Best Mesh Wi-Fi Routers Of 2018 - Top Whole Home Wireless Network Systems
- 1 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Routers Of 2018 - Top Whole Home Wireless Network Systems
- 1.1 The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems Of 2018
- 1.2 Best Mesh Wi-Fi System 2018 - Netgear Orbi
- 1.3 What Are Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems And How Do They Work?
- 1.4 The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router Systems Reviews
- 1.4.1 1. Netgear Orbi – The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network System
- 1.4.2 2. Google WiFi – The Best Selling Mesh Wireless Router
- 1.4.3 3. Linksys Velop – Runner Up
- 1.4.4 4. Eero WiFi Router System – What Started It All
- 1.4.5 5. TP-Link Deco M5 – A Speedy Mesh Performer
- 1.4.6 6. Zyxel Multy X AC3000 – Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router For Large Houses
- 1.4.7 7. Tenda MW6 Nova Wave – The Top Budget Mesh
- 1.4.8 8. Asus Lyra Home Wi-Fi System – Disappointing Router Kit
- 1.4.9 9. Luma Whole Home Wireless- Not A Bad Choice
- 1.5 10. Ubiquity’s AmpliFi HD – Decent Setup But Not Mesh
- 1.6 Final Words And What To Buy
If you are reading this you already know that there is a new kid on the block - the mesh wifi network system - a set of router nodes designed to blanket your whole home in reliable wireless signal. While most people are still using old, conventional routers, they have a few shortcomings. They are ok for small houses and apartments, but people with bigger homes might find it that they have more than a few dead spots of WiFi coverage in their whole home.
The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems Of 2018
Whole home wireless internet coverage is more important than ever in 2018. We are all so used to top streaming network services like Netflix and Amazon Prime that we can't afford a dead Wi-Fi networking spot anywhere in the whole house. There are countless other networking services offering all kinds of top class luxuries - smart home automation like Google Home Assistant and the almighty Amazon Alexa, wireless internet connected thermostats and other wireless appliances, music WiFi streaming services like Spotify and, I'm sure we're missing some, many more services and devices that require an active wireless network connection.
AC / Bands
|Netgear Orbi||AC2200 / Three||4||Yes|
|Google WiFi||AC1200 / Dual||2||No|
|Linksys Velop||AC2200 / Three||2||No|
|Eero WiFi||AC1200 / Three||2||No|
|TP-Link Deco M5||AC1300 / Dual||2||No|
|Zyxel Multi X||AC3000 / Three||4||Yes|
|Tenda Nova Wave||AC1200 / Dual||2||No|
|ASUS Lyra||AC2200 / Three||2||No|
|Luma WiFi||AC1300 / Dual||2||Yes / Charge Only|
|AmpliFi HD||AC1750 / Dual||4||Yes|
So how do we cover the whole house with a reliable WiFi network signal?
With a whole home Wi-Fi mesh wireless network, of course!
Best Mesh Wi-Fi System 2018 - Netgear Orbi
We tested the Top 10 Mesh Wi-Fi Whole Home wireless network routers and the results are pretty conclusive. We managed to find a clear winner.
We really think that the Netgear Orbi is by far the best mesh wireless system on the market at the moment. It outshines the competition in every aspect that we could think of - wireless speed, features and especially the speed between the nodes themselves. The Orbi has a dedicated channel for backhaul network between the Orbi nodes that improves the overall performance of the system by a mile. There is no signal loss while extending the network and there is no W-Fi speed cuts when jumping from node to node.
Yes, the price is high but for the features and the performance of the system there is no competition.
Whole Home Wi-Fi
What Are Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems And How Do They Work?
Mesh WiFi routers, unlike traditional repeaters, doesn't rely on a single node rather than a mesh-style wireless network topology of multiple routing devices that connect wirelessly to each other and provide much wider network coverage without sacrificing internet speed. They work in a very similar way to wireless repeaters but there is one major difference between them.
So what's the difference between Mesh and Wireless Repeaters?
As many people might know, wireless repeaters work in a way that they repeat the main router's signal while cutting the throughput in half, effectively cutting the speed in half too. If you daisy-chain them there will be no bandwidth left at the fourth or the fifth node, let alone more. That's because they use the same channel for sending and receiving, halving the speed too.
Wireless mesh units create a mesh-style network where every unit can connect to every other unit to relay the wireless signal. They use different channels for receiving and transmitting so there is no theoretical loss of bandwidth. Most mesh systems automatically select the most effective channel for communication so there is no interference and loss of signal.
Some of the best mesh wireless kits include two or three mesh WiFi nodes (effectively, routers) which act like ancillaries to your wireless home network. One of the mesh nodes usually acts as a gateway that connects to your wired network or your ISP provided internet modem. The rest of them are then designed to wirelessly communicate with each other and effectively expanding your wireless network system and covering the whole house with wireless network blanket. Instead of relying on a single wireless router to provide the signal to route it, each wireless node of the mesh network talks to each other and expanding the network coverage with each additional node.
