WiFi dead-spots are a real issue.
You’re on a Skype call on your smartphone and suddenly that call stutters, and then ends abruptly.
Because you’ve entered an area of your house that has low WiFi coverage.
There are different methods to counter this problem, and unlike other solutions like wireless extenders or access points, mesh WiFi is a relatively new solution and have gained much popularity among users due to its rather easy set-up and usability.
Best Mesh WiFi 2020 Buying Guide
- Google WiFi (Best Mesh WiFi System 2020 Overall)
- TP-Link Deco M5 (Best Budget Mesh WiFi System 2020)
- Synology MR2200ac (Best Router Cum Mesh System For 2020)
- ZYXEL Multy X AC3000 (Best Mesh Kit For First Timers)
- Netgear Orbi CBK40 (Best Mesh WiFi Kit 2020 For Cable Internet)
These systems usually consist of two or more devices (called WiFi nodes/units) that communicate with each other to provide the WiFi blanket all over your house.
You can think of these devices as WiFi extenders but they’re much easier to be set-up and used. You just need to turn on these nodes and follow easy steps via the companion app for these systems.
And you’re done.
It takes less than five minutes for this whole process.
Compare that to the extenders where you have to do a lot more steps, mesh WiFi systems are a life saver for non-techy people.
Managing these kits is also done via a smartphone app rather than just the web-based admin panel.
Another difference between other WiFi-enhancing solutions and these systems is that while extenders or access points work along your wireless router to expand your home network, mesh kits replace that router altogether to create an entirely new home network.
Also, different units in these kits can talk/communicate with each other in order to give you the best possible WiFi reception. Wireless extenders, on the other hand, can only communicate with the main WiFi router – not with each other.
Let me give you an example. If you extend your network through extenders, then you have to place both of these extenders close to the main router.
But in case of mesh kits, you can place the units in such a way that unit 1 is only near unit 2 and unit 2 is only near unit 3, and you’ll still get WiFi coverage.
These were some of the main advantages of these kits. Now let’s talk about some of the cons.
First one is obviously the price. They’re much more expensive than typical extenders or access points.
While they’re perfect for non-techy persons, if you have some basic knowledge of router settings, you can set up some extenders for your router and save a decent amount of money.
Also, these systems don’t give you as much control and advances features as high-end routers normally offer.
In short, it’s up to you if you want simplicity or customization.
Best Mesh WiFi Systems 2020
TP-Link Deco M5: Check Price On Amazon
Best Budget Mesh WiFi System 2020
Photo Credits: ExpertReviews
TP-Link is a company known for their affordable networking products. I became a fan of them ever since I bought the Archer C9 WiFi router, and that view hasn’t changed even after testing Deco M5 – a slightly affordable mesh WiFi solution.
One big plus for mesh solutions, in general, is that they look a lot more gorgeous than most of the routers around.
Same is the case with Deco M5. It comes in the form of three disk-shaped nodes with each of the nodes having two Ethernet ports and a single USB-Type C port.
There’s no USB 3.0, or even 2.0, available which makes file-sharing and print-sharing impossible.
Apart from this, each of its units has a single LED on top which will show different lights based on different scenarios. Orange and Blue will appear while you’re setting it up for the first time, red means problem, and green means everything is fine.
Inside of each unit, there’s a quad-core processor along with four internal antennas.
Setting up M5 is easy, like any other mesh system. You just need to turn on the unit, connect it with your modem via an Ethernet cable, then turn on the Bluetooth of your smartphone, and complete the rest of the setup via its smartphone app.
Once you’ve set up one unit, do the same for the rest of these units.
Its dual-band setup gives you a theoretical top speed of 867 Mbps on 5 GHz Band and 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz Band, just like an AC1300 router. This is probably the main reason why Deco M5 is cheaper than the other mesh kits out in the market.
TP-Link has tried to compensate that with extra security, however, in the form of a built-in antivirus powered by TrendMicro.
This anti-virus enables the M5 to scan all the incoming and outgoing traffic for any suspicious activity and prevent any infected device from transmitting any sensitive data. You can turn this feature off, but I would recommend not doing so.
Apart from anti-virus, the other feature is the parental controls. Deco M5 has different censorship levels (Child, Pre-Teen, Teen, and Adult). Based on what settings you have activated, this system will block certain sites (like social websites, adult websites, gambling sites etc).
In terms of performance, this kit performed well actually. While it didn’t shatter any floors, throughput was good for what you’re paying.
Another thing you should note is that while this system, like other mesh systems, is available as a single unit, the real strength of mesh systems lies in their numbers. More is better when it comes to these systems.
