WHAT IS THE BEST MESH NETWORK?
There are a handful of elements a mesh network needs to nail to be truly great. And Google WiFi is the package that hits the right targets for most Wi-Fi nightmare sufferers we know.
The first couple of points on the hit-list are obvious. It needs to extend your Wi-Fi all through your house, no dead zones allowed, and can’t peter out to 56k modem speeds at the far reaches of your second bedroom, even if that is mostly filled with cardboard boxes of clothes you don’t wear anymore.
It also needs to look good and shouldn’t cost a bomb. We don’t want a flat that looks like it’s peppered with routers, and these things just extend Wi-Fi, not make your dinners, so let’s keep the cost sensible.
For the real power users among you, there are faster options than Google’s. However, Google WiFi is fast enough for our use, looks great, is cheaper than some rivals and can also directly replace your current router rather than needing to be plugged into it.
It’s also simpler to use than just about any other piece of networking hardware we can mention. Those who have spent evenings tinkering with their router, only for the internet to still not work will know: this is important.
HOW TO BUY THE BEST MESH NETWORK
A mesh network is just one of the ways to solve problems with your home internet connection, alongside Wi-Fi extenders and Powerline adapters. The latter in particular have much to recommend, but right now, mesh networks are the hottest of the lot.
That’s because they’re reliable, often faster and setup stress won’t reduce your life expectancy. And they have the coolest name.
Mesh networks are made up of little Wi-Fi “nodes” that speak to each other. Each will communicate with the node offering the strongest signal, and spread your Wi-Fi far further than any normal router can.
For the vast majority in the UK, a two-unit mesh network will do the trick, but if you have a larger house, you can continue to add additional units to kill off all black spots
Number of nodes aside, it’s the bandwidth of the hardware that gives you a rough idea of the speed on tap. You’ll see this written as ACXXXX, AC2200 for example
The AC bit means it supports the most recent, AC incarnation of Wi-Fi, and the big number is the theoretical maximum speed in Mbps. You’ll never reach it in real life, but it offers a guide at least.
These boxes transmit data over two or three wireless bands, and you’ll get that “AC” number by adding the speeds of these bands together.
Mesh networks are fantastic range extenders, but as folk who have had to use all sort of networking gear over the years, we think their ease of use is just as important. You don’t have to spend a weekend setting them up, only to finally get them working by the tech equivalent of patching up a hole in a window with masking tape.
They “just work”, and usually take less than 10 minutes to get up and running.
You don’t have to worry about your health either. While, yes, mesh networks do flood your house with Wi-Fi much more effectively than a standard router, the energy of the Wi-Fi signal is way too low-powered to melt your brain. We promise. If you’re still scared, your local supermarket will usually have a good selection on tin foil on its shelves.
Anything else to consider? We think 90% of you will be happy with 100% of the picks below, but you might want to look at the connections on the nodes of these units. They all have Ethernet ports to let you plug in devices for an even more reliable connection, and a few have USB to connect storage devices or printers.
Because even in 2018, in the age of the mesh, some of us like printing off boarding pass and discount vouchers.
THE BEST MESH NETWORKS, IN ORDER