Like with a traditional router, one of the nodes is connected to the modem, but the main difference here is that with extending the range from the modem you don't lose speed anymore - they effectively cover all WiFi dead spots. The mesh nodes can be placed anywhere around the house and direction doesn't matter anymore, unlike the case with traditional routers. Each node transmits and receives a signal without cutting speed or bandwidth.
The Main Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Mesh Network
The main advantages of mesh wireless network topology are as follows:
- Additional mesh devices will have no effect on the network wireless speed.
- If a single mesh node goes down it won't affect the mesh wireless network as much as if a traditional WiFi router goes down.
- It can handle large amounts of internet traffic since communication doesn't get reduced in wireless relay
- Connected WiFi nodes can transfer data without losing wireless speed like traditional network repeaters
- It can provide a whole house wireless signal by blanketing the WiFi signal all over the place
The main disadvantages of mesh wireless networks are as follow:
- Best Price - single mesh network nodes are usually the price of a top WiFi router
- Stability - while even the best wireless routers have to deal with all the connected wireless devices, a mesh WiFi node has to deal with those devices and the rest of mesh nodes. That creates lots of network traffic and the mesh nodes need to be 100% stable in order to perform adequately.
- Latency - sometimes the WiFi signal has to travel wirelessly from mesh node to mesh node to get to you so signal latency might get higher than usual in the best cast - not ideal for wireless gaming, for example
- Power Consumption - while the mesh nodes don't consume a whole lot of power, it can really add up if you are using a number of WiFi devices.
Who can benefit from a Whole Home Mesh Wireless System?
You have a agree with me when I say that mesh Wi-Fi is not for everyone. In reality, there is no need to spend money on mesh W-Fi router if you live in a single story house or a small apartment. A good wireless router should be able to cover most small houses and apartments. Big houses and multi-story buildings are a whole different ballgame. They can hugely benefit from a whole home mesh system, especially is they are currently experiencing dead spots of wireless coverage. Most routers, if any, cannot effectively provide reliable Wi-Fi signal over more than two floors apart. Even in a traditional family house, you can find areas with a questionable W-Fi signal strength. Mesh wireless networks usually solves that problem and you can add as many nodes as you like to the system without severely impacting speed and bandwidth.
The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router Systems Reviews
I think it is time to take a look at the top ten WiFi systems on the market for 2018. After we mentioned all the pros and cons of the mesh wireless routers, let’s take a look at some of the top systems we tested in the office recently.
Some of them excel while others are a bit of a disappointment, although not terrible. For example, the Ubiquity AmpliFi is not really a proper mesh WiFi router system, but it can deliver decent results in the right set of hands.
Some of the best mesh routers systems for whole home coverage is the Netgear Orbi as it seems to tick all the bells and whistles that we think are important for a solid wireless network performance.
1. Netgear Orbi – The Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network System
Until recently, the Netgear Orbi wireless kit wasn’t a proper mesh wireless networking solution but a mere router and an extender setup. Netgear fixed that recently with their “daisy chain support” firmware which transformed the Orbi into a full blown mesh WiFi router network system. Now all the Orbi wireless nodes can talk and communicate with each other wirelessly regardless of which one is the router and which the wireless extender.
The Netgear Orbi is an interesting bird too. While in theory, it is a tri-band system with six high-powered antennas, it uses the second 5Ghz band exclusively for background communication between the nodes. While it is labeled as an AC3000 wireless, the consumer is left with a mere 1266Mbps wireless bandwidth divided between the 5GHz and the 2.4Ghz bands, making it an actual dual-band network device. The 5G band gets a total band of 866Mbps and the rest is going to the 2.4G – 400Mbps. A whole of 5GHz 1733Mbps is reserved for backhaul communication between the Orbi nodes. Let’s take a look at the results we managed to record:
Netgear Orbi Wireless Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
The positives far outweigh the negatives, though – the Orbi is the first wireless system that feels like a decent network router kit and no wonders we decided it is the top one. Setup is easy and intuitive and the Orbi finally offers a web-based graphical interface that can be accessed from a computer connected to the network. That’s a breath of fresh air compared to the Google WiFi and the Linksys Velop listed above. It has quite a lot of advanced options compared to the latter too – port forwarding, MU-MIMO like a proper router, beamforming and lots more.
There are more Gigabit LAN network adapters on each unit than both Google WiFi and the Velop systems – three on the main router and four on each of the network satellites. There is a USB 2.0 port too on each unit. The USB, according to the Genie App can only be used to share printers over the wireless network, but we tried connecting a USB hard drive and we were able to access its contents over the network. Maybe with a new firmware system update, they will fix that eventually.
There are a few downsides of the wireless system too. For starters, like most mesh systems, it can’t work behind an existing router – it needs to connect straight to the internet modem or you will lose important networking features. The second one, which is existing in both systems mentioned above, is the inability to set separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands. That’s not a big deal for most people, but I, for one, like to have them separately. Guest networking is available, on the other hand.
