When you're dealing with dead spots in your home or find that your old router just doesn't reach every corner of the house, it's time to upgrade to a mesh wi-fi system. We've looked at more than a dozen mesh routers, testing the performance and usability of each.
Our top pick for the best mesh router is the Netgear Orbi, which offers superb performance and easy connectivity for all of your devices. The Orbi even offers add-on devices to give your home network voice control, outdoor coverage and more.
If you want an inexpensive mesh-networking solution, the Samsung SmartThings Wifi mesh router is the best mesh router for those on a budget, offering the most economical system for whole-house coverage and great performance.
And don't miss our latest coverage, like our hands-on impressions of the Nest Wi-Fi, the newest version of Google's mesh Wi-Fi system. Or check out the most anticipated routers of 2020 to get an early look at the hottest Wi-Fi solutions we'll see this year.
Whether you need a mesh system for inexpensive whole-house coverage or security that covers all of your connected devices, here are the mesh routers to buy now.
Best mesh Wi-Fi systems right now
The best mesh system overall
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No | Ports: Four 1Gbps LAN, USB 2.0 | Peak Throughput: 552.1Mbps | Size: 8.9 x 6.7 x 3.1 inches
When it comes to the best mesh system, the Netgear Orbi has it all: superb performance, easy setup and flexibility to handle everything from a modest apartment to a sprawling mansion.
Even without the mesh extensions, the Orbi's base unit is one of the fastest, most powerful routers we've ever tested. Pair it with an Orbi extension and the system easily covers a 5,000-square-foot home. Even when we tested throughput through multiple walls and on different floors, the Orbi's performance led the pack and offers the best you can get for multistory homes.
On top of this stellar performance, the Orbi also offers best-in-class flexibility, with add-on units that provide Alexa voice capability, plug-and-play expansion and even weatherproofed satellite units for outdoor coverage.
The Orbi also offers excellent security and parental controls by way of automated firmware updates, WPA2 security and Disney's Circle app. The latter feature offers all sorts of parental-control options, like screen-time limits and time and content filters that help you manage what your kids can access and when. If you want the best mesh system for both homes and families, this is it.
Read our full review of the Netgear Orbi to see why it's the best mesh system around.
The top value mesh system
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/ Dual Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 5/No | Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN | Peak Throughput: 539.9Mbps | Size: 4.7 x 4.7 x 1.2 inches
The Samsung SmartThings Wifi uses discreet disk-shaped devices to offer whole-home Wi-Fi for less. Available in a three pack for $289 (or $120 per device), the Samsung SmartThings Wifi is the most affordable mesh system we've reviewed.
But there's more to love than just the price. In addition to affordability and an easy-to-use design, the Samsung SmartThings Wifi system can consolidate everything from connected thermostats to light switches to let you take control of your digital home.
It's a great option for anyone who is into home automation. The system lets you set up pre-programmed control sequences for your connected home devices, such as timers for smart lights and powered window shades, and deep integration with Samsung's own smart home products.
All told, Samsung's SmartThings Wifi is an economical way to fill just about any home with Wi-Fi while satisfying demanding users.
Check out the Samsung SmartThings Wifi mesh system review.
The more affordable Orbi
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No | Ports: Four 1 Gbps LAN | Peak Throughput: 549.93 Mbps | Size: 8.0 x 6.4 x 3.1inches
The Netgear Orbi RBK40 is the smaller, more streamlined version of the award-winning Netgear Orbi, and it provides a more affordable option for anyone who wants an Orbi for their moderate-size home.
You will give up a few niceties that go along with the more expensive Orbi, like USB ports for connecting printers and storage. You'll also get slightly slower performance and a smaller coverage area, but the smaller, sleeker Orbi RBK40 still delivers excellent performance and flexibility.
It also works with all of the Orbi products Netgear offers, from indoor and outdoor Orbi extensions to the Alexa-powered Orbi Voice. And if the 4,000-square-foot coverage area offered by the Orbi RBK40's two units don't take care of your entire house, you can add a plug-in extension to cover the dead spots.
Read the full Netgear Orbi RBK40 review.
