Explained: mesh Wifi, and if you need it

3 min read

There’s been a lot more talk about mesh Wifi lately, mainly because Google just put out their new Wifi devices. But, Google Wifi isn’t really for everyone, and it has many buzz words attached to it that don’t answer basic questions. Questions include, how is this different from a normal router, and will it make my internet better? Let’s get right to it, and discover what it really is.

What is mesh Wifi?

So what exactly is mesh Wifi networking? The best way to think of it, is that you’ll have one main node (host) and other nodes that talk to, and duplicate the host. The host will be connected to your modem/router and will be the main source of internet traffic. The other node(s) will try to duplicate the main node for more coverage area and for better stability. When you have a device connected to your internet, it will (most likely) first connect to the host Wifi and then be able to connect to other nodes depending on the quality of Wifi each is giving off.

Essentially, all nodes — the host and any extras — give off the same SSID (the name of your internet). This is so your device can shift back and forth between nodes without you doing anything. This also helps with smart home tech, since you have to be on the same Wifi to be able to control some home tech.

Credit: ArsTechnica

Why invest in mesh Wifi?

Now the main reason you’d invest in mesh Wifi networking, is not to increase Wifi speeds, but to increase coverage. One router can cover a set amount of area, but mesh Wifi has nodes (think mini routers), or routers with extenders but of higher quality and easier setup. Those with large homes, homes with brick walls, or just homes with many walls, are the targets for mesh Wifi products. Again, you’re mainly looking for coverage, with no dead spots. While overlapping nodes aren’t bad, they are overkill and unnecessary.

Mesh Wifi systems

There are several big names in mesh Wifi technologies, even before Google Announced theirs. Netgear’s Orbi, Luma, Eero, and Amplifi are some of them. To give a brief comparison of them all, Orbi is the undisputed champion but comes at a cost. Luma is best for those with families or greatly care about security. Eero was the consumer champ if you didn’t want to empty your wallet for Orbi, and Google’s touts simplicity in setup and management. I do have a pair of Luma nodes and will be doing a review on them shortly.

To recoup, mesh Wifi networking has been coming up lately due to Google’s resurgence of the technology. Also, while it may be better than your solo router, it’s intended to make sure you have the coverage and stability required in big areas. For many, buying a better router would be more beneficial than investing in mesh technology.