Mesh routers or whole-home Wi-Fi systems are a new breed of home routers that can solve Wi-Fi issues such as Wi-Fi dead zones.
They consist of multiple wireless nodes that work together to create a Wi-Fi network. Unlike a single traditional router, you can spread out these wireless nodes to ensure that they cover the entire home with Wi-Fi signals and remove wireless blind spots.
These devices have exploded in popularity this year. There are models from major networking firms such as Asus, D-Link, Linksys, Netgear and TP-Link which you can buy at local stores .
There are pros and cons, however, to getting mesh routers.
First the advantages. They are very similar to range extenders that repeat the wireless signal from a primary router. But mesh routers are smart enough to seamlessly hand over client devices such as smartphones from one node to another node when users move from one part of the home to another, in order to provide the best connection at all times. This means you can walk around the home without suffering from dropped video calls or buffering of streaming videos.
Designed to work in the open, mesh routers generally look more attractive than traditional routers. They often come with companion mobile apps that are used to configure and control these devices - no more fiddling around with computers to change your Wi-Fi network settings. You can even monitor your home network from anywhere in the world, as long as you have Internet connection on your smartphone.
Most mesh routers come with hardware that turns them, with future software updates, into smart hubs for Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart bulbs and digital locks.
However, the simplicity of these apps means that they often lack more advanced features desired by networking experts. Because of their relatively compact sizes, many mesh routers also offer fewer ports than standard routers, such as having just two LAN ports instead of four ports. Many also lack USB ports to connect to a shared network printer or external storage drive.
Mesh routers can be costly, as they are often sold in packs of two or three units. Expect to pay from $400 to $700 for these devices, compared with $200 to $300 for a decent traditional router. And while these mesh routers can deliver improved wireless coverage, they often fall short of the top routers in the market when it comes to download speeds.