Overall, the Netgear Orbi is a solid system with many positives and a few minor shortcomings. Highly recommended for both novice and advanced users if you can get by the high price tag.
2. Google WiFi – The Best Selling Mesh Wireless Router
Google WiFi‘s team took over four years to design and compete with Google’s whole home wireless system but I can’t help the fact that it feels a bit “simplistic” and featureless system than most. I just can’t find a better way to describe it so let’s take a quick look at the most important wireless networking specs and features. It works great for the most part and it is a perfect set and forget networking system.
Let’s start with the wireless speed – the Google wireless system offers dual-band 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands simultaneously. Top wireless speed is AC1200 or roughly 1200Mbps. It is not a lot but today’s networking standards, but it can easily saturate the most common home broadband internet connections. It supports wireless beamforming and it is Bluetooth smart connect ready. It also automatically measures wireless network performance and optimizes the channel for minimum interference. Firmware updates are automatic too and there is no need to do anything about it.
It comes in two router packages – one as a single unit and the other is a pack of three wireless nodes. The single router is designed to theoretically cover an area of around 1200 square feet and the pack of three nodes is designed to theoretically cover an area of around 4000 square feet, give or take.
Each Google router is powered by a USB-C port and it has two Gigabit LAN network ports that can be used for connection between the nodes themselves, to a broadband internet modem or other network system devices.
While the Google wireless routers are pretty cool to look at and have a very nice, minimalistic system design, they are nothing to write home about in terms of features and wireless performance. The speed is OK for the most part, but the drop in network speed with each mesh extension leads me to believe that there is no dedicated channel for backhaul communication between the separate routers and each extension virtually cuts the speed in half. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Google WiFi Mesh Network Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see above, Google WiFi is a capable mesh wireless router performer if your internet broadband connection is slower than 100 Mbps. If you have to wirelessly connect over two or more mesh nodes apart from the main one your Wi-Fi signal speed will suffer significantly.
The Google Mesh WiFi router is pretty basic in terms of setting up and configuring. It is perfect for inexperienced and non-tech inclined wireless households as it doesn’t offer ANY advanced networking features. No DyDNS, no network port forwarding, no wireless band separation, no Wi-Fi channel selection and certainly no QoS or anything like that. Yes, the Google WiFi parental controls are well executed and they work well. Yes, you can group network devices and pause them, but there is no MAC address filtering, no static IPs network addresses to certain devices, no DMZ zones, no manual wireless traffic prioritization. I can go on, but I’ll stop here.
To set up the Wi-Fi mesh router system you will need to connect it to your whole home broadband network via a router or a modem – there is no internet modem included in the Google mesh system. Even worse, Google WiFi cannot properly work behind a router either – it needs just a modem to function properly. If your ISP provides you with a wireless modem/router combo you can certainly use them together but only if you set the provided router in modem only mode or all the features that make the Google mesh system unique will be disabled.
What’s more is that it can’t be set up without a Google account. You have to have a Google or Gmail account to use the mesh Wi-Fi system. Also, it has to have a constant network connection with Google servers in order to work. It shares network data over the internet with Google and to me, personally, that’s a major privacy concern. It might be a bit of paranoia on my end, but I really can’t help feeling that my internet privacy is in danger and I might be sharing a little more data with Google that I’d like to.
Overall, the Google WiFi system is a very popular mesh wireless system, but it has more than a few shortcomings. The wireless network performance is pretty good if you don’t extend the mesh routers over more than one node. It is very simple to use and the price is right, but we feel that the Tenda Nova MW6 is a capable opponent that maybe offers just a bit more mesh networking features for a lot less money.
3. Linksys Velop – Runner Up
The Linksys Velop mesh wireless networking kit comes with a solid price tag and solid networking specs too. Unlike Google Wifi, the Velop mesh wireless system features a tri-band with a single 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands.
That’s where the differences between Google Wifi and the Velop mesh systems finish, pretty much.
The Linksys Velop mesh offers a very similar configuration to the Google WiFi option – three router nodes pack for a somewhat similar price tag. See, the Velop mesh system used to be very expensive – it was often seen above the $500 mark, but recently the prices dropped and it could be found in the $400 dollars around Christmas and Black Friday. It seems that it have dropped again recently too.
Each Velop mesh router node features two gigabit LAN network ports for wired connection to either a modem, existing wireless router or between the mesh nodes themselves. There is an On/Off switch on the bottom of each unit as well as a power plug.
The Velop Mesh Wireless, just like Google, doesn’t feature a USB port and you can’t connect any USB peripherals that can be shared to the network – like external hard drives, printers and such.
Wireless network performance is overall acceptable, but operating stability was iffy at best in our tests. Let’s take a look at the wireless speed numbers:
Linksys Velop Mesh System Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the Velop wireless network speed tests above, the Linksys mesh router can saturate most home broadband internet conenctions of up to and above 100 Mbps. If you have anything faster than that, we are a bit envious, to be honest - you have some of the best internet providers out there. Besides that, you can't really take full advantage of your internet connection speed with a full Linksys Velop mesh system.
