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How to Choose the Best Mesh Wireless System For Your Home  

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Dave Hamilton
(@davehamilton)
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Joined: 20 years  ago
Posts: 235
June 1, 2018 5:46 EST PM  

[Update #5, August 11, 2018 – Added new Plume SuperPods and Deco M9 Plus hardware to the list, and started tracking Plume overall (and I'm impressed!). Updated a note in the buying advice section comparing the robustness of eero, Plume, Velop, and Orbi. See Changelog]

Mesh wireless systems are all the rage these days, and for good reason. Mesh networking technology now allows us to have high-speed coverage everywhere in our homes with no dead spots and, equally as important, simple setup and management.

There are a lot of products calling themselves "mesh", and not all of them share the same features or capabilities. For our purposes, we define mesh as a system that uses multiple wireless access points positioned throughout your home that all broadcast the same wireless network name (SSID) and are all managed from one interface. This last bit is important because, in most cases, being managed from one interface means that all the devices are aware of each other and can work together to manage the Wi-Fi throughout your home without you having to worry about it.

Sorting your way through this mess of mesh can be a bit tricky, especially as software updates roll out and features previously missing from one are added or enhanced. Remember: software can be changed after you buy, hardware cannot. And while hardware may seem to be the most important factor to consider when buying, you need to discern whether your vendor of choice is likely to update their software at a pace that's acceptable to you.

I’ve personally tested every one of the systems here, and they all perform quite well. Still, there are specific features that we find important, and even more that you might find important. Read on, and we’ll teach you how to decide which mesh wireless system is right for you.

Summary Chart

Let’s do this in reverse and give you the overview right up front. If you need or want details, we’ve got them for you in spades, but here are the broad strokes.

Mesh Wireless Key Feature Summary

ModelWi-Fi
Radios
BufferBloat
QoS
Ethernet
Backhaul
Intrusion
Protection
Package

Price*

 Amped ALLY2 Yes$198
 eero3 (or 2)YesYes**Yes $399
 Google Wifi2Yes$259
 Linksys Velop3Yes $279
 Luma3 (or 2)No YesYes $129
 Netgear Orbi3Yes Yes*** $323
Plume3NoYes$399
 TP-Link Deco3 (or 2) No YesYes $299
 Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD2Yes**$339

*All prices are in USD for an Amazon Prime-shipped standard packages from each vendor, current as of the listed publication date. Amped ALLY, Netgear Orbi, and TP-Link Dco M9Plus come with two units (one base and one satellite) while all the rest come with three units (one base and two satellites). Other options are generally available, too.

**Ethernet backhaul is only available on devices with Ethernet ports, and the eero Beacons and AmpliFi Mesh Points both just plug directly into AC outlets and have no other ports available.

***Orbi's Ethernet Backhaul continues to have issues. In our tests it works if you give it time.

Hardware: Streams/Antennas/Radios

The number of antennas describes both the maximum number of streams any one mesh access point can deliver simultaneously, as well as how flexible it can be in terms of getting the best connection to your existing devices. This is expressed by Transmit x Receive, which you'll see written as 2x2, 3x3, and even 4x4 at times.

Mesh access points with two radios have one each of 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Devices with three radios include a second 5GHz radio for enhanced bandwidth to high-speed clients and/or backhaul (that being the communication between the mesh itself).

  • Amped ALLY: one 3x3 5GHz radio and one 4x4 2.4GHz radio.
  • eero: All first-generation eero devices have two 2x2 radios, as do the new wall-plug-only Beacons. New, 2nd gen eero units have three 2x2 radios within.
  • Google Wifi: Two 2x2 radios.
  • Linksys Velop: Three 2x2 radios in tri-band units, Two 2x2 radios in dual-band units.
  • Luma: Two 2x2 radios.
  • Netgear Orbi: Two 2x2 radios for your client devices, one additional radio only used for backhaul between the Orbi devices. The AC3000 units have a 4x4 backhaul radio, the AC2200 units have a 2x2 backhaul radio.
  • Plume: Three radios per SuperPod. One 4x4 and two 2x2.
  • TP-Link Deco: Three 2x2 radios in tri-band units (M9Plus), Two 2x2 radios in dual-band units (M5).
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Two 3x3 radios in all HD units.

