Downstairs, where my router is located, I have excellent 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi coverage. Everything works great; the smart TV, my SmartThings hub, and a decent quantity of smart home devices. Upstairs, however, and particularly in my master bedroom, which is directly opposite from the router’s location on the first floor, not so much. I have a decent PC (with a WiFi card), a smart TV, Fire Cube, and a couple of smart plugs. Sometimes, these WiFi devices work fine, but I frequently have spotty coverage… Either my lamp won’t turn on, or I can’t watch Hulu.
So, for a while now, I’ve had a growing impulse to start butchering the walls in my laundry room. Not just for stress relief, of course, but for the purpose of running Ethernet cable down from the 2nd floor to the 1st. The plan would be to add an outlet with an RJ-45 port on both ends. Downstairs, I would have a short patch cable running to my existing router, and upstairs, I would add a wireless access point.
Why Run A Wire When A Radio Will Do?
While this is a tempting option, the prices on mesh WiFi routers and systems have been coming down. With that being the case, the amount of work involved in running Ethernet is starting to look pretty painful. Considering it’s now around the same cost to pick up a Mesh WiFi system, I’d say it’s time to shell out a few bucks for some fancy new wireless tech.
Whenever I shop for something like this, I like to see what’s out there and find the best fit for the best price. This is especially the case for something that potentially crosses the $100-$200 price point.
Often, for a purchase like this, I’ll make a spreadsheet comparing features and pricing. Yup… And, because I’m an Amazon Prime member, I tend to look for things that I can order on Amazon. I like the fast shipping and feel that I can trust the review and return systems.
So, without further ado, let me save you some time and share with you my picks from the mesh WiFi systems on Amazon in 2020. I’ll give you my picks from various categories, so you can find something that will fit your situation.
- What Is Mesh WiFi? – A Brief Overview
- My Picks For Best Mesh WiFi Systems On Amazon In 2020
- Best Mesh WiFi System For Very Large Homes
- Top-Shelf Mesh WiFi For Early Adopters
- Quality Mesh WiFi On A Budget
- Mesh WiFi For Gamers
- Mesh WiFi For Samsung SmartThings Users
- Best Mesh WiFi System If You Only Want Two Mesh WiFi Routers
- Best Mesh WiFi System If You Want Four Routers
- Mesh WiFi With Advanced Security & Parental Controls
- Additional Information About Mesh WiFi
What Is Mesh WiFi? – A Brief Overview
To put it very simply, mesh WiFi routers or mesh WiFi systems are 2, 3, or more wireless routing devices that work together to provide WiFi coverage throughout your home.
While the range of a standard WiFi router is often listed as between 50 and 150 feet, this is under ideal conditions. True performance will vary based on the router and protocol that is used.
Additionally, the presence of other devices sharing bandwidth within the WiFi band, and any obstructions in your home that might impede the wireless signal (things like, you know, walls and flooring).
With this being the case, standard WiFi routers cannot provide complete coverage in many homes. As I mention above, this is the case currently in my own home, and in my master bedroom, nonetheless.
Wireless Access Points And WiFi Range Extenders
Also as mentioned above, if the homeowner would like to rectify the situation, historically one would have to run Ethernet cable through the walls from the current router to the new floor or side of the home. Once terminated on both ends, a wireless access point could be installed in the remote location to extend wireless coverage. Another alternative is a WiFi range extender, which would certainly save you the trouble of tearing into the wall.
While these are valid alternatives, they have their drawbacks. As an example, with wireless access points or extenders, the extender and router are separate devices. As such, they each provide their own WiFi network. This can be a problem for laptops, tablets, or phones that are connected to your wireless network. As you move throughout the house, you may have to disconnect from one network and connect to the next.
Another problem can arise when stationary devices like smart TV’s and home automation equipment are located where coverage comes and goes between the router and extender. In these cases, you may have to login to the device that’s not getting signal and change its network settings. Kinda takes the “automation” out of the “home automation”.
Difference Between A WiFi Range Extender And Mesh WiFi
This is where mesh WiFi systems come in. Mesh WiFi systems are identical routers (or routers plus extenders, or “satellites”) that form one overlapping network throughout your home. If you move through the house, you automatically connect to the mesh device with which you have the strongest signal. Because the mesh WiFi routers are programmed to work together, they can more intelligently route packets to and from your home’s routers and devices. It’s the newest stage of home LAN technology, basically.
