(Pocket-lint) - There's nothing like a Wi-Fi dropout to hit you off your stride. Whether you're midway through a marathon on Netflix, or you work from home and can't afford to lose connectivity with your office, there's no good time for your network to have a wobble.
We've got a list of Wi-Fi routers that can provide some extra range and stability, but, if you're serious about creating a home network that can expand to cover big areas, you'll want to invest in a mesh Wi-Fi system.
These systems effectively extend and strengthen your home Wi-Fi network, to make sure that it can reach even your most remote corners and provide even coverage throughout your home. Better yet, they're no longer the preserve of IT experts and techies. There are now countless mesh Wi-Fi systems on the market that offer nearly plug-and-play simplicity so that you can reap their benefits without needing a degree in electronics.
With that in mind, we've rounded up the best of the best to create a list of options for you to explore, and choose between if you're thinking of going down the mesh Wi-Fi route. We've tested these models carefully with ease of use, affordability, range and speed all in mind, to ensure they merit a place on our list.
What are the best mesh Wi-Fi systems?
Our Top Pick: Best Mesh Wi-Fi System
Google Nest Wifi
- Great speeds
- Easy setup and controls
- Google Assistant works like a dream
- Cheaper alternatives out there
- Configuration options are slim
- Speaker isn't that loud
It took Google a couple of iterations to perfect its mesh offering, but Nest Wifi is something special. It's supremely easy to set up, and within a few taps on your phone, you'll have a strengthened network that can be extended at will with extenders that also pack smart speaker capabilities and Google Assistant.
The system's design is super clean and anonymous, letting them blend into the background in your home and provide silent benefits, and super parental controls make it perfect for parents.
It's not the absolute cheapest on the market by any means, but it's still reasonably priced. Plus, because it's Google, you can rely on solid software support for years to come. Sometimes the biggest names know what they're doing, and Google has hit a home run here.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems we also recommend
Below, we'll detail the four other mesh Wi-Fi systems we recommend looking into.
Eero 6 dual-band mesh Wi-Fi 6 system
- Nice design
- Superb value for Wi-Fi 6
- Works great with Alexa
- Not the quickest option
- Can't split Wi-Fi frequencies
- Singular ethernet port
A superbly-priced option from the Amazon-owned brand, this is a newer version of Eero's system that's incredibly easy to set up, just like our top pick.
It's not as speedy as many other options - supporting speeds up to 500 Mbps - but its 460 square metre coverage remains impressive.
You can also control Zigbee-compliant smart devices using these units, and control them with Alexa if you have a separate Echo device.
TP-Link Deco S4 Mesh Wi-Fi
- Easy to install and use
- Superb coverage
- Not tons of app controls
- Mild security concerns
For those who need a relatively affordable solution that can tackle big homes, TP-Link's Deco S4 is definitely worth considering. We found the coverage was more than enough to blanket our home without suffering from severe drop-offs as we strayed away from the access points.
There's not the same wealth of QoS and parental settings as you'll find with more expensive options, but there's still enough, we think, to satisfy most basic users looking to make tweaks to help maximise speed and performance.
Make sure to look into some of the more technical details of the mesh setup's security, though, if you're so inclined. While we mostly enjoyed the stripped-back nature of the settings, there are some security features (such as being able to whitelist MAC addresses and hide the network name) that appear to have been overlooked.
Netgear Orbi AC1200 (RBK13)
- Brilliant speed potential
- Nice design aesthetic
- Easy setup
- No ethernet options
- Parental controls cost extra
- No QoS settings
Netgear is one of the premier names in networking, and its mesh networking sub-brand - Orbi pretty much guarantees a premium product.
Here, we've got a 1.2Gbps dual-band system consisting of a base and two satellites that you can also add to. It helps that the boxes are also small. When testing it out, we had one on top of a sideboard in the living room and it doesn't seem out of place - something that you can rarely say about mesh routers.
The app setup is really easy, too, and enables you to manage access and create guest networks by applying a single SSID to your whole network.
The only real negative is that the satellites don't have Ethernet ports, so, if you want to connect up devices (like a TV or games console), you'll need to look at a slightly different solution.
Devolo Mesh Wi-Fi 2
- Impressively versatile
- Great speeds and range
- Ethernet for wired connections
- Pretty ugly
- Not Wi-Fi 6
- App is a chore
The Mesh Wi-Fi 2 is a slight upgrade on the standard Devolo Magic 2 in that all three units here are identical - all three are mesh units this time around, pushing Gigabit Wi-Fi around your whole home.
The tri-band 2,400Mbps 802.11ac mesh system works in tandem with a Powerline network as the backbone - a difference between Devolo mesh products and that of the other competitors here. Each adapter features dual Gigabit Ethernet ports for maximum flexibility.
Other products we considered
When trying to figure out what we believe are the best mesh Wi-Fi systems currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a number of factors when it comes to recommending routers - and apply the same criteria when a new device is being considered for inclusion. It's not all judged on our testing, either - we also try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a mesh Wi-Fi system
There are plenty of reasons why you might be looking to add a mesh system to your home network, but, regardless of what they are, there are some key areas that you'll want to think about before you commit to an option, even if it's one of those we've rated.
Why should you get a mesh system?
The biggest reason you're likely to want a mesh system is signal dropouts - if you have spots in your home where your router's signal either doesn't reach at all or is flaky enough that the speeds you get are no good, that's a recipe that calls for a mesh system to give you complete coverage. Mesh systems also make it possible in many cases to control what devices can connect to your Wi-Fi, so they can be great for parenting, too.
How important is speed?
A big question when judging different mesh systems is around speed - how fast is your base connection, and how much of that speed do you need to be translated through to the furthest reaches of your home? If you're on gigabit internet, that'll restrict your choices, but if you're happy to accept something like 500MB/s, which is pretty good in our opinion, you'll have more options.
What range do you need from your mesh system?
The other big question to our minds is how far you want to extend your network. There are two ways this can change your choices - firstly by impacting on which models you go for according to how far they can cover per satellite, but also how many satellites you opt for in the first place. The best options hit the sweet spot of big coverage areas without requiring loads of different satellite points.
Do you need ethernet ports?
Finally, a smaller question for you comes in the form of good old wired internet. If you want to be able to hook something like a console or gaming PC up to ethernet from your satellite points, you'd better be careful to check whether it's possible, as some of the options out there don't have this capability.
More about this story
Testing mesh systems involves the obvious matter of setting them up and using them for a good chunk of time in order to get a sense for how easy they are to get running, how reliably they work and whether they live up to their manufacturers' claims.
That's what we've done with these models, and that's how we've come to the ranking you find above, taking into account all those factors as well as their raw statistics and, of course, pricing, to decide what order they belong in.
The team at Pocket-lint has been using mesh systems since the point when they were an incredibly niche option for high-speed enthusiasts, so you can be confident that we've put everything through its paces in a rigorous way before even starting to consider where it should go on this list.