Advice: In our practical experience, most homes do just fine with the basic two 2x2 radios. However, if you have a lot of client devices that are often simultaneously streaming data, having that third radio of the Velop or 2nd gen eero can be quite helpful. Additionally, if you have a very long backhaul between mesh points (stretching to an outbuilding, for example), Netgear's AC3000 Orbi unit can maintain a 100Mbps connection over more than 100 feet of distance, including through walls.

Hardware: Ethernet Backhaul

Most of us buy mesh systems because our homes are not wired and we cannot easily run Ethernet wires in our walls. That said, if you happen to have wires in your walls (or plan to install them), that can make a mesh system remarkably more efficient. Ethernet Backhaul support means that the mesh access points will link with each other over Ethernet, freeing up the wireless radios for client communication.

  • Amped ALLY: Not supported.
  • eero: First and second gen eero units are all capable of Ethernet backhaul. The new Beacons lack Ethernet ports and, as such, are unable to use it.
  • Google Wifi: Supported.
  • Linksys Velop: Supported for everything except setup. Use Wi-Fi backhaul for setup, then once the system is working you can move the nodes to Ethernet cables and the system will automatically reconfigure itself.
  • Luma: Supported.
  • Netgear Orbi: Ethernet backhaul was added December, 2017 with firmware 2.1.1.12.
  • Plume: Supported.
  • TP-Link Deco: Supported for everything except setup.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: The base units are all capable of Ethernet backhaul, but the kits come with the mesh points that plug into the wall, and these do not have Ethernet jacks on them.

Advice: if you have wires between your rooms or plan to install them, make sure you get a system that supports Ethernet backhaul. Otherwise, don't sweat it.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary Chart, Hardware: Streams/Antennas/Radios, and Ethernet Backhaul
  2. Software: QoS and BufferBloat Protection, Band Steering and Access Point Steering, and Cloud vs. Local Management
  3. Software: Intrusion/Malware Protection, and Parental Controls
  4. Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog

Page 2: Software: QoS and BufferBloat Protection, Band Steering and Access Point Steering, and Cloud vs. Local Management

[caption id="attachment_22499" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] TP-Link’s Deco is one of the lowest-priced, full-featured Mesh Wireless options available.[/caption]

Software: Internet Connection QoS and BufferBloat Protection

Quality of Service (QoS) is an umbrella term that is used to describe many different aspects of a network (and beyond). For our purposes, we're focusing on internet connection (or WAN port) QoS, specifically a router's ability to manage your bandwidth such that one device on your network can't slow down everyone else's access to the internet. Think about a scenario when your Mac decides to back up all its photos to the cloud and suddenly your other devices are slow to browse the web or check email. This is commonly called “BufferBloat”, and a router with proper internet connection QoS can eliminate or reduce that slowdown.

  • Amped ALLY: No.
  • eero: Yes. In May, 2018, eero added their eero Labs Smart Queue Management feature, which directly addresses this very problem. [Updated 1-June-2018]
  • Google Wifi: No.
  • Linksys Velop: No.
  • Luma: Limited device prioritization feature, no real BufferBloat protection yet (they say it’s coming in a future update, but they've been saying that for a long time).
  • Netgear Orbi: Yes. Was recently added with a software update, and a hidden QoS web page implies more may be coming, though nothing has been announced.
  • Plume: No.
  • TP-Link Deco: No. Their QoS just supports device prioritization.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: No.

Advice: You want this. Second only to having solid coverage everywhere is having a well-managed internet connection.

Software: Band Steering and Access Point Steering

Every mesh product supports both 5GHz and 2.4GHz radios, and most of your client devices (iOS and Macs) will support both of these, as well. Generally-speaking, your devices will choose the radio that appears to be strongest and fastest at your current location, but your iPhone and Mac don’t always know how congested a given radio frequency is. Your router has this information, of course, and Band Steering means that your router participates in that decision process, helping your devices choose the best radio band for your current conditions. Access Point Steering means that the mesh will actively direct clients to the best access point at any given time.

