21 WiFi mesh systems tested


Three years after the major breakthrough, wifi mesh solutions are fairly mature. Last year we saw many major changes and new players compared to a year earlier, since then only one new player and a handful of new solutions from existing mesh builders have appeared. The demand for good Wi-Fi, however, remains pressing in a modern household. It is therefore high time to map the current state of affairs on the mesh market.

The approach of this test is simple: you just want good WiFi at home, preferably with as little hassle as possible. That is exactly the point of all these WiFi mesh systems in this test: that with the help of a number of different units (also called nodes, satellites or access points) distributed throughout your house, you have good range and good speeds everywhere. Without pulling cables of course – one of the biggest objections to a traditional access point setup. Make no mistake: no matter how well WiFi has developed, there is still nothing better than good cabling if your home allows it.

Of course there is more to a test than simply working with each of the solutions, but it is the simplicity of installation and use that makes many consumers move away from the traditional router and opt for a mesh solution. It is precisely those elements that we weigh firmly in our final assessment and the final decision as to which systems are highly recommended.

Test procedure

Our setup is an exact copy of a previous test. We test near the router, put a second ap on the floor above, and possibly a third point on the top floor. Note that most systems are supplied in different quantities. Sets of three are also tested with one ap inactive; the attic-1-hop test simulates the performance on the top (second) floor without an ap being placed there, to map the underlying performance.

Although our test set-up was established after extensive testing and retesting, it is still only a single situation. Wireless performance remains highly dependent on the situation. It is therefore quite possible that the performance in our buildings will turn out differently than in another test; an inevitable evil. Even our carefully weighted test cannot guarantee that a product will work well in your area; only a physical cable really guarantees certainty.

Not one type of mesh

The way each manufacturer approaches mesh varies greatly. TP-Link, Netgear, D-Link, Google, Linksys, Engenius and Ubiquiti focus on complete packages consisting of two or three nodes that stand entirely on their own. They can often be expanded with extra nodes, but not always, so pay attention to that. Of those brands, only TP-Link and Ubiquiti released a new model a year ago, both in the lower segment. Synology follows the same concept of a separate mesh system, but with them you buy each node individually.

Although ASUS also sells complete mesh solutions, their focus is mainly on expanding your existing router with mesh functionality, with the help of additional satellites. FRITZ! Box builder AVM also takes this approach. If you already have a chic ASUS or AVM router, that might be an advantage. You keep your extensive router options and you don’t have to replace your often expensive router. For new buyers who are primarily looking for just good WiFi and are not interested in more complex functionality, these are completely different creatures. To keep the comparison fair, we have therefore excluded these alternatives from the comparison and assigned their own page.

Multiple intensive users at the various access points is asking for problems.

AC class

We split mesh systems into two categories: dual band and triband solutions. The latter are characterized by an additional built-in wireless network specifically for the connection between the satellites. Dual band solutions, recognizable by the AC1200, AC1300 or AC1750 classification, mainly serve to increase the reach of your network, but have limited capacity. Multiple intensive users at the various access points is asking for problems. This makes them primarily as affordable solutions for households with few (simultaneous) users.

For example, if you want to work with four people at the same time in different places in the house, look at a system of at least AC2200 class. The extra capacity between the different points prevents one active downloader in the living room from causing the Netflix stream in 4K or the Fortnite enthusiast in the attic to get frustrated.

Two or three?

A tricky question is whether you want to buy a set of two or three. The answer comes closer when you consider that you prefer to use an extra satellite to amplify in another direction from your router, not to create an endless chain of satellites; with every step you simply lose capacity and stability. If you use one satellite to reinforce the upper floors, and another to grab the garden towards the rear of the house, then a 3-pack is wise. In an apartment or loft where you simply want to have more reach in one direction, a 2-pack is usually sufficient.

TP-Link Deco

The first and second year that we compared mesh systems, TP-Link turned out very well. Given the minor adjustments this year, little has of course been changed. TP-Links mesh solutions are simply very attractive, and they are often on the cheap side.

They score excellent where it counts: the installation is very user-friendly and suitable for total lay people; the same goes for their app experience. The performance is also the best or at the top of their class for every product, enough to make most competitive kits irrelevant in one fell swoop.

The new Deco M4 in particular is “guilty” of this: by far the cheapest mesh solution in this test, but together with his brother the M5 is the best performing in their class. The cheaper M4 takes our editorial tip from the slightly more expensive Deco M5. The practically equally impressive Deco M5 still scores points with its built-in antivirus and recently also a web interface for the more advanced user. The comparable Deco P7 can be interesting if you know that powerline works well in your home, but for anyone looking for ‘just good’ WiFi range, without the heavier capacity of AC2200, the Deco M4 is the most logical choice, thanks to the price breakthrough that this model brings.

