Wirecutter comparison. To improve your Wi-Fi connection, a mesh network (or “mesh”) can extend the coverage of your box in a large home, and improve its speed, much better than a repeater. We tested mesh kits from Asus, Netgear, Eero, TP-Link, D-Link, Linksys and even Ubiquiti to check their speeds and especially their behavior when the network is very busy.

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Carried out in the United States, this test was originally published in English on the site Wirecutter. You can read it here in original version.

When the Wi-Fi network goes wrong in some parts of the house, it can get more annoying than having no Wi-Fi at all! In a large home, a mesh Wi-Fi network can solve the problem: instead of using a single access point, it has several wireless antennas distributed throughout the house, to improve range and Wi-Fi performance. After spending over 200 hours researching and testing 24 mesh Wi-Fi kits, both in the home and in the lab, we are confident that the Asus ZenWi-Fi AC (CT8) is the best mesh system for most users.

Note that not everyone does not need such equipment: a classic Wi-Fi router can perfectly suffice for the needs of apartments or modestly sized houses. Many recent articles promote Wi-Fi 6 as a silver bullet to all wireless connection problems. However, our tests lead us to recommend a mesh network in Wi-Fi 5 (or 802.11ac) for the time being. Computers, telephones and other equipment limited to this standard (or even to Wi-Fi 4/802.11n) will remain the majority in the years to come, and Wi-Fi 6 does not yet justify its additional cost.

The ZenWi-Fi AC (CT8) from Asus is an excellent choice for those who want zero-latency Wi-Fi throughout their home, or who want a mesh network that can handle the growing number of connected devices in modern homes. It’s a bit slower than our premium alternative, but that’s like comparing an eagle and a hawk! Plus, setup and management are easy.

The ZenWi-Fi AX (XT8) from Asus is the best choice if you have or plan to take advantage of a gigabit or better Internet connection. It looks like our top pick as a twin brother, but it offers perks like Wi-Fi 6 and WPA3 security. None of these features are currently essential, but the XT8 will stand the test of time. Given the performance boost, we don’t think the price differential with the CT8 is essential for most users and their homes; but it is fully justified when you have gigabit internet access and need a powerful mesh network to take advantage of all that bandwidth. It is therefore our top-of-the-range choice, for those who covet the latest technologies in order to have an ultra-fast connection in all circumstances.

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Before joining Wirecutter in 2018, Joel Santo Domingo wrote PC, networking and hi-tech hardware reviews for over 17 years, for PCMag.com , Lifewire, HotHardware and PC Magazine. Previously, he was an IT technician and system administrator for companies of all sizes.

Testing wireless networks has been a part of his life for over 20 years and he’s experienced every version of Wi-Fi since slipping a dedicated accessory into his Apple PowerBook to surf from his laptop. desk, sofa or bed (which was then exceptional).

Who needs mesh Wi-Fi?

You should consider installing mesh Wi-Fi if your home cannot be adequately covered by a single router, however powerful. For example, if it’s larger than 200 square meters, if it’s all long, or tall and narrow (like a three-storey townhouse), or if partitions are blocking the signal (this happens especially with walls of plaster, brick, stucco or concrete block slats). But before you jump in and buy a mesh kit, start by trying to refocus your internet box: in a small house, a single access point can be more efficient than a mesh network.

It only takes one device with a delicate link to limit the quality of the entire network.

If you already have a decent box (or router) and just want to increase its range a bit in a specific area, consider buying a simple Wi-Fi repeater.

You can also study mesh repeaters: like mesh network, they pass from the Internet box to the repeater while maintaining the same network name, which makes the experience transparent for the user. They can therefore improve coverage in dead zones if you already have a good box, or a good Wi-Fi router, but their performance is lower than that of a complete mesh kit.

A wired network is always faster

Tested for a previous version of this guide, a wired Ethernet connection was found to be seven times faster than the best throughput achieved with a wireless network of any model. Regardless of the misleading number on the box, Wi-Fi is never faster than gigabit Ethernet, period.

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Same conclusion on latency. The message is clear: if you really want maximum performance, you'll have to pull Ethernet cables no matter what. your Wi-Fi device. Same conclusion in terms of latency. The message is clear: if you really want maximum performance, you’ll have to run Ethernet cables, no matter your Wi-Fi equipment.

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If your home is fully wired, you don’t need a wireless mesh network. You can plug in inexpensive access points and get better results than the best mesh kits in this article, for drastically less. The interest of a mesh Wi-Fi appears when you do not have and do not want to install cables, and when you have zones where the wireless network passes badly (or only one zone where it passes very badly see no at all).

A mesh network does not always speed up the Internet at low or medium ranges. We’ve seen it in the Wi-Fi router tests: the best mesh kits do just as well as our reference router, the RT-AX88U from Asus . Few French people are equipped with such a high-end router: many are content with an Internet box whose router function is much less advanced. They will benefit from a much more efficient WiFi network by connecting a high-end router to their box with an Ethernet cable, and it will be cheaper than buying a mesh WiFi kit. It’s when it comes to improving the coverage of a large home that mesh systems really shine. By the way, they often offer a faster connection, so your devices no longer have to struggle to catch the last traces of signal.

A good standalone router can handle many devices, as long as they have a good connection. It only takes one tricky-linked piece of equipment to undermine the efficiency of the entire network: it saturates the available broadcast time and starves the others. Mesh networks ensure a quality connection between the terminals, the base unit and the satellites (which create the nodes of the network), which limits the risk that a device in bad connection slows down the others. This reduces latency (the time you wait for a response from a website, game server, or streaming service). Replacing a random connection with a reliable and efficient one, such is the mission of a mesh network.

The interest of a mesh Wi-Fi appears when you don’t have and don’t want to install cables, and when you have poor wireless areas (or only one very poor wireless area).

But in spaces that a single router can’t cover, the strength of mesh kits is that their parts are designed to work together. The manufacturer has tweaked its hardware to establish fast and reliable links from one component to the others. This optimization is impossible by simply adding a new access point or Wi-Fi repeater to your existing router.

WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

For previous versions of this guide, we tested absolutely every mesh kit we found. But, nowadays, the offer is becoming bloated and we have to be more selective. We’ve filtered out dual and tri-band mesh Wi-Fi kits from major router manufacturers including Asus, D-Link, Eero, Netgear and TP-Link. We also looked for models from lesser-known brands that had received good feedback from tech experts or offered unusual features.

