ROUTER OR MESH?

A MESH NET­WORK­ING SYS­TEM CAN PRO­VIDE SCREAMINGLY FAST SPEEDS THROUGH­OUT YOUR HOME, BUT DO YOU AC­TU­ALLY NEED ONE?

PC & Tech Authority - - GROUP TEST ROUTERS -

This month we’ve fo­cused on con­ven­tional stand­alone routers, but what about mesh net­work­ing sys­tems? The prom­ise of a con­sis­tent sig­nal cov­er­age through­out your home sounds great, but there are rea­sons why it may make sense to pick a con­ven­tional router in­stead.

1 HIGHER PRICE

High-qual­ity mesh net­work­ing gear isn’t cheap. And that’s hardly sur­pris­ing – the best sys­tems use no fewer than nine Wi-Fi ra­dios, spread across three nodes. While mesh prices are gen­er­ally higher; you might be bet­ter off with a cheaper router and a sep­a­rate ex­ten­der.

2 LIM­ITED CON­NEC­TIV­ITY

Many mesh sys­tems have only two Eth­er­net sock­ets per node, which is hardly ideal if you have lots of wired de­vices. They nor­mally lack USB con­nec­tions too, so you can for­get about le and printer shar­ing, and while WPS is some­times sup­ported, it’s rare that you get a phys­i­cal but­ton. If you need lots of con­nec­tion op­tions, a tra­di­tional router is a bet­ter bet.

3 FEWER FEA­TURES

Most mesh net­work­ing sys­tems sup­port ba­sics such as a guest net­work, port for­ward­ing, IP ad­dress reser­va­tion and sim­ple parental con­trols. If you want more ad­vanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties, though – such as wire­less bridg­ing, 3G failover and built-in VPN sup­port – you’re far more likely to nd them in a stand­alone router.

4 LESS BAND­WIDTH

Multi-node sys­tems may ad­ver­tise high data rates, but some of that band­width is eaten up in pass­ing pack­ets around from node to node. If you opt for a tri-band mesh sys­tem with a ded­i­cated

back­haul chan­nel, your clients will only get the same band­width as you’d see from a reg­u­lar dual-band router. And if your mesh sys­tem doesn’t have a ded­i­cated back­haul, that leaves less ca­pac­ity for your down­loads and le trans­fers.

With all those caveats, how­ever, mesh sys­tems still have a role to play. If you live in a big old house with thick stone walls, a mesh sys­tem can give you a bet­ter, faster, more per­va­sive con­nec­tion than an in­di­vid­ual router.

Mesh sys­tems such as the Zyxel Multy X of­fer fast speeds over a wide area, but is it worth pay­ing ex­tra?

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