Even the most powerful router may not be enough to blanket your entire home in Wi-Fi. Dead spots and frustrations are bound to occur so a workaround may be necessary at some point. Have you thought about setting up a home mesh network?
What is a Mesh Network?
Otherwise called a “Wi-Fi system”, it’s a group of routers that wirelessly communicate with each other to create one network that provides a blanket of Wi-Fi connectivity. Instead of just one powerful router, you get multiple sources of Wi-Fi throughout the home with a mesh network.
Because wireless internet is broadcasted from each Wi-Fi point, this connected system theoretically provides better coverage than traditional wireless setups. For comparison, you might want to read up on powerline networking and Wi-Fi extenders.
Wi-Fi systems aren’t perfect, though. Let’s look at both sides of the coin.
Why You Should Get a Wi-Fi System
Here are a few reasons why setting up a mesh network is a good move:
Ease of Use
The good news to non-techies is that setting up a mesh network is simple. If you know how to navigate your way around a smartphone and plug anything into a wall socket, you’re all set to go.
Setting up most home mesh networks is as easy as using your mobile device to configure the unit. With most setups, you only need to use a straightforward web interface to connect the device to your broadband modem. Afterward, you just place the units around your home, plug them in, and you’re good to go!
Besides letting you enjoy an expanded coverage with your wireless internet, a mesh network also makes it easy to tailor the signal according to the shape of your home. Because each unit can be placed 30-50 feet apart from each other, you can place a unit where they’re needed.
If you happen to live in a spacious home, we recommend setting up three hardware units to deliver Wi-Fi signal from end to end. And the beauty with mesh networks? Adding more units expands your coverage further, in case three won’t suffice.
Mesh networks are managed by vendors that roll out regular software updates to improve their devices’ security, features, and performance. Firmware updates often come automatically should any pressing issues arise. You won’t have to worry about your home network being outdated in terms of security (unlike some vulnerable routers we know) at all. You wouldn’t even need to update the firmware manually (a process called “flashing”).
Wi-Fi network users would even get a few pleasant surprises in the form of updates bringing new features or improved system performance.
Why You Shouldn’t Invest in a Mesh Network
A few glaring concerns arise when you go with a Wi-Fi system. Here are the ones that may discourage you from getting one:
Setup isn’t Future-Proof
There’s no easy way to upgrade the hardware in this system. If you’re no longer happy with its features or speed, you may have to get a new system entirely.
What’s more, mesh networks have very limited features and settings that you can personalize. You can only customize parental controls and connectivity features most of the time. Accustomed to doing deep customization of your network? Mesh networks may not be for you.
The hardware for Wi-Fi systems don’t come cheap. Even the most affordable option we’ve found so far will take you back a few hundred dollars for a set.
Keep in mind, though, that you’re paying for convenience when it comes to a mesh network. A lot of Wi-Fi systems actually use relatively low-tier Wi-Fi standard (AC1200), commonly used by routers within the budget range. You’re better off linking routers together manually (if you know how) if you wish to save on cost.
Bad Signal Handoff
Any device (e.g. smartphones, tablets, etc.) should connect seamlessly and automatically from one router to another in a Wi-Fi system. That is theoretically speaking. If you’re experiencing interruptions when making Wi-Fi calls or playing online games while moving around the house, it could be a case of bad signal handoff.
This may not apply to all mesh networks, but complaints on the matter aren’t unheard of. You shouldn’t experience disconnections when you move within the mesh network’s coverage area.
Which Mesh Network Should I Get?
Coverage has been the biggest problem we’ve all had with our wireless connections at home. That’s why mesh networks have been made in the first place. Read about the popular ones—Eero, Luma, and Ubiquiti—to know which one may work for you.
In case you’re suffering slow speeds with your Wi-Fi system, the best alternative is to run network cables to various corners of your home. Wired connections are far more stable/faster than wireless ones, after all. Of course, this isn’t a practical (or economical) decision on most days.