Why You Should Buy A Mesh Network
A mesh network is best for large homes and homes with difficult Wi-Fi dead spots or an unusual layout. Older homes might also have lath and plaster walls of which is more challenging for Wi-Fi to pass through.
Wi-Fi routers emit a signal in a roughly spherical pattern. This signal can be blocked or redirected by objects, including walls, furniture, and appliances. Most obstacles won’t wholly block a Wi-Fi signal, but some can. A bathroom or kitchen wall with several pipes, for example, can become a barrier.
These scenarios are where a mesh network shines. A mesh network has additional nodes which communicate wirelessly with the primary router. Each node will emit a signal in a roughly spherical pattern, just like a router. This pattern creates a broader, more reliable Wi-Fi network that can get around obstacles between the primary router and Wi-Fi devices in your home.
The Pros And Cons Of These Wireless Systems
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Are you looking to upgrade your Wi-Fi? You’re undoubtedly considering the benefits of a mesh network against a typical Wi-Fi router. Both options can provide excellent Wi-Fi performance, but each has unique advantages and disadvantages. This guide will help you decide which setup is best for you.
When Wont You Need A Mesh Router
There are plenty of reasons to upgrade to a mesh system, especially if youre already looking at upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E router. However, there may be a few reasons why a mesh system wont be the best solution for you.
First, if you live in a smaller apartment or home and have yet to experience Wi-Fi coverage or reliability issues, a mesh system is likely not needed. Most systems cover approximately 5,000 square feet, and that may be overkill for you if you live in a studio or smaller apartment.
Cost may be a factor as well when it comes to mesh adoption. While there are less expensive systems that rely on Wi-Fi 5, also known as 802.11ac, newer Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E systems start at a few hundred dollars. A more robust multi-unit setup can cost more than $1,000.
Though some mesh systems, like Netgears latest quad-band Orbi RBKE96, can reach speeds up to 10.8Gbps, most home users are likely more limited by their home broadband plan than what their routers can deliver. Given that a majority of American homes still dont have gigabit fiber access, anything in excess of 1Gbps may be wasteful. Offices with more robust broadband speeds are likely the beneficiaries of modern mesh network speed capabilities.
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I Like To Tweak All My Network Settings
Commercial mesh networking systems do undoubtedly come with fewer advanced settings than your standard routers, but that’s seen as a selling point for many people. If you’re on the side of “set it up once and forget about for a couple of years,” a mesh network will do you fine.
If, however, you’re more on the side of “I want to tinker with my network every day,” you might be disappointed with the mesh network .
How A Mesh Wi
A mesh Wi-Fi network has three clear advantages over extenders or access points.
1. Ease of use
A Wi-Fi system is easy to set up. At most, you only need to set up the primary hub . After that, the rest of the satellite hubs will replicate the Wi-Fi settings and expand the coverage.
Thats the case in the ongoing management, too. For example, when you need to change Wi-Fi settings, such as the network name or password, you only have to do that on the router unit. The system will apply that to the satellites automatically.
2. Seamless hand-off
In a mesh, its easier to have continuous connectivity on your device when roaming from one hub to another, as though there was just one hub involved.
Specifically, as you roam around within a meshs Wi-Fi coverage, the device in your hand will automatically switch to the broadcaster with the best signals.
The seamless hand-off also applies to satellite hubs when two or more satellites are in a wireless setup.
In this case, a satellite will automatically pick which hub to form the backhaul link with, depending on the real-time condition. For this backhaul link, the satellite behaves like any client.
Extra: Notes on the seamless hand-off
Its important not to take seamless literally. That doesnt exist.
But generally, you will always notice the interruption if you use real-time communication apps like Wi-Fi calling or video conferencing. In this case, pick a location with strong signals and stay there.
A few things to keep in mind:
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How To Know If You Need Mesh Wifi Or If You Should Use Alternatives
You can still get reliable wireless Internet even if Mesh WiFi isnt the best solution for you. There are other devices and technology to us to boost your WiFi. They all solve the same problem, which is eliminating weak WiFi. The difference is how they do this. The best choice for you is the one that fits your situation and preferences. Here are more affordable and accessible options other than Mesh WiFi:
WiFi range extenders are devices that you place between your router and the hard-to-reach area. Similar to Mesh WiFi, the wireless range extender helps extend that reach of the existing WiFi signal to get more coverage.
MoCA technology with MoCA adapters helps converts coaxial cable TV wiring into an Ethernet connection, creating a point-to-point direction connection for always reliable Internet.
When You Should Consider A Mesh Router
Not everyone needs a mesh network. If you have a floor plan that’s small or compact enough so there are no Wi-Fi dead spots, a traditional router is sufficient.
Or, if you have a dead zone at one end of your home that’s far from your router, moving the router to a more central location in the home can solve the problem.
But if you can’t move the router because the modem is fixed at one end of your home, or the house is simply too big for a single router to blanket it in Wi-Fi service, a mesh network is a good solution.
Many mesh router manufacturers recommend their product for homes in excess of 2,000 square feet, for example. In addition, it’s almost always going to be more convenient and more effective than a Wi-Fi extender.
However, one downside of mesh networks is the price. A mesh router system is often significantly more expensive than traditional routers.
But in return, they’re easy to set up, offer consistent Wi-Fi everywhere in your home, and may even be upgradeable if you find two or three nodes still leads to a dead spot in your particularly large or labyrinthine home, you can buy another node to extend service.
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Do Mesh Networks Really Work
Similar to extenders, as long as you have a reliable internet connection in your home and the nodes are strategically located, you will see immediate results.