So if you’ve no choice but to get a single unit, go get a router instead which will serve you better in this regard.
- Competitive price
- Excellent looks
- Two Gigabit Ports per unit
- Wired Backhaul option
- Wireless Backhaul isn’t available.
- No USB 2.0/3.0 Port
Synology MR2200ac: Check Price On Amazon
A WiFi Router Capability with Mesh Capability
Among router manufacturers, I have always admired Synology for the effort they put into each product they make.
Rather producing one router after another, they believe in quality over quantity and do their homework well.
In front of us is Synology MR2200ac – the latest router from the Taiwan-based tech company.
Yes, I know this post is about mesh WiFi systems rather than standalone WiFi routers.
But recently, Synology has released a firmware update for their routers which contains many goodies, one of which is the ability of some routers (which includes this one) to turn themselves into a mesh WiFi system.
Yes, you’ve read right.
It means if you have a very Big home that a single router can’t cover, you can just pair two of these routers together and make them work as a full-fledged mesh WiFi system.
On top of that, as I have mentioned already, traditional routers give you much more control as compared to the mesh kits, so having a 2-in-1 solution really gives you the best of both worlds.
First, we’ll talk about this as a standalone router because that’s what it really is.
By looks, it’s compact than most high-end routers in the market, There are no external antennas (there are two internal ones though) which contribute to the overall compactness.
On the backside, there’s one WAN port, one USB 3.0 port for external hard drive, and one LAN port which means you can’t have link aggregation on this router.
Link aggregation is a feature using which you can have two network connections combined into a single more powerful connection. It’s not for newbies, but advanced users will miss it.
On top of that, having only a single LAN port means you’ll probably have to go for a separate Ethernet switch.
One good thing I noted in this router, however, is that its USB 3.0 port can be used to have a cellular connection – as all Synology routers offer. But the number of USB ports is also one, so you can’t connect any external storage in this case.
All Synology routers some with a DS router app (in addition to the regular web interface) through which you can set ’em first for the first time.
To do so, firstly you need to connect your router to the internet source (probably a cable modem). Then plug an Ethernet cable from your PC to the LAN port of the router, and enter 192.168.1.1 (default IP address for the Synology routers) on the browser screen.
When setting up, you need to remember that Synology routers take more time than the ordinary routers to reboot. That’s why you have to show a bit of patience here.
After this, the web interface will open, and you’ll be shown different options on your screen. These options are self-explanatory and well-organized.
From these options, Network Center app contains things like port forwarding and local network setting etc. If you want to make changes to your WiFi network, on the hand, you’ll need to go in Wi-Fi Connect app.
Another good thing about Synology routers is that you can import/export your WiFi settings while migrating from one Synology router to another.
This means you just need to make a backup file for the settings on your old Synology router and upload those settings to a new Synology router, and that’s it.
Talking more about the web-interface, it’s based on a DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system used in Synology NAS units and actually feels like a real OS, rather than just another web admin panel.
I mean it has a full desktop-like main menu. Different sections can be accessed by clicking on different apps (about some we discussed earlier) and there’s even a Task-bar.
Most important of those apps, however, is the app called Package Center. You can think of it like the Play Store for your router. This app features 3rd-party add-ons that can further enhance the functionality of this router.
These apps include (but not limited to) Safe Access: a parental control + online threat removal app, DNS Server: which allows you to customize the DNS settings of the network, and Cloud Station Server: which syncs data between multiple platforms etc.
That being said, these apps require space and this router has low internal memory, so you’ll need external memory in the form of a flash drive or an e-HDD, in order to have these apps.
In terms of specs, this is a Tri-band AC2200 router that can have a maximum theoretical speed of 400 Mbps on its 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps on each of its 5 GHz Band, and it’s powered by a Qualcomm Quad-core processor.
In terms of performance, MR2200ac has excellent range.
I was able to get near-full speed even at more than 40 m distance. The file transfer speed was pretty average though. It was only slightly better than that of Asus AC-86U and less than 50% than that of Linksys’ WRT1900AC.
Now let’s talk about the mesh part.
In order to pair two or more MR2200ac (or even Synology RT2600ac ) together, you need to have the latest SRM firmware (version 1.2 build 7742).
Currently, only two of these Synology routers have this feature but hopefully more routers will have it soon.
As far as mesh-performance is concerned, I was easily able to get two times more speed than the TP-Link’s Deco M5, at 75 feet distance, which means you can easily cover 5500+ sq. ft area through two of these routers.
Overall, I am pretty happy with how MR200ac performs both as a standalone and mesh WiFi router. My issue here is the single LAN and USB port which will hurt the advanced users, but there is a workaround for it.
