I did a video not too long ago explaining what mesh wifi is and why you should totally get a mesh wifi system. But, now, I want to try and answer the next obvious question: which is which mesh wifi do you get?
So I bought a bunch of them and tested them all and now I believe I have a good list of the ones I think are the best mesh wifi systems you can buy right now and which scenarios each one might be best suited for.
TP-Link Deco M4
So, first up, the one I want to start with is the newest one on the market in this list. This is the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh wifi system.
Full disclosure, unlike the others on this list that I had to go buy, the Deco M4 was sent to be by TP-Link for this video.
The Deco M4 has one of the largest ranges on this list at 5,500 sqft (enough to cover most 3-5 bedroom houses easily) and thanks to its dual-band AC1200 Wi-Fi and it can hit a theoretical 1200mbps (hence the name of the protocol). Which is plenty more than most people would ever need.
The hubs are a bit taller than you usually see for mesh systems, and the status light is on top making it hard to tell what the network is doing from a distance, but they look slick enough, just make sure you can put them somewhere with a little headroom is all.
Now, like most of the systems on this list, it has its own app that makes setting it up super easy. You plug it into your modem, turn it on, download the app, and the setup process walks you through everything for the first unit. Then you walk around to set up all the other ones using the app, as well. Took 20 mins to set them all up, tops.
The app is pretty intuitive and has some clever features like parental controls you’re kid will hate but you might love.
We have the usual abilities to see what devices are connected, limit their usage, kick specific ones off at the touch of a button, etc., but the Deco app takes this a lot further. You can designate which devices get what types of speeds, set schedules for each device, and even see browsing history of URLs for each device and allow you to block any URLs you don’t want that device to be able to access. Again, your kids will not like you for this, but whatever.
By far though, my favorite feature about the TP-Link system? The price. You can get this three-pack to cover that 5,500 sqft for just $179.99. The lowest price on this list.
Because of that, I think it’s probably safe to say that this is the best mesh wifi system for the money. Period.
Next up, the mesh system I think you should get if you’re really into home automation. This is the Samsung SmartThings Wifi with a built-in smart home hub.
What that means is that it can use Zigbee and Z-Wave IoT standards (think of them like the Bluetooth standard but for IoT devices specifically) to control devices like door sensors, motion detectors, etc.
Also, because it’s a SmartThings hub it works super well with all of the SmartThings smart home products which I’ve recommended before based on the sheer size of the ecosystem Samsung has built around it (and I’m sure Samsung is hoping you’ll go for if you buy this system obviously). Regardless of their intent, if there are any smart home tasks you want to do, SmartThings does actually have the sensors you’d need a super clean app to control it all from.
Setup is super easy thanks to that SmartThings app and works similarly to the Deco setup process, and once you set them up, this 3-pack can cover up to 4,500 sqft.
The hubs themselves are small and sleek looking I think but if you need to plug in a lot of things via ethernet you’ll need to buy a switch in addition to the system, they’re not the best choice as they each only have one outbound ethernet port per puck.
Now, besides the SmartThings app, they also include an app by a third party called Plume that normally costs money per month but you get completely free when you buy the Smarthings Wifi.
The Plume app is clever in that it uses machine learning 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 all of that is done without you having to touch anything at all.
The 3-pack I was testing here costs $279.99 but considering a SmartThings IoT hub alone costs $100 and it saves you needing to buy that if you were looking to get it anyway, so that’s not too bad.
Curious about how to make a home a smart home? Here’s my video on everything you need to know.
One of the most popular mesh wifi networks on the market that I’m sure you’ve at least heard of at least is Google WiFi.
In my opinion probably the best looking of the mesh wifi systems on this list, it even has some tasteful lighting effects that I’m a sucker for (and are useful as they are white when it’s working and red when something is wrong and can be seen from a distance). You can also turn off the lighting (say if you have one in your bedroom and don’t want the night light) and the size and style of them means that you can place the pucks pretty much anywhere, even in plain sight.
Google claims that, like the SmartThings WiFi, it can cover up to 4,500 sqft using three pucks, and, because it’s Google, it has a slick looking app to go with it that offers an easy way to set everything up and also allows you to control devices from it, as well.
There’s also seamless integration with Google Assistant because duh.
In my testing, I have to say that Google’s wifi is probably the second-best performing unit for internet speeds at least in this list (behind the TP-Link by a bit), and it looks great as it’s own decoration of sorts in a modern apartment/house.
The three-pack I used will set you back $239.99.
The honor of most expensive on this list, though, goes to the Netgear Orbi Mesh Wifi System.
Normally, $369.99 (but I managed to find it here for about $300), the Orbi mesh wifi comes with just two units instead of the three like all the rest. Despite that, Netgear claims it has the same range as Google Wifi and Smartthings Wifi with 4,500 sqft.
The reason though that this model (the “ultra performance model” called the RBK50) can cover that distance with two units instead of three and charge more for the system is that it uses a faster protocol for the Wifi: AC3000 instead of the AC1200/AC1300 of the other units on here.
Now, that faster protocol supports up to a theoretical 3000mbps over wifi compared to the 1200mbps or so of the all the others on this list, but connecting to the internet will most likely, for all of these unless you have some sort of crazy dedicated business internet line, be the bottleneck.
For example, my Gigabit FiOS connection is one of the fastest speeds available to residents in NYC and since a gigabit is 1000mbps to the router, that means the under 1200 over wifi is way higher than I’d ever need (with my speeds close to all of these routers on Ookla Speedtest hovering around 300mbps).
The extra speed is valuable though if there are things you want to connect with within your home, though. For example, network attached storage (Plex servers, anyone?), or peer to peer systems that support those types of speeds can communicate with each other through the network faster since they don’t need to access the outside internet.
And even though the Orbi system is much larger/uglier in my opinion than any of the other ones it is the only one with a decent amount of ethernet ports (for plugging in said items to be able to communicate with each other over the network).
So, if you need faster speed within your own network, the Orbi might be worth the extra money.
So the price of the TP-Link and the fact it works just as well (if not a bit faster than the others) and has all those extra features for parental controls, etc. I’d say it’s probably the best mesh wifi router for the money. The Google Wifi is my pick for the best looking and simplest, and if you need the extra speed inside your network, the Netgear Orbi isn’t a bad idea, and, finally, if you need an IoT hub at all, the SmartThings Wifi will save you that cost basically and is the way to go.
Let me know what you guys think in the comments below, sign up for my email newsletter for more tips, tricks, videos, news, etc., and, as always, thanks for reading.