The Deco M9 Plus is one of the best sets in the AC2200 class; together with the Netgear Orbi RBK23 he hands out the sheets. In terms of performance, the Deco M9 Plus is slightly faster, but it is also slightly more expensive. If you happen to be looking for a Zigbee network at home for some smart devices, then TP-Link clearly has the advantage. Furthermore, it is difficult to pinpoint a true winner and you can let your own brand or design preferences speak.

TP-Link Deco M4 (Editorial tip)

price

€ 149 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.tp-link.com/nl
9 Score 90 Score: 90

  • Pros
  • Value for money
  • Good coverage and performance
  • User friendly
  • Negatives
  • AC1300; limited capacity

TP-Link Deco M5

price

€ 179 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.tp-link.com/nl
9 Score 90 Score: 90

  • Pros
  • price
  • Good coverage and performance
  • User friendly
  • Negatives
  • AC1300; limited capacity

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus (Editorial tip)

price

€ 399 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.tp-link.com/nl
10 Score 100 Score: 100

  • Pros
  • Coverage, capacity and performance
  • User friendly
  • Zigbee and bluetooth
  • Negatives
  • No

EnGenius EnMesh

Although EnGenius had made nice strides with their EnMesh with firmware updates, they seem to be aware that the cut-throat competition from TP-Link, among others, cannot really keep up with a smaller manufacturer. The result: it is now difficult to find this set on Dutch shelves.

EnMesh is nowadays quite user-friendly, easy to install and offers some advantages with USB storage, but the performance is simply not as good as some other products and it does not compete in terms of price. Acceptable bet aside, there is simply no reasonable argument to consider this set. We also find the optional access points with built-in camera not particularly interesting, until the system really takes part on crucial elements such as performance and price.

EnGenius EnMesh

price

€ 219 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.engeniustech.com
6 Score 60 Score: 60

  • Pros
  • Expandable with camera and mini aps
  • USB storage
  • Negatives
  • Too expensive
  • Not quick enough

Netgear Orbi and Orbi Pro

The Netgear Orbi RBK50 (or RBK53 for the kit of three) was our test winner of the past two years, and again this year it deserves the title best tested. Striking for the oldest product in the test, but to be explained by the lack of alternative AC3000 solutions.

Our conclusion for the RBK50 remains the same: thanks to its extra thick backhaul, this is the best performing set and also the least sensitive with regard to positioning the extra nodes. That sounds like a trifle, but the fact that with the RBK50 / 53 you have to worry least about where you put the nodes can, in practice, prevent you from having to place a turret in an undesirable place.

As a result of that extra bandwidth, those nodes are enormously large. They are also the most expensive ones. The RBK23 and Deco M9 Plus have fallen sharply in price since a year ago, but the RBK50 / 53 remains unchanged at almost double for three nodes. However, the added value in performance is clear, so if you look for the best and price doesn’t count, this Net3ar AC3000 solution wins. As a business user you can still consider the Orbi Pro SRK60; in terms of performance roughly an RBK50, but with extra ssid for internal use and optional wall and ceiling installation, at an additional cost.

The middle segment consists of the Orbi RBK23 and its predecessors Orbi RBK40 and RBK30. We have included the older two in the table because they are still here and there for sale, albeit rarely for attractive prices. However, the RBK23 seems to hit the “sweet spot” well: excellent performance, competitive pricing in its class, and as a veteran, Netgear has the user-friendliness of the installation and the app well organized. The Deco M9 Plus is slightly faster for a slightly higher price, but as long as the RBK23 retains its small price advantage, we call these two the best choices in their class.

Netgear Orbi RBK50 (Best tested)

price

€ 349 (for 2 nodes)
Website
www.netgear.nl
10 Score 100 Score: 100

  • Pros
  • User friendly
  • Excellent performance
  • Excellent range
  • Negatives
  • High price
  • Physically very large

Netgear Orbi RBK23

price

€ 279 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.netgear.nl
10 Score 100 Score: 100

  • Pros
  • User friendly
  • Performance and reach
  • Competitive pricing
  • Negatives
  • No

Netgear Orbi Pro SRK60

price

€ 459 (for 2 nodes)
Website
www.netgear.nl
9 Score 90 Score: 90

  • Pros
  • User friendly
  • Performance and reach
  • Business features
  • Negatives
  • Much more expensive than Orbi RBK50
  • Extra nodes expensive

Google Wi-Fi

Google does not make many products itself, but they do believe in WiFi mesh. The first time the device participated, we found the Google WiFi quite attractive, thanks to a compact design, easy installation and good performance. However, the price was actually too high to participate in the winnings.