For this series of tests, we left out some low-performance kits, such as the D-Link COVR-C1203, the Linksys dual-band Velop and the Multy U by Zyxel. We have also eliminated those over 500 euros: if you live in a castle or a particularly complex place, we recommend that you hire a professional who will install a mixed network, combining Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

We then had to try a dozen kits from eight manufacturers (Asus, D-Link, Eero, Motorola, Netgear, TP-Link, TrendNet and Ubiquiti) in order to designate the best Wi-Fi system mesh.

Extensive research and extensive testing have allowed us to establish ten criteria to determine what we recommend. We simulated the real-life activity of a busy home network: rather than measuring the bandwidth offered by the mesh network to a single laptop, we used six of them, spread across the 280 m² of a suburban house on three and a half levels. We checked bandwidth (by simulating 4K streaming and file downloads), coverage at different points in the home, and latency (by simulating three simultaneous browsing sessions). We repeated each test six times and averaged the results to smooth out the peaks. You can find more details about our process below, in the section How we test mesh networks.

Our criteria are similar to those used for other router tests, with specific optimization for our ideal mesh Wi-Fi kit:

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  • Ease of use and administration: Setting up a new network is often unnecessarily complicated. With a good mesh system, you should be able to get your home connected in less than half an hour.
  • High Speeds: The transfer speeds advertised on the box are only a distant relationship with reality. In our tests, network throughput ranges from “this Youtube video keeps loading” to “I downloaded a full video game in an instant”. In general, we looked for routers that were faster than average and eliminated the slow ones.
  • Good Range: with a well-placed mesh network, you should be able to connect from anywhere in your home. We tested each kit close to the centerpiece, to verify its maximum potential, and all the way to trouble spots in the home, to see if the signals were correctly “routed” to bypass obstacles such as the power grid and walls.
  • Low Latency: A lagging Internet sucks! Latency (or “lag”) is the amount of time you spend waiting for what’s next. A good router reduces this delay, even when the network is loaded with other active devices.
  • Multiple Ethernet ports: satellites equipped with an Ethernet port allow you to connect a TV , a TV box or a game console, away from the central router, so that they get the most out of your Internet subscription. This is also used to use cables to connect the router and satellites to improve network reliability.
  • Expandability: you should be able to add nodes later, if you discover areas where the network is bad or if you move for example.
  • Fast processor and memory: a router equipped with a powerful multi-core processor and a good amount of RAM can handle more terminals at the same time, with increased performance. No matter how good the radio system generating the network, the single-core processors found in most low-end routers can still slow transfers. Not all manufacturers specify these details but, where known, we considered the hardware configuration to choose the models to test.
  • Welcome bonus: a Wi -Fast and reliable Fi is essential, but higher-end routers have other useful features. Among other features that justify an additional expense, we appreciate the faster connections (2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi 6, aka 802.11ax), the integration of the secure WPA3 protocol, the additional Ethernet and USB ports, the connections VPN and parental filtering.
  • Price: you can find a mesh kit for 80 euros, or spend close to 1000 euros. But we don’t always consider cheapest or fastest to be best! By studying both the functions offered and the test results, we sought the best model for the greatest number, at the lowest cost. Right now, you’ll get great performance and all the really important features for around $350; adding $150 brings only minor improvements or functions reserved for marginal uses, while removing $150 would force abandoning essential features.
  • Furthermore, we looked at buyer reviews on Amazon and Newegg, as well as router tests and rankings from pros at CNET, Dong Knows Tech, PCMag, PCWorld, SmallNetBuilder, and TrustedReviews, to compile our shortlist of candidates. After identifying models that met our criteria, we checked bandwidth, latency, features, and general ease of use ourselves in a large guinea pig home.

    It can be difficult to buy a good router without comparative tests: the speed class indicated on the packaging does not mean much. It is an alphanumeric jumble that is impossible to understand spontaneously, such as “AC3200” or “AC1750”. Here, “1750” means 1.75 gigabits per second…but that’s a theoretical cap set in the wireless protocol specifications, and has nothing to do with the actual speeds you’ll be able to enjoy in the real world .

    One ​​more thing: don’t confuse test results rate of this guide with the bandwidth of your Internet subscription. For example, the Asus ZenWi-Fi AX is capable of transferring more than 600 Mbps (at short distance and without obstacle); but if your ISP only provides 100Mbps, you won’t download any faster than that.

    The best mesh Wi-Fi kit: ZenWi-Fi AC (CT8) from Asus

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    If you want to create a Wi-Fi network capable of serving an entire large home without latency, the Asus ZenWi-Fi AC (CT8) is an excellent choice. It is also suitable for those who need a mesh network capable of handling an increasing number of connected devices. In various tests conducted throughout our three-level house, the CT8 outperformed all of its competition (except our top-of-the-line alternative), including some significantly more expensive ones, and its installation failed. relatively easy.

    If you’ve read other articles on mesh networking, our choice of a Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) kit may surprise you: manufacturers like testers seem to be doing everything they can to push users to Wi-Fi 6. But we tested our networks with a mix of Wi-Fi 5-enabled devices and others on Wi-Fi 6, replicating the heterogeneous equipment that should remain the norm in the next few years. And under these conditions, the Wi-Fi 6 kits did not offer the coverage and speeds provided by the CT8.

    The purpose of a mesh network is to provide a high-performance Wi-Fi network throughout a building, not just near the router. The CT8 proved to be one of the best mesh kits, according to our test scenario. It ended up hot on the heels of its higher-end sibling, the ZenWi-Fi AX (XT8) at close range and in the attic, where there was no guarantee the laptop would be able to connect to a repeater; he even allowed himself to beat him in one of the bedrooms, which turned out to be a particularly difficult place to manage.

    We tested the ability of the mesh kits to send data so quickly as possible to three locations in the house: one close, unobstructed; one where it was fairly certain that they would use the mesh system to get around an obstacle; and one that the signal could only reach after going through several walls . We tested the mesh kits’ ability to send data as quickly as possible to three locations in the home: one close, unobstructed; one where it was fairly certain they would use the mesh system to get around an obstacle; and one that the signal could only reach after going through several walls.

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    The laptop in this bedroom, labeled WC3 on our charts, posed a challenge to our candidates. Indeed, it was close enough to connect directly to the central router through the walls and the electrical circuit, but with a slower 2.4 GHz connection. He could also take advantage of the faster 5 GHz network, provided he went through a repeater or a mesh network node. This case isn’t unusual in homes that really benefit from using mesh Wi-Fi, but only four of our eleven mesh kits fared well in this situation, with the CT8 dominating the class. Two others, Netgear’s Orbi RBK752 and Ubiquiti’s Dream Machine with BeaconHD, finished on its heels, but both are significantly more expensive.

