Page 5 – Apple, Google, Luma, The Prices and The Verdict
What about Apple? Google? Luma?
Just yesterday we saw the news that Apple has reassigned their Wi-Fi engineers away from the AirPort-related teams and doesn’t plan to continue developing standalone routers. My guess is that Apple knew they either needed to develop their own mesh product or get out of the way for others. Seems they chose the latter, which makes sense. Apple is not a “me too” company, they’re a “here’s a better way company.” My guess is they took a look at current mesh offerings and decided they had nothing to add to this particular conversation. Based on my recent tests, I can see why.
Google Wifi looks very interesting but was not yet available for us to actually test. Google’s internal tests have shown it to beat the eero, but that was likely done before eero released their TrueMesh upgrade last week which, for many, doubled wireless throughput. There will be more to say here shortly.
Luma, too, was something we tried to test but they went radio silent during the process. There could be any number of reasons for that, including their PR team just being plain busy, so we’ll revisit that when they circle back around. Keep on eye on Mac Geek Gab for that discussion.
In fact, one guarantee is that all of these things will change. While mesh Wi-Fi has been available in the enterprise for years it is brand new to the home this year. Software updates are happening at the pace of several-times-per-month for these devices, and some of those updates bring major enhancements. We’re router geeks, though, so this will remain an ongoing conversation here at TMO and MGG.
- eero: 3-pack US$499. 2-pack US$349. Individual eero US$199. Full disclosure: eero is currently a sponsor of our Mac Geek Gab podcast. While that sponsorship had no influence on my findings here it does offer you, dear reader, a deal. This weekend only (11/24-11/28/2016) you can take $100 off the 3-pack or $50 off the 2- or 1-pack. On top of that if you use coupon code MGG at eero’s online store you qualify for free overnight shipping.
- Orbi: 2-pack US$399. Add-on Satellite US$249.99. 3-Pack pricing unavailable at press time.
- AmpliFi: Standard system: US$199.00. AmpliFi LR $299. AmpliFi HD (the unit we tested) $349. All three come with the same base station. The differences are in the number of radios and power of the mesh points.
As I mentioned in the intro, given all this I feel like the eero is the best product to recommend to most people today. WAN-Based QoS is a must-have in my opinion and experience, and eero is the only one currently offering that for the mesh. Additionally, eero’s support for Ethernet backhaul is something I find many larger homes will use because they already have it, and that makes the mesh far more efficient.
Netgear’s Orbi, however, is very close behind. In addition to the fact that they likely will support Ethernet backhaul via firmware update sometime soon, theirs is the only mesh to have a third radio dedicated only to wireless backhaul between mesh devices. This frees up the other two radios for client communications.
If your home can already benefit from Ethernet backhaul, the eero is at the top of my list. If you don’t need that right now, the Orbi is a serious contender and perhaps the best option because of its third radio dedicated to wireless backhaul. Just be aware that Orbi is missing WAN-based QoS. With lots of devices wanting to upload pictures and backups all the time, that can become an issue very quickly.
AmpliFi continues to intrigue me, if only because it comes from Ubiquiti, the enterprise-networking and Wi-Fi powerhouse. I feel like they’ve missed a bit not including support for any remotely-connected Ethernet devices, but there’s nothing stopping them from releasing additional mesh points with that capability.
If your home’s layout is small enough and you don’t have many wireless devices, mesh may not yet be for you. But if you’ve been fighting with range extenders and other solutions to broaden your Wi-Fi coverage and keep your streams alive, you can now stop all that silliness and blanket your home with Wi-Fi. The future is here, and that future is mesh networking.