I have been researching different vendor implementations of mesh WiFi. I have some friends who are using mesh wireless networking systems and I have become increasingly frustrated with the performance of my wireless at home. There are a number of vendors offering technologies in this area, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each. I have learned that there are some key factors to consider when making a purchase of wireless equipment and I want share what I have learned for others.
What is mesh WiFi?
The first thing I want to do is describe what mesh is and how it works. Legacy wireless systems for consumers typically come with one unit, or access point. Mesh technology differs in that it usually comes with 2 or more units. These units communicate with one another to share information. Sometimes, with more expensive equipment, these devices communicate over a dedicated wireless channel or wired ethernet. I was looking for something that provided this “backhaul” connection over wireless since my home is not wired at all with networking cable. In systems that do not provide this dedicated wireless or wired communication between mesh peers, part of the available wireless bandwidth that would normally be allocated to clients is taken for this communication.
Why would I want mesh WiFi?
Mesh WiFi is not for every consumer. The typical reasons for someone choosing mesh over legacy options usually include multiple story homes, large ranch style homes, or other architectural considerations that might inhibit wireless signal flow. In my case, I live in a multiple story home and needed to spread enough wireless signal throughout my home to maintain consistent connections and offer the best speeds. If you are in a small apartment or home, you might be just as well served with a single legacy access point.
Which mesh system should I choose?
After much research, I concluded that the system that would serve me best was the Netgear Orbi. This system has been the subject of a lot of conversation as it is not, or was not, a true mesh wireless system. Until a recent update, the Orbi satellites communicated with the base router directly. In a true mesh system, the satellites can communicate with one another as well as the base. The recent update allows satellites to communicate with one another. However, the reason I chose this system was because there were so many positive reviews regarding the performance of the wireless.
I placed one of the devices, the base router, in my computer room which is on the first floor of my home and in the center of the house. The second unit is located upstairs. That is the only satellite I have at this time, although the unit and coverage area can be extended by purchasing more satellites. Based on the reviews, this was the system I felt would serve me best, but there are many mesh offerings on the market for consumers and I would advise that consumers do their shopping and research to find the options that are best for their homes.