MESH NET­WORK­ING

Mesh net­work­ing is the new hot­ness in Wi-Fi. Are you ready to take your network to the next level?

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1 Zyxel Multy X WSQ50 £249 (two nodes), zyxel.com

If you’re not a fan of the tra­di­tional router look, Zyxel’s heavy, wide white peb­ble of a de­vice won’t float your boat. But these nodes have some se­ri­ous tech in­side, with an AC3000 ra­dio com­bi­na­tion that ded­i­cates over half of that band­width to in­ter-de­vice com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Even at the fur­thest dis­tance we could muster, the de­vice pair com­mu­ni­cated flaw­lessly with one an­other, though we hit the only set-up snag out of any of the mesh net­work­ing op­tions in this test – the Multy re­fused set-up on our An­droid de­vice, but worked fine on iOS.

2 Google Wifi £229 (two nodes), store.google.com

Google’s mar­ket­ing mus­cle fired up the mesh Wi-Fi rev­o­lu­tion, and the Google Wifi it­self doesn’t dis­ap­point. Im­mensely sim­ple to set up, it’s USB-C pow­ered for max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity, looks cute and fea­tures two Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net ports. Google Wifi does a great job at shap­ing traf­fic for top speeds while stream­ing or gam­ing, and ef­fec­tively filled our home de­spite its rel­a­tively low-power AC1200 sig­nal. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing app for An­droid and iOS is a mas­ter­work, mak­ing keep­ing tabs on your network and con­fig­ur­ing in­di­vid­ual de­vices an ab­so­lute breeze.

3 Ubiq­uiti Labs Am­plifi HD £360 (router & two nodes), am­plify.com

Am­plifi doesn’t ex­pect you to re­serve a pre­cious sur­face in your home for a Wi-Fi mod­ule: its nodes are mag­net­i­cally hinged onto plug sock­ets. Plug them in, an­gle them un­til the LEDs dis­play the best sig­nal, and you get nigh-in­vis­i­ble ex­ten­sion. The cen­tral router mod­ule – a neat cube with a cir­cu­lar touch­screen dis­play – con­trols them all, of­fers an at-a-glance look at your network speeds (or a clock) and in­cludes a four-port Gi­ga­bit switch. No ded­i­cated in­ter­con­nect ra­dio means this isn’t the fastest combo, but the Am­plifi HD is cheap and dis­crete. .

The days of the tra­di­tional router may be num­bered. We all live in com­plex homes. We all have those cor­ners that stub­bornly refuse to give up a de­cent sig­nal. And most of us have to put up with an awk­wardly- lo­cated cen­tral ac­cess point, which just makes solv­ing the prob­lem more dif­fi­cult. There are op­tions out there, such as pow­er­line and Wi-Fi re­peaters, but mesh net­works do it bet­ter: they send sig­nals be­tween in­di­vid­ual nodes, usu­ally us­ing a ded­i­cated ra­dio chan­nel, mean­ing you can place them in those murky ar­eas of your home that re­ally need the boost. Still have wire­less black spots? Then you can seam­lessly add an­other. It’s eas­ier, it’s faster and it’s all app-con­trolled.

4 TP-Link Deco M5 £229 (three nodes), tp-link.com

The Deco’s nodes, far squat­ter than Google’s with a twisty con­i­cal sur­face to dis­cour­age you from us­ing them as a coaster, don’t have quite the same broad­cast power as some of the oth­ers on test, al­though this three-node col­lec­tion is cheaper than most two-node pack­ages. The Deco’s nodes are sim­ple to set up, with an An­droid/iOS app that of­fers a good slice of peace of mind: built-in traf­fic-sniff­ing anti-virus and web fil­ter­ing, which you can ac­ti­vate and con­fig­ure on groups of ma­chines at once, gives supreme con­trol over network ac­tiv­ity.

5 BT Whole Home Wi-Fi £199 (three nodes), shop.bt.com

Less flex­i­ble than other mesh sys­tems – you can pause the whole network, but not dis­able it for par­tic­u­lar de­vices, and there’s no kind of parental con­trols on board – BT’s Whole Home pack has its work cut out for it. But it’s a win­ner: at £100 less than its orig­i­nal launch price, it’s a real steal for a three-node setup with great sig­nal strength and speed, a straight­for­ward set-up process, and stand-up small foot­print Wi-Fi discs, which tell you (and feed back to the free An­droid/iOS app) when they’ve been po­si­tioned poorly rel­a­tive to each other, in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of your home.

6 Linksys Velop £360 (three nodes), linksys.com/gb

Parental con­trols are a com­mon fea­ture on mod­ern Wi-Fi de­vices, but few do it bet­ter than Linksys in its ex­cel­lent An­droid/iOS app. Fil­ter­ing by de­vice, tem­po­rar­ily ac­ti­vat­ing guest ac­cess, cut­ting out cer­tain kinds of con­tent – it’s easy. Set-up is sim­i­larly sim­ple, just plug in, poke the app a lit­tle and go. Each unit packs a pow­er­ful AC2200 ra­dio com­bi­na­tion for an amaz­ing sig­nal, even when just run­ning a pair of nodes. Adding an ex­tra unit is costly, though, at an eye-wa­ter­ing £199, and three is prob­a­bly overkill for the av­er­age two-storey home.

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