    Each bar represents the time a computer has spent waiting for a task to complete. Longer bars represent a longer wait, during which you would be looking at a loading icon. Each bar represents the time a computer spent waiting for a task to complete. Longer bars represent a longer wait, during which you would be looking at a loading icon.

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    Across all latency tests, the CT8 finished a short lead behind its more expensive twin, the ZenWi-Fi AX (XT8). Here, raw speed, represented by bandwidth in megabits per second, is not what matters most. The latency test allows you to see how a Wi-Fi network handles the additional stress when several terminals use it simultaneously. High latency (“lag”) can make the connection seem slow despite high bandwidth, especially when the network is busy. The four finalists, those who dominated this test, are all triband kits, which use their third radio only to communicate with their satellites and not with the connected devices. This factor alone is no guarantee of success: Netgear’s Orbi RBK752 is also tri-band, but it performed closer to two of the dual-band kits (the Deco X20 and the dual-satellite Eero Pro). ).

    The minimalist design of the Asus CT8 is found even in its mains adapter (here in American version). The minimalist design of the CT8 from Asus can be found right down to its mains adapter (here in the American version).

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    A great router or mesh kit, like the CT8, is fairly easy to set up, even for a novice. We try to avoid equipment whose installation process or settings screens are inscrutable. Conversely, some of our old favorite mesh kits, like the Eero Pro, emphasize simplicity at the expense of customization possibilities. But tools lacking settings also make it harder to troubleshoot when installing devices in a connected home. Setting up the CT8 for the first time is as easy as on our previous recommended models, but once the network is created, it offers more settings to fine-tune the installation according to your home. For example, if some equipment in your home persists in using a “fast” band of frequencies but is receiving poorly, this may result in an unstable connection. The Asus system can be set to refuse these weak connections and force these devices to use a slower, but more reliable band.

    The CT8, like the XT8, comes with the free AiProtection Pro software. Among other options, this allows you to optimize the service to give priority to voice and video communications, for example. Its security tools help limit malware infections and filter content you don’t want your kids to see. So many functions that would be paid for at Eero, Motorola and Netgear.

    It only took fifteen minutes from extracting the CT8s from their packaging to connecting our laptops to the new Wi-Fi network. By default, the network reserves the second 5 GHz band for exchanges between the base and the CT8 satellite, optimizing the communication speed. If you need (or want) to fine-tune your network settings for specific uses, such as online gaming or streaming audio or video, or simply to prioritize certain devices over others , you’ll find plenty of customization switches and sliders in the CT8’s control panel.

    The CT8 has three Ethernet ports for connecting devices or computers, and a USB 3.0 port for share a storage volume. The CT8 has three Ethernet ports for connecting devices or computers, and a USB 3.0 port for sharing a storage volume.

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    The CT8 is imposing, but its large size allows it to integrate additional sockets. The base and the satellite being identical, they each have three Ethernet ports on the back, in addition to the WAN port which connects the main base to your Internet box. You thus have additional wired connections for wired equipment: game console, television, TV box… For example, if you place the satellite in your living room or your office, you can connect your computer to Ethernet to benefit from a better speed . If your accommodation is equipped for this, you can also use a cable link between the router and the satellite, in order to maximize the bandwidth between the two devices.

    CT8 and XT8 allow networks to be given different names 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This is unusual on this type of equipment: apart from the ZenWi-Fi from Asus, only the Dream Machine from Ubiquiti offers this function.

    As on most mesh networks , the CT8’s “smart connect” function is active by default. Also called band allocation (or “band steering”), this function is extremely effective for laptops and smartphones: the terminal automatically switches between the 2.4 GHz band (good range but limited speed) and the 5 GHz band ( limited range but higher throughput) as needed throughout the day, without changing the network name (SSID, see the glossary). However, some devices connected only in 2.4 GHz (such as cameras or smart bulbs) have difficulty managing the presence of several networks with the same name. This problem occurs on most mesh kits, especially those from Eero, which sacrifice most settings on the altar of simplicity. With the Asus, changing the network name solves this problem while still letting you enjoy the extended Wi-Fi coverage of the mesh network; your smartphones and laptops just lose the ability to automatically switch between bands.

    If you add connected home equipment to your household every year, you will have need your router to make it easier to manage. Asus models are compatible with Amazon Alexa, so you can, for example, activate a separate Wi-Fi network for your guests, from an Echo connected speaker. In addition to Alexa support, the CT8 offers the IFTTT protocol, which allows more geeks to automate various functions (for example, sending you an e-mail when your children come home from school and their phone connects to Wi- Domestic Fi).

    Non-crippling defects

    The devices that make up the CT8 mesh kit are significantly bulkier than the rest. From left to right: Asus' CT8, Eero's Pro+ Beacon, Trendnet's TEW-830MDR2K, Netgear's Nighthawk MK62 and Motorola's MH7023. devices composing the CT8 mesh kit are much bulkier than the others. Left to right: Asus CT8, Eero Pro+ Beacon, Trendnet TEW-830MDR2K, Netgear Nighthawk MK62, and Motorola MH7023.

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    CT8 routers are not the bulkiest of the models tested, but almost. Asus has tried to keep the design minimalist, but the CT8s are much bigger than their competitors Eero Pro or Netgear’s Nighthawk MK62.

    The main router and the satellite are identical, which can be a problem if you move them (eg when moving house). Fortunately, when connecting for the first time, it doesn’t matter: you can connect your modem to either component, and it will naturally take on the role of router when you set it up. If you ever modify the installation and try to use the satellite as a router, a light will signal the error.

    The Asus ZenWi-Fi CT8 is not compatible with WPA3, unlike the high-end alternative, the XT8. This is the latest version of the WPA security standard; we do not consider its absence as prohibitive at the present time, compatible equipment being still rare. This point can still be important, especially in a business or for shared access points in a café.

    A CT8 mesh network is scalable, but each additional node costs approximately 250 euros: each time a complete router, with the same electronics. This is a significant overhead. Other mesh kits use dedicated, lightweight satellites, including Google’s Nest Wi-Fi and Netgear’s Orbi, making it inexpensive to expand the network.

