What is a Wi-Fi Mesh System?
A Home Wi-Fi Mesh systems consists of the main router you connect directly to the modem and a series of nodes. You place the nodes strategically to ensure the whole house has full internet coverage. The nodes provide coverage to locations that the main router cannot reach, and you can easily extend them to cover even the backyard.
The mesh system ensures all nodes or access points are within the same wireless network using the same password and SSID. Thanks to increased home automation and affordable infrastructure costs, these networks’ market valuation is set to hit $8 billion by 2026. If you are planning to be part of this growth, there are several things you should know when choosing your home mesh system.
Factors to Consider when choosing a mesh system for the whole home
Size and number of internal antennae
The size and number of antennae affect the performance of the mesh system. Nodes that have physically larger aerials have a faster overall connection and a stronger signal. As a result, they are fewer lost packets.
The number of antennae also determines how many streams any of the mesh access points can handle simultaneously. It would be best to look for mesh systems with multiple in and multiple out capabilities designated as MIMO.
A mesh system with 2×2 MIMO can send and receive data at two aerials simultaneously, which boosts speed. An MU-MIMO (multiuser MIMO) is another designation you can consider since it means that one antenna could be handling one client and another delivering a different service. More antennae also improve the flexibility of the system in offering your devices the best connections.
Speed of built-in radio transmitters
The outer limit speed of the transmitters will also have a bearing on your performance. Most mesh systems come with a published speed rating for the two frequency bands they use; 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Manufacturers usually rate the speeds for the 2.4GHz at about 300 Mbps and for the 5GHz at 867Mbps.
These are theoretical limits, and in real life, few systems come close to them. Having a proper test of the limits reviewed will give you an idea of the performance you will be getting. When the numbers are set at a higher average, they usually correlate with faster performance than those with lower ratings.
Number of radio bands
As we have pointed out above, the mesh systems operate on two frequency bands; 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz is for lightweight internet of things devices and older computers and gadgets. The 5GHz range, on the other hand, meets the demands for modern devices, which consume a higher bandwidth and require faster performance.
In a traditional dual-band mesh system, there is only one fast 5GHz radio. This single radio handles both your internet traffic and the backhaul traffic (i.e., communication within the mesh system between nodes). As a result, you only have about half of the bandwidth available for your use.
Premium mesh systems have a tri-band setup with another 5GHz radio dedicated to communication with the mesh system. This arrangement offers you the full bandwidth of a 5GHz radio, which provides you higher performance.
The speed you need
Ultimately, your needs will determine whether you will go for premium models that cost more but provide higher speeds. For example, a 15MB/sec connection is good enough to surf the internet and stream two 4K videos in HDR.
However, if you have many clients in your network who are all moving large data quantities, you need to get mesh systems capable of over 30MB/sec connection speeds.
In as much as wireless connections are the future and come with endless convenience. Ethernet remains a faster and more stable connection. It is, therefore, ideal for workstations and NAS applications. The problem is, most manufacturers only have two-gigabit ethernet ports at the back instead of, say, four, which limits your use. You may need to buy an extra ethernet switch to meet your demands.
Another advantage of ethernet ports is that most mesh systems also support ethernet backhaul. Therefore, if you want to improve your connection’s performance, especially in a dual-band system, you can link the stations with a cable. This frees up your bandwidth since the backhaul load will happen over ethernet.
Setup and management
Usability is an important consideration when choosing a mesh system. While most products in the market can be set up and run over a smartphone app, it lacks the traditional web portal’s intuitiveness and responsiveness.
More importantly, some of the mesh systems products may lack the range of advanced features they offer. If you need features like port forwarding and custom IP ranges, check to see if the mesh-platform provides it before purchase.
Extra features add utility and convenience to the mesh system. They include compatibility with Alexa or Google Home, Parental controls, security protection from malicious websites, and a built-in VPN server. A number of these items are down to preference, and since they may contribute to the final cost, it is down to how vital they are to you.
Mesh routers offer effectiveness and convenience even if they cost about 2-3 times the traditional home networks. They offer better management of the networks, streamlined connections, and, more importantly, higher performance anywhere in the home.
Other kits come with enhanced security features. Because you are making a valuable investment, you must get it right the first time, and the aspects above will help you choose a system that best serves you.