WiFi routers are legendarily annoying. They’re opaque, with hundreds of obscure settings and features that—unless you love inelegant, browser-based interfaces—are often difficult to even access, let alone tweak. They go down for no reason, and if they’re not completely offline the signal is flummoxed by such ordinary problems as a wall in between your device and the hotspot. A mesh WiFi system, however, is one of the greatest innovations to come to home internet in years.
Just another plastic puck with some blinking lights, a mesh wifi station may not look that different from the traditionally cumbersome models. It’s so unassuming, you may wonder if it’s worth the extra investment. You’ll quickly find, however, that mesh wifi can solve many of the most common problems. Using multiple nodes, wireless mesh networks let you space access points throughout your house (and yard, if you like), but they don’t act independently. Your devices will switch from station to station seamlessly, without the need to save and manually select multiple network names and passwords, and all devices can be configured through cleanly designed smartphone apps. WiFi dead spots and degraded speeds can be a thing of the past with the best mesh WiFi, so read on for our guide to which systems excel.
- Best for large properties: eero Pro 6
- Best for homes: Google Nest WiFi
- Best WiFi 6 mesh router: TP-Link Deco 6
- Best coverage: rockspace Tri-Band Mesh WiFi System
- Best mesh WiFi extender: Amazon eero mesh router
- Fastest: Netgear Orbi WiFi 6
- Best budget: TP-Link Deco, Version S4
How we picked the best mesh wifi
For this story, we surveyed the top brands and models of mesh WiFi routers on the market. While you can’t truly test a mesh WiFi system until you’ve lived with it for an extended period of time, we consulted tons of online research, editorial reviews, and hands-on experience to choose models that best fit people’s homes and lifestyles.
The mesh WiFi landscape changes regularly, and new technology hits all the time. We’re just firmly getting into the world of WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E is coming quickly on its heals. For now, though, you can feel comfortable trusting these models for their proven performance over time.
Features to consider when shopping for the best mesh WiFi
If you’re already shopping for a new router, you should absolutely invest in the best mesh WiFi system that fits your space and budget. You’ll be paying more, but get less … less signal loss that is. The best feature about mesh WiFi is that it blankets your property in stable coverage without much need for fiddling. You plug the base station into your modem, as you would with any other router, then set the other point up wherever you have a regular wall socket—no need for tricky wiring or anything like that. Communicating on their own dedicated channel within the standard-use 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, the mesh modules allow data to hop quicker, farther than a traditional router paired to some extenders—great in a multiuser home, especially if 4K Netflix and/or online gaming is in the mix. Almost every mesh WiFi system will be more robust and offer more range than operating off a single, centralized router, but to ensure your network is operating at the utmost peak, look for a mesh system that supports 802.11ac wireless technology, as well as Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology. Not all your devices will be compatible with the newest standards, but those that are will benefit. And aren’t we all constantly considering an upgrade?
How big is your property?
Picture this: It’s a beautiful day, and you want to work with your laptop on the patio. But every time you try you just can’t maintain a stable wireless connection unless you sit in a specific back corner with the sliding glass door open. Or maybe you have a she shed or a man cave where you like to sequester, but the trade off for seclusion is terrible wireless service. If you live on a large property or have ever experienced the issue of WiFi not reaching parts of your house or yard, you should consider upgrading to mesh WiFi. The best mesh WiFi systems will extend and fortify your signal’s periphery, and are as expandable as you need them to be. Whether you need a single node or several, the best mesh WiFi systems are available in packs that match your needs and are really not much more expensive than a new, boosted router and traditional expanders. Plus, mesh WiFi is just easier to manage from wherever you are, operating as a single network maintained in a single app—no more walking from room to room to reconnect gear if it happens to go down.
What about WiFi 6?
You may notice that some mesh WiFi routers advertise that they support something called “WiFi 6.” WiFi is actually a standard, one that tech companies use to ensure that phones, tablets, TVs, and computers can all operate on one network without trouble. Sometimes, that standard is upgraded, as technology gets better.
WiFi 6 is the newest version, and its major features are a boost in speed and the ability to handle many WiFi-connected devices at the same time, at high speeds, without trouble. A WiFi 6 mesh router isn’t something that you need just yet; there aren’t all that many devices that can even use it. But new gadgets will soon start to come with it, and it’s possible that you’ll feel good about having a home network that’s compatible when those gadgets arrive.
What if I need one more mesh WiFi extender for my smart home?
With more and more connected devices on the market, your smart home, and need for signal in every nook and cranny, is constantly growing. This means figuring out exactly where to place your mesh WiFi stations can be a little tricky. Generally, you want to space them no more than two rooms apart; that’ll ensure that the stations can communicate with each other and cover the entire space.