A year later, that situation deteriorated for Google. It is even more expensive than last year, where practically every competitor has become significantly cheaper. Google offers an objective net product, but they demand more than double for their AC1200 / 1300 solution than the better-performing TP-Link Deco M4. It even costs more than the much more powerful Netgear Orbi RBK23 and TP-Link Deco M9 Plus and that does not make it an interesting purchase.

Google Wi-Fi

price

€ 359 (for 3 nodes)
Website
https://store.google.com
6 Score 60 Score: 60

  • Pros
  • User friendly
  • Very reasonable performance
  • Negatives
  • No ap mode
  • Far too expensive for AC1200

Linksys Velop

Linksys was a mesh maker from the first hour. Over the years they have made great strides. The once painfully slow installation procedure is now doing well, things like wired backhaul and a web interface were added later. We now find a set of options there that is hardly inferior to a robust router. We think that they have continued to build on their existing products and have made these changes via firmware, because this means that Velop buyers from the first hour still have the most recent hardware in-house. Although Linksys has added a black color scheme, the Velop dual and tri-band are unchanged.

However, we lack Linksys’ own identity, because where the Netgear clearly focuses on being the best and TP-Link simply wants to deliver a good product at a competitive price, the Velop products fall between two stools. Objectively fine and also works well in their own use, but they do not compete sufficiently on performance, possibilities and price. The Velop dual-band is much too expensive in view of the TP-Link Deco M4 / M5 and the high-performing Velop tri-band is simply too expensive in view of the slightly better Orbi RBK23 and Deco M9 Plus. Linksys will have to distinguish themselves on one of those three crucial elements if they want to seriously participate in the profit and not just want to be interesting with a competitive offer.

Linksys Velop

price

€ 229 (for 2 nodes)
Website
www.linksys.com
6 Score 60 Score: 60

  • Pros
  • Options in order
  • Negatives
  • Not competitive

Linksys Velop triband

price

€ 385 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.linksys.com
8 Score 80 Score: 80

  • Pros
  • Good performances
  • Good options
  • Negatives
  • Too expensive

D-Link Covr

With their Covr-1203 and -2202, D-Link participates in the AC1200 / AC1300 and AC2200 class and appears to be the only manufacturer who received last year’s memo that they had to do something to use the Deco M5. compete. We see that the Covr-1203 has become a lot cheaper than last year, and the fact that the D-Link is a little easier to install than its big competitor is a nice bonus. Where you have to connect the satellites with virtually every kit after the initial installation, the Covr does that automatically; small details like that make a difference. Another nice bonus will be the “form factor”, such as the rosé-gold finish that is likely to have a slightly higher acceptance factor in a traditional household.

Unfortunately, D-Link also falls a bit between two stools, because the even cheaper Deco M4 shows itself a little faster and the differences in installation are not so relevant that they make the performance and price forget. The same goes for the Covr-2202, which is just not fast enough or even cheap enough after substantial price cuts, to bring something up against the M9 Plus and RBK23. If D-Link can still push prices down, we see serious potential.

D-Link Covr-2202

price

€ 229 (for 2 nodes)
Website
www.d-link.com
8 Score 80 Score: 80

  • Pros
  • The easiest installation
  • Neat performance and range
  • Negatives
  • Competition slightly faster for the same price

D-Link Covr-1203

price

€ 179 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.d-link.com
8 Score 80 Score: 80

  • Pros
  • The easiest installation
  • Neat performance and range
  • Charming compact design
  • Negatives
  • Competition slightly faster and cheaper

Ubiquiti AmpliFi

The slightly older Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD makes a big impression with its down to the minute packaging, product presentation and app experience. The router element with display and touchscreen make a good impression, installation is done in no time, and Ubiquiti gets above average a lot of information to be presented in a non-confusing way. Do you care a lot about information about your consumption, then Ubiquiti is doing extremely well.

Unfortunately, the AmpliFi HD again stands out this year with an enormously high price, because for this 339 euros you can buy an AC2200-class mesh system with a lot of pocket money left over. That is very difficult to defend; we suspect that real network tinkerers would prefer Ubiquiti’s excellent (admitted: wired) UniFi systems for the same money.