If you’re curious to learn more about mesh WiFi systems and mesh WiFi routers, I’ve included some of the info and links I gathered as I was researching my own system. Check the additional information section below for further reading.
My Picks For Best Mesh WiFi Systems On Amazon In 2020
As one last note before getting to the good stuff, let me qualify what I mean when I say that this is the best mesh WiFi system in 2020. I’m assuming, for one, that you live in at least a 2,000 square foot home, with either 2 or more stories or a very large ranch home. With your stand-alone wireless router, you have spotty coverage, and you want to upgrade to a mesh WiFi system.
The More, The Merrier
If the 2-packs were significantly cheaper than the 3-packs, I would just recommend a 2-pack. But, kits with 3 mesh WiFi routers or 1 mesh router and 2 satellites have come down in price to the point that I believe the 3-pack will be an excellent fit for most applications, including my own.
I guess what I’m saying is: if the difference in price is negligible, I would prefer the freedom to place 3 devices where I need them (instead of 2) to maximize my WiFi coverage. I have a 2-story home without a basement, and I’m buying a 3-pack so I can place one mesh device at the cable modem inlet, one in the kitchen, and one upstairs in the laundry room to ensure that my whole house will be covered. The placement of my cable jack against an exterior wall puts me at a sub-optimal starting point for WiFi coverage. If you’re like me, or if you have 2 stories plus a basement, I would think a mesh WiFi system with 3 devices would be a must-have.
If you would prefer to just pick up a system with 2 mesh devices, you may save a few bucks. Click here for my recommendations for 2-device mesh WiFi systems. Or, if 3 is not enough for you, click here for systems with 4 mesh WiFi devices.
Criteria For Best Mesh WiFi Systems In 2020
With all of that in mind, to me, the best mesh Wifi system fits the following criteria:
- 3 mesh WiFi devices (3 routers, or 1 router with 2 satellites)
- Reasonably priced (I’m ok paying a little extra if the performance is improved over the cheapest models)
- Performs reasonably well (I’m ok if it’s not the absolute newest & best device on the market, if the price tag is reasonable)
- So, for instance, it wasn’t a priority for me at this time to spend an extra $200 to get a tri-band mesh Wifi system
Under those criteria, here’s my pick for the best mesh Wifi system available on Amazon in 2020:
Overall Best Mesh WiFi System On Amazon In 2020
My pick, and the mesh WiFi system that I’ll be purchasing for my own home, is the TP-Link Deco M4 Whole Home Mesh WiFi System.
I like this mesh WiFi system because I feel it’s the best all-around kit, with great coverage, at an affordable price point.
A key feature for me is that this system supports a massive number of device connections. If you are a smart home enthusiast, and especially if you have a ton of sensors, lights, etc., you may want a mesh WiFi router that’s capable of supporting a large number of wireless devices.
While many of the other mesh kits on this list can support 40, 50, or even 60 or more devices, the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh WiFi system is able to support over 100 devices. For this reason, in addition to being the best overall kit, I’m also calling this the “Best Mesh WiFi System For Smart Homes”.
With excellent ratings and more than 5,000 square feet of coverage, this system is a great choice. Other key features include:
- Won the JD Power Award for Highest In Customer Satisfaction 2017 & 2019
- Dual-band WiFi (2.4GHz & 5GHz networks)
- Voice commands through Alexa
- Parental controls, app, guest network, etc.
Best Mesh WiFi System For Very Large Homes
If you have a very large home, or if you want to make sure that you have wireless coverage in your guest house or shop, you may want to consider a mesh WiFi system with massive wireless range. The Netgear Orbi RBK53 mesh WiFi system boasts up to 7,500 square feet of WiFi coverage.
Using Tri-Band technology, the Netgear Orbi system has not only insane range, but insane speed as well. Here are the highlights for this mesh WiFi router & satellites:
- Speeds up to 3Gbps
- Massive 7,500 square feet of coverage
- 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports on each device (1 of the 2 on the router has to plug into your modem)
Top-Shelf Mesh WiFi For Early Adopters
If you’ve gotta have the latest and greatest, fastest and best, then here it is: the Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router.