Mesh networks are actually one of the most effective ways of improving your internet connection in large areas. Most kits come with 23 nodes, but if thats not enough, additional nodes can be added to the network, allowing the signal to cover your entire house.
How Wireless Mesh Networks Work
Wireless mesh networks can easily, effectively and wirelessly connect large areas using inexpensive, existing technology. In a wireless mesh network, the network connection is spread out among dozens or even hundreds of wireless mesh nodes that “talk” to each other to share the network connection across a large area.
A traditional network router serves as a hub for the devices connected to its network. Most traditional “wireless” access points still need to be wired to the internet to broadcast their signal. For large wireless networks, ethernet cables need to be buried in ceilings and walls and throughout public areas.
In a wireless mesh network, only one node must have an internet connection. Each node added to the network shares its connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity using one of several protocols. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless “cloud of connectivity” that can serve a large office or a city of millions.
If you only need to provide internet access to a small area, you aren’t likely to see a big difference between a single mesh network node and a traditional wireless router. For large networks, however, mesh networks have several advantages:
Wireless mesh networks advantages include:
In this article, we’ll explain how wireless mesh networks work, how they increase network access for a wide variety of industries, and how they might make our dream of a seamlessly connected world come true.
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What Is A Wireless Mesh Network
The concept of mesh networks first appeared in the 1980s in military experiments, and it became available in high-end production hardware in the 1990s. But due to cost, complexity, a scarcity of radio spectrum, and other limitations in early implementations, mesh didnt gain a foothold until around 2015.
Thats when a number of startups and a few established hardware companies began offering expensive, but highly capable mesh nodes, which are network devices with wireless radios that contain software allowing them to configure themselves into an overlapping network without central coordination.
Mesh network routers, such as Netgears Orbi product line, connect multiple wireless nodes to blanket your home with Wi-Fi
In mesh networking, the fundamental unit isnt an access point or gateway, but a node. A node typically contains two or three separate radio systems, and firmware that lets it talk with nearby nodes. Nodes communicate among each other to build up a picture of the entire network, even if some are out of range of the others.
Client Wi-Fi adapters in phones, tablets, laptops, gaming systems, appliances, and other devices connect normally to these nodes, just as if they were standard network gateways or access points.
Netgear will soon offer a version of its Orbi mesh router that connects to the internet via 4G LTE, instead of a cable or telephone line hardwired to the home.
Michael Brown / IDG
Wired Connections Can Help
One last thing worth remembering: Wireless speeds are all well and good, but a wired, Ethernet connection will always give you speeds that are as fast as possible. If you have a home office that’s far from the router, for instance, then placing either a plug-in range extender or a mesh router’s satellite in the room and wiring your computer to it can guarantee speeds that are faster and steadier than what you’d get if you tried to connect wirelessly from afar.
Another range-extending option worth thinking about is to go with a powerline extender. Similar to a plug-in extender, a powerline extender uses two plug-in devices that pass the connection back and forth through your home’s electrical wiring, which is typically a really speedy way to do it. Just plug one in near your router and connect it with an Ethernet cable, then plug the other one in wherever you’ve got a dead zone.
Powerline extenders can also be a nice option if you have pesky physical obstructions in between your router and your dead zone that would stress the wireless connection between the router and the extender. A good powerline extender will use your home’s wiring like a shortcut to get around obstacles like those.
I haven’t tested extenders like these recently, but I’ll update this post once I have some good data to share. For now, this TP-Link model has a four-star review average with over 7,000 reviews, and is currently available for $60. Might be worth a try.
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Mesh Networking Vs Traditional Wi
Mesh networking is a relatively new entry into the consumer market, so you would be forgiven to think it would automatically be ‘better’ than a standard router. However, a mesh network is an overkill for some.
A standard router acts as a central hub for Internet connectivity. Traffic and requests from devices granted permission to connect to the main router’s internet service — usually through a password — are funneled through one access point.
Price: Standard routers are generally more affordable than mesh network products. While you still may expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a premium router, there are many options out there that are budget-friendly and both quick and stable enough to keep your home office running effectively without further input.
Plug and play: In my experience, setting up a standard router is less of a hassle than a mesh network. For something that ‘just works,’ a typical router might be the best option. Set it up, make sure updates are automatically applied, and forget about it.
Speed and wires: Many routers today, such as the Netgear Nighthawk and Asus ROG, are designed with heavy bandwidth and streaming requirements in mind — and have the technology inbuilt to facilitate it. Gamers and live streamers, for example, should generally stick with wired Ethernet connections that may perform better with traditional routers, instead of wireless-first products.
Parental Controls And Device Prioritization
Once your Wi-Fi mesh system is installed, it’s time to take advantage of its features. Because they’re purpose-built for home users, many of these systems offer parental controls that let you create profiles for each family member, limit access to certain websites, and automatically turn off network access during specific times of the day such as bedtime and dinner time. Almost all Wi-Fi systems give you a pause button in the app that lets you disable internet access with the touch of a button, and some systems offer age-appropriate parental controls, too. For example, a child preset will deny access to social media, gambling, and adult-oriented websites, while a teen preset will be slightly less restrictive, and an adult preset will offer unlimited access. You can apply these controls to a family member’s profile and then to every device used by that person, and you can create custom controls to suit your family’s needs.
Another new feature that might become popular as part of Wi-Fi mesh systems in 2021 is direct access to smart home devices. This comes as a new feature in and Eero Pro 6 Wi-Fi mesh systems announced in late 2020. These devices are not only significantly cheaper than many of their competitors, they also have a Zigbee smart home device hub built into the main router, which means things like smart light bulbs, appliances, locks, and more will be able to connect directly to your wireless network without the need for an additional hub device.
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