  • Amped ALLY: Currently no band steering, but firmware to support it is in testing right now and is due to be released in the next 2-4 weeks.
  • eero: Clients choose their access point and radio band, and then eero’s proprietary TrueMesh algorithm reroutes traffic dynamically based upon congestion patterns to maximize the efficiency of your network. In June, 2018, eero added Band Steering as an official capability in eero Labs.
  • Google Wifi: Supports both Band Steering and Access Point Steering.
  • Linksys Velop: Access Point steering and roaming is supported, Band Steering is not.
  • Luma: Supports both Band Steering and Access Point Steering.
  • Netgear Orbi: Supports both Band Steering and Access Point Steering.
  • Plume: Supports both Band Steering and Access Point Steering.
  • TP-Link Deco: Supports both Band Steering and Access Point Steering.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Supports both Band Steering, as described above, and Router Steering, which directs appropriate clients to talk directly to the router and avoid the additional hop of going through an access point. This is a form of Access Point Steering, but slightly different because it only directs clients back to the main router.

Advice: There are certainly scenarios where having Band Steering helps, like if you have a lot of 2.4GHz devices that are routinely transmitting large chunks of data. In those, it’s helpful to have the router help steer your other clients to the 5GHz network. From an engineering/efficiency standpoint, Band Steering makes a lot of sense, but in our testing the throughput of a mesh network being used for general Internet access in a standard home isn’t usually affected by it one way or another (with single, standalone routers we find it much more important). Access Point steering, however, is quite helpful but also very difficult to implement properly. eero has tried and failed in the past, but we're told they're still working on it. Plume is currently doing it better than anyone else, and all the others claim to do it, but our tests don't necessarily show it being done often.

Software: Cloud vs. Local Management

For years, the majority of routers were locally-managed, meaning you would connect directly to your router from inside your network, tweak its settings, and be done with it. That changed with mesh networks, where many of them are managed via the cloud. You connect to the manufacturer’s cloud service, make your changes there, and those changes are pushed back down to your mesh network.

Cloud management generally means easier tech support as well as the ability to remotely manage your network. It also comes with the risk that if your router manufacturer’s cloud goes down for any reason (technical or business-related), you may not be able to change your router’s settings.

  • Amped ALLY: Cloud managed only. No web interface, iOS/Android app only.
  • eero: Cloud managed only. No web interface, iOS/Android app only.
  • Google Wifi: Cloud managed only. No web interface, iOS/Android app only.
  • Linksys Velop: Both local and cloud management supported with web interface and iOS/Android apps.
  • Luma: Cloud only. No web interface, iOS/Android app only.
  • Netgear Orbi: Local and remote management supported, all direct to router. No NETGEAR cloud used. Web interface is the main UI, NETGEAR Orbi and Genie apps are also supported, with the latter allowing remote management.
  • Plume: Cloud only, and as soon as your internet connection drops the Plume Wi-Fi shuts off entirely, leaving you without local Wi-Fi access. They say a fix is coming.
  • TP-Link Deco: Cloud only. No web interface, iOS/Android app only.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Local and remote management supported. Mostly with iOS/Android app. Web interface is very limited and basic.

Advice: It’s easy to get caught up in the aforementioned risks of cloud management, but for most folks it’s best not to use this particular feature as a make-or-break factor in choosing your mesh solution. Anything is possible, but generally-speaking you’re probably going to change routers again before any of these companies or product lines are discontinued.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary Chart, Hardware: Streams/Antennas/Radios, and Ethernet Backhaul
  2. Software: QoS and BufferBloat Protection, Band Steering and Access Point Steering, and Cloud vs. Local Management
  3. Software: Intrusion/Malware Protection, and Parental Controls
  4. Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog

Page 3: Software: Intrusion/Malware Protection, and Parental Controls

[caption id="attachment_22504" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Tri-Band Linksys Velop units stand tall and can often blend in well with other items in your home.[/caption]

Software: Intrusion and Malware Protection

The more devices we have in our home, the greater the chances that one of them will get compromised and start doing something undesirable. For most of us this is largely a question of when, not if. The good news is that our routers are in a perfect position to detect, report, and even stop this activity. Even better news is that some routers are able to do exactly this!