What’s so great about this kit? True to its name, the Linksys Velop WiFi 6 is a WiFi Generation 6 device. Remember the huge speed increase from single-band (2.4GHz) to dual-band (2.4GHz & 5GHz) devices? WiFi 6 is the next generation past the 2.4/5 GHz router you likely own currently.
The WiFi Alliance has finally made life a little easier on us by simplifying the monikers for generations of WiFi devices. Your current 2.4GHz + 5GHz device was previously part of the “802.11ac” WiFi standard.
The 802.11ac standard has been rebranded as “WiFi 5”. A bit more straightforward when trying to keep track of which WiFi generation you’re working with.
WiFi 6 is the latest and greatest WiFi technology, and the Linksys Velop WiFi 6 mesh WiFi router kit can support transfer rates as high as 5.3 Gbps. This WiFi 6 router also integrates MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and BSS Coloring technologies (more on these below) to make wireless transmission through your home more efficient.
Quality Mesh WiFi On A Budget
Looking for an inexpensive option? There are some decent kits on the market that you can pick up for a very reasonable price. One such mesh WiFi system is the TP Link Deco M3.
The Deco M3 Whole Home Mesh WiFi System comes with one router and two plug-in satellites. Like many of the other kits on this list, the TP-Link Deco M3 system offers dual-band wireless and MU-MIMO technologies to provide a fast wireless experience.
Additionally, you’ll still enjoy many of the commonly available features, such as parental controls, voice control through Alexa, and worldwide control through the Deco app… All at a very affordable price.
Mesh WiFi For Gamers
This next system was built with gamers in mind. Using tri-band wireless technology, the NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XRM570 WiFi Router and Mesh WiFi System offers blazing speeds and optimizes for low ping.
Using tri-band, this mesh WiFi system supports transfer speeds up to 2.6Gbps. Both the router and the mesh extender have Gigabit Ethernet ports. Using these ports, you can connect your PC, Xbox, PlayStation, or other gaming system to the Nighthawk devices via Ethernet cables and enjoy blazing fast speeds.
What’s really cool about the Netgear Nighthawk is the way that it prioritizes online gaming, and the level of control you get over your network:
This thing is really built to maximize your gameplay experience. If I played multiplayer FPS as much as I used to, this would definitely be my choice. I’m tempted to buy the thing anyway…
Mesh WiFi For Samsung SmartThings Users
If you’re a SmartThings user, you may want to consider Samsung’s SmartThings Mesh Router system.
On top of offering the benefits of a mesh network, Samsung’s SmartThings Mesh Router also works with your SmartThings and other home automation devices. Listing compatibility with Samsung, SmartThings, and “100+ compatible smart devices”, this system can serve as a mesh network for both your WiFi and home automation devices. SmartThings provides support for IoT devices using the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols (in addition, of course, to WiFi).
As a mesh WiFi system itself, SmartThings WiFi is not too shabby. Here are some of its key features:
- 1,500 square feet of coverage per device; up to 4,500 square feet covered with this kit
- You can add up to 32 additional routers to extend the SmartThings Mesh Router system to cover a massive area
- AI-based performance optimization
For SmartThings users, this Samsung kit has the potential to serve you very well, as it will provide coverage for both your WiFi and home automation devices.
Best Mesh WiFi System If You Only Want Two Mesh Routers
If you would prefer to pick up a kit with just two mesh WiFi routers, then here’s my recommendation:
If you’re set on having only two mesh devices, the Netgear Orbi RBK30-100NAS Whole Home Mesh WiFi System offers the greatest WiFi coverage for devices near its price point. This kit comes with the mesh router itself and the plug-in satellite device. The router has 3x Gigabit Ethernet ports for fast wired connections.
The Orbi RBK30-100NAS system utilizes high-performance Tri-Band technology. Using this technology, this Netgear system offers a maximum transfer rate around 2.2 Gbps and provides up to 3,500 square feet of wireless coverage.
