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