  • Amped ALLY: ALLY has built-in AVG Security that provides protection against malware and phishing attacks, alerting you if/when there are issues.
  • eero: eero offers basic protection for everyone, including automatic detection and blocking of suspicious devices. Their $9.99/month (or $99/year) eero Plus service, available for all eero hardware, adds anti-malware, anti-phishing, anti-ransomware, and anti-virus.
  • Google Wifi: Not currently supported.
  • Linksys Velop: Not currently supported.
  • Luma: Malware and intrusion protection are built-in, and will alert the user via the smartphone app when a security threat is detected or blocked. The new, $5/month Luma Guardian service adds outbound VPN and antivirus features.
  • Netgear Orbi: Not currently supported.
  • Plume: Not currently supported.
  • TP-Link Deco: Deco includes a full-featured “Antivirus” system with a malicious content filter and intrusion protection system, and will quarantine infected devices. The entire Antivirus system is powered by Trend Micro’s database and is automatically updated every day. A three-year Trend Micro subscription is included with every Deco package sold, after which users would have to activate with a monthly fee.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Not currently supported.

Advice: This will become more and more important as time goes on. I don’t yet consider this a make-or-break feature, but it’s close. The good news is that it's available on enough units that most folks will be able to get all the other features they want and have some level of intrusion and malware protection, too.

Software: Parental Controls

The term “Parental Controls” can mean a lot of different things, but at its most basic – and common – level, it means allowing you to set profiles for each person in your house, assigning all of that person’s devices to their profile. Then you can pause or resume any given person's internet access, either manually or on a set schedule. Some devices go beyond this with packet inspection and active category filtering, as well.

  • Amped ALLY: In addition to a standard profiles-based feature, ALLY also supports blocking specific apps and site/service categories from specific profiles, providing a very comprehensive parental controls feature.
  • eero: eero includes a basic profile-based system by default. With an eero Plus subscription, you can get a little more granular with these controls.
  • Google Wifi: Basic profile-based feature included.
  • Linksys Velop: Velop supports a standard, profile-based parental control model, and adds to that the ability to block up to 10 specific website URLs per user.
  • Luma: Luma employs a standard profiles feature, and enhances it with a content filter that uses a G/PG/PR-13/R, movie-style rating to let you decide what types of content each user can access.
  • Netgear Orbi: Orbi uses Disney's Circle for parental controls. Circle comes in both a free and $4.99/month Premium version. The free version allows filters, pause, and history for every user in the family. Premium adds things like Time Limits on apps/people, bedtime, rewards, and usage tracking.
  • Plume: Parental controls are possible via a clever password-based profile setup.
  • TP-Link Deco: Profiles and time limits are supported in a fashion similar to the others, and in addition Deco contains a content filter that lets you not only filter from a pre-set list content categories, but also lets you configure the filter to block specific websites and apps on a per-user basis, too.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Parental Controls let you set quiet time for specific devices/profiles.

Advice: Most people we surveyed don’t seem to use or need any sort of parental controls, but for some this is a necessary feature. For us, the Amped ALLY and TP-Link Deco have the best out-of-box controls, and an eero Plus subscription brings that product up-to-speed, as well.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary Chart, Hardware: Streams/Antennas/Radios, and Ethernet Backhaul
  2. Software: QoS and BufferBloat Protection, Band Steering and Access Point Steering, and Cloud vs. Local Management
  3. Software: Intrusion/Malware Protection, and Parental Controls
  4. Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog

Page 4: Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog

[caption id="attachment_22506" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Screenshots of eero, Deco, and AmpliFi iOS Apps iOS screens, left-to-right: eero’s main screen, Deco’s Antivirus, AmpliFi’s client details (click image for larger version)[/caption]

Geekier Features: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, UPnP, KRACK

The features we listed in the previous sections here are generally the ones most people care about. That said, there are more than a few of us who have setups which require some of the geekier, more esoteric features of each router. We didn’t want to leave any of that out, so we’ve listed all of these features above as the subject heading here, and then in the per-device comments below we’re showing which features each of these systems supports.

  • Amped ALLY: Bridge mode, Guest Network, Subnet Configuration, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. No KRACK patch as of last article update.
  • eero: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Version 3.7 added IPv6 and Thread support, and 3.5 added KRACK patches.
  • Google Wifi: Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Bridge Mode is not supported for mesh configuration. KRACK patched with 9901.53.2.
  • Linksys Velop: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. KRACK added with 1.1.2 in December, 2017.
  • Luma: Guest network, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Bridge Mode and IPv6 are not. Subnet is limited to 192.168.55.x. KRACK patch with firmware 2017.12.08-0.
  • Netgear Orbi: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, UPnP, and Inbound OpenVPN Server are all supported. KRACK patch with 2.1.1.12 firmware.
  • Plume: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported.
  • TP-Link Deco: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Subnet defaults to 192.168.0.x and is not changeable by the user. KRACK Patch with 1.1.6 firmware.
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Firmware v2.4.3 adds KRACK patches.