    A high-end alternative: ZenWi-Fi AX (XT8) from

    ‘Asus

    < p class="article__credit">WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    The Asus ZenWi-Fi AX (XT8) is the best choice if you have a gigabit internet connection or better, or if you plan to upgrade to it soon. Otherwise, it will bring only a minimal advantage for a significant additional cost. The XT8 looks like a sibling to the CT8, but packs in a handful of bonus features for users who need a more powerful mesh network to take advantage of their bandwidth. It’s the first Wi-Fi 6 model we’ve recommended (instead of standard Wi-Fi 5 for the past seven or eight years), and the first to support the enhanced security protocol WPA3. Wi-Fi 6 should ensure the durability of the XT8 in modern connected homes, where there are more and more devices to manage. The XT8 also delivers a strong, responsive signal to the farthest reaches of a larger-than-average home: it topped the pack in nearly all of our tests, both in speeds and latency.

    A good router will serve you for many years, and buying a model equipped with the latest technologies can prolong his life expectancy. At the moment, Wi-Fi 6 mesh networks have only been widely available since the spring of 2020: they are still much more expensive than Wi-Fi 5 systems and, for most users, the performance gain is not not spectacular.

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    The XT8 came out on top in most of our tests and we think that this performance boost will help you enjoy a gigabit Internet connection. It is also the only kit tested to have a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet socket, capable of supporting connections exceeding the gigabit standard if your access provider and your modem support it. However, gigabit compatibility does not mean that all your terminals will have such bandwidth everywhere in your home. The XT8 didn’t come far short of that promise, though: at low range, it delivered 600 Mbps, beating our top pick, the Asus CT8, by almost 30%.

    The Asus' XT8 dominates our bandwidth chart: it's the fastest mesh kit in most situations The dual-band Nighthawk MK62 excels when near the router, but falls apart when passing by other nodes in the network. Asus’ XT8 dominates our bandwidth chart: it’s the fastest mesh kit in most situations. The dual-band Nighthawk MK62 excels when near the router, but falls apart when passing through other network nodes.

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    If you forget raw throughput, our two recommended models are much closer on other tests than you might think. Granted, the hardware differs slightly, but the CT8 and XT8 use the same routing software. They behaved very similarly when all six test computers loaded the network at the same time. The XP8’s latency (the amount of time you wait for a response while surfing a site) is only marginally lower than its cousin, and other good models aren’t far behind. The four most efficient products create a tri-band network and dedicate one of the two 5 GHz bands to exchanges between the router and the satellite: this principle allows them to clearly distinguish themselves from kits where the “lag” is more important. The list of ports on the XT8 is the same as the CT8, but on closer inspection USB 3.0 has moved on and the WAN socket is 2.5Gbps compatible. The The XT8’s port list is identical to the CT8’s, but on closer inspection USB 3.0 has moved on and the WAN socket is 2.5Gbps compatible.

    WIRECUTTER / MICHAEL MURTAUGH

    Apart from Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 and 2.5 gigabit port, the XT8 offers exactly the same functions than the CT8. So the extra $150 or so is only justified for a small minority of users, and we don’t recommend any of the other, even more expensive Wi-Fi 6 mesh kits. To go beyond the capabilities of the XT8, you have to turn to a business network, which will offer functions that almost no one would touch (and for which a diploma in telecommunications and networks would not be superfluous).

    What about Ubiquiti?

    Every bet updates to our guides to Wi-Fi routers, mesh and non-mesh, readers ask us about enterprise-grade systems, such as Ubiquiti’s UniFi range. Long story short: if you can run Ethernet cables and use basic APs rather than a mesh Wi-Fi network, consider this solution.

    These products for computer cabinets far exceed the needs of a home, but their recent UniFi Dream Machine (UDM) seems tailor-made for homes and small businesses. We tested it as a router in our guide to Wi-Fi routers, but we also wanted to check how it works with a Ubiquiti mesh satellite.

    No accessories ( such as the AP BeaconHD mesh network satellite from UniFi), the price of the UDM is comparable to that of the ZenWiFi AC (CT8) from Asus: around 350 euros. Without accessories (such as satellite AP BeaconHD mesh network from UniFi), the price of the UDM is comparable to that of the ZenWiFi AC (CT8) from Asus: around 350 euros.

    WIRECUTTER / UBIQUITI

    If you link one or more UniFi AP BeaconHD satellites from Ubiquiti (but who came up with that name?) to the UniFi UDM , you get a more scalable mesh network with more settings to optimize. Pairing the BeaconHD with the UDM takes a few extra steps compared to Asus’ ZenWi-Fis, but it only took a handful of minutes longer. Note that these satellites, like those of Eeros, are purely wireless: you will have to find another solution if you want to take advantage of Ethernet ports on your mesh network nodes. The BeaconHD did a good job of improving the Wi-Fi signal in the rest of the house, but our tests showed that other models perform a little better.

    The UniFi Dream Machine and the BeaconHD provided great service throughout the house, but other kits performed even better and were easier to install. The UniFi Dream Machine and BeaconHD provided quality whole-house service, but other kits performed even better and were easier to install.

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    The same goes for latency: the UDM and BeaconHD finished in the middle of the pack when tested on a busy network. The same goes for latency: the UDM and BeaconHD finished in the middle of the pack when tested on a busy network.

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    UDM’s management app and web interface look polished and professional compared to home routers, and they offer many settings that network engineers are used to. But for those who just want an easy-to-use router, these tools can represent an impassable wall of incomprehensible technical details.

    Ubiquiti's UniFi Control offers many pages of information about your network and your gear. It's great for professionals, but intimidating for home users. Ubiquiti’s UniFi control offers many pages of information about your network and your equipment. It’s great for professionals, but intimidating for home users.

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    If you have a technical mind and a monstrous housing where some areas are really hard to cover, you might be wondering how the UDM/BeaconHD package performs against more traditional multiple access point systems, such as Ubiquiti’s UAP range. UAPs only provide Wi-Fi to certain rooms and use Ethernet daisy chain to communicate with the router; a mesh network, on the contrary, chains the wireless connections. If you don’t have ethernet cabling and can’t install it, UAPs are useless, but if you do, it’s a simpler installation, eliminating the need to think about obstacles such as stucco walls that would cut the Wi-Fi link between router and satellites.

    If you can run Ethernet cables and use standard access points rather than a mesh network, think about it!

    UDM UniFi software (or application on a controlling computer) is used to manage UAPs. It’s not that hard to do, although it looks technical enough to scare off some users.

    In the 2017 tests, the UAP-AC-Lite access points were in the same locations as the mesh satellites studied today (near the router, above the living room TV , and below, in the editor’s lair).