The new Ubiquiti AmpliFi Instant has a similar fate, simply because it is too expensive for an AC1200 / 1300 solution. The requested 229 euros for two nodes is more than double than the Deco M4, and even more than the (AC2200) Orbi RBK23. The Instant is extremely compact, in some parts very fast, and combines the advantages of a handy display, an excellent app experience with the fastest possible installation, but you have to see enormous value in those elements to defend that much higher price.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD

price

€ 329 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.amplifi.com
7 Score 70 Score: 70

  • Pros
  • User friendly
  • Very good router
  • Display router
  • Negatives
  • Range and capacity
  • Unreasonable pricing

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Instant

price

€ 229 (for 2 nodes)
Website
www.amplifi.com
8 Score 80 Score: 80

  • Pros
  • Lightning fast installation
  • User friendly
  • Display router
  • Negatives
  • High price

Synology MR2200ac

Given the fierce competition, we feared a bit for newcomer Synology and their MR2200ac mesh solution, a product that you do not buy as a kit but that you simply get as many separate units as you think are necessary. This results in a somewhat higher price if you search for two or three.

During the installation it is striking that the MR2200ac is actually more of a traditional router than a typical mesh solution. You go through a few more steps and then you arrive in an environment with more extensive options than most alternatives in this test. If you already have a nas of Synology, then everything immediately feels familiar; Nas owners therefore seem to us the target group of this product. With the help of apps you can add and expand various functions, often with quite a few settings, and there are also third-party apps to make it even crazier. The fact that we were able to make extensive reports on the usage with user profiles and different devices per user was a nice plus. Certainly as parents of a young, digital generation.

The combination of higher pricing and more complex yet extensive functionalities does not make the MR2200ac the first choice for anyone looking for a WiFi mesh system. However, the performance is just good, and if two nodes are sufficient, the additional cost is not too bad. As a result, we find the MR2200ac simply interesting if you already own a Synology nas or appreciate such extensive functionality.

Synology MR2200ac

price

€ 136 (per node)
Website
www.synology.com
9 Score 90 Score: 90

  • Pros
  • Features and management
  • Good performances
  • Negatives
  • price
  • Experience required

ASUS Lyra and AiMesh AX6100

We are not going to waste too many words on the ASUS Lyra and Lyra Trio; because, like many other systems, they simply do not stand out positively compared to the Deco’s and Orbi’s of this world. The fact that ASUS has a very extensive firmware does not mean that the price-performance ratio is simply not good enough.

Connoisseurs of ASUS products know that the manufacturer only comes out well when it comes to the truly innovative products. Without a doubt the ASUS AiMesh AX6100 WiFi System (consisting of 2x RT-AX92U, if you want to expand) deserves that title. It is namely the very first mesh solution with 802.11ax or WiFi 6. The system contains the usual 2×2 2.4GHZ radio and a 2×2 5GHz radio (802.11ac / WiFi 5), but also a 4×4 5Ghz-WiFi6 radio with a theoretical maximum throughput of no less than 4804 Mbit / s. In short: potentially extremely fast.

To keep the comparison fair, however, we are testing with the same 2×2 WiFi5 clients as in previous years, antennas that you would normally find in typical luxury laptops of recent years but that simply don’t get the most out of WiFi6 routers. The AX6100 is still doing well with those clients, but we are clearly not getting the most out of it. However, if we switch to our laptops with the newer Killer AX1650 chips or desktops with the Intel AX200 chip on board, we get about 875 Mbit / s on the main connection of the AX6100. If you have a brand new high-end laptop, you will definitely achieve much higher speeds with this solution.

But is the AX6100 immediately a natural choice for mesh? We question that, because only one of the two 5GHz radios supports WiFi 6. If the AX6100 uses that faster WiFi6 radio as a backhaul, then your client is still limited to WiFi5 speeds at another access point. Slightly faster speeds than the competition, but perhaps not what you expect from your investment that is approximately twice as high. We also see another problem (pje): the AX6100 sets the best performance near the router and one floor further down, but on the second floor we don’t get a stable connection. The cheaper RBK50 still does over 200 Mbit / s there.

Too many reservations about the test profit, partly in view of the price. Yet we clearly see the potential of WiFi 6 coming to mesh WiFi here. If you do not want to provide a large villa with range, but you do want the best router performance for your new WiFi6 laptop plus an excellent backhaul over a modest distance, then the AX6100 is very successful.