True, you might get decent wireless speed at the first mesh router node, but if you hop over to a second or a third node down the whole home network chain the speed drops significantly. Not that you’re supposed to daisy-chain a mesh network and use it as wireless extenders setup, but having just one radio for each wireless channel means that the Velop is basically an extender that cuts wireless speed in half due to having to use the same radio for backhaul communication between both the client nodes and the main home mesh router.
Settting up the Linksys Velop Wi-Fi is both easy and complicated at the same time. The Velop mesh router, just like Google WiFi, doesn’t have a built-in graphical interface. You have to use the proprietary Linksys App available for both iOS and Android devices. It takes a bit to get it right too – we had issues connecting to the system initially, but that might’ve been due to a bug in the app. The second try everything was smooth as butter.
The main problem is that the Velop WiFi system doesn’t work behind most traditional routers. Just like Google WiFi, you’ll have to connect it straight to an internet modem or lots of important networking features simply won’t work. That was the initial problem we had when trying to set it up – it just couldn’t find the mesh system connected to our broadband router. See, some providers don’t offer just modems and insist on using their own proprietary routers and the Velop mesh, just like Google WiFi, doesn’t play well with others. You’ll lose port forwarding and lots of advanced network features, not that there are so many, to begin with.
Overall, the Linksys Velop mesh system is a decent wireless performer, but the price is way too high for the performance it delivers. If I have to choose between the Velop vs Google WiFi – I’ll probably choose the Google mesh wireless router, as much as I have privacy concerns. The price is right, the performance is adequate and it is a truly a set and forget wireless network.
4. Eero WiFi Router System – What Started It All
Let’s take a look at the second generation Eero mesh wireless system from the startup that actually triggered the whole mesh network revolution that we are witnessing today. The Eero mesh comes in a plethora of different kits and configurations – there are two “Home” editions with either one or two wireless Beacons or a “Pro” edition with three full-featured Eero mesh routers.
The main difference between the first and the second generations of Eero is the introduction of the satellite units called Beacons. The wireless beacons are not full-featured mesh nodes like the previous version, but they have a few interesting features that somewhat make up for it and I’ll cover those in a bit.
Let’s start with the Eero mesh Wi-Fi system design. It resembles the same slick square router box like the first generation. It offers two Gigabit network ports for wired communication and a single USB-C port for power supply. The old style power connector has been removed, but the previous USB 3.0 port has been scraped as well. Unfortunately, the Gigabit network ports are available only on the main Eero routers, the Beacons extenders don’t have those and they can’t be connected to the main Eero routers with a wired network connection.
In terms of networking features, the Eero, unlike the Orbi system above, can take full use of all three wireless bands, but the speed is a bit limited compared to the Orbi setup. The main Eero mesh router has a top speed of 240Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band and up to 600Mbps on each 5GHz band. The Eero Beacon extenders have only two separate bands though – one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz.
Let’s take a quick look at the wireless performance of the Eero system:
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the table above, the Eero is a competent performer but not really in the league of the Orbi system, let alone the expansion and customization options available in the latter.
While the Eero Beacons have limited connectivity, they have one really cool feature – the LED lights on the bottom of the Eero unit can illuminate around the area where they are plugged in. This is very useful if you connect them in a hallway or a dark room – they will help you navigate dark places at night without turning the lights.
Let’s take a look at the shortcomings of the Eero mesh wireless system.
The first and main one is the absence of a USB port. For people who want to share USB printers and external hard drives over the network that will be a disappointment.
The second one, almost equally important, is the absence of the option to connect the Eero and the Beacons via an ethernet cable. While this is not an issue for most people, it might be a breaking point for some of the more advanced users of Eero.
The third one is becoming a trend in recent mesh wireless devices – the absence of web interface and advanced features. While the Eero wireless does sport beamforming and MU-MIMO, there is no user customizable traffic prioritization or QoS.
Eero claims that it is all automatic and it runs in the background, but I really think it would be nice to prioritize your online gaming when you are in a heated session over anything else, for example.
Another issue is the so-called Eero Plus – a subscription-based security and parental controls. It offers grand services “advanced protection”, “SafeSearch” and AdBlock / Content Filtering but for a steep price. They want to charge $9.95 for them a month or a single year license for $99. That’s pretty expensive for a set of features available as standard no more wireless routers sold today for a fraction of the price.
5. TP-Link Deco M5 – A Speedy Mesh Performer
Let’s take a look a the TP-Link mesh wireless routers system – the Deco M5. It comes in a few different router kits, as well as a single mesh unit. Unlike some of the network systems above, the TP-Link Deco M5 has no dedicated main router and less equiped mesh satellites – all Deco M5 mesh nodes can play both roles equally – of both main router and an extender.
The Deco M5 router units are capable mesh network performers. The feature dual-band wireless networking with a theoretical output of 1267Mbps maximum speed. That translated to up to 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 867Mbps on the 5Ghz band. They all have four internal antennas and support 2x2 multiuser – multiple input/multiple output connection – MU-MIMO.
