to add another node.
Wi-Fi 6 is the best solution for covering a large property (at least three or four bedrooms) and if you insist on having the fastest speeds technically possible then you won’t be disappointed at the performance on offer here.
Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first – this is an extremely expensive setup. You also only get a router and a satellite for that tremendous outlay. But the tri-band AX6000 series is a glimpse at what Wi-Fi 6 mesh networks will offer in the coming months and years. Of course, prices will tumble in future, but if you want the best now, here you are.
With cited speeds of 6Gbps, the AX6000 series can throughput well in excess of what most of us use across out networks, but it’s also about capacity – Netgear says this will cover up to 4,000 square feet and can be used by up to 60 devices simultaneously.
Coincidentally, there’s a AX4200 series available, too that promises speeds of up to 4.2Gbps. Both systems can have more satellites added, of course.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.