Great blend of affordability and convenience
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No | Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN, USB-C (power) | Peak Throughput: 464.4Mbps | Size: 4.1 x 4.1 x 2.7 inches
Editor's Note (Oct. 15, 2019) - Google just announced a new version of its mesh router, the re-branded Nest Wifi. In addition to claims of faster throughput and wider coverage, it also has a Google Home smart speaker built into every satellite unit. The Nest Wifi is available for preorder now.
An early player in the mesh-router game, Google Wifi offers easy setup, affordable pricing and better coverage than any single router can provide. Google Wifi's $300 three pack is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to fill a large home with strong wireless connections.
With automatic setup that involves scanning a QR code and using Google's simple phone interface, getting your mesh system up and running is easier with Google Wifi than it is with perhaps any other mesh router.
The streamlined feature set may not appeal to everyone, but it means you can set up your mesh router without having to stress about complex procedures and constant monitoring. Each Google Wifi unit has an Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) built in and automatically updates the firmware as new security patches come out.
But, Google Wifi might not be the best option for every home – aside from pausing the internet connection to gather the family at dinner time, there are no built-in parental controls.
Check out our full review of the Google Wifi mesh router.
Best security-focused mesh router
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No | Ports: 1 WAN/Four 1Gbps LAN | Peak Throughput: 607.8Mbps | Size: 9.4 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches
The Gryphon secure mesh router combines excellent performance and stunning design with a phalanx of security measures to protect a family's data and digital identity. From a unique, sculpture-inspired design to powerful security, the Gryphon justifies its higher-than-average price by offering everything from parental controls and intrusion detection to ESET malware protection and virtual private network (VPN) service. It also combines configuration, malware protection and parental controls into a single app, for convenient setup and management.
But, while the security features and data speeds are excellent, the Gryphon mesh system has its limitations. To start, the mesh solution is limited to six units: a far cry from the 10 or more that can be supported by some competing systems. And there's no USB connection, so network-connected printers and storage will have to connect via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
Read our full Gryphon Secure Mesh Router review.
Great for large homes
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No | Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN | Peak Throughput: 527.1Mbps | Size: 3.0 x 3.0 x 7.5 inches
The Linksys Velop mesh system consists of three tower-style mesh units that offer serious coverage for larger homes. Without adding additional units, this three pack can cover a 6,000-foot home with ease, and with daisy-chain support, it can stretch that coverage away from the base unit as far as you need.
But there are a few rough spots in the Velop's otherwise impressive mesh solution. The first is the inclusion of a ZigBee radio for connecting with and controlling a host of IoT devices – but Linksys has never enabled it.
The other is a lack of physical connections on the three Velop satellites. Each tower has a pair of Ethernet ports, but with no USB connection, it will be more difficult to use the mesh system with a printer or network-attached storage.
In our testing, the Velop was also inconsistent: It offered strong performance for one test and poor performance for the next, even when it was a second run of the same test. Given that the Velop is also one of the more expensive mesh routers we've reviewed, it won't be the best choice for everyone.
Read the complete Linksys Velop review.
Convenience meets security
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No | Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN, USB (“reserved”) | Peak Throughput: 570.5Mbps | Size: 6.0 by 6.0 by 1.5 inches
With a quick setup process and the ability to offer whole-home Wi-Fi connection while controlling all sorts of smart home devices, TP-Link's Deco M9 Plus Smart Home Mesh Wi-Fi System (sold in a three pack) can almost do it all. The Deco M9 Plus uses a trio of compact extensions that are easy to hide or mount on the wall and can cover up to 6,500 square feet with a strong wireless signal.
Built-in conveniences like security – including intrusion prevention, a malicious-content filter and infected-device quarantine – make it easy to manage your home network, but we did find the overall performance to be mediocre when the system had to deal with walls and ceilings.
While it lacks top performance, the Deco M9 Plus is the mesh kit to get if you care more about a simple setup procedure than about top speed. And while each Deco unit has a built-in USB port, it's not enabled (yet), so there's no way to connect USB devices like printers and storage.
See our full TP-Link Deco M9 Plus review.
