What is mesh WiFi and why does it exist?
With existing routers (in particular those supplied with your broadband) homes can suffer from poor WiFi coverage. One approach is to make the router’s WiFi as strong as possible so that it can reach further, whilst convenient as you only have one box, this is limited. At some point there is going to be a limit on the range that your WiFi can reach with just one access point.
Another approach is to use multiple access points – this can be an effective solution but real world usage shows that devices struggle to hop between the networks.
A new trend in the market which is starting to get some big names behind it is the principle of mesh WiFi. The idea is that you use many access points to create a mesh rather than just one, but access to the mesh is controlled by one system. This creates a blanket of coverage over your property and, if everything is working properly, you system should ensure that you’re getting the best coverage. When using the mesh your devices only log on to one WiFi network no matter where you are in your property.
These systems are particularly good in London and other urban areas for covering very tall properties including those with loft conversions and basements, but they also good in rural areas that often have larger properties that are spread out laterally.
Which mesh WiFi systems can I buy?
The Netgear is the only solution that we’ve reviewed that is available for purchase in the UK at the time of writing. It only has two units, the first is essentially the base station which needs to be placed where you broadband connection is in your home; the second is placed in the center of your house. It talks to the base station over a frequency that is higher than normal WiFi so that you do not get any interference between the two.
As there are only two units in the system it is really simply to setup and Netgear state that the two unit system will cover properties up to 4000 square feet
Eero Mesh WiFi – $334 (2 pack on Amazon USA)
Eero are the new kids on the block, but they are also the most talked about mesh WiFi solution. Any number of Eero stations can be joined together, but it is sold in packs of 1, 2 and 3. This solution is rather elegant as the units talk to each other rather than the base station meaning that you can chain them together across a long or tall property so that the units at the end of the mesh coverage do not need to be able to reach each other directly.
Eero have some exciting adds-ons too. For example, you can use your Amazon Alexa to control your wifi with your voice; using the Eero mobile app you can switch portions of your WiFi off to have some family time; and if you already have some Ethernet wiring in your house you can plug this into the Eeros and they’ll figure out the best way to create the mesh including your Ethernet wiring.
The Eero isn’t available in the UK at the moment, but you can order from the US Amazon site here.
AmpliFi – $299 (Amazon USA)
These guys are pushing easy setup. According to AmpliFi, setup can be completed in 60 seconds! If true, this is impressive and will remove a major headache that many people face. The AmpliFi app lets you keep tabs on guests that are using your network, and quickly diagnose any problems with it.
Design is critical with the AmpliFi and time has been taken to ensure that this is a device that you want to show off. Along with the pretty base unit, the AmpliFi packages come with two mesh points which are designed to be discreet. These are then placed at appropriate points in your home.
Again, the AmpliFi isn’t available in the UK but can be ordered from Amazon US here.
Google Wifi – $129 (single unit on Amazon USA)
This new set of units, simply called Google WiFi, build upon Google’s OnHub devices but step up to create a mesh as with the other suppliers. A single unit can cover 1500 square feet according to Google, and each unit is a small, subtle hockey puck style device. Buyers of this device get the confidence that they are buying a product from the ever reliable Google.
As with Google’s original OnHub devices the network will be self optimized and an app is supplied for diagnosing the network and setting priority for devices on the network.
It is not available in the UK but can be ordered from Amazon US here.