Mesh Wi-Fi, the latest and greatest.
Companies are good at selling us features we don’t need.
But a mesh network might as well be the solution for your problems this time around.
Let’s explore what this technology really offers, so you can decide for yourself if you really need it or not.
Let’s get started.
What Is Mesh Wi-Fi?
As you move further away from your wireless access point, signal gets weaker, speed gets slower, and interference increases.
Mesh Wi-Fi allows you to overcome this issue by strategically positioning WAPs around your home. Allowing you to have a good connection no matter what room you are in.
You might be thinking, isn’t this the same as placing a couple of Wi-Fi range extenders around?
That’s a great question. And the answer is, not really.
The idea is the same, leveraging multiple devices so our Wi-Fi signal can reach more places. But the execution is different.
Range extenders mirror your Wi-Fi signal but are each separate devices altogether. So even though the Internet link is coming from the same router, you will need to connect to each extender manually.
This can become a hassle fast. Imagine going from your bedroom to your living room and having to manually switch Wi-Fi connections. Then switching back again once you go back to your room. Yuck!
You probably thought the same thing I did when I set up my first Wi-Fi extender. “What if I name the extender the same as the router, including its password?”
This can create the illusion of a seamless connection but is far from it.
Behind the scenes, your device will still manually jump from one signal to the other. While the SSID’s might be the same, your device will consider them as different.
When both signals are in range, your device needs to decide which one is better. Not only can it stay connected to the weaker signal sometimes.
But the connection will also drop for a couple of seconds when switching between them. Even if just for a couple of seconds.
And it doesn’t stop there. Each time an extender re-broadcasts your signal, it gets weaker. As you can expect, this means performance suffers.
Mesh Wi-Fi is a modular system. There is a main “node” connected to your modem. And several antenna nodes that extend its range.
While you end up with the same amount of devices, the experience is completely different.
Here are the main benefits of Mesh Wi-Fi.
Behind the scenes, mesh technology is not simple. But one of its greatest benefits is how easy they are to set up for end-users.
The most common mesh Wi-Fi hardware for homes, like the Amazon eero and Google Nest, are easy to configure.
Your main mesh router connects to a power outlet and to your modem via ethernet cable. All other antennas will only need to be connected to power with a single cable. That’s it!
Most offer mobile app companions that will help you set up everything. From SSID, passwords, and settings, to custom security parameters, in just a few steps.
You could be up and running in as little as 10 minutes from the moment you open the box.
Not only is home mesh Wi-Fi setup a breeze, but management is also super simple. The same apps used for the initial configuration will allow you to monitor every aspect of your network.
From speed tests, usage reports, and parental controls to limiting access, changing passwords, and creating guest networks. Any changes you need to make are at the palm of your hand.
Separate devices like range extenders will rarely integrate with your main router. Meaning you will need to manage and make changes to them separately.
As discussed earlier, Wi-Fi range extenders can help you get a signal where there wasn’t one before. But the experience is far from ideal.
With mesh Wi-Fi, you can have 3, 4, or even more antennas around your house and they will all act as a single device.
Heads up, though. These home-intended mesh devices can suffer performance degradation if you have too many of them. Either because of interference or congestion.
We recommend a maximum of 5 nodes in a single home for the best performance.
Here are Mesh Wi-Fi’s drawbacks.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are not inexpensive. While you can find some decent range extenders for as low as $20, a good mesh setup will run you at least $150 for 2 nodes. And if you are looking for Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, you’ll be lucky to find anything good under $200.
Some home mesh systems can cover over 5000 sq. ft. (~450 sq. meters). Unless you have a really big house, it might be way more than what you need.
Most people in one or two-bedroom homes could solve their issues by placing their current router in a better place.
Here are Mesh Wi-Fi’s limitations.
Unless all of your nodes are connected via ethernet cables, the reality is that they depend on their wireless signal and are not a single device. If communication between nodes takes too long, you can see a degraded performance.
Mesh Wi-Fi devices are incredibly smart. Most modern setups automatically choose the fastest channel for your information to travel. But if you live somewhere with significant wireless congestion, you could still suffer slow speeds.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are a great solution for dead spots or large spaces that your router might have trouble reaching. But they are not bullet-proof.
They will save you time and offer a streamlined wireless experience for your home. But they still suffer the same limitations that regular wireless routers do, like interference and congestion. So make sure you place your nodes strategically.