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    UAP-AC-Lite access points, costing around 80 euros (this is the cheapest version of the Ubiquiti AP range), offered performance close to the best products tested in 2017. They did not dominate, Netgear’s expensive Orbi RBK53 having offered a handful of Mbps more, but the results were too close for the difference to be avoided. dente.

    However, bandwidth isn’t everything. Latency is often a better indicator of the comfort of using a Wi-Fi network, and on this point the UAPs systematically beat the Orbi system and all the other mesh kits tested at the time.

    < p class="article__credit">WIRECUTTER

    You would really notice this difference during heavy use: the UAP system provides consistent, reliable operation with no frustrating pauses or signal dropouts. In our tests, the connection was fast and the data transfer really constant.

    UAP-AC-Lite access points cost around $80 each and allow you to use the router you already have. With most mesh kits you can use a cable network to connect some or all of the satellites, but the price for these is much higher. Even adding the cost of labor to install the Ethernet cables from the router to, say, the downstairs office and an upstairs bedroom, the total cost of three Ubiquiti access points remains largely in below $400: For larger homes where multiple nodes are needed to generate a decent mesh network, this solution is arguably cheaper.

    Our Mesh Network Testing Procedure

    With rare exceptions, testing of Wi-Fi routers consists primarily of connecting a terminal to a Wi-Fi access point from different places, trying to obtain the maximum throughput possible and declaring the winner the model that provided the highest number at the greatest distance, at least in terms of performance raw. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that high throughput for one device will be evenly distributed among multiple devices. This assumption is generally valid for wired networks, but it applies poorly to Wi-Fi.

    Instead of testing the maximum bandwidth offered to a single computer, we used six of these, spread across our test house, to realistically simulate the activity of a busy home network. This house is over 280 m², on three levels, and has a garage with cinder block walls.

    < /p>

    As these tests reproduce realistic traffic, they represent real performance better than a tool like iPerf (a test software that transfers data as quickly as possible between two devices). We used a similar procedure for our Wi-Fi router tests.

    This illustration shows the layout of the parts and each mesh kit in our full-scale test environment . This illustration shows the layout parts and each mesh kit in our full-scale test environment.

    WIRECUTTER / SARAH MACREADING

    We have verified that the basic functions of a mesh network are active, including the use of the same network name to allow automatic switching from the 2.4 GHz band to the 5 GHz band . We also let the router choose its own channels automatically if this feature was enabled by default. For some mesh systems, like the Eero, MU-MIMO is always on; but on others, like the Orbi, it can be turned off, so we left it at the default. We generally left the rest of the settings untouched: you should be able to set up your network and connect to it without having to dig into the settings.

    Device layout is critical, no matter what or the chosen mesh Wi-Fi kit. We started by placing the router or central module in the living room, in the center of the space, connected by Ethernet to the cable modem.

    We posted the first satellite in the finished attic on the second floor of the house. Vertically, it is a dozen meters above the router, from which it is separated by two floors and at least two interior walls. When there was one, we installed the second satellite in the master bedroom, downstairs, one wall inside the router. The six laptops (see diagram above) were distributed throughout the house, on the three levels and in the garage near the cinder block foundation.

    During the tests, the six computers, the control laptop (connected via Ethernet) and, if necessary, an iPhone running the control application were the only devices connected to the test network. We didn’t turn off other Wi-Fi networks, or wireless gear like Google Home speakers, which continued to live their lives as they probably do in yours. The Wi-Fis of neighbors like ours were therefore up and running, constantly leaving a good half-dozen networks visible.

    Our six computers performed the following tasks:

    < ul class="article__unordered-list">

  • Browsing: Three of them simulated human web browsing, loading a fictional web page every twenty seconds. Each consisted of 16 files of 128 KB, requested simultaneously, and we measured the latency between sending the requests and completing the loading. This is the most important test: it accurately represents the slow and irregular web browsing, the main frustration felt by users. Also, it turns out that this test shows the limits of the system before the others.
  • Downloading: one of the computers was downloading a very large file.¹
  • 4K Video: Two computers were simulating a streaming video session. They attempted to download at 30 Mbps, but we considered the test successful from an average of 25 Mbps, the value recommended by Netflix for 4K. If these devices do not reach 20 Mbps, it means that, in real life, the video would be jerky or the quality would be reduced. Like the download test, this one also has an impact on the rest of the network.
  • These tests simultaneously evaluated range, bandwidth, latency, and ability of the router to perform multiple tasks in parallel. We did them all at the same time for five minutes to realistically simulate a period of very high activity on a home network. Yours probably isn’t always so busy, but it’s times like these that a network’s lack of performance can be sorely apparent. We ran all the tests six times, then averaged the results.

    Testing mesh kits like this, in the toughest places to access to a building made of various materials, allows you to be sure to find the models that will work best in your entire home, rather than those that know how to look good in optimal conditions.

    We also tested raw speeds by measuring bandwidth at the furthest end in the attic, from a more accessible location (approximately 5m from the router and unobstructed), and in an upstairs bedroom, with several partitions between the computer and the router. We wanted to make the kits difficult, not impossible: we studied and eliminated other corners of the house during the initial installation.

    Test the kits like this, mixing easy and hard to reach places, helps you be sure to find the models that will work best throughout your home, rather than those that know how to look good in optimal conditions.

    In addition to testing bandwidth and web browsing, we checked that switching from one band to another worked well by checking the interface of the router (when possible) to see if all the computers were not crowded on a single node in the network.

    Test Results

    We believe the purpose of a mesh network is not to create fast Wi-Fi in one place, but everywhere. We therefore tested the speeds in three locations in our home, by increasing difficulty: in the living room, 5 m from the central router, without obstacle; in the attic, where the test computer would be perfectly placed to connect to the upstairs satellite; and in a bedroom, from where the terminal would have the choice between easily connecting to the satellite and going through several walls to contact the main router directly.

    For the bandwidth test, each computer was downloading in loops the same 16MB file for 30 seconds. We measured data rates in megabits per second (Mbps), with higher values ​​being better. For the test bandwidth, each computer would repeatedly download the same 16MB file for 30 seconds. We measured speeds in megabits per second (Mbps), with higher values ​​being preferable.

    WIRECUTTER

    As the graph above shows, mesh kits with good wireless link between satellite and router crushed our single router favorite, the TP-Link Archer A7, from one end of the housing to the other. The best candidates, including our favorite ZenWi-Fi CT8, have mastered each situation to provide more than 400 Mbps at close range and more than 100 Mbps everywhere.