You can buy the RT2600ac your main router instead, and pair it up with MR2200ac (as the mesh node) in future. Yes, although they’re different models, you can pair them up thanks to the Broadcom Wi-Fi chip both of them have.
- Powerful Mesh WiFi System with good signal range.
- Powerful but easy-to-use firmware
- Has many advanced features
- Has a fast USB 3.0 port
- Only one Ethernet port
- Bigger than traditional mesh WiFi systems and also not wall-mountable
ZYXEL Multy X AC3000: Check Price On Amazon
Mesh WiFi For The First-Timers
Unlike other networking-device manufacturers, Zyxel is a relatively unknown company.
A good reason for this is that they’re more focused towards the enterprise market. But that didn’t stop the Taiwan-based company to launch some consumer-based products in recent times.
I had their Zyxel Armor Z2 gaming router a few months back and was impressed with its features, despite some cons.
Now here’s another product from the Zyxel but instead of a gaming router, we have the Multy X AC3000 mesh WiFi system.
It has an all-white design, like most of the other mesh WiFi kits, but has bulkier and bigger units which means you can’t sneak ’em in places like your bookshelf and cabins.
The front side of both units is perforated in the form of an ‘X’. Speaking of units, this kit consists of two units at the minimum and each of one of ’em can be used as a node as well as the main router.
In each unit, there are three LAN ports (a lot for a mesh system), and a single WAN port. My only disappointment here is the single USB 2.0 port on each unit, and that even that 2.0 port doesn’t support network storage of any sort (Say goodbye to your external HDDs, and NASes)
In terms of setup too, this kit is different than other ones because your only option here is the mobile app. Yes, there’s no option for the web admin panel-based setup.
This can be taken both as an advantage or disadvantage depending on what type of user you are. If you’re new into home networking and don’t want to dabble into customization of any sort, this kit is a perfect starting place for you.
On the other side, experienced users will surely find no customization hard to digest. And since I’m on the latter side, I won’t recommend them to anyone who’s not a newbie.
Coming back to the app, you can change your WiFi password, WiFi name for both bands, and set up a guest network. In addition to this, there’s a feature called band-steering that’ll automatically allow any device to connect to the strongest WiFi band at any point.
One thing you’ll need to make sure is to stay close to your mesh units while setting them up for the first time.
In terms of features too, I was left with mixed feelings.
While some good features are present such as Alexa integration through which you can turn on/off your internet and guest network etc, some important features have been omitted, like network prioritization through which you can prioritize one type of the network traffic over another.
Although it’s an AC3000 Tri-band mesh kit, there’s a catch. One 5 GHz Band of 1733 Mbps speed is dedicated to signal transmission between the units.
So you’re left with only two bands to choose from: a 2.4 GHz Band of 400 Mbps maximum speed, and a 5 GHz Band of 867 Mbps speed.
In terms of performance, Zyxel Multy X is definitely above average without being exceptional.
Being able to cover 5000 sq. ft area, we managed to get reliable signal strength at 2.4 GHz Band at long distance. 5 GHz Band performance is also good but a little inconsistent.
All in all, this kit has some real flaws for which we can’t recommend for any advanced/experienced consumer. That being said, entry-level users will find this system easy-to-use as well as affordable as compared to other ones.
- Reliable performance at 2.4 GHz Band.
- Supports Alexa
- Three LAN ports on each unit
- Wireless Backhaul
- Inconsistent at 5 GHz Band
- Can be customized only through the mobile app.
- Doesn’t support network storage
Google WiFi: Check Price On Amazon
Best Mesh WiFi System 2020 Overall
Already being a search giant and powering almost every smartphone through Android OS, Google is exploring other tech-related verticals in the form of Google Home and Google WiFi.
Perhaps they’re trying to have their own ecosystem of smart devices, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.
Right now, we have Google WiFi in front of us. It consists of grey-colored, small-sized cylindrical units, and each of these units can act as the main router as well as a node.
Apart from an LED at the top, you won’t find any other button/port at the outer side of these units which give them a really clean look.
But upon checking them, however, we found that there are two Ethernet ports (one each of LAN and WAN connection) and a single USB-C port at the bottom side of each of these units.
Like all other mesh systems, setting up Google WiFi is done through the iOS/Android companion app which starts this whole process after scanning the QR code at the bottom of these units.
After completing the setup, you can set up an SSID for your network, change network password, and add other units in the future.
Apart from this, you can monitor your network and connected devices, pause internet access for a certain connected device, or prioritize bandwidth to a particular device (like your PC during online gaming).
All of this is pretty awesome for a typical mesh system but there are some high-end solutions that give you even more advanced options.
