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Is a mesh network right for your home? Learn the pros, cons, how mesh technology works, and how to choose the best system to maximize your WiFi network.

Tired of WiFi that only works in one corner of your house? Sick of spotty connections that drop your video calls? A mesh network could be the upgrade you've been waiting for. Below, we break down what mesh WiFi is, how it enhances your WiFi signal, and whether it's the right fit for your home.

What is a Mesh WiFi Network?

You can think of a traditional WiFi connection as a single, overworked router trying to do all the heavy lifting. Essentially, it's sending Internet signals from a fixed point, and walls, distance, or interference all cause hiccups.

Now imagine instead of one router, you have a team covering your whole home — that's a mesh network. It uses multiple nodes that are strategically placed throughout your home at various access points. These nodes communicate seamlessly with one another, forming a blanket of strong WiFi coverage. Not only do they boost Mbps for your wireless devices, but mesh systems are also great for smart home automation.

WiFi Mesh System vs. Home WiFi Range Extender

On the surface, both mesh and WiFi extenders sound similar, but they offer distinctly different experiences. Here are the differences:

  • WiFi Extender: This single device takes your existing router's signal and rebroadcasts it a bit further. However, extenders often create their own separate WiFi network — which you have to switch manually between — and can suffer from speed loss.
  • Mesh Network: A mesh network works much more cohesively. You have a main node connected to your modem, with other nodes spread throughout your space. They share the same WiFi network, offering a single connection (no hopping networks) and more consistent speeds.

How Does Mesh WiFi Even Work?

The magic of a mesh router wireless network is in the way the nodes communicate, not just with your devices, but with each other.

This happens through a process called “smart data routing,” which means rather than your device connecting solely with the main router, a mesh system finds the strongest path in your home network. This could be through the main node or any of the surrounding ones. This constant optimization improves reliability, especially in large homes.

But mesh nodes don’t just rely on wireless signals. Many of the newer systems utilize dedicated backhaul channels (using specific WiFi bands or even an ethernet cable) for node-to-node communication, minimizing dead spots.

In most cases, you’ll want a mesh WiFi router that supports WiFi6, WiFi6E, or WiFi7, as they support the fastest speeds. A few of the best mesh WiFi routers on the market today include Google Nest WiFi ProNetgear OrbiEero 6, and others.

Pros and Cons of a WiFi Mesh Network

Mesh WiFi is excellent for improving your Internet service at home, but it's not a 'one size fits all' solution for a whole home WiFi system. Here's the honest breakdown:

Pros of a Mesh WiFi System

  • Coverage: You can say goodbye to dead zones. Mesh nodes fill in weak spots, ensuring even the basement or far-flung rooms have adequate Internet speeds.
  • Reliability: With multiple nodes, you're less affected by disruptions to any single one. It's less likely your Netflix binge dies due to interference.
  • Easy Setup: Many mesh systems come with streamlined apps, including mobile apps, for fast installation and ongoing management.
  • Scalability: If your house grows, your network can too. Easily add nodes if you get a new home office needing strong WiFi.

Cons of a Mesh WiFi System

  • Price: While mesh systems can enable faster speeds, they tend to be more expensive than a single router and extender setup.
  • Overkill for Some: Small apartments or spaces without lots of interference might not benefit enough to justify the cost.

Do I Need a Mesh Network?

Here are a few scenarios where mesh WiFi shines:

  • Large/Multi-Story Homes: Traditional routers simply struggle to penetrate sprawling areas.
  • Lots of Smart Home Devices: Mesh networks have better bandwidth capacity to manage the multitude of smart lights, thermostats, etc., modern homes use.
  • Thick Walls or Obstructions: Older homes with dense construction wreak havoc on WiFi. Mesh WiFi combats this.
  • You Crave Reliability: If online stability is paramount, mesh WiFi is a good investment. It may be beneficial for remote workers and online gamers.

FAQs About Mesh WiFi

Are There Wired Mesh Networks?

Yes, most mesh networks offer the option to connect some or all of your nodes directly to your home's wiring using an ethernet cable. This backhaul method prioritizes reliable WiFi, speed, and stability between nodes, making it absolutely perfect for demanding Internet activities, like gaming or large-scale streaming throughout your entire home.

Does a Mesh System Replace My WiFi Router?

Technically, yes and no. Your Internet service provider (ISP)-provided modem is still required to bring the broadband Internet connection into your home. However, the main node of your mesh system takes over all the usual routing duties like managing connected devices, assigning IP addresses, and so on.

Is Mesh Better Than Two Routers?

In most cases, yes. While multiple routers might sound like a DIY mesh system, the reality is much more complex. With dedicated mesh hardware, you benefit from easier setup, better node-to-node communication, and a single seamless WiFi network throughout your home. Setting up two routers (even two of the best WiFi routers) to function similarly can be very technical and typically requires an advanced understanding of WiFi networks.

Can a Mesh System Work With Any Router?

Some modern mesh systems can be partially integrated with your existing wireless router, often requiring you to put your current router into 'bridge mode.' However, optimal performance and the full scope of your mesh system's features will always be available when using it with the included mesh-specific nodes.

Does Mesh Slow Down Internet?

In theory, any time your data hops from your device to a node, and then to the main router, a tiny bit of delay (latency) is introduced in the process. Well-designed mesh network systems are made to minimize these slow downs.

They do this by using intelligent routing and dedicated backhaul communication to keep your Internet access as speedy as possible. However, if you notice a significant slowdown with your mesh connection, the setup or placement of your nodes might need tweaking. If moving the nodes to a better location doesn’t work, you may want to reach out to your provider to help troubleshoot your wireless connection.

Find the Right Internet Provider With SmartMove

Sometimes it’s not your home WiFi system that’s the problem. Instead, it could be your current Internet provider. If you’re ready to upgrade your service or switch ISPs, we’re here to help. Count on SmartMove to find the best high-speed Internet providers in your area today.

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