How to Choose the Best Mesh Wireless System For Your Home
How is this different from using two or three AirPort Extreme units as I do?
The main difference is essentially what I described in the intro to the piece:
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.
With multiple routers (from the same or different vendors), one must manage each individually. On top of that, the routers are (generally) not aware of the fact that others are involved, so things like handoffs between the two can't be managed gracefully, nor can the access points all participate in load balancing between the radios and each other.
The setup you have is what I call "quasi-mesh", and is essentially what I ran at my home and office for over a decade. There's nothing inherently wrong with it and, especially with Ethernet backbone tying everything together, can work very, very well.
But management of a quasi-mesh is a headache, and that can get even trickier when you don't have Ethernet and want to link everything together wirelessly. Mesh, as described in the piece here, solves all of those problems internally, making it a plug-and-play experience for most.
Thank you so much for the great article! I have been using airport extremes since 2008 and the all still work unlike the parade of Linksys etc. routers I used and had to replace about every year.
How is the build quality of the various units? This is a big deal for me and why I love Apple hardware.
Thanks again for the best article on this subject that I've come across.
Currently using Apple routers and access points. What will I give up by going to mesh? Back to My Mac, Screen Sharing, Any Bonjour services? Anything?
Thanks very much for the continually updated article. Costco has $70 off Orbi this holiday and with ethernet backhaul added may pull the trigger.
At this moment, we have to recommend caution when considering Orbi, and I've updated the piece above to reflect this. OrbiOS 2.1 (specifically, 184.108.40.206 and the current-as-of-this-comment 220.127.116.11) have introduced a TON of reports about Wi-Fi stability, and we've experienced those in our test environment here, too. Things were quite stable before 2.1, so I have no reason to believe that Netgear can't resolve this but, for right now, we don't recommend you update to 2.1, and for new buyers I just want you to be informed. Read the thread and decide for yourself, as always, but I just wanted to make sure everyone had the info that we have.
Thanks very much for this update. I went to the Netgear site and see some of this reporting. (Also see many satisfied users of prior systems).
To Dave and all, back to original question. Currently using Apple routers and access points. I see what is to be gained by going to mesh (which by definition is non-Apple). But what will I give up by going to mesh? Back to My Mac, Screen Sharing, Any Bonjour services? Apple TV throughput? Wake over Network? What is dependent on Apple router?
FYI - Velop now updated for KRACK as of 11/20/2017 - Firmware version 18.104.22.168933
What about port-forwarding? I need this for remote access to fam and friends' networks 8-| I assume these devices all have this capability but, I don't see it mentioned - unless you've called it something else and it's just not obvious to me. Thanks for a most excellent review, Dave.
Will any of these work with Strong VPN (Open VPN) or any VPN service provider?
Great article. Very comprehensive compared to the others that I have read.
Might be useful to add a section pertaining to integration with voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
I have also come across Plume which is another option. https://www.plumewifi.com/
I hope these come down in price as they are all very expensive in CAD dollars.
To Mesh or not to Mesh that is the question.
I just finished reading your excellent 2017 blog addressing Mesh networking and I like the use of tables to highlight their capabilities.
My 2-story 4,000 ft. home has an Ethernet backbone and I currently use two 802.11ac Airport Extremes and an 802.11n Airport Express to seamlessly cover my home in Wi-Fi. I am going to update my connection with a DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem and am considering an upgrade my wireless network.
You have spoken highly of the Synology Router RT2600ac capabilities and I notice they have a web page specifically talking about virtues of using their routers to “Upgrade from Your Apple AirPort Routers” ( https://www.synology.com/en-us/solution/AirPort_replacement).
This leads me to my question about the gains I would see using their technology vs adding a Synology Router RT2600ac as my router and operating my current devices in bridge mode?
Thanks for the entertaining, informative and educational Podcast. It is truly the best on the web!
Happy New Year
Huawei has also just recently announced their solution in this space.
Truly shines a very fact-based light on the this emerging home network technology, and the vendor offerings. Everything else that I've read up until this point has been opinion first - then only the facts that support that opinion. Thanks.
I installed the 3-unit TP-Link mesh in January 2018. While I have not tested all of the others, it works fantastically well with great coverage over our 2,850 sqft two-story home. In fact, there's no where on our 5th acre lot that we cannot get reception, and it only weakens in the furthest corners of the lot. I would guess we are an average use home for which the network supports a desktop, a laptop, a couple iPads, three AppleTVs, two Apple Watches, four iPhones, and half a dozen HomeKit light devices. Only issue is that after three month one of the Deco units died, which TP-Link replaced for free.