7 Multi-room wifi systems tested: a hot mesh

Mesh is nice when it works, but no universal solution


Why mesh?

The speed and reliability of your network will always be the result of an interaction between your router and your living environment. This living environment is of course unique for everyone, although there are name a few common denominators. For example, an overwhelming majority of us live in houses made of stone - and increasingly concrete, in which double glazing, floor, wall and roof insulation are commonplace. Wooden houses, very common across the pond, are not or rarely found in our country. This is good for the energy bill and stillness of the air in your home, but it has a limiting effect on your wireless network. Wifi signals are more affected by a concrete wall and aluminium insulation material than by a few wooden planks.

The concept of mesh

As a user of a Wi-Fi network, you have various possibilities to overcome signal loss due to interference, to extend a limited range due to obstacles. By far the most effective is the installation of access points that are connected with cables to your router. This way you bring your WiFi network to the corners of your living environment, but you usually have to pull cables for it. This is not only something that few people are looking forward to, it is also sometimes physically impossible. 

A wifi repeater or range extender is also an option, and usually also affordable. An important disadvantage of such a solution is that you can strip away half of your bandwidth in return for the gain. As a result, some people end up with a power line set that allows you to send your data wired via the existing electricity infrastructure and, if available, to wander back into the atmosphere wirelessly via the built-in access point. However, a connection via power lines is highly dependent on the quality of the electricity grid and is certainly not immune to interference.

The holy grail for network manufacturers is therefore a device that overcomes all these problems, in other words that is able to combine speed, reliability and reach. The answer to this challenge should be mesh, but is that also the case in practice? 

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