Advice: For most folks these features won’t be deal-breakers, but guest network, bridge mode (also called access point mode), and IPv6 are popular enough that it’s worth considering those before making your choice.

Mesh Wi-Fi Buying Advice

There is no one system that makes sense for every scenario. For most folks in most homes, though, it’s hard to look past the TP-Link Deco right now. At less than $250 for a 3-unit system, it performs well and TP-Link has been very aggressive at adding features with regular software updates (they even just released their tri-band Deco M9 Plus, which shows their commitment to the mesh product line). It’s not the fastest unit, though, so if high speed and efficiency are top-of-mind for you, it’s worth expanding your budget and looking upwards.

eero, Linksys Velop, and now Plume are worth considering, especially given their new hardware that keeps the feature set and performance very high while keeping the costs down. Tri-band units are definitely more efficient, but they bring the cost up quite a bit. Velop now comes in two form-factors, the original, tri-band Velop three-pack is currently $399 and the new dual-band three-pack is $279. eero comes in a few different configurations. For $399 you get a tri-band 2nd gen eero base station and two dual-band eero Beacons that plug right into your wall outlets. To get an eero setup that’s similar to the Velop with three tri-band units currently costs $499. Plume is a slightly different beast, with the option of an annual or lifetime subscription to the adaptive management service and updates. For $399 you get three, tri-band Plume SuperPods and lifetime service. Plume also has the very best adaptive Wi-Fi that we've seen, with devices constantly being pushed around to the best access points and radios, resulting in a very efficient system.

The NETGEAR Orbi is worth considering, too, especially if you have a very long distance to cover between satellites. In our tests, the AC3000 Orbi with its 4x4 backhaul radio was able to reach a satellite 125-feet and two buildings away and still maintain a rock solid transfer at over 110Mbps in both directions. Orbi now has  support for Ethernet backhaul, and each unit does has 4 Ethernet ports, which can be handy if you’ve got more than one thing to plug into either your router or a satellite. [Update: OrbiOS 2.1.4.16 significantly improves the stability of their Ethernet backhaul connections.]

If you’re into the geekier details of your network, Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi HD is an option to consider. The AmpliFi iOS app currently has the most-detailed data available in terms of who is connected to your Wi-Fi network, and how. With it’s 3x3 radios, too, the AmpliFi HD has the ability to outperform some of the other systems, depending upon your specific scenario.

Google Wifi is in an odd spot in this market. It’s one of the fastest dual-band mesh systems available, but lacks some of the important features like BufferBloat protection, Bridge Mode, and Intrusion/Malware protection. For the money, there are currently better options available.

Which Mesh Wi-Fi System is Best?

The one question I can’t answer for you is, “which mesh Wi-Fi system is best?” I’ve personally tested every system mentioned here, and they all work very well. If you’re moving from a single router setup where you have some weak or dead spots, any one of these mesh solutions is very likely to bathe your home in Wi-Fi bliss.

I can also tell you that, price aside, the gen 2 eero is my current favorite hardware. It’s got three radios, setup is a breeze, the app provides enough detail to satisfy most of my inner geekiness, and it just works. But that may or may not fit your criteria or your budget. And it's worth noting that the Plume SuperPods are a very close second on my list. If/when they get the software sorted out such that it doesn't kill my Wi-Fi the moment I have an internet connection hiccup, it may well jump to first place for me.

The point of this piece is to teach you enough to make this decision for yourself. By now you’ve probably got a feeling about which units resonate with your scenario. Pick from those and you’ll be fine.