But that also means, if you have a particularly large or sprawling house, that you’ll need more than the two or three stations that come with a mesh WiFi starter kit. Luckily, that’s no problem: you can always just buy a single mesh WiFi extender by itself and plug it in. It’ll work right away, no annoying multistep installation needed, and will cover more ground than before.
What’s the fastest mesh WiFi system?
The best home mesh WiFi systems won’t sacrifice speed for coverage; your wireless internet should, ideally, remain extremely fast even as you move farther and farther from your modem. The bottleneck for speed is typically with your internet service itself, rather than with the router, as all mesh WiFi systems are generally at the top of the supported broadband range as far as router hardware goes. But there are still some mesh WiFi systems that are faster than others.
What can I get for under $150?
If you’re in the market for a new router, you might look at some of these products and think, well, forget this—I’m not spending $300, let alone $700, on a freakin’ WiFi system when perfectly good routers can cost under 50 bucks! And look, you’re not crazy for thinking that. But it’s also worth considering just how much you rely on your router, and how incredibly frustrating those cheaper routers can be. Sometimes they won’t play nice with a modem, or will drop service unexpectedly without giving you any reason why, or will leave big dead spots around your house. Maybe your phone won’t connect when you’re in the backyard, or upstairs, or in a backroom somewhere.
Mesh WiFi is more expensive than many standalone routers, sure. But you get so much more for your money: broad coverage, infinitely expandable, with easy-to-use apps that let you update and change options easily. And, luckily, the price isn’t always so nuts: there are several great budget wireless mesh networks for $150 or less.
Best for large properties: eero Pro 6
Why it made the cut: This tried-and-true system covers large swaths of area with fast connections and lots of bandwidth.
- Coverage: Up to 6,000 square feet
- Speed: Up to 1 Gbps
- Supports WiFi 6
- Powerful signal
- Fast data
Mesh WiFi is generally a bit more expensive than regular, single-item routers. The Eero Pro 6 is a lot more expensive. But what you get for your money is the fastest, most complete coverage available. You’ll be able to broadcast up a gigabit of speed (subject to your service provider’s subscription packages), and the tri-band network can cover up to 6,000 square feet and support up to 75 devices on the network at once. That will handle even the highest-def, most-demanding of simultaneous video streams, while also providing a smart home hub.
Eero was one of the first mesh WiFi products out there, and still puts out great stuff; the system’s app makes it really easy to monitor your network and institute parental controls, if you want. The Pro 6 is the best system eero has made yet, though it may be overkill for some. Fear not, however, as we’ll showcase plenty of great options at a fraction of the price, so just read on.
Best for homes: Google Nest WiFi
Why it made the cut: A reliable connection with tight ties to Google Home make this an attractive and easily expandable solution.
- Coverage: 4,400 square feet
- Speed: Up to 1 Gbps
- Easy setup
- Ties nicely into Google Home
- Small and unobtrusive
- No WiFi 6 in this model
Google’s WiFi system, which was recently brought under the “Nest” umbrella, is one of the fastest home mesh WiFi systems on the market, and one of the most handsome. It’s also incredibly easy to use: just pop open the app and you’ll be able to do simple tasks without any trouble, whether that’s creating a guest network, sharing your password with a friend, or instituting parental controls. It’s on the pricey side—but lets you pick an initial, appropriately priced pack of one, two, or three units—and it’s backward compatible with previous versions of Google WiFi, which can help you save a little money on satellite beacons you already have or come across on closeout sale.
Best WiFi 6 mesh router: TP-Link Deco 6
Why we picked it: WiFi 6 routers are starting to emerge and this advanced system is ahead of the curve when it comes to features and comptibility.
- Coverage: 5,800 square feet
- Speed: 1.8 Gbps
- WiFi 6 support
- Supports up to 150 connected devices
- Not the prettiest design
Do you need a WiFi 6 mesh router right now? Maybe. But routers aren’t something we replace that often, so you might want to consider picking one that’ll be compatible with WiFi 6 when it comes. The TP-Link Deco 6 provides super-fast speeds to up to 150 devices, which is one of the hallmarks of the next-generation WiFi 6 standard. It comes with three stations, and at this price is actually cheaper than some mesh systems without WiFI 6. Reviewers note that the included ethernet cable is a bit short and that the app isn’t quite as easy to use as some others, but speed and ease of setup are both said to be excellent. In addition, it’s compatible with Alexa if you’re invested in Amazon’s smart home ecosystem.
Best coverage: rockspace Tri-Band Mesh WiFi System
Why it made the cut: Cover more area with this rapid-firing tri-band mesh system that can blanket your entire house with signal, even spanning into outdoor areas.