    An effective relay system is the signature of a good mesh network. You can see this with the results from the WC1 computer, located in the attic. The best tri-band models, including Asus’ ZenWi-Fi twins and D-Link’s COVR-2202, have dedicated a frequency for base-to-satellite communications. Dual-band models, such as Netgear’s Nighthawk MK62, suffered notably: their single 5 GHz radio had to be shared between client and node-to-node communications.

    This illustration shows the locations of mesh network nodes and endpoints in our test house. This illustration shows the locations of mesh network nodes and endpoints in our test house.

    WIRECUTTER / SARAH MACREADING

    This speed graph gives an idea of ​​the maximum performance when you are alone on the network, but it does not speak about the elephant in the room: the behavior of a busy network in the real world. For this, we need several computers, as you saw in the section on the installation used and the tests carried out. In summary: two computers were simulating 4K video streaming, one was downloading large files, and three were browsing the web.

    The web browsing test best represents the user experience of a Wi-Fi network. It is usually the first to show the limits of the system. Multiplying it, alongside download and video sessions, we tested our mesh kits on a “worst case” scenario.

    Modern web pages are made up of a complex set of files, all of which must be downloaded before the browser can display them. For example, a Facebook news feed has HTML code files, CSS style sheets, and JavaScript, all loaded with each click. If one of these resources is blocked, the entire page may no longer display, affecting your user experience. So a seemingly very simple task (clicking a link, loading a webpage) is actually complex, and a handful of minor errors and slowdowns can quickly explode into a situation where it’s impossible to load a webpage without multiplying attempts. Our test faithfully reproduces the activity of a web browser in order to highlight problems of this type.

    The graph below gives an idea of ​​the waiting time before ‘a web page is loading.

    This graph shows the median latency of each task, for each site tested when all clients were connected at the same time. The most important values ​​are those of navigation: an extended bar means a longer wait when loading a page. This graph shows the latency median of each task, for each site tested when all clients were connected at the same time. The most important values ​​are the navigation ones: an extended bar means a longer wait when loading a page.

    WIRECUTTER

    For web browsing, latency, i.e. the delay between a request and its response, is more important than raw bandwidth. By monitoring latency on six computers working simultaneously, we get a good idea of ​​how the network is actually performing during peak hours.

    By multiplying the tests of parallel browsing of download and video sessions, we tested our mesh kits on a “worst-case” scenario.

    Latency test rankings are similar to that of the speed tests for the best mesh Wi-Fi kits, but the bulk of the pack and the red lanterns change significantly. In particular, Netgear’s Nighthawk MK62 fell from sixth place in the speed test to thirteenth in the latency test! The values ​​recorded while browsing are higher, showing the limits of the dual-band network, forced to juggle between client communications and those of the nodes.

    The following two graphs show the distribution of latency tests, which indicates the likelihood that a request will be satisfied quickly. Many models tested suffered from lag 5-10% of the time (the rightmost peak), but our favorites passed these tests effortlessly.

    Rather than settle for to average over the five-minute test sessions, we looked at the entire spectrum of results. The median, i.e. the typical result (the 50th percentile), is on the left of the graph. Going to the right, the 75th percentile shows you the level of one out of four clicks, and the last point on the right is the worst result in the five minutes of the test. If, for example, the value rises from the 75th percentile, this means that one in four web page loads could be excruciatingly slow. It’s a tough test, but a good network should stay responsive under all circumstances.

    This graph shows the results of the download time of our 16 file This graph shows our 16-file “web page” download time results, by percentiles. The median value is located on the left and the worst result on the right. Lower values ​​are preferable. Our four best candidates completed this test with ease and a satisfactory result for sure.

    WIRECUTTER

    The rest of the pack suffered from latency more often, but most still performed better than the classic (non-mesh) TP-Link Archer A7 router that served as a control. The rest of the peloton suffered from latency more often, but most still performed better than the classic (non-mesh) TP-Link Archer A7 router that served as a control.

    WIRECUTTER

    We separated the group of the best and the group of fair to poor, according to the average loading time of web pages on the three computers simulating a online browsing. Most good performers are tri-band: These results highlight the importance of this third frequency when the router needs to communicate with the satellite(s) to reach the most distant clients. This is especially noticeable when comparing a good tri-band kit like Asus’ ZenWi-Fi AC (CT8) or D-Link’s COVR-2202 to something like TP-Link’s Deco X20: those deliver performance impeccably stable throughout the test, while this one sees its results explode at the 80th percentile (in other words, one in five requests goes wrong). However, do not rule out all dual-band kits: Ubiquiti’s UDM with BeaconHD did well in this test… and conversely, the Trendnet TEW-830, although tri-band, was quite quickly overwhelmed . We also wanted to test an affordable mesh network, like TP-Link’s W2400, to compare it to other systems on the market. It finished bottom of the standings on the short distance throughput test, but still outperformed the single Archer A7 router used for benchmark. The Deco W2400 also performed better on latency tests, taking on far more expensive kits such as the two-satellite Eero Pro and Ubiquiti’s Dream Machine paired with a UniFi BeaconHD without fail. However, it failed one of the 4K video tests and one of the web browsing tests under heavy network load, so it can’t replace our top pick.

    Operational principles of a mesh network and glossary

    A mesh network allows to extend Wi-Fi to the furthest corners of your home by using several satellites, the network nodes. Called Beacon (Eero and Ubiquiti), Deco (TP-Link) or Satellites (Orbi at Netgear), these all do the same thing: relay Wi-Fi, bypassing materials that block radio waves (walls in concrete, metal doors…) and to bring Wi-Fi to places too far away to be accessible by a single router.

    In our opinion, the point of a mesh network is not to create fast Wi-Fi in one place, but everywhere.

    Here are various terms used in describing networks mesh:

    Router or Base Module: This is the first device you install. Connected to the Internet (usually by an Ethernet cable plugged into your modem or your access provider’s box), it creates the Wi-Fi network.

    Satellite: this is the equipment that, connected to the router or another satellite, creates new nodes to expand the network and provide reliable Wi-Fi over a larger area. Most kits have one or two satellites, with various names. They are sometimes the same as the router, sometimes not.

    Access point: An access point provides a Wi-Fi network to your devices, but it uses an Ethernet link to send data back to the router or modem. If your home allows Ethernet cables, add access points rather than a mesh network.

    Wi-Fi Repeater: a < span>Wi-Fi repeater is a less expensive device than a mesh network satellite, but also less capable. In general, it creates a second Wi-Fi network, and you have to switch from the main network to this one manually when you move with your smartphone or another terminal.

    SSID: SSID (Service ID) is simply the name of a network Wi-Fi.