Each Deco M5 router node has two gigabit network adapters on the back and a single USB-C connection for the power adapter. What it doesn’ have, as typical for mesh router systems, is a built-in internet modem. The TP-Link Deco will have to be plugged in straight to the modem if you want all the best network features to work – port forwarding, DNS and stuff like that. It doesn’t support manual DNS or IP settings and we couldn’t get the M5 to work with a network printer connected to the original mesh router that initially we used as a starting point of the wireless network.
Being a dual-band mesh Wi-Fi system led us to believe that the network performance might be lacking compared to the Eero and the Velop systems but that couldn’t be further away from the truth. The TP-Link mesh Wi-Fi router managed to blanket my two story house with a consistent and quite speedy wireless network signal. Take a look at the speed results:
TP-Link Deco M5 Mesh Wi-Fi Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the TP-Link Deco wireless speed test table above, the network system is one of the fastest mesh Wi-Fi routers on the market today. Quite stable performance too – we didn’t experience any WiFi lags or drop-outs.
Setting up the TP-Link Deco M5 mesh router system is very similar to most router systems we have reviews for, but unlike the Orbi WiFi, it too doesn’t have a web interface. To connect to the Deco M5 system you’ll have to download the Deco app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. It uses Bluetooth wireless connection to get the first Deco router connected to the internet. Once it verifies the connection it will ask to setup wireless network names and all the advanced networking options. We had a few issues connecting to the Bluetooth signal of the Deco M5 router and evidently, we’re not alone – quite a few reviewers report the same thing. We managed to get it working at the end but it took a few tries before it actually connected and started working.
Talking about advanced networking options, the TP-Link mesh Wi-Fi is very similar to the rest of the mesh routers family we have on this list – it can’t really compete with a full-fledged wireless router. It provides no guest WiFi networking and you aren’t even able to hide your wireless network name from your neighbors. It has basic port forwarding and traffic prioritization with five separate profiles – gaming, streaming, chatting, surfing and regular. Gaming network performance over Wi-Fi is questionable even with a good gaming wireless router so I wouldn’t imagine having a great ping in 3D shooters connecting over more than one mesh WiFi nodes.
There is another interesting feature of the TP-Link mesh setup. it comes with a three years subscription to Trend Micro antivirus protection for the whole network. Parental controls are well executed too – you can block certain websites from network access, you can stop or pause network groups when you don’t want the kids accessing the internet and so on.
Overall the Tp-Link Deco mesh is a very capable WiFi system at an affordable price. It has all the advanced features that Google WiFi mesh is missing and the price is quite right too – typical for TP-Link products. It is much faster than the previous two networking kits and it comes highly recommended by the Zilla Best staff.
6. Zyxel Multy X AC3000 – Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router For Large Houses
The Zyxel Multy X is a capable AC3000 mesh wireless network system. Unlike most mesh Wi-Fi systems on this review, the Zyxel mesh router system resembles an ordinary WiFi router more than anything else that we have tested on this comparison review. It’s quite big and bulky compared to the likes of Google WiFi system, for example. The mesh kit comes with a set of two wireless devices with theoretical Wi-Fi network speeds of up to AC3000 or 3200mbps.
Any of the Zyxel WiFi routers can be used as a main or a satellite, there are no differences between them. Each mesh node has four separate Gigabit LAN network ports on the back along with a USB port, power connection, and a hidden router reset button. Each node sports tri-band WiFi networking – a combination of a single 2.4GHz band and dual 5GHz network connections with a WiFi transmission speed of up to 3000Mbps.
Setting up the Zyxel whole home mesh kit is done using the proprietary Multy X app that is available for most mobile phones and tablets. It is an easy process that usually doesn’t take too much time at home, unlike the Luma WiFi experience. Once connected to the Bluetooth wireless network, you just have to go through a quick questionnaire about the home network system name, house location, and security settings. Once that is complete you can proceed to add the second router to extend your home WiFi coverage.
The plethora of network ports and USB connectivity make the Zyxel home mesh WiFi system a very well positioned house product. You can connect external hard drives and printers to the USB 2.0 port and share them effortlessly around the network. Parental controls and guest networking are executed fluently as well but you can see that in our separate Zyxel review.
Let’s take a look at the results we managed to achieve with Zyxel Multy X whole house mesh WiFi router system:
Zyxel Multi X mesh WiFi Network Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the speed review above, the Multy X is one of the fastest mesh WiFi router systems on the market today. They don’t seem to cut the WiFi signal like most basic extenders do either. I couldn’t find much information whether the Zyxel has a dedicated channel for backhaul communication between the two mesh nodes, but it certainly seems so according to the speed tests. I can’t back this claim with any technical data as I don’t have access to the Zyxel’s data – just an opinion and speed review results.
