Mesh WiFi Routers Purchasing Guide

Mesh WiFi router networks are the latest technology when it comes to WiFi routers. Traditional WiFi routers have limitations in signal connectivity based on how close or far you are from the primary access point. To extend the reach of your WiFi connection in a classical setup, you have to add in extenders or boosters (separate routers) which stretch the connectivity range of your original primary router. These connectivity points still follow the same principle of providing a particular level of connectivity within a set radius of the router or access point itself. With Mesh WiFi networks, you are able to use just a single central primary router and install as many satellite nodes as you would like around an area that acts as intrinsic extensions of the single access point itself. You are not creating new access points here. With this, you are able to ping off of different nodes to get the most optimal connectivity no matter where you are inside the network. The network intelligently decides which node to connect you to and automatically routes you to it seamlessly without letting you feel any drop or hindrance in speed or connectivity (as you would switching from one traditional extender to the next).

We have established that this is a newer technology being used these days and if you are looking to upgrade your home, school, or workplace WiFi system to a Mesh network laced with nodes, you’re going to need to know more about what exactly to look for in your devices to set up the most cost-effective, efficient, and seamless system.

For this, let’s first take a look at four basic criteria.

Design

Since your Mesh WiFi network relies on having multiple nodes scattered across your home, school, workplace or wherever you are choosing to install this setup, it is important to consider how these nodes appear. With a traditional router setup, you can simply install one router and conceal it somewhere out of sight. However, as your Mesh network relies upon numerous nodes being spread across the spanning area, you will need to consider its design and visual appeal before you start propping it up on tables or decoration shelves.

The Eero Mesh Wifi Nodes.

Most Mesh network nodes available on the market have been designed to be very minimalistic, small, and elegant in appearance. They are made in neutral colors and are made quite unnoticeable in size (about the size of a tea cup coaster or slightly more) so that they can go unnoticed on the corner of your bedside tables or wherever else you choose to place them. When you’re on the hunt for one for your space, make sure that it is something you do not feel like you have to conceal everywhere you place it because you will be placing several of these around and concealing them can become a hassle. They’re designed to be displayed in the open so find one you find pretty.

Speed

A graphical comparison of Mesh WiFi router transfer speeds conducted in the CNET Smart Home. Image: CNET

The whole game when it comes to any WiFi router, device, or gadget is its speed. Afterall, that is the whole purpose of installing better systems: to make your internet’s speed faster and make your internet connectivity seamless. As with a traditional WiFi router, it is recommended to invest in a Mesh WiFi router that is able to cater to high speeds and high bandwidth so that irrespective of what connection signal you are receiving from the back end (from your internet service provider), you are able to accommodate it. You do not want to be in a position where your router only supports speeds upto 20 Mbps and you have upgraded to the 40 Mbps mark with your internet service provider and are now in a rut to find a new router that is able to accommodate it. Always go for a router with more capacity than you actually need because the internet and its technologies are constantly evolving as a fundamental human need and you need to have the capacity to reap some of these improvements and changes that are bound to come your way.

Coverage

A visual depiction of the all encompassing coverage of a Mesh WiFi network. Image: TP-Link

The purpose of switching from a traditional router setup to a Mesh WiFi network is to expand its coverage and make it seamless. Traditional WiFi routers rely on extenders and boosters to push forward their range and each of these extenders or boosters acts as an independent access point that is connected to the main traditional WiFi router. In a Mesh network, the nodes act as intrinsic extensions of the primary central access point and are not separate routers in design or effect. Because Mesh nodes serve to extend your signal’s reach, the better coverage a node can provide (the greater the radius it can extend to), the fewer nodes you will need to invest in to span a particular area. It is important to consider the coverage range and analyze the cost of having several lower range Mesh nodes vs fewer greater range Mesh nodes. From the bat, we can tell you that having fewer nodes with greater coverage will not only be cheaper, but it will also be less of a hassle to install and maintain as well.

The purpose of a Mesh network is to reduce the number of dead zones across your space. Scouting for better coverage will go a long way in doing that.

Software

The Netgear application for its Mesh WiFi modules.

Last but not least, in this new and improved WiFi technology, its software application that controls the entire network is going to be a point of high interest. If you are looking for special features such as parental control, firewalling, site blocking, or keeping track of on net activity, purchasing a system that accounts for and caters to these needs will go a long way. Each different type of Mesh network available on the market comes with its own unique software application that ties in all of the nodes and gives you the master control over them through the application itself. Consider these applications before making your purchase.

Final Thoughts

No matter which Mesh Wifi router you are looking to buy, the four basic factors you need to consider are its design, speed, coverage, and software application. If you are going for the best overall setup, we recommend checking out our five favorite Mesh WiFi Routers here. Secondly, If you would like the best coverage for your home, we recommend the Eero system. If you are solely interested in getting the fastest Mesh Wifi setup out there, then go for the Netgear Orbi 6. Be wary of the price tag; it will be heavy on your pocket. Conversely, if you are looking for the most economical system then the Netgear Orbi AC1200 will be your best buy. Even if you do not consider these recommended systems, if you pay attention to the four primary factors discussed above, you will manage to find yourself a reasonable setup for your space.

Alyssa Arford


Alyssa Arford is an aspiring Electrical & Electronics Engineer with a vested interest in the innovation and design of computer hardware. Her passion for understanding the nitty gritty of how hardware components come together and playing around with the potential of silicon devices puts her in a position to confidently discuss emerging technologies and their implications in advanced computing.