    Bands and Channels: Wi-Fi uses two radio bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. A dual-band router has two transceivers, one on each band. A tri-band router has a second 5 GHz transceiver, which can improve its communications with satellites. Each band is divided into channels (on different radio frequencies), allowing multiple networks to coexist in the same area without interference.

    2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz: The 2.4 GHz band suffers from a slower connection, but is compatible with a wider variety of devices and offers better range, especially through walls. The 5 GHz band allows higher speeds, but at the cost of limited range.

    < p class="article__paragraph">Dedicated link: A dedicated Wi-Fi link is a channel reserved for communication between the router and the satellites, which computers, smartphones and other terminals will not use. Some mesh networks also allow the use of a dedicated Ethernet link, with the satellites then functioning as access points, which is even faster.

    MU-MIMO: short for Multiple User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. If the router and the terminals support this system, MIMO makes it possible to speed up Wi-Fi connections: each channel can simultaneously serve several network streams in parallel, as if you were adding lanes to a route. Before MU-MIMO, the router could only communicate with one terminal at a time. (And if you’re wondering how it managed multiple devices simultaneously, it’s simple: it switched between them very quickly.)

    Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax): 802.11ax, marketed as Wi-Fi 6, will gradually replace the current 802.11ac (aka Wi-Fi 5) over the next few years, along with 802.11 ac replaced 802.11n about ten years ago. Some improvements increase overall throughput, but the most interesting is the arrival of MU-MIMO and OFDMA. These somewhat heavy acronyms should allow Wi-Fi networks to better manage modern home environments, where computers, phones, tablets, TV boxes, connected devices, etc. are multiplying. These technologies promise to better avoid interference in dense areas, when neighboring networks overlap on the same channels.

    Coming soon

    A new term, Wi-Fi 6E, has been announced to define an extension of the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, aiming to take advantage of a new band of radio frequencies released in 6 GHz. This should add up to 65 devices on a single mesh network, when Wi-Fi 5 systems saturate around 30-35 clients.

    At the time of virtual CES 2021, several mesh networking systems with 6 GHz channels are on offer: the Linksys AXE8400, the Tri-band Deco X76 Plus from TP-Link and the Deco X96 from TP-Link. 6E Wi-Fi clients (smartphones, computers, etc.) with 6 GHz radios will be extremely rare for a few years to come, so it’s not easy to recommend a mesh kit of this type for most users.< /p>

    There will be new Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers (without E); these are the ones we’ll be most interested in in 2021. TP-Link launched its Deco Voice X20, which features Alexa-enabled speakers (like Google’s Nest Wi-Fi); Arris highlights its SURFBoard mAX AX6600; and D-Link launched its AI M32 AX3200 mesh kit.

    TP-Link showed off its Deco X90 at CES 2020, but it is still not available.< /p>

    Arris has launched its SURFBoard mAX line of mesh Wi-Fi, with three models announcing increasingly higher speeds (and pricing to match). We are studying these kits for our next update.

    The Competition (2020 tests)

    Our previous favorite: Eero Pro + 2 Beacons< /strong>

    In the previous version of this guide, we Praise the ease of setup and performance on the latency test of the Eero Pro + 2 Beacons kit. However, this year’s competition is more capable and cheaper.

    RT2600ac and MR2200ac from Synology

    Synology’s mesh routers are always a great set, if you like to tweak your network based on each device’s issues. For example, as with Asus’ ZenWi-Fi, you can give the 2.4 GHz band another network name, to simplify the connection of connected devices such as cameras or smart switches. < /strong>

    COVR-2202-US from D-Link

    This was our previous affordable pick , but D-Link has informed us that it will make way for a series of mesh-enabled routers and separate satellites. The COVR-2202 performed well in our tests against new competitors, but we also found feedback from users complaining of technical issues with this model. D-Link does not sell satellites separately, which limits the possibility of scaling up the network (unless you buy several kits). At the time of this writing, stocks are running low and this product should soon become unobtainable.

    < p class="article__paragraph">Eero 6

    The Wi-Fi 6 variant of Eero’s basic kit has an attractive price, but we found it to perform less well in our tests.

    Very easy to install , it would be a natural choice for those who don’t want to waste time on settings. It supports WPA3 security, but it is one of the only settings available, along with network name and password. The quest for simplicity has led to the sacrifice of even relatively basic functions: the router has only one additional Ethernet port and the satellites have none. In our tests, the Eero 6 underperformed the competition, with bandwidth peaking at 171 Mbps and higher-than-average latency. It is therefore suitable if you have a 100 mega broadband subscription, but will slow you down if you have more. In addition, the Eero Secure and Secure + services, allowing you to take advantage of parental controls and protection against malware, require an annual subscription, when Asus offers similar services for free. So, despite its lower price, the Eero 6 isn’t such a bargain.

    Eero Pro 6

    Like its affordable cousin, the Eero Pro 6 is easy to set up but sacrifices settings in the name of simplicity. However, it is one of the most expensive mesh kits we have tested. This is quite logical since it combines three identical routers, but it costs almost double the Asus ZenWi-Fi CT8.

    Each router has two Ethernet ports, which can be used to connect peripherals via Ethernet as well as to manage communication between the main module and the satellites. This tri-band system offers speeds and latency comparable to ZenWi-Fi, but slightly worse. Like other Eero kits, it must be registered with Amazon in order to be administered in the cloud. Technically, malicious people could monitor your data through this, although Amazon and Eero assure that they protect your data and your online activity. Like other Eero kits, parental controls and security tools are offered by subscription. We therefore prefer the ZenWi-Fi from Asus, both AC and AX, to the Eeros Pro 6, due to the initial cost and the paid options.

    Velop AX4200 (MX12600) from Linksys< /span>

    The Velop AX4200 (MX12600) from Linksys is another excellent tri-band kit, which finished our speed and latency tests on the heels of the Asus, and a short head ahead of the Eero Pro 6. However, like this one, the MX12600 is a hundred euros more expensive than the Asus. It only offers basic parental controls and does not include any protection against malware, other than the one you will have installed on your terminals. On the contrary, the ZenWi-Fi integrate robust protections and parental controls. Finally, Linksys also imposes an online connection during installation, even if it is still possible to use a disposable e-mail to avoid risks (which is safer than using your Amazon login, as on the Eero).

    Motorola MH7023

    The MH7023 performed well in our latency tests, but remained at the top of the pack in the debit rankings. New for 2020, this is Motorola’s first mesh kit, so we don’t have the hindsight we have with other manufacturers. We’ll be monitoring user feedback to see if they have as successful an experience as ours, and we may change our recommendation in the future.