Update August 11, 2018I'm asked a lot about choosing between eero, Plume, Velop and Orbi. On the surface they all seem quite similar in terms of them being tri-band, higher-end units aimed towards the person who wants to spend a little extra money to get the right solution. Every time I'm asked this question, I wind up recommending eero because of eero's robustness, though as noted above Plume is making a run for first place here. It's important to note, though, that I tend to color outside the lines a little in my testing. I do a lot with Ethernet Backhaul, Bridge Mode, and other features that most people might not ever use. Recently I tried adding a unit to my Velop system to find that I couldn't add a unit in Bridge Mode. It needs to be in normal/router mode. With my Orbi in Bridge Mode I tried changing the SSID and only one unit's SSID changed while the others remained the same. I've tried both of these things with eero and they worked perfectly, just as expected. You may never try any of these things, but it's worth noting that eero and now Plume tend to test and cover more edge cases than any of the others, and that's important to me.

We’ll keep this article up-to-date as new updates and features are made available, and well track a changelog right here so you can see how this industry evolves, too. Mesh Wi-Fi is a fast-moving market, and we’ll help you stay as current as we can. If there's a feature or a system you'd like to know more about, ask us in the comments below and we'll take a look!

Article Changelog

  • August 11, 2018
    • Added Plume to the list, started tracking them and reviewed Plume in Mac Geek Gab 713. Added "lifetime" subscription price, though annual options are available.
    • Added the new Deco M9 Plus to the list.
    • As we've learned more about Deco's capabilities, their engineers have confirmed for us that they do not currently have any BufferBloat protection, and we've updated everything to reflect that.
    • Since Luma still doesn't have any BufferBloat protection, we've changed "Coming Soon" to "No" in the chart.
  • June 1, 2018
    • eero's 3.8.0-1205 firmware (May 29, 2018) adds support for Bufferbloat-preventing QoS under the name "Smart Queue Management" in the (beta) eero Labs section of the App.
    • Linksys has released the dual-band version of the Velop, bringing a lower-cost alternative to its tri-band mesh product. All other features remain the same.
    • Added a note comparing robustness of eero, Velop, and Orbi to the Mesh Wi-Fi Buying Advice section.
    • Added a note about the continued issues with Orbi's Ethernet Backhaul. In our tests it will work, but it often takes time (30 minutes) for the Orbi to "see" and map things properly.
  • March 30, 2018
    • eero's 3.7.0-948 firmware (February 22, 2018) adds IPv6 and initial support for the Thread radio.
    • AmpliFi's 2.6 firmware builds added in support for Hardware NAT, allowing full gigabit speeds for wired connections, plus the beginnings of 802.11 k/v/r support for faster/smoother roaming between access points.
    • Google Wi-Fi 10032.86.2 (February, 2018) adds some packet queuing improvements for voice and video calls.
    • Amped ALLY updates to 1.10.02 (January 26, 2018), with UI, stability, and memory management fixes.
    • NETGEAR continues to struggle with stability of their 2.1 series firmware. This brings major topological changes, including true mesh and Ethernet backhaul. NETGEAR has officially pulled the 2.1 firmware from autoupdates (their support site recommends 2.0.1.4), but on March 23, 2018 released 2.1.3.4 as a beta for some Orbi models, addressing quite a few issues and encourages users to test it. We've got it installed here. It's too soon to tell yet, but we'll keep on it for you.
    • KRACK updates for Linksys Velop.
  • December 13, 2017
    • NETGEAR's Orbi firmware v2.1.1.12 (December 5, 2017) adds Ethernet backhaul. Combined with the daisy-chain topology introduced in October, this makes Orbi a full contender in the mesh scenario, especially for folks that already have some wired points in their homes.  Our ratings and preferences have not been updated yet based upon this... we need time to test, and we're doing that now. [Update 22-Dec-2017: OrbiOS 2.1.1.12 and 2.1.1.16 introduced a torrent of reports about stability issues relating to Wi-Fi backhaul, many of which we have experienced in our test environment, too. We are suspending our testing of Orbi pending further updates.]
    • Orbi's v2.1.1.12 firmware also adds Disney's Circle for full-featured parental controls.
    • Google's 9901.53.2 (November 29, 2017) adds the ability to edit the LAN IP address range, allowing folks to (finally) change their networks to something other than the 192.168.86.x range.
    • KRACK also added to Orbi, Google Wi-Fi, Luma, Deco.
  • October 18, 2017
    • Updated QoS and BufferBloat Protection to clarify that eero does not currently support any such thing.
    • Added KRACK to the Geekier Features list, noting patches from eero and AmpliFi. No one else...yet.
    • NETGEAR's Orbi firmware v2.0.0.74 adds "daisy-chain topology", which means one satellite can get its connection from another satellite. Previously all satellites had to talk back to the main router, effectively limiting range (though Orbi's range has always been stellar). This is an improvement to that, and lets Orbi check the "actual mesh" box now.

