What is Mesh Wifi (& Why You Should Absolutely Get One)

OK, by now you’ve probably at least heard the term Mesh Wifi, but maybe you aren’t quite sure what it is, the benefits of a it, etc. So I figured I’d break it down for you in this video so you can decide if a mesh network right for you. Spoiler alert: I think it’s right for a lot of people and full disclosure Samsung sent me their newest one for this video, but there’s a good reason why I think it is probably the most beneficial one out right now as well as the one with the most benefits. We’ll get more why that is later, though.

What is Mesh Wifi?

First up, what is a mesh wifi?

Normally, your wifi network in your home works by having a wifi router sitting in one spot connected to your modem (or it might be a router and modem combo in one) and it projects a wifi signal within a certain radius around itself that allows your device to then connect to each other or through the modem and to the internet itself.

Wifi Network Diagram

In a wifi mesh network, however, there is one main router that plugs into your internet modem in the same way a traditional one does, but then there are also other hubs that are identical to the main router hub, that you can place throughout the house (generally on the edge of that original one’s range) to then increase the range of the network.

Hub Plugged In

It essentially does this by having a super fast connection between each of the satellite hubs and the main hub plugged into the modem and then each hub produces its own Wifi network that your devices can connect to in order to communicate with each other or through the modem to, again, access the internet.

Now, this differs from a Wifi extender by the fact that they can also communicate with each other and pass the signal along through them using the fastest route, not just from one hub to the main hub but from one hub to another and even through multiple hubs, as well.

Traditional Wi-Fi Diagram

So, let’s say you had a line of row (and yes a lot of these mesh systems support that many hubs, the SmartThings one I’m using supports up to 32 actually). Any devices using the hub at the very end of that chain would have their data passed through all of the others to the main hub super quickly (or even skip hubs if they could get a better connection to one further down the line).

Also, in a more likely scenario, you have 30 hubs all positioned in a cluster (and yes a lot of these mesh systems support that many hubs, the SmartThings one I’m using supports up to 32 actually). The signal would not just get passed through the hub you’re closest to next one and the next until eventually through to the main hub connected to the internet, it’ll actually find a way find the fastest way through the other hubs to do so (even if that isn’t always the same route thanks to other traffic on your network).

Rerouting Traffic on the Network

Benefits of Mesh Wifi

Better Coverage

Hubs in House

Now, the most popular benefit of this wifi mesh setup is that, of course, it means a much wider range than a traditional router. The satellite systems don’t need anything besides being plugged into a power outlet either so there’s a lot of options on where to put them. So you can put these all over your house and cover it all in super satisfying strong wifi signal. And even in a smaller space, like my apartment, for example, you can use it to further your 5GHz coverage, which is way faster than the 2.4Ghz coverage but has a much shorter range.

Easiest Setup Ever

Wifi App

These mesh networks and especially this Samsung one can be set up incredibly easily with an app. For this one, I simply plugged in one hub to the modem’s ethernet and plugged it into the wall. Then I opened the SmartThings app and selected add a device and within a minute or so it was up and running.

Then each subsequent hub I added, I just plugged in to the outlet, opened the SmartThings app again and it even found it automatically and I selected the option on the screen to extend my current network and boom seconds later could walk to the next location to do the same for any others I needed to add.

New Hub Detected

Literally could not be simpler.

Advanced Controls

So most mesh wifi systems have apps that make them stupidly intuitive for controlling access, creating guest networks, etc. The SmartThings Wifi mesh system takes that to an extreme. Not only can you easily use the app to, say create a guest access password, you can even restrict them to only using the internet (so they can’t access your external hard drives on the network for example), or even give specific devices their own passwords.

You can also see what devices are connected to the network, which hub they’re connected to, their signal strength, give them custom names, etc.

AI for Fastest Speeds

So I’ve not heard of this on other mesh wifi devices but the SmartThings one even uses an app called Plume to use AI to automatically detect what type of devices are connected to the network, monitor their usage, and then over time set them to different priorities.

So the laptop that you use to game on, or the smart TV you’re streaming on, get the faster speeds when they’re being used, and the IoT devices like your light bulbs that don’t need speed but just need lower latency instead receive that, etc. And, sure, you could do this with a traditional router, but you’d have to go into the very unfriendly router settings through your computer internet browser and manually do this for each device, whereas with this system, it’s just done automatically over time without you having to touch anything at all.

SmartThings IoT Built In

And finally, again with this SmartThings mesh system, I’m using, it has a SmartThings hub built in (in case you didn’t guess that from the name).

SmartThings Hub Built-In

So it has IoT radios built in that allow it to communicate with any Zigbee or Z-Wave devices you might have (two standards for IoT devices, think of them like Bluetooth for IoT in a way). This means you don’t need to buy a hub for those devices, it’s already included in the mesh system.

Cons of Mesh Wifi

Now, for some of the downsides to having mesh wifi.

Higher Price

Mesh System Prices

Generally speaking, they are more expensive than your basic routers, with some costing as much as $500. But honestly, some, like the popular Google Wifi mesh network and this SmartThings Wifi one, is $279 for 3 hubs which isn’t bad for that kind of coverage and with the SmartThings Wifi as I mentioned, it has the added benefits of that AI to make life super easy and the SmartThings IoT hub built in–the reasons I’d recommend it over the other wifi mesh options out there honestly.

They Can Be Overkill

Devices

Another downside to these systems is the fact that for some places, they’re overkill. If you don’t have issues with deadzones, or at have a decent amount of tech connected to the network (like I absolutely do), then you might be able to get away with just moving your current router to a more centralized location instead of getting a full blown mesh wifi system.

Do You Need Mesh Wifi?

If you don’t have several connected devices at home or have deadspots you might not need a mesh network. But, if you’re like me and many other people I know and have several things connected whether they’re phones, laptops, tablets, smart light bulbs, a TV, etc. then it could be a great time to upgrade to a mesh network anyway. It honestly just feels like the new way to do wifi. Period.

And, with ones like the SmartThings Wifi that also includes the IoT hub in it, there’s an extra excuse to make that upgrade. Considering it’s just as good as the Google Wifi, if not better with that Plume app which I can sadly stare at all day, and it’s the same price basically, and you get a SmartThings hub built-in for free (saving you about $70) it’s a good system if you were thinking about turning your home into a smart home.

Here’s where to get the SmartThings Wifi I used in the video.

There you go, guys!

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