What Is Mesh Wi-Fi and Why You Should Care?

Mesh Wi-Fi routers outshine traditional routers in big homes and multi-floor spaces.
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The majority of our devices demand a wireless internet connection, so it can be frustrating when your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach that one spot in the house where you commonly need connectivity. 

Traditional routers have come a long way, but even the most expensive routers are limited in how far they can broadcast your Wi-Fi signal. If your traditional router struggles to bring Wi-Fi to the far reaches of your home, you need to know about mesh Wi-Fi router systems, including the best Wi-Fi mesh systems available today.

Is it your ISP and not your router causing slow internet speeds?

If you still experience slow internet speeds after setting up a mesh Wi-Fi system, your internet service provider (ISP) might be throttling your speeds. One way to beat throttling is to use a virtual private network (VPN). See which of the best VPNs we recommend for boosting your internet speed.

In this article
What is a mesh Wi-Fi router system?
3 reasons to use a mesh Wi-Fi setup
Disadvantages of mesh Wi-Fi
What to look for in a mesh Wi-Fi router
Best mesh Wi-Fi routers
Mesh Wi-Fi routers FAQ
Bottom line

What is a mesh Wi-Fi router system?

Unlike traditional Wi-Fi routers — which use a single device to broadcast a Wi-Fi network throughout an area — mesh Wi-Fi router systems use multiple devices to broadcast your Wi-Fi in different locations. A mesh Wi-Fi system consists of a primary router and at least one satellite device, also known as an access point or mesh node. The primary router connects to a modem and works with the node(s) to broadcast a unified network throughout your home.

With a mesh Wi-Fi system, you can place nodes throughout your home to extend your wireless network to those areas. Since each node behaves like a standalone Wi-Fi router, you can maintain a strong and stable network connection throughout your home with optimal node placement.

While this technology sounds similar to Wi-Fi range extenders, mesh Wi-Fi systems are different because they broadcast one incorporated network, and the hardware is designed by the same manufacturer to work together optimally. Wi-Fi extenders broadcast an additional extended network on top of your existing one, which can be useful for small area coverage but becomes more unreliable and clunky in larger environments.

For example, with Wi-Fi range extenders, you may need to manually change between extended networks if you move from place to place in your home. With a mesh Wi-Fi network, you can move your connected devices all over your home without fiddling with settings, since it's all the same network.

3 reasons to use a mesh Wi-Fi setup

If you are experiencing slow or spotty internet in certain parts of your home, there’s a good chance you don’t need to increase your internet speeds. Depending on the size, layout, and makeup of your home, you could stand to benefit from converting to a mesh Wi-Fi setup. There are several advantages to swapping to mesh Wi-Fi, including:

1. Full home Wi-Fi coverage

Mesh Wi-Fi systems solve the main downside of traditional routers where the further you are from your router, the weaker your Wi-Fi signal is. Additionally, wireless signals weaken even more when traveling through multiple floors or thick walls. In some cases, using traditional routers can lead to “dead zones” in a home, where no matter how fast your internet speeds are, you can’t get a wireless connection.

Using an optimally setup mesh Wi-Fi system can fix these connection problems and improve your Wi-Fi signal throughout your whole home.

2. Future scalability

Mesh Wi-Fi systems can be smart long-term investments because you can always add to them. Since the hardware is designed to work together, all you need to do is purchase more nodes from the same manufacturer if you find you need Wi-Fi in a new part of your property.

3. Ease of use

Many mesh Wi-Fi systems come with mobile apps, which include installation walkthroughs and tips for setting up your system in the best way for your unique space. Additionally, there are smart home integration apps, parental controls, and remote management tools that allow you to customize how your mesh network functions based on how you use it.

Furthermore, using mesh Wi-Fi over range extenders means you have only one network to manage. You won’t need to manually hop between networks to maintain a reliable Wi-Fi connection if you’re moving around your house.

Disadvantages of mesh Wi-Fi

While mesh Wi-Fi systems are impressive, they do come with some downsides. Here are some disadvantages to mesh Wi-Fi that you should consider:

Cost

Converting to a mesh Wi-Fi system can be expensive. While the technology has gotten cheaper over time, you still stand to spend at least $150 on the cheapest of mesh Wi-Fi systems. Higher-end models can cost as much as $500 or more. If you need to cover a larger area, you will need to purchase additional nodes, which can increase the overall cost.

May be unnecessary

If you live in a small home with one floor — or a small apartment — chances are you might not need a mesh Wi-Fi system. In fact, many mesh Wi-Fi systems perform suboptimally if they are set up in too small a space.

Most modern traditional routers can cover a space of up to 1,500 square feet. If your living space falls into this category, but there are still slow or dead spots in your Wi-Fi, you may get more value out of a single-range extender instead.

Not ideal for low-broadband speeds

Mesh Wi-Fi technology depends on high-broadband speeds to function optimally. If you live in a region where your speeds are limited or you can only afford slower speeds, you won’t get the most out of a mesh Wi-Fi system.

What to look for in a mesh Wi-Fi router

One of the most important features to look for in a mesh Wi-Fi router is the number of frequency bands it provides. Frequency bands are usually separated by a router into different Wi-Fi networks where the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) band is the slowest and the 5 GHz band is the fastest. If you have a dual-band router, you can connect your streaming and gaming devices to your 5 GHz band and reserve your 2.4 GHz band for low-bandwidth smart home devices such as a smart lock.

