Do you have trouble maintaining good Wi-Fi reception throughout your home? That single ancient router might not be up to the task. You may want to consider a mesh kit, which combines multiple wireless routers for expansive coverage.
What to Look for in Wi-Fi Mesh Routers
If your home has dead zones where the internet won’t reach, mesh Wi-Fi routers are a great solution to the problem. They work by providing multiple wireless internet broadcast points and intelligently handing your device to whatever device is closest.
For computers, TVs, and other stationary equipment, that last part isn’t a big deal, but for phones and tablets, it makes a world of difference in having reliable coverage throughout your home.
When choosing a good mesh Wi-Fi router, you should be on the lookout for a few things:
- Multi-Packs: You can usually buy a single router that is mesh compatible, but you’ll miss out on the benefits of mesh—extra devices rebroadcasting wireless internet. Instead, choose something that comes with multiple units (often a router and satellites) and aim for at least two or three if your home is 4,000 square feet or so, more if your home is larger.
- Backhaul: The best mesh kits offer backhaul capabilities. Backhaul is a dedicated communication channel between the mesh router units. Having the feature ensures you maintain fast speeds even when connected to a satellite. Some units provide backhaul through ethernet, while others offer it through a wireless tri-band system (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and a third band for backhaul). If you have the wiring available, ethernet is better.
- Expandability: Although it’s good to buy a multi-pack that meets your needs, sometimes it’s easier on the pocketbook to buy less now and add additional units later. If it’s all or nothing now, you should skip the option you’re looking at in favor of something more flexible.
Except for Google’s Nest Wifi, all the kits we’ve chosen meet our criteria of offering multi-packs, some form of backhaul, and expandability. Additionally, they support at least the Wi-Fi AC standard, if not better.
For Google and Nest Homes: Nest Wifi
Google’s Nest Wifi is the 2019 follow-up to the original Google Wifi and offers an extra trick up its sleeve—each router also acts as a Google Nest Mini. If you plan to populate your home with Nest Mini smart speakers, then Nest Wifi gives you a two-for-one scenario and fewer things to plug in side-by-side.
The Nest Wifi doesn’t support ethernet or tri-band wireless backhaul, but Google says it can maintain speeds through software management. The routers themselves are powerful; Google promises two units can cover a 4,400 square foot home while other mesh kits call for three routers to accomplish that. Given that you’ll buy fewer Nest Minis and potentially fewer Nest Wifi routers, that’s a double-savings.
Google Nest Wifi - Home Wi-Fi System - Wi-Fi Extender - Mesh Router for Wireless Internet - 2 Pack
If you're invested in the Google ecosystem, the Nest Wifi is the mesh kit for you. It features integrated Nest Mini capabilities, so you have fewer devices to buy. Two routers are capable of covering a 4400 square foot home.
For Amazon Homes: eero Pro Mesh WiFi system
When it comes to mesh, eero mesh WiFi systems may have done the most work in popularizing the concept. Though you can spend less on eero mesh systems, the Pro is worth stepping up to as it features a dedicated tri-band radio to support wireless backhaul. That means it’ll give you faster speeds at the far reaches of your home.
Additionally, eero mesh kits feature an Amazon easy setup system. When eero detects new Alexa devices, the router will automatically set it up for you and connect the smart speaker to the network.
This kit includes an eero router and two beacons (satellites). You can opt for the more expensive all router three-pack if you prefer ethernet driven backhaul.
For Complicated Homes: Plume Super Pods
Plume Super Pods are very different than most other mesh network routers. First, they require a subscription. The additional cost enables extra features that make the mesh routers more intelligent and better suited to handling complicated home scenarios, such as apartments with congestion issues.
Plume’s adaptive Wi-Fi will scan your network and make adjustments based on the number of devices connected and what channels are best to use. That should mean you’ll spend less time optimizing your network and more time using it. Plume Superpods also support both ethernet and wireless backhaul for maximum performance.
For Smart homes and Subscriptions-free Plume: Samsung SmartThings Wifi
If you’re considering a more complicated smart home and are looking for a good hub anyway, Samsung’s SmartThings Wifi is a great two-for-one answer. Each unit works as a SmartThings hub and a mesh router, so you get an expansive Wi-Fi network and Zigbee and Z-Wave network. Having this setup can help you place smart devices in the far reaches of your home where they might not otherwise connect properly.
SmartThings Wifi routers are Plume devices in disguise and count as having a lifetime subscription without actually paying for one. The reason we don’t recommend this option over Plume’s Superpods is you’ll have to deal with two apps (Samsung’s and Plumes), it’s surprisingly confusing when to use which, and Plume’s hardware is somewhat better. For instance, the SmartThings mesh kit supports wired backhaul, but not wireless backhaul.
For Future Proofing: Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router
Here’s the truth: You don’t need a Wi-Fi 6 router right now or even very soon. There’s a good chance that you don’t even own a single device that supports Wi-Fi 6 at this point. But, if you loathe the idea of buying a mesh kit now and replacing it again down the road to get Wi-Fi 6 support, then you can jump straight to the future.
Linksys’ mesh router handles Wi-Fi 6 devices and offers the widest promised coverage of any mesh set on this list. Just two router points should cover a 6,000 square foot home (give or take some thick walls). Linksys also says this mesh kit can handle speeds up to 5.3 Gbps, which is likely faster than any home consumer has access to currently. Just keep in mind, you’re paying a premium to have the latest and greatest right now.
Linksys MX10600 Velop AX Whole Home WiFi 6 System: Wireless Router and Extender, 5.3 Gbps, 6,000 sq ft Range, 100 devices (2-Pack)
If you have to have the absolute newest tech right now, the Linksys Velop Wifi 6 router fits the bill. It supports WiFi 6 and speeds up to 5 Gbps. You probably either of those, but someday you might, and it'll be ready when you do.