Table of Contents

  1. Summary Chart, Hardware: Streams/Antennas/Radios, and Ethernet Backhaul
  2. Software: QoS and BufferBloat Protection, Band Steering and Access Point Steering, and Cloud vs. Local Management
  3. Software: Intrusion/Malware Protection, and Parental Controls
  4. Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog
This topic was modified 3 months  ago by Dave Hamilton

ReplyQuote
Russ343
(@russ343)
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Posts: 1
August 3, 2017 10:20 EST AM  

Superb article and great information, Dave. Thank you very much.


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Graham McKay
(@kiwigraham)
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August 3, 2017 10:29 EST AM  

In the overview/summary it'd be nice to know which of these has been "internationalised". Last time I checked there were a few mesh systems that were US only.


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nicol
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August 4, 2017 3:43 EST PM  

From Google Wifi - we're now available in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and France (we're adding more countries later in the year too)


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Cognomen
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August 5, 2017 9:52 EST AM  

A brilliant piece! If only all analysis was this clear and succinct.


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metz2000
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August 6, 2017 6:59 EST AM  

Which one provides traffic information on connected devices, eg what is using up all bandwith?


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 Anonymous
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August 8, 2017 11:02 EST AM  

Thanks for posting a detailed guide on this. This is really helpful.


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Infringer
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October 18, 2017 9:35 EST AM  

Just wondering why you left Plume off of your list of mesh providers...


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Dave Hamilton
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October 18, 2017 9:46 EST AM  

Plume is off the list solely because we've been unable to work with them on a test unit.

I've heard very good things from Plume owners, but I only include things here that we're able to personally test and work with, both short-and-long term.

Every device listed here is up-and-running in some capacity, long-term, in a real household. I test short-term in my home and off office, and then relocate the systems with colleagues, friends, and family, to get true, real-world performance reports.

We'd love to work with Plume, and have been trying for almost a year, but their review availability is unfortunately limited. We'll get there with them. They just need some time.


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whshep
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October 18, 2017 9:57 EST AM  

Surely this article should note a significant downside to the Eero: if the internet goes out, the whole network is likely to go out with it.

According to Eero support, there is no guarantee of "Persistent LAN," because while "the eeros will typically maintain the LAN when the internet connection drops," eventually their "self-repair function" will try "to reestablish connection, and if the ISP service is still down when the eero does this, the LAN will be lost." In other words, when you lose internet, you are likely to lose the entire network—no local streaming, no printers, no file transfer, no nothing. Forget listening to iTunes while you're waiting for the Comcast truck.

Never in my wildest imagination did it occur to me that a modern router—a premium-priced one at that—would be completely disabled simply because it could not connect to the internet (which around here goes out all the time). I wouldn't recommend Eero until this is fixed.


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John Kheit
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October 18, 2017 11:58 EST AM  

Great article and info Dave. One more column on your table would be great. Privacy. Several of those products send your data/surfing habits (anonymized or otherwise) up to the cloud for analysis. Those are nonstarters for many privacy minded Apple folks. It would be nice to know which are wiretaps, which are not, and which have an option to turn that off.

Anyway, as always, your analysis is a super service to the gear head community, so thanks!


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John Kheit
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October 18, 2017 12:10 EST PM  

That is crazy. Do you have more than one going at a time. Just the sheer logistics of it all! Kudos Dave!


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Dave Hamilton
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October 18, 2017 12:13 EST PM  

On page 2 there's a section titled, "Software: Cloud vs. Local Management" that discusses this. For the chart, I chose to distill things that matter to most people... and the remainder of the article goes deeper into those and other topics.


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John Kheit
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October 18, 2017 12:46 EST PM  

Yea the cloud part is very useful, and I guess you can just assume if it has cloud ability, it will take your traffic. I suspect there might be some control over that, but the conservative approach is to just assume, if it has a cloud option, it's a wire tap, even if it aint necessarily so, or there is an option to opt out...


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John Kheit
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October 18, 2017 12:49 EST PM  

Which means only the Netgear Orbi or the Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD are options if you have privacy concerns. Thanks Dave!


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