The Zyxel Multy X mesh system is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and you can tell Alexa to turn off the WiFi internet, turn off certain groups or disable the guest network by using your voice. It has some advanced network features like port forwarding and traffic prioritization but all this stuff works if you are behind a modem only. If you are behind an existing wireless router you won’t be able to see connected devices in the same network as the original router. The Zyxel mesh doesn’t support network bridge hence the invisibility of shared computers and storage devices on the same network.
Overall, the Zyxel is a capable mesh WiFi router system with plenty of advanced networking options. It works well with Amazon Alexa, it provides very fast wireless speeds with a very few if any, faults. Maybe the biggest review drawback is that the Zyxel mesh system is big and bulky and there is not much difference between most traditional WiFi routers and the Zyxel Multy X whole home system in terms of appearance.
7. Tenda MW6 Nova Wave – The Top Budget Mesh
Tenda is a relatively unknown networking equipment manufacturer from China. You might have seen their budget range home WiFi routers and wireless extenders in various sales and stores, but we didn’t have anything impressive to say about them up until now, to be honest. The Tenda Nova MW6 mesh system , however, is a whole different networking beast. It seems like a really well-made WiFi kit and it puts up a serious fight in the budget home mesh WiFi routers segment.
The Nova MW6 WiFi kit costs significantly less compared to most mesh router systems on this review list, but the network performance is not that far behind, especially considering the price. The Tenda mesh home wifi system comes in a pack of three separate router nodes. They are very well made white cubes. Each Tenda router has two Gigabit network ports on the back of it – one for internet connection and one for whole home network devices. There is no USB port but you can really expect one for the price of the router system.
The Tenda Nova MW6 mesh system has a dual-band wireless setup with a network speed of up to 1167Mbps. That translates to a max of 300Mbps on the 2.4Ghz WiFi band and up to 869Mbps on the 5Ghz band. Of course, these wireless speeds are theoretical and conneceted devices can rarely reach these maximums. MU-MIMO is present and working well, as well as a 3×3 network streams. Let’s take a look at what the Tenda MW6 can do in terms of WiFi routing performance:
Tenda Nova MW6 Wave WiFi Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the WiFi speed review above, the Tenda performance is not bad per se, but nothing to write home about either. It is clear that the Nova MW6 mesh wireless router has no dedicated backhaul network channel and it effectively cuts WiFi data transmission in half with each router node extension. Of course, home mesh networking doesn’t really work by extending each wireless signal in a daisy chain. It works by blanketing your whole home in WiFi signal. All mesh router nodes communicate with each other wirelessly and they work together to ensure the best home WiFi connection possible at all times. In most cases, you will not see a router extension of more than one mesh node away.
The Nova MW network and WiFi setup is pretty simple – it works pretty much like all the rest of the home mesh WiFi systems on this review. Once you connect it to your internet modem and it indicated that it is connected, you can use the Tenda WiFi app to connect and set up all the important network features.
Speaking of the Nova MW6 advanced networking features, there aren’t really many to talk about. Besides naming your wireless network and setting the password, the Tenda router is pretty basic overall. There is no network traffic prioritization or QoS. Port forwarding is present, although it is very basic. There are no network DMZ zones or anything like that. Bridge networking is not present either.
Overall, Tenda’s MW6 home mesh WiFi system is a very good router kit for a very good price. It rivals Google WiFi in terms of simplicity and easy of use. It offers very close wireless network performance as well for a very lucrative price. We really think that the Tenda MW6 Nova router is the best budget mesh wireless system. You can see the full Tenda Nova MW6 review here.
8. Asus Lyra Home Wi-Fi System – Disappointing Router Kit
Asus is one of the most interesting players in the gaming and accessories market. Arguably, it makes some of the best gaming wireless routers – such as the ASUS ROG GT-AC5300, which edged all the competition in our gaming wireless routers review. Naturally, our expectation for the Asus Lyra whole home WiFi system is quite high. So let’s take a look at the mesh routers kit and see what we are up against.
The Asus Lyra system comes in two variations – Lyra WiFi and Lyra Mini. They both arrive in a pack of three router nodes and it seems that the only difference between the two is the top wireless network speed. The “original” Lyra tops up at 2200Mbps while the Mini is only 1300Mbps. We’ll take a look at the big brother in this mesh WiFi review, but I’m sure the results with the Mini will be similar to some extent.
The Asus mesh WiFi is a tri-band wireless network system. It has two 5GHz wireless radios and a single 2.4GHz one. The speeds are 2x867Mbps on the 5GHz WiFi band and up to 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz one. Of course, these are theoretical wireless speeds and the real-life network performance can rarely get close to these as we can see in the tests review below:
Asus Lyra Mesh Wi-Fi Router Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the WiFi speed review, the results are average at best. Definitely not what we are used to expecting from any wireless routing system made by ASUS. Obviously, there is no dedicated backhaul channel for communication between the mesh nodes. That’s the main reason for the wireless speed drops with each extension.
There are a few positives, of course. Unlike the Ubiquity AmpliFi HD kit below, the Asus Lyra is a proper independent mesh WiFi system where each separate router can connect to every other node and there is no main router and WiFi extensions. Of course, one of the nodes that play the role of a router has to connect to an internet modem so it can get access to the net, but in reality, it doesn’t matter which wireless router is which – they all work the same.