- Coverage: 6,000 square feet
- Speed: 2.1 Gbps
- Quick setup
- Covers 8+ rooms
- Lack of firewall options
If you’ve ever dealt with a spotty outdoor connection in one corner of your house or wished that you could work outside with a stable WiFi connection, this system can expand your network across 6,000 square feet—easily covering just about any size home and extending into garages, backyards, or front yards for bonus connectivity. With its 5.8 GHz band backhaul and 2.4 GHz/5 GHz wireless connections, the high-performance network can support up to 100 roaming devices seamlessly, allowing for all kinds of smart automation, guest networks, parental controls, etc. The tri-band system can support up to 12 satellites, has an RS app for easy setup and control, and has MU-MIMO tech, which minimizes traffic or congestion within busy networks.
Best mesh WiFi extender: Amazon eero mesh router
Why it made the cut: This is an easy, relatively cheap way to get more internet in the remote areas of your home.
- Coverage: 1,500 square feet
- Speed: 550 Mbps
- Lots of range for a small box
- Requires compatible system
One of the best things about mesh network systems is that if you ever move, or find that your current setup doesn’t cover the entire area you need, you can always just buy an extra station. Eero is a reliable system, and thanks to its purchase by Amazon, you know you’ll always be able to find one of the best mesh WiFi extenders. This standalone station works with any existing eero system, adds 1,500 square feet of coverage, and gets continual firmware updates to ensure it’s always securely patched and up to date.
Fastest: Netgear Orbi WiFi 6
Why we picked it: If you’re looking for super-fast speeds, this system has the bandwidth to spare that it can share across a ton of devices.
- Coverage: 5,000 square feet
- Speed: 2.5 Gbps
- Fast connection
- Good security
- Attractive device
- Software can be buggy
Far be it from us to discourage you from finding the absolute fastest WiFi 6 mesh router system on the market. And the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 is certainly that. It supports the newest WiFi standard, provides up to 2.5Gbps service and supports over 100 different gadgets at a time. It even gives you plenty of Ethernet ports on the satellite stations if you want to hardwire (well, part-hardwire, since there’s still wireless involved) any gaming systems, Smart TVs, etc. If you have a house full of demanding Full HD/4K devices, you want to make sure no one will have to buffer or suffer. The biggest downside? Price. This baby isn’t cheap, but you get a lot for your money, and reviews are glowing.
Best budget: TP-Link Deco, Version S4
Why it made the cut: It’s not the bleeding edge technology, but not everyone needs that. You get fast, reliable connectivity in an attractive package without much hassle.
- Coverage: 5,500 square feet
- Speed: Gigabit
- Nice to look at
- Supports up to 100 devices
- Built-in parental controls
- No WiFi 6
TP-Link’s Deco line of mesh WiFi systems isn’t known for being cheap, but last year’s model, the S4, is available for well under $150. For that, you’ll get a three-pack of stations, about 5,500 square feet of coverage, an easy-to-use app with parental controls and other options, and even Amazon Alexa compatibility. The stations are a little bit larger than some of the pricier models, but considering this set is less than half the price of others it might be just what you’re looking for.
Q: Does mesh WiFi replace my router?
Yep, mesh WiFi systems are a replacement for a standard, standalone router. Sometimes, your internet service provider will give you a modem with a router built-in, and you’ll have to ask them how to disable it so you can plug in a mesh WiFi router, but that’s true of any router.
Q: Is mesh WiFi better for gaming?
Mesh WiFi is better for gaming than a standard wireless router, that’s for sure. Often, your gaming console or PC isn’t right next to a standalone router, and mesh WiFi ensures that you won’t have weak signal or drops in your gaming room. That said, if you’re really serious about multiplayer gaming, you’ll probably want to hardwire—plug your gaming device directly into your router with an Ethernet cable. You can do that just as well with a mesh WiFi system.
Q: Will a mesh WiFi network improve speed?
A mesh WiFi network can improve speed, but the answer is a little more complex than that. If you opt for one of the higher-end mesh WiFi systems—such as the Nest, Eero, or Orbi WiFi 6—those are going to give you top-of-the-line speeds. More budget-friendly mesh systems will give you speeds comparable to a modestly priced regular router. But the difference is that regular routers only give you their best speeds when you’re right next to them. Move further away, and you’ll get reduced speeds, maybe even dropped signals. Mesh WiFi systems won’t do that; you’ll get the top speeds your unit is capable of no matter where you are.
The final word on the best mesh WiFi
Look, we get it: It’s hard to get excited about a router. But the best mesh WiFi systems are a way to get the absolute most out of your home network—a way to think about your internet connection as little as possible and have it just work. And that’s what we want out of our internet, right?