Today, even though we use technologies that once seemed futuristic, we all have struggled with slow Internet speeds and Wi-Fi dead zones at some point or the other. For large buildings, or those with many structural hindrances, traditional routers require additional components such as range extenders.
A mesh router offers easy setup with multiple satellite nodes (access points) controlled through a single panel that captures the router’s signal, and rebroadcasts the same to create a strong and reliable Wi-Fi signal through a Single Service Set Identifier (SSID).
How to make the right choice
The common feature of all mesh systems is smart roaming. When the signal from the current node decreases, the connection gets switched to the one that offers the strongest connection. Some of the parameters that need to be considered to ensure that the router fits your requirements are discussed below.
One of the major advantages of a mesh router is speed when compared to a traditional router. Speed in the specifications is usually mentioned by combining the throughputs on individual frequency bands on which the router works. Internet plans that support these speeds are necessary to deliver the desired output.
Wi-Fi systems usually operate on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, and use 802.11ac wireless technology. A router may be dual- or tri-band capable to reduce congestion in the 2.4GHz spectrum.
Tri-band Wi-Fi technology establishes a dedicated backhaul connection between the router and satellite. The bands remain the same, but the 5GHz spectrum is split to create two separate networks. In both, wireless clients are connected to the optimal band based on network traffic conditions.
The main reason for purchasing a mesh router is improved coverage. With there being the benefit of satellite nodes, you can achieve complete coverage in any home or building, no matter how big it is or how it is constructed.
Mesh systems usually come with two Ethernet ports for a direct and stronger Internet connection. Some of these are auto-configurable, and can act as both wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) based on whether these get connected to the gateway or the client.
Quality of service (QoS)
This feature allows prioritisation of important tasks over less significant ones by identification of data packets over a network. This ensures that tasks such as video streaming and calling happen without any interruption.
Some models support multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO) technology, a feature in IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2, where data signals are sent and received from different devices simultaneously (in parallel) rather than sequentially to provide higher speed.Bandwidth gets evenly divided and the devices do not have to wait for long time periods to receive the signals. Multiplexed signals are termed as spatial streams. But for this feature to be functional, the client must also support MIMO.
Many routers are completely automated, with features such as automatic software updates and security checks. This makes remote management through a user-friendly mobile app or Web-based interface possible. Most apps allow users to perform functions like scanning network speeds, setting parental controls, managing guest networks, device prioritisation and more. This improves efficiency of the network.
Apart from this, some mesh systems may also be integrated with smart homes. This allows them to communicate with other devices that use the same protocols.
In this section we provide you with an overview of some options to help you decide which one may work for you. Prices mentioned below are for a pack of two and may vary on different e-commerce websites.
Tenda Nova MW3
It is a 1200Mbps dual-band distribution mesh Wi-Fi system designed to cover an area of 93sqm to 140sqm (1000sqft to 1500sqft) per unit. The 2.4GHz frequency band offers a throughput of up to 300Mbps, whereas the 5GHz band offers up to 867Mbps.There are two Ethernet ports per mesh node. One acts as WAN and the other as LAN on the primary mesh node, whereas both act as LAN on additional nodes.
2×2 MU-MIMO technology keeps more than fifty devices well-connected simultaneously. Tenda Wi-Fi app provides features such as parental control, guest network management, online firmware upgrade and so on. The device is priced at ₹7199.
It is a 1200Mbps dual-band distribution mesh Wi-Fi system designed to cover an area of 232sqm (2500sqft), including dead zones. The 2.4GHz frequency band offers a throughput of up to 300Mbps, and the 5GHz band offers up to 866Mbps. There are two Ethernet LAN ports per unit for wired connectivity.
MU-MIMO technology connects multiple devices simultaneously to create an efficient network. The one-touch Wi-Fi-protected setup WPS button establishes an instant connection to smart home devices. D-Link Wi-Fi app allows easy setup and management.Additional features include parental control, auto-configuration and QoS support. The device can also work with your existing router, and is available for ₹10,999.
Netgear Orbi RBK20W-100NAS
It is a 2200Mbps (866+866+400Mbps) tri-band distribution mesh Wi-Fi system designed to cover an area of 250sqm. It offers wired connectivity and constant speed even on the addition of multiple devices. There are two Ethernet ports per node; one acts as WAN and the other as LAN on the primary mesh node. Both ports act as LAN on additional nodes.
MU-MIMO technology allows for simultaneous data streaming. Orbi app provides easy installation and setup. Additional features include smart parental controls, guest network management and device status check. For voice control, the router is compatible with Amazon Alexa/Echo and Google Assistant. It can connect to your existing modem, and is available for ₹15,900.
TP-Link Deco M4
It is a 1200Mbps mesh Wi-Fi system designed to cover an area up to 260sqm. The 2.4GHz frequency band offers a throughput of up to 300Mbps, and the 5GHz band offers up to 867Mbps. There are two Ethernet ports per unit that may work as WAN or LAN through auto-sensing.
MU-MIMO technology keeps up to hundred devices well-connected simultaneously. Deco app provides features such as device prioritisation, setting up of the guest network and so on. The router has QoS support and works with IFTTT as well as Alexa. It is compatible with every other Deco model, and can be bought for ₹8934.
Linksys WHW0102 Velop
It is a 1300Mbps dual-band distribution mesh Wi-Fi system designed to cover an area of 279sqm (3000sqft). The 2.4GHz frequency band offers a throughput of up to 400Mbps, and the 5GHz band offers up to 867Mbps. There are two auto-sensing Ethernet ports per node. The self-healing feature ensures that the other nodes keep working even if one of them is unplugged.
MU-MIMO technology keeps multiple devices well connected simultaneously. Linksys app provides features such as parental control, guest network management, auto-fixing a node and device prioritisation. The device is compatible with Alexa, and is priced at ₹13,766.