On the back of the Asus Lyra Wi-Fi router there are two Gigabit Ethernet network connections. They can be used to connect to internet modems or other routers. What’s really cool about the Lyra mesh system is that you can use them to connect to other wired network devices. For example, if you have a remove desktop computer you can plug it to a nearby Lyra WiFi router without the necessity of having a wired network connection. Unfortunately, ASUS decided that we can’t connect the separate Lyra mesh nodes via an ethernet cable, so wired network connection between them is not going to work despite the available LAN ports.
Just like the Google WiFi system, there are no USB ports or access to any advanced networking features. If you want a proper Quality Of Service or any other advanced network feature, it might be better to stick with a regular wireless router that has those features. There is no web-based admin interface and the setting up the system is done via a mobile app – just like the rest of the mesh WiFi devices on this list. It is a pretty straight forward process and not nearly as complicated or troublesome as it is the case with the Linksys Velop, for example.
Overall, the Asus Lyra mesh wireless router system feels like a decent product, but the price and the WiFi performance are a bit off-putting. It is a pretty expensive whole home wireless kit and we feel that if the Lyra is within your budget, there is really no reason not to pay a bit more and get a much better performing Wi-Fi router kit – the Netgear Orbi, of course.
9. Luma Whole Home Wireless- Not A Bad Choice
The Luma wireless system comes in a variety of packages – you can get it as a single router, a pack of two or three units. They are a small, hexagonal nodes that unlike the rest of the systems on the list, are lined up vertically. The power cable on the back keeps them standing and prevents them from tipping over. Unlike the rest of the mesh nodes above, the Luma Wi-Fi system has a single light situated right in the middle of the device, not a bunch of fancy LED blinkers in all colors of the rainbow.
The Luma features a dual-band wireless capability with 2×2 antennas and MU-MIMO. Traffic management and beam forming are present too, but you can’t execute too much control over how they are working. The wireless speed tops up at AC1300 for both the 2.4GHz and the 5Ghz bands, which can not be separated manually.
The Luma is not a particularly powerful mesh router – actually is the lowest coverage single router on this list. The signal drops faster than any other system on the list, but that is meant to show us how the Luma is designed to be used – in a pack of two or more. A single Luma router can handle up to 10 connected devices. Let’s take a look at the Luma wireless performance figures we managed to achieve:
Luma Mesh Wi-Fi Network Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the speed review above, the Luma network speed performance is nothing to write home about. In the far corners of the whole house, where the signal is translated over more than a single node, the speed drops significantly. Some systems, like the Netgear Orbi, have a dedicated channel for backhaul communication between the networking nodes. Clearly, the Luma is not amongst those network systems and the wifi repeating function, in my opinion, is not very well executed.
Setting up the Luma, on the other hand, is quite easy and we didn’t encounter any issues like the ones we had with the TP-Link Deco M5 wireless system. It takes a bit of time so be prepared to wait mindlessly while it takes its time, but no problems connecting to the wireless network are to be expected – everything is automatic and well executed. The Luma, unfortunatelly, requires to be connected to Luma servers at all times, just like the Google WiFi requires constant connection to Google servers in order to work correctly. There is no Web interface, like with the Netgear Orbi system, and all settings are done via the app, which is available for both Android and iOS.
Adding another Luma router to the set is very easy. You just have to plug it in a power socket and connect it to the WiFi network with a few clicks on the app. You can choose its network name and home location from there too.
There are not many advanced features in the Luma WiFi system- you can’t use IPv6, you can’t separate the two wireless bands from each other, up until recently there were no options for DNS network changes either. The system supports WPA2 encryption only and older devices are excluded on firmware level. That means you won’t be able to connect older computers wirelessly to the Luma mesh if they don’t support WPA2.
Overall, the Luma router is fine for small homes that don’t require too much network speed or many advanced features. Currently it is one of the cheapest whole home mesh router systems on Amazon so it is a best buy for most houses. If you have a strong wireless router that covers your whole home already I’d steer away from the Luma – there are better whole home coverage options there.
10. Ubiquity’s AmpliFi HD – Decent Setup But Not Mesh
We all know Ubiquity’s products – high-end networking devices aimed at corporate and business customers. While they do provide stable and fast office wireless networking, setting those products up at home was a total nightmare for anyone without a good education in computer networking. AmpliFi HD Mesh Wireless aims to change that – it offers an easy set up via both web interface and iOS/Android app.
The Ubiquity kit is actually one of the first to pioneer the idea of mesh networking at home and suggest the concept of whole home WiFi. The kit comes in the familiar style of the Eero mesh wireless – a main router and two satellites. Of course, you can add more satellites as you wish, but the base kit comes with two.
The main router is a beautifully designed piece of technology with some frustrating limitations, as we will see below. The front LED display is quite big at 1.6″ and it can be used to show time and some wireless connectivity. A tap on the screen will show how much bandwidth has been used and a second tap will reveal the connection status, the number of devices connected and the respective IP addresses. You can even place it on the living room or in the kitchen and use it as a table clock.