ASUS AiMesh AX6100

price

€ 429 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.asus.nl
9 Score 90 Score: 90

  • Pros
  • WiFi 6 super-fast
  • WiFi5 performance
  • Extensive firmware
  • Negatives
  • Only one WiFi6 radio
  • Mesh range

ASUS Lyra

price

€ 289 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.asus.nl
7 Score 70 Score: 70

  • Pros
  • Router featureset
  • Negatives
  • Speed ​​and price

ASUS Lyra Trio

price

€ 249 (for 3 nodes)
Website
www.asus.nl
7 Score 70 Score: 70

  • Pros
  • Router featureset
  • 3×3 stream
  • Negatives
  • No dedicated backhaul
  • price

Extra: expand your network with mesh

If you want a good mesh network, you can no longer use your current router or modem as an access point. With all discussed solutions you have to switch off the WiFi functionality of your current router to prevent problems with roaming around the house; your router and your mesh set rarely work really well together.

If you already own a high-end ASUS or AVM high-end router, chances are that you cannot provide good wifi in all corners of a modern home. At the same time, there is a good chance that you do not want to put that extensive router aside. Both brands therefore offer suitable mesh solutions to build on your current router that we do not want to leave unspoken.

ASUS

ASUS focuses on their AiMesh technology, a solution that allows you to combine recent ASUS routers into a mesh network. In theory that gives enormous flexibility: you can combine routers of every caliber at your own discretion and purchase hugely powerful (and expensive) mesh nodes. The already discussed AX6100 is actually an example of this, because each of those nodes is actually just a router. They simply put two in one box.

This flexibility also has a price: complexity. Not every combination turns out to be worth the money. We have only been able to test a select number of combinations, with varying results. The number of public experiences with specific combinations is also limited. Our advice is therefore to do good research before you expand your current Asus router as a mesh system; the possibility is especially interesting if you currently have at least a high-end, triband solution, otherwise the ASUS products simply will not compete with the better AC2200 solutions in this test.

If you are not interested in extensive options, we recommend the earlier ready-made packages.

AVM

AVM chooses a more compact route with their mesh solutions. You can continue to build on your existing FRITZ! Box with a FRITZ! Repeater 3000 (118 euros) or a FRITZ! Repeater 1750E (69 euros), respectively a triband and dual band mesh satellite. Originally these are repeaters, but now they offer similar mesh functionality as the separately available packages. Both products proved to be the better solutions in their class in our earlier tests, but we tested with the FRITZ! Box 7590 at the base. The 7590 is an excellent router, but one that justifies its solid price tag with the extremely extensive firmware that AVM offers; a different target group than a ready-made mesh system. Because it is a dual band model, expanding with a mesh node is especially interesting if you think you can cover your last blind spots with one extra node.

If you expect WiFi to work just fine and you are not interested in extensive options, then we recommend the earlier ready-made packages. If you are already in the FRITZ! Ecosystem, both the FRITZ! Repeater 3000 and the 1750E are nowadays excellent alternatives, reliable for a complete mesh set, with our preference for the freely-placed FRITZ! Repeater 3000.

Conclusion

A lot has not changed since last year. Once again we see that the majority of solutions simply have difficulty keeping up with the first-time mesh providers. At the bottom of the market, the TP-Link Deco M4 is actually too good for its extremely low price, which makes it our editorial tip with conviction for anyone who is just looking for a good range for little.

At the top of the market, the expensive Orbi RKB50 / 53 remains unbeaten for the third year in a row. Costs something, but then you also have something that is objectively tested. Yet for the first time we see a competitor coming, because the AX6100 from ASUS shows that WiFi6 mesh solutions will overtake the WiFi5 Orbis. We are, however, inclined to wait a little longer for an even heavier WiFi6 set for the ultimate mesh solution, because although the maximum speeds are already higher, the old Orbi still wins with its larger range.

For anyone looking for reach and capacity for an active family at a more modest price, we see TP-Link and Netgear again as the winners in the AC2200 class. The Deco M9 Plus and Orbi RBK23 perform above average, are priced correctly, and both deserve the editorial tip. However, both companies need to stay sharp, because the gap with some competitors is not huge and some others show that their younger solutions are even easier to install, such as the D-Link Covr and the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Instant.

Hopefully we will see even better or even cheaper solutions next year, because compared to last year the bulk of the sets has become a lot cheaper. Thanks to the latter, we can at least say this year with full conviction: if you are just looking for good WiFi, mesh is no longer the future, but the most logical solution today. Day router, hello mesh network.

Click on the table for a larger version.

Mesh with benefits

With the backhaul as a crucial element of any mesh system, especially models with alternative backhaul options are worth some extra attention, such as models that can also use any cables present in the home as a backhaul. Is your house partially cabled? Then we recommend a mesh solution that has a checkmark in the table under “wired backhaul possible”.

The TP-Link Deco P7 is striking because it can also use a powerline connection. Powerline works great in some homes, but not at all in others. This makes it impossible for us to estimate which performance is expected in your case.

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