Best Mesh WiFi System If You Want Four Routers
On the other hand, if you want to be able to place more than 3 routers, here’s an affordable mesh WiFi system that comes with 4 mesh devices:
With 1 router and 3 satellite devices, this 4-device Netgear Orbi RBK14-100NAS Whole House Mesh WiFi System gives you maximal freedom to place your mesh devices throughout your home.
Mesh WiFi With Advanced Security & Parental Controls
Last on the list is a mesh WiFi system designed for those who want extra security for their network. The Gryphon Guardian Advance Security & Parental Control Mesh WiFi Router is built for network security.
Designed to guard your network and wireless devices, the Gryphon mesh WiFi system lists the following security features:
- Hack protection
- AI-based intrusion detection
- ESET malware protection
- Ad blocker
- Device vulnerability scanning
In addition to the Gryphon Guardian’s security features, it also features dual-band WiFi with speeds up to 1.2Gbps.
Additional Information About Mesh WiFi
In researching this purchase, I had to familiarize myself with a lot of new terminology and technology that’s out on the market. Below, I’ll run through some of the concepts related to mesh WiFi, to help you as you decide which system will fit your needs.
Dual-Band WiFi Vs. Tri-Band WiFi
As mentioned above, “tri-band” WiFi is the next generation of WiFi.
Remember when your new router suddenly had two networks: a 2.4GHz and a 5GHz network? This type of router follows the 802.11ac, or “WiFi 5”, standard.
The Jump To WiFi 6
When you upgraded to a WiFi 5 router, your maximum theoretical throughput rate increased greatly. Similarly, WiFi 6’s theoretical throughput rate is much faster than that of WiFi 5.
Beyond simply improving potential max throughput, WiFi 6 is designed for today’s modern household or business and the Internet of Things. By that, I mean that WiFi 6 is designed to support many devices and many simultaneous wireless connections to those devices. As an example, MU-MIMO, which is mentioned in the heading below, is part of the WiFi 6 standard.
If you’d like to read more about WiFi 6, check out these helpful articles:
- A brief overview of WiFi 4, Wifi 5, and WiFi 6 from AccessAgility
- Technical details on the WiFi generations from Duckware
- “What is WiFi 6?” from Online Tech Tips
What Is MU-MIMO?
MU-MIMO is a common feature for modern WiFi routers. MU-MIMO stands for “Multiple User – Multiple Input, Multiple Output”.
Routers from previous WiFi generations were only able to communicate with one device at a time. So, if you were downloading a game on your computer, you may have had a lot of trouble watching Prime Video on your smart TV. Newer generation routers equipped with MU-MIMO are able to transmit and receive to and from more than one device at the same time.
Basically, MU-MIMO is a transition from WiFi that could handle communication with just one device at a time to WiFi that can handle the modern Internet of Things. In other words, MU-MIMO is designed to handle the many devices you have in your modern home, from laptops, tablets, and phones, to smart TV’s, cameras, sensors, and anything and everything else you have connected to your WiFi network.
By both transmitting and receiving to multiple devices simultaneously, MU-MIMO can increase both the speed and capacity of your wireless network.
You can read more about MU-MIMO at this link:
- What Is MU-MIMO? from Linksys
How Does Beamforming Work?
Many of the devices on this list offer a feature known as “beamforming”. Beamforming can improve performance by directing wireless signals from the router towards the actual location in which the wireless device is located.
In other words, past WiFi routers beamed their signal out in all directions when attempting to communicate with a wireless device. Routers equipped with beamforming technology direct a stronger signal for a given device towards the location in which that device is actually located. This can help to improve throughput to each individual device.
To read more about beamforming, check out these links:
What Is BSS Coloring?
BSS Coloring is another technology designed to improve performance for multiple wireless devices. Another part of the WiFi 6 standard, BSS, or “Basic Service Set” Coloring helps to split wireless traffic between multiple wireless transmission frequencies.
By detecting collisions on a congested wireless network, BSS Coloring improves network performance. BSS Coloring works by adding a “color code” to the PHY header for each device. The router then uses these color codes to determine when a spectrum of the wireless band can be shared between certain devices.
BSS Coloring is another step in the evolution of wireless technology. This and other WiFi 6 specifications are part of the move towards supporting the modern home.
For further reading on BSS Coloring:
- Basic Service Set Coloring from CommScope
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