The main AmpliFi HD router also sports glowing LED strips at the bottom. On the back of the router’s body, you can find four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB port, a dedicated WAN Gigabit port and a USB-C power connection. Currently, the USB port has no use whatsoever – it simply doesn’t work. We tried plugging a hard drive and a flash drive to it, but there were no sharing capabilities or signs of life from the USB port. For all intended purposes, it might as well not be there. It is marked “for future use” on the Ubiquity website.
The AmpliFi HD is a dual band mesh wireless system with a top speed of AC1750. This means that it can deliver theoretical speeds of up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300Mbps on the 5G. When I say theoretically, I do have something in mind as our tests couldn’t reach anywhere near these limits and, on that note, it’s time to take a look at the results of our tests.
Ubiquity’s AmpliFi HD Wireless Speed Test
Speed At 3ft
Speed At 15ft
As you can see from the results above, the Ubiquity system is nothing to write home about in terms of raw wireless performance. It is basically a main router with two extenders setup and no node is independent of one another – hence the three nodes result. We can’t daisy-chain them to increase distance like the Orbi or the Velop, where every router can be an independent on its own.
Another thing that we see from the tests is that the AmpliFi HD doesn’t have a dedicated channel for backhaul communication between the nodes like the Orbi. Every extender drops the speed in half since it uses the same channel for communication between the client and the main router. We don’t really know if the two satellite extenders communicate with each other, but given the tests, it’s highly unlikely.
The things the AmpliFi have going for it is the 3×3 beam system, putting it ahead of the competition compared to the 2×2 systems used by most other wireless kits on this list – the GoogleWiFi, Eero and the Velop are all using that. The only wireless system that beats it is the Orbi, which offer 2×2 client connection, but it backs it up by a 4×4 setup for communication between the units, hence greatly improving performance and wireless speed when moving around a large house.
Let’s start with the things we don’t really like about the AmpliFi HD. the first thing to pop in mind are the extenders. Instead of nice and small nodes resembling that beauty of a main router, Ubiquity decided to go with tall, bulky extenders that you have to plug in electric sockets directly. They are hideous to look at and a total nightmare for people with small children. They are a kid magnet and they will get destroyed eventually in the process. The magnetic connection between the two parts of the extenders is a nice touch, but once separated they stop working so for people with kids I would not recommend the AmpiFi HD.
While the main router has plenty of wired connection ports, none are available on the extenders. There is no option to wire the extenders to the main router in order to provide more stable connection and free some of the wireless traffic. You can’t plug any networked attached storage or a remote computer to it either.
The setup is fairly easy and the AmpliFi has a web-based interface, unlike most kits on this list. While it can be accessed from a computer, you can’t really do much with it besides setting up the initial password and connect Internet. Everything else will need the mobile app – setting up WiFi passwords, advanced settings and all that.
Overall, the Ubiquity’s AmpliFi HD system is as average as it gets. Performance is average, there are no dedicated channels for communication between the units, the USB is there, but absent at the same time. We can’t really recommend it to anyone, especially with the fact that you can extend your existing router’s signal with two wireless extenders and get pretty similar, if not better results.
Final Words And What To Buy
That’s a tough question and the answer is not as simple as it sounds. Clearly, from our tests and all the network systems that we tested, the Netgear Orbi is the clear winner of the “Top Mesh Wireless Device Of 2018” award. It ticks all the boxes for us – wireless speed, dedicated backhaul communication channel, USB port that actually works…There is more, but it comes with a price. It is not terribly expensive, but for almost half the price you can get the best selling Google WiFi. While it doesn’t offer the fastest wireless speed or all the features of the Orbi, the Google product is a capable performer with an excellent range and consistent signal throughout even in challenging house configurations. Given you’re willing to void some privacy rights and provide data to Google, of course.
If you don’t have the budget for any of the $200 and up systems, Tenda has the perfect solution for you – the Tenda Nova MW6. Excellent speed and set of features, but not very advanced and user-friendly. Excellent for the price, though!
The Zyxel is as close as you can get to an ordinary wireless router without sacrificing speed and range. It comes in an unusual two units setup that works great. Decent signal and set of features, it even has web GUI! The price is right too if you can live with the Zyxel brand.
We really wanted to see more from Asus and Linksys. They are both quite disappointing, especially the ASUS unit. We really had high hopes for the Lyra but it is definitely not our cup of tea, especially knowing our fondness for ASUS routing devices.
Ubiquity disappoints as well. On our top routers review we wholeheartedly recommended the Edge Router X combo with some of the access points the company offers. However, we really feel that the AmpliFi HD is not the great product one expects from the company. It is bulky, clunky and a really strong kids magnet. It will get destroyed sooner or later. It is not even a proper mesh networking kit – it is a simple design with a main router and a set of extenders. One can get a much cheaper solution than that can even achieve higher speeds too.
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