In our testing, it performed almost as good as Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop while being less expensive than the fore-mentioned two kits.
A noticeable downside, however, is the fact that it’s an AC1200 dual-band mesh system that can only have 300 Mbps speed on its 2.4 GHz Band and 900 Mbps speed on its 5 GHz Band.
It means that if you have a lot of devices in your home (like 20+), look for a tri-band mesh kit. It also means that this kit isn’t for those with ultra-fast home internet (like 250+ Mbps).
But the second point is a bit subjective as the purpose of mesh WiFi systems, after all, is provide internet coverage all over the house rather than giving you most out of your internet speed.
All in all, if you don’t fall in the above two groups, this is the best mesh WiFi for you.
- Simple Setup
- Good price-to-performance ratio
- Attractive design
- Gives good WiFi coverage and throughput.
- Not suitable for Gigabit-internet plans
- A Google account is necessary for the setup
Netgear Orbi CBK40: Check Price On Amazon
Best Mesh WiFi Kit 2020 For Cable Internet
In 2016, Netgear released Orbi Mesh WiFi System (RBK40) which was praised for its convenience as well as relatively fast speed.
So in 3 years since then, Netgear has released different variants of the Original Orbi, with the Orbi CBK40 being the latest one.
One main thing that differentiates it from the rest of the pack is the fact that it has a built-in cable modem.
Yes, you can call this device “a cable-modem gateway of mesh WiFi systems”, because that’s what it really is.
It means you don’t have to buy a separate cable modem (or even rent one from your ISP) while you have this.
One advantage of having a 2-in-1 gateway, instead of a separate router and modem, is that it gives you much fewer wires and devices to take care of.
Like all other kits we discussed above, this one also comes in the forms of units (2 in this case). But the catch here is that you can’t use both of them here is your main unit.
The main unit is the one has a built-in modem (on which you’ll plug your internet cable), while the other one is just a satellite extender.
In order to set it up for the first time, you just need to plug your internet cable into the gateway unit and then wait until the Sync light at the front of that unit turns Blue.
After this, you’ll need to connect your PC with this unit through an Ethernet cable/WiFi, open up your browser, and then follow the same procedure as you do when setting up a regular modem/router gateway.
You can also call your ISP too, in case you’re confused in the setup process, and they’ll help you out.
Netgear has made improvement in its web interface. Now you’ll see a less-cluttered, and responsive admin panel.
You can give voice commands in this unit too, thanks to Alexa and Google assistant support, but (frankly speaking) I don’t see it bringing any value to the table.
It should be noted that since this kit comes with coaxial connector instead of a WAN port, you can only use it with cable internet, and it’s useless if you opt for fiber optic or DSL internet in the future.
Another annoying thing about this unit is that, since it has no telephony capability, it won’t work if you’re using both Internet and phone services from your ISP.
It’s a Tri-band AC2200 (867 + 867 + 400) WiFi system, just like the Original Orbi, but its extender unit only has 2 LAN ports instead of four on that of the original model.
The main unit has four of these though.
According to Netgear, the modem part of this gateway is capable of delivering 1.4 Gbps speed because you’ll never see that much speed in the real world because of its 2×2 WiFi setup (instead of 4×4 stream on some high-end routers) and one 5 GHz Band is dedicated to Backhaul.
In basic terms, the above-discussed 5 GHz Band is used only by the extender unit to communicate with the main unit. To be fair, this back-haul is what allows this kit to have almost zero signal loss.
All in all, it leaves you with one 5 GHz Band for 867 Mbps maximum speed and one 2.4 GHz Band for 400 Mbps maximum speed.
But that won’t be a problem for you, because rarely cable internet users have a connection of more than 250 Mbps. But if that’s not the case and you have a gigabit-internet plan, consider getting a separate modem and mesh system.
In our testing, we had very good results with it and got 2 times more speed than we did with Deco M5. We also managed to cover 4500 sq. ft area with these two units (enough for most homes).
Price can also be a potential deal breaker here. Original Orbi RBK40 is expensive than other mesh kits in the market (that’s why it’s not in this list) and this CBk40 model is even pricier than that.
It costs you almost 400 bucks if you include an extender with the main unit, and whether a 2-in-1 device has that much worth or not, depends on you.
Even if you save $10/month by opting out of your ISP’s modem, you’ll have to use this unit for more than 3 years to break-even its cost (a good amount of time).
That being said, if you’re into cable-modem gateways, and want to extend your network at the same time, this is your best bet (as of now).
- Easy Setup
- Built-in Cable Modem
- Blazing-fast throughput
- Wireless Backhaul
- No WAN port
- Expensive than other mesh WiFi systems