Although mesh networks aren’t a new invention, this is the first year that they’ve become popular for home use. We’ve reviewed many of the new systems available in the UK including Google Wi-Fi and BT Whole Home.
What is mesh Wi-Fi?
Put simply, a mesh network is two or more routers which work together to provide much wider Wi-Fi coverage than a single router can.
Some kits have just two units and can’t be expanded, while others can be bought in one, two or three-packs and allow you to add extra coverage when you can afford it, or you need it.
Does it replace my existing router?
No. It’s best to think of mesh system as a replacement for your existing router’s Wi-Fi. You attach one of the devices from a mesh Wi-Fi kit to a spare network port on your router and it creates a new Wi-Fi network to which all your phones, computers, tablets and Wi-Fi smart home gadgets connect.
You then place the second (and third if relevant) mesh device somewhere else in your house, typically on another floor.
The devices all talk to each other and create a single Wi-Fi network that’s both strong and fast across your entire home.
That’s the theory, anyway.
Are powerline adaptors a cheaper alternative?
Yes. If you just need to get a Wi-Fi signal in one room that your current router can’t reach, you might be able to save money by buying a Wi-Fi-enabled powerline kit.
Check out our powerline reviews for more, but bear in mind that not all powerline kits include Wi-Fi.
What other benefits do mesh Wi-Fi systems offer?
They’re usually controlled via an app. In some cases this exists mainly just to help you install the system in the first place, but it can also be used to monitor which devices are connected to which hub.
Some apps also let you ‘pause’ the Wi-Fi network but the best let you stop Wi-Fi on certain devices, so you could prevent your kids watching more YouTube videos, for example.
Others include parental controls or scheduling so Wi-Fi is only available at certain times or to certain devices.
Anything else to watch out for?
Yes. Some mesh systems (but not all) prevent Wi-Fi devices from talking to other gadgets that are connected to your main router’s wired network ports.
For example, you might find you can’t print from your PC as your printer is connected to the Wi-Fi network but your PC is connected via a network cable to your old router.
We explain these limitations in each of the reviews here, though.
Best mesh Wi-Fi systems: Mesh Wi-Fi reviews
- Reviewed on: 29 May 2017
We can’t fault the Deco’s performance and ease of use, although not many UK homes will need the 4500 square foot of coverage offered by the three-pack. But if you’re looking for a mesh networking kit that can provide a fast, reliable Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, then the Deco will really earn its keep.
Read our TP-Link Deco M5 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 January 2018
The Whole Home Wi-Fi does a great job in an average UK home and should eliminate any deadspots.
It should also give you a reliable connection at the farthest points from the router, enabling HD video streaming in places where before you may have had a very weak signal.
It's good to see BT updating the Whole Home Wi-Fi and adding features such as a guest network, with more promised in the future.
It's great value at this price and extra discs are reasonably priced at £79.99 each.
Read our BT Whole Home Wi-Fi review.
3. Google Wifi
- Reviewed on: 26 April 2017
Google's mesh system is both good looking and fast. It isn't the cheapest, but you can buy the routers singly so you only buy what you need.
Overall, it provides a good all-round combination of performance, reliability and ease of use.
Read our Google Wifi review.
- Reviewed on: 5 January 2018
Although its app is a little basic, most people won't care or need the advanced options it lacks. Plus, the new lower price makes this latest Orbi kit a decent deal for those with smaller homes, but with the peace of mind that it can also be expanded with extra satellites.
Read our Netgear Orbi RBK30 review.
- Reviewed on: 28 August 2017
A well-designed mesh system that also performs well and has several useful features that you won't find on all its competitors. The companion app is also good; the only issue is the high price.
Read our Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD review.
- Reviewed on: 22 May 2017
If your home is on more than one floor, or has a tricky dead-spot, then the simple set-up process and solid performance of the Velop could be the ideal solution for improving Wi-Fi reception throughout your home. The problem is the price: it's more expensive than BT Whole Home Wi-Fi and Google's Wifi. And, since the speed that it offers will be way beyond the speed of most current home broadband services, the Velop might be a case of overkill unless you have a large home that needs really extensive Wi-Fi coverage.
Read our Linksys Velop Wireless AC-6600 review.
7. Asus Lyra
- Reviewed on: 8 November 2017
The three-piece Lyra kit is probably a case of overkill for most homes, so the forthcoming Lyra Mini might be a better – and more affordable – option for many people.
The app and set-up process have a few rough edges too, but it’s worth persevering as the Lyra provides significant improvements in both speed and reliability in homes where conventional routers may struggle.
Read our Asus Lyra review.
- Reviewed on: 10 February 2017
If a particular room in your house has poor Wi-Fi reception, the Gigagate should give you a faster, more reliable connection for the wired and wireless devices in there.
It's unusual here as it's a two-piece system, but could be very useful if you have, say, a big entertainment system in a room well away from their router, not least because there are four network ports as well as Wi-Fi.
But if you’re looking for a more comprehensive system that will provide fast Wi-Fi coverage throughout a large home, then you’ll need to look at the three-piece mesh networking kits here.
Read our Devolo Gigagate review.
9. Netgear Orbi
- Reviewed on: 28 November 2016
The Orbi system is expensive, even given the fact that it includes both a router and satellite together. If you only have one room where the wi-fi doesn’t work very well then you could save money simply by buying an inexpensive powerline adaptor or range extender for that particular spot. But for larger homes where you need to boost your wi-fi to an upper floor, or perhaps out into your garden, the sheer reliability (and expandability) of the Orbi’s wi-fi coverage will make it a very worthwhile investment.
Read our Netgear Orbi review.