Convenience for one or two users
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 5/No | Ports: Two 1Gbps LAN, USB 2.0 | Peak Throughput: 570.5Mbps | Size: 4.8 x 4.8 x 1.3 inches
One of the first brands to bring a mesh router to market, Eero's mesh Wi-Fi router helped pioneer the category and earned an excellent reputation for an in-home mesh solution that is easy to set up and use. With a handy app that walks you through the setup process, you can get the Eero mesh system up and running in minutes, even if you don't know much about networking.
Sold in one, two and three packs, Eero's mesh routers can cover roughly 1,000 square feet per unit. You can also add units to extend coverage for larger homes, but in our testing, the performance declined with each additional unit. With no dedicated channel for data backhaul, the only way to alleviate the drop in performance is to use an Ethernet cable to connect each satellite unit, which simply isn't feasible in many large homes.
That means that smaller homes that may need only one or two units will get better performance than those that use three or four, and other options may handle larger homes more easily and for a lower price. The Eero also struggles with handling different devices simultaneously, making it a better fit for homes with one or two users.
Read our complete Eero Mesh Wi-Fi Router review.
Best mesh extension
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No | Ports: Four 1Gbps LAN, USB 2.0 | Peak Throughput: 526.1Mbps | Size: 8.9 x 6.7 x 3.7 inches
If you want the wide-ranging coverage of a mesh router but don't want to give up the router you already have, the Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 Tri-Band Extender provides the mesh solution for you. This wireless extension is much more than a Wi-Fi signal booster: It offers mesh capability that spreads Wi-Fi throughout your home, regardless of what brand or model router you use.
Unlike a traditional Wi-Fi extender, the Nighthawk X6S uses beam-forming and MU-MIMO technology to offer speedy connectivity and gives you the same, single-network convenience that complete mesh systems provide. And for further coverage, it can be paired with other Nighthawk X6S units to deliver that same mesh network over a larger area. With class-leading performance and easy setup, it's the best way to add mesh capability to your existing hardware.
See our full Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 Tri-Band Extender review.
The best functional add-on
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band | Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No | Ports: Four 1Gbps LAN, USB 2.0 | Peak Throughput: 607.2 Mbps | Size: 8.6 x 6.5 x 4.9 inches
One of the things we love about the Netgear Orbi is how flexible it is as a system, with Netgear offering several specialty units for extending coverage and adding functionality. Our favorite add-on has to be the Netgear Orbi Voice, which combines the Orbi's excellent performance and impressive range with speakers and Alexa voice control.
Officially called the Orbi RBS40V, the Alexa-fied extension adds a 35-watt amplifier, 3.5-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter and passive bass-reflex port – all tuned by Harman Kardon audio engineers – to Netgear's signature tri-band 802.11ac Orbi extension. With it, you can use Alexa as your consolidated smart home interface, stream music right from the Orbi Voice and use any of the dozens of skills Amazon supports for all of the Alexa Echo devices.
Read our full Netgear Orbi Voice review.
How We Test Mesh Routers
Every router we review has been rigorously tested in our Utah and New York facilities, using Ixia's IxChariot software to measure throughput at distances that are between 5 and 150 feet. As with standard routers, we test performance at a distance to provide real-world information about coverage and speeds.
We also test how well each router transmits and receives signals through drywall, brick, concrete and even metal walls; and how each handles coverage of a two- or three-story home.
Mesh routers get additional testing to see how well each system does when sending a signal through the main router and through the included satellite units. Beyond simple throughput tests, we also perform detailed heat map testing to determine how well a mesh system distributes signals over a larger coverage area — a test that involves taking dozens of measurements throughout our lab space. We use each mesh router with several connected devices in a real home that contains thick walls.
Other factors used in evaluating the routers include ease of setup and use, software features and available ports.
What Mesh Routers Cost
Mesh routers range in price from $120 to $400 or more. Because mesh systems use multiple devices, you can generally buy a complete mesh system as a two- or three-unit package. You can also buy individual satellite units to extend a mesh network to a broader area. Individual units generally sell for $100 to 200, although specialized units offering added functions may cost more.
Credit: Tom's Guide