It’s ideal to get a tri-band model because the mesh Wi-Fi system will reserve one band to communicate with its mesh nodes. This frees up the other two bands for you to use as you please. Most mesh tri-band routers will offer a 2.4 GHz band and two 5 GHz bands, though some of the newer expensive models will offer 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands. If you are not worried about cost, you can opt for a quad-band model that has a 2.4 GHz band, two 5 GHz bands, and a 6 GHz band.

One other important consideration is the top speed of the mesh router. Depending on how much speed you need, you will want to look at mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, or Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 5 routers are the oldest generation of the three, topping off at 6.9 gigabits per second (Gbps). Wi-Fi 6 routers are capped at 9.6 Gbps, and the newest Wi-Fi 6E routers expand on Wi-Fi 6 by giving you access to the 6 GHz frequency band.

Best mesh Wi-Fi routers

There are a lot of mesh Wi-Fi routers to choose from, and since they aren’t a cheap investment, we know it can be overwhelming trying to find which one is right for you. Here are three mesh Wi-Fi routers we think are worth your consideration:

  1. TP-Link Deco AXE5400 Tri-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System: This mesh system supports tri-band and Wi-Fi 6E technology, making it a great long-term investment that won’t break the bank. A two-pack bundle normally costs $299.99 but can go as low as $229.99 when it’s on sale.
  2. Google Nest WiFi Pro 6E: Google Nest WiFi Pro is a great choice for users who want a simple yet effective mesh Wi-Fi system that integrates with Google Home. Tri-band and Wi-Fi 6E capabilities make it a powerful system with a two-pack priced under $300.
  3. Asus ZenWiFi XT8: Asus is known for catering to power users and gamers, and this mesh Wi-Fi system is no different. While this tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 mesh system is on the expensive side (over $300 for a two-pack), it supports AiMesh software — meaning users can combine any extra routers that also have AiMesh into their network to expand coverage easily.

Secure your Wi-Fi with a VPN router app

You can install a VPN directly onto your router to encrypt any device connection in your home — including your smart home system, security cameras, gaming consoles, and smart TVs. These are the best VPN apps we recommend for your router thanks to their easy-to-follow guides, powerful security features, and reasonable prices:

  • ExpressVPN: With an extensive set of router VPN setup guides, ExpressVPN tops our list. Using its proprietary Lightway protocol, ExpressVPN packs a punch when it comes to securing your network but keeping your internet speeds moving fast. It's compatible with a number of router models, including Asus, Linksys, NETGEAR, TP-Link, and more.

    Get ExpressVPN | Read Our ExpressVPN Review
  • NordVPN: An easy-to-use VPN app, we love that NordVPN also comes with Threat Protection, an ad blocker and anti-malware tool. When we tested NordVPN and Threat Protection, we found it successfully unblocked streaming services like Netflix, prevented our IP address from leaking, and blocked ads and malware. NordVPN's app is compatible with Asus, TP-Link, Sabai, Tomato, and other routers.

    Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Review
  • Surfshark: One of the lowest-cost VPNs out there, Surfshark offers customer support options to help you if installing its app isn't working out. We also love Surfshark's CleanWeb feature, which blocks ads, and its large network of 3,200+ server locations. Surfshark is compatible with Asus, Linksys, Sabai, Tomato, and other routers.

    Get Surfshark | Read Our Surfshark Review

Extensive Server Network Provides Protection Wherever You Go
4.6
Editorial Rating
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On ExpressVPN's website
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  • Hides intrusive display ads when browsing the web, improving page speed and easing data usage on mobile
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Mesh Wi-Fi routers FAQ


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Should I get a mesh Wi-Fi system?

If you live in a home that’s larger than 1,500 square feet and there are areas where your Wi-Fi is slow or completely drops, you should consider getting a mesh Wi-Fi system.


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What’s the difference between mesh Wi-Fi and other routers?

Traditional routers use a single router to broadcast your Wi-Fi signal. Mesh Wi-Fi routers function with extra devices called mesh nodes in order to broadcast your Wi-Fi signal in other places around your space.


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Is mesh Wi-Fi faster than a router?

It can depend on which type of router and how many mesh nodes the mesh router is using. Generally speaking though, since data needs to travel among multiple nodes before reaching its destination, mesh Wi-Fi can be slower than a good traditional router.

If you don’t mind running cables through your home, you can speed up your mesh system by connecting the nodes to the main router with an Ethernet cable.


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Does a mesh Wi-Fi router replace your existing router?

Yes, a mesh Wi-Fi router will replace your existing router.

Bottom line

Traditional routers have trouble broadcasting your Wi-Fi signal past spaces larger than 1,500 square feet — or sometimes in smaller spaces that have multiple floors or thick walls. If you find your Wi-Fi signal is weak or drops in certain areas of your home, you should definitely consider getting a mesh Wi-Fi router system. Look for a mesh router that supports tri-band and at least Wi-Fi 5 technology.

You should also consider securing your Wi-Fi network by updating your router settings and choosing a VPN router app that keeps your data encrypted and safe from hackers (or lazy neighbors trying to "borrow" Wi-Fi).

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
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Author Details
Juliana Kenny is a seasoned writer with over a decade of experience in cybersecurity topics. She holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Irish Literature, a B.A. in French, and a minor in Art History. Since 2010, she has explored the dynamic intersection of technology and security, specializing in endpoint security, cloud security, and networking technologies like secure access service edge (SASE).