The Best Mesh WiFi Routers of 2017By Brendan Nystedt
WiFi is a mature technology, but many people absolutely hate their home's network. Dead zones that feel like the Bermuda Triangle, slow speeds, unreliable connectivity—it feels like WiFi is always letting you down just when you need it.
New-fangled mesh WiFi systems promise a fix by blanketing your whole home in WiFi from multiple points, like how industrial-grade networks at offices, schools, hotels, and stadiums work. These setups use access points spread throughout the home to increase dependability on different floors and across the many rooms of your house. We tested six of the top models on the market today, and found that our favorite overall was Eero.
What amazed us in testing six of the most popular systems is that they're all big improvements over typical one or two router systems. There wasn't a single bad mesh WiFi system in the bunch, and you'd likely be happy with any one of the options we tested if you're dissatisfied with your current home network.
But there are some definite standouts among the current crop. Whether you need a package that's dead-easy to set-up, features top-notch parental controls, or just want a solid all-rounder, these are the best mesh WiFi systems money can buy.
Updated May 31, 2017
eero Home WiFi SystemBest Overall
Eero was one of the first consumer mesh WiFi systems, and it continues to lead the pack thanks to its unique mix of attractive design, strong signal strength, and easy-to-learn management features. Even though it's not the easiest to set up, this system is perfect for ordinary users who want better, more consistent WiFi throughout their home.
Thanks to its feature-rich app, Eero became a clear frontrunner when we tried it out in our test home. Even in the farthest corners of the house where a traditional network faltered, the Eero setup excelled in our internet speed tests, giving us the full 56 Mbps of our cable connection. The access points' flat, shiny design and small white status indicator light made Eero easier to place around the house than most, hiding tastefully among books and lamps.
Gamers and parents alike will love how simple it is to set bedtime hours on the network, and how frequently-used devices can get preferred status so your family's devices won't have to compete for bandwidth if it's time to stream a movie. No matter what we threw at it, the Eero network didn't let us down, making it the best all-around mesh WiFi solution we tried in 2017.
AmpliFi HD Mesh WiFi SystemEasiest Setup
While the mesh WiFi market is mostly made up of promising newcomers, Ubiquiti Networks has created its first consumer product. Ubiquiti is best known for its industrial-grade mesh WiFi solutions used in places like college campuses and office buildings.
Called Amplifi, this WiFi system takes Ubiquiti's enterprise-grade technology and wraps it in a friendly package that was the easiest system to set up in our test. Unlike most systems, the network extenders included in the Amplifi HD kit are already paired to the base station. That means you only need to set up the base and place the extenders around your home to get the full network fired up. Our Amplifi HD network was ready to go in less than ten minutes.
While the app wasn't quite as impressive as Eero's simple software, it still manages to give users enough power to set things like bedtime hours, device priority, and a simple one-touch button that will pause the whole network. Perhaps the only snag with this system is its unorthodox design. The two network extenders are both big, blocky antennas that plug directly into a three-prong power outlet. Even though they're designed to magnetically detach if bumped, the pieces of this network just aren't as easy to discreetly scatter around the home.
The biggest name in tech has its own mesh WiFi solution, simply called Google WiFi. This setup works a lot like the Eero or another pod-based network. In our tests, we found that its network speeds weren't as good as our top picks but this option makes up for its slight lack of signal with a great MSRP of only $300.
Of course, Google's app is well-executed and its WiFi system is fairly simple to set up and expand on down the road. Its design is attractive, but these puck-shaped devices are thicker than competing systems, and might be a little harder to tuck into the corners of your home. All in all, if you only have $300 to spend, Google offers you a decent system that's well-built and attractive, even if it's not the most powerful option you can buy.
Netgear's popular Orbi system is among the best we tried for this article. Netgear's networking prowess comes into play with the Orbi, which is a fully-featured networking system that covered our test home with sweet, reliable WiFi. The system's dedicated 5 GHz wireless backhaul connects the router to the satellite, giving them a solid connection. Both components of the Orbi system have plenty of ethernet ports, giving you the option to join the network that way instead.
Unfortunately, the two apps that Netgear uses are overly complex compared to the competition. Parental controls are tricky to figure out, and many features that apply to Netgear's other routers in its Genie app just don't apply here. Additionally, expanding the system can cost as much as $250, way more than the competition. Factor in the bulky design of the units (they look like space-age essential oil diffusers), and we think Orbi is a tough sell for real people just looking for an easy solution to their WiFi woes.
Luma Whole Home WiFi
Like Eero, Luma is a startup whose star product is a mesh WiFi system designed for the home. Its competitive cost belies the fact that this system is actually very good. Its standout features are best-in-class parental controls and security features, which may fit your needs even better than our top pick. Its setup process is a little more in-depth than others, requiring you to specify where in the house each access point is located, which may help better calibrate the network. The easy-to-use companion app makes Luma almost as simple to manage as our top picks.
Our main criticisms of the Luma system include its strange design, that makes each access point stand on one edge. This makes it surprisingly unstable with cords plugged in, and its awkwardly tall shape is a bit harder to hide away in a home. Luma's signal in the far reaches of our test home was also a little worse than average, making it a less effective choice for big homes or those with hardier construction.
TP-Link Deco M5
This new system from the router makers at TP-Link has many things we like, but overall it left us wanting. Deco made a positive impression thanks to a fully-fleshed out app with incredibly fine-grained parental controls and all the network management tools you could want. Reception within our test home was roughly on-par with the best systems, with only a little drop-off in the tricky, far corners of the abode.
The TP-Link Deco M5 is a fine option, but it doesn't truly excel in any one area, unlike most of the competition. There's no reason not to buy if you prefer the design or brand name, but it's simply not as fully-featured, easy to set up, or attractive as most of its competition.
We tested these six systems in a duplex with three stories and a basement. This is a home built in the 1920s in the Boston area with lathe and plaster walls, hardwood floors, a brick exterior, and an old chimney still in place. In other words: just about the hardest type of home to cover reliably with WiFi. The apartment used was the top two floors of the home.
The current wireless network in the home uses an older Apple Time Capsule and a single Airport Express to extend the network throughout the home. These Apple networking products aren't going to be updated in the future, so they're an evolutionary dead-end compared to the new batch of mesh WiFi systems.
The cable-based internet connection used is from RCN, and its wired speed direct into the cable modem was tested as 56 Mbps using the Fast.com speed test. Each system was unboxed, set up, updated to the latest version of the system's firmware, and allowed to settle in for at least an hour. We tested each system in six rooms of the house with an Android phone and a Dell laptop.