    Nighthawk MK62 from Netgear

    This two-module dual-band system (there is also a three-module kit, the MK63) is a relatively affordable mesh kit, whose fairly compact nodes are easy to hide. It offered reasonable throughput, but underperformed the multitude of clients in our latency tests, finishing near last place.

    UniFi Dream Machine + BeaconHD d’ Ubiquiti

    We have already talked about this equipment above and in our router comparison< /span>. In a nutshell: the UDM with a BeaconHD is a great introduction to enterprise networking and is the perfect tool for those who like to spend hours tweaking settings, whose home is already wired or who can take the time to add UniFi access points to create a custom solution in their (huge) home.

    Trendnet’s TEW-830MDR2K

    Trendnet’s TEW-830MDR2K is one of the least expensive kits among the models tested, and one of those with the smallest and least obtrusive satellites. In addition, each has screw holes in the base, a very practical bonus. However, the Trendnet administration interface is poorly finished and the device came last in the latency tests.

    TP-Link Deco X20

    The Deco X20 sits in the middle of the pack in both price and performance, but it missed one of our 4K video tests (delivering well under 20 Mbps) when the network was fully loaded.

    Deco W2400 from TP-Link

    The Deco W2400 is one of the kits cheapest meshes on the market, less than 100 euros. Last of our speed tests, it pleasantly surprised us in latency, where it placed in the first half of the pack. However, it failed one of the 4K video tests and one of the loaded network browsing tests. It can be a good choice if you want to equip a large house where the devices are few and the internet connection limited (less than 100 megabits), without breaking the bank.

    Orbi RBK752 from Netgear< /span>

    Not content with being one of the most expensive mesh kits in this guide, the Orbi RBK752 failed one of the 4K video tests on the network charged. We also noted complaints in user comments and feedback on Amazon about the limited duration of Netgear’s phone service, which made life difficult for users even during the hardware warranty period.

    We studied, but gave up testing the most expensive kits, such as the Alien from AmpliFi, the SURFboard mAX Pro (AX11000) from Arris, the Velop Wi-Fi 6 (MX10 ) from Linksys, the Orbi852/RBK853 from Netgear and the Deco X60 from TP-Link. They promise increased performance, greater range, improved capabilities and more powerful radios. We ruled them out because of their superior price to the excellent dual-band and tri-band systems above: in our opinion, they exceed users’ needs. We also looked at Asus’ RT-AX92U and ruled it out because it only uses Wi-Fi 6 for communication between nodes, not for clients.

    The Competition (2019 tests)

    Our old favorite : Orbi RBK50 from Netgear The Orbi RBK50 from Netgear was the recommended model during of the 2018 edition of this guide. Replaced by the RBK752 and RBK852, it remains available at a reduced price. It’s one of the first really successful mesh kits, but in our opinion the current models have surpassed it.

    Google’s Nest Wi-Fi

    Google’s Nest Wi-Fi comes in a set of two or three. The router is a dedicated Wi-Fi 5 unit with two Ethernet ports, and the Wi-Fi-only Nest satellites feature a built-in smart speaker with Google Assistant. In our tests, the set delivered excellent throughput to a single client, but suffered from high latency once all six laptops were using the network simultaneously. Nest Wi-Fi is easy to set up if you use Google services often, but Google Assistant raises privacy issues that extend to the websites and services you use from a Nest Wi-Fi network.

    Tri-band (WHW0303) and dual-band (WHW0103) Velop from Linksys

    In a previous version of this guide, we We tested the Velop WHW0303 (tri-band) and a dual-band version of Linksys’ Velop router kit. We wouldn’t recommend either one. The triband model ranked well, but was (and remains) overpriced.

    Eero 3-Pack

    The Wi-Fi 5 version of the Eero mesh kit is compatible with previous Eero hardware, so you can use it to extend an existing Eero mesh network. However, this three-piece kit failed one of our 4K video tests, and otherwise performed average.

    D-Link COVR-C1203

    D-Link’s COVR-C1203 is a dual-band, three-node set that’s easy to hide anywhere in your home. However, it will be necessary to buy a second complete kit to be able to extend it later. It, too, failed a 4K video test in the 2019 tests, and overall its performance puts it near the bottom of the table.

    Deco M4 and Deco M9 TP-Link Plus and Netgear’s Orbi RBK13

    TP-Link’s Deco M4 and M9 Plus are compatible with other Deco kits, and the M9 Plus features a smart hub for Zigbee and Bluetooth devices (not needed for most users). Netgear’s Orbi RBK13 is a three-piece dual-band set, with a router and two satellites the same size as Netgear’s Nighthawk MK62. Its performance is similar to the Deco M4 and M9 Plus: mediocre.

    AmpliFi Instant

    As the AmpliFi HD, tested and phased out in 2017, the AmpliFi Instant is compact and inexpensive, while offering a touchscreen for monitoring network bandwidth. We found it easy to install and it is compatible with the Amplifi HD router and satellites. However, the results didn’t impress us: less efficient than other mesh networks, it was also surpassed by our single router.

    Plume and SmartThings Wi-Fi from Samsung

    Plume’s idea is appealing: a mesh network that actively adapts to your network needs and to each new terminal connection. Its main argument is also its first weakness: it locks you into a subscription-based system that handles network optimization in the cloud. Since its inception, Plume has expanded its services with North American ISPs, but we prefer hardware that you can buy without having to subscribe to a service.

    We tested Samsung’s SmartThings Wi-Fi kit for a previous version of this guide. It incorporates a lifetime subscription to Plume and features a SmartThings hub, but it ended up among the bottom ranked of 2019.

    Multy U of Zyxel

    Zyxel’s Multy U is a three-piece triband kit designed for elegance. Alas, its mediocre performance in navigation tests destroyed all the affection that its aesthetics could inspire in us.

    The rest (2017-2018 tests)

    Over the years, we’ve tested Google Wi-Fi, Orbi RBK53, Orbi CBK40, RBK40, Netgear RBK30, TP-Link Deco M5, TP-Link Deco M5, Pro 3-pack from Eero, AmpliFi HD, Ally from Amped, Luma and Multy X from Zyxel. They all left us wanting for one reason or another, and we dismissed them when we last updated this guide.

    Notes

    1. The test procedure was actually to download a 1MB file in a loop, as fast as possible. This test measures bandwidth and throughput; it is mainly used to maintain a constant load on the network, which the router and the other terminals must manage. Back to text

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