Discover the power (and beautiful design) of these mesh Wi-Fi systems
Nena Farrell, with reporting by Kendra Poppy and Jessica Mordo
January 25, 2018
| Updated August 20, 2019
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So, What’s Mesh Wi-Fi?
Looking for a stronger Wi-Fi signal, or tired of being tied to a specific area of the house where the Wi-Fi is strong enough to stream? Especially in homes that have unusual shapes or thick walls, signals can (literally) get lost on their way from the router to the laptops, entertainment units, and even refrigerators trying to use it.
Instead of having one central beacon of Wi-Fi, mesh systems use multiple routers placed throughout the home to create a larger, more consistent web of signal throughout the home, making it easy to get Wi-Fi wherever you are in your house. One unit plugs into the modem, as your current router does, and the other devices sit throughout your home on shelves or in outlets to spread the signal, creating an invisible “mesh” web of healthy Wi-Fi.
Plus, these simple systems take away the hulking routers with multiple wires and replace it with a clean-cut box that looks as good on a side table or bookshelf as a bookend—and certainly much better than your old router, if it was somewhere visible in your home.
Here are some of the best and easiest mesh Wi-Fi systems to add to your home, tested by our tech-savviest Sunset editors.
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The startup eero (from $159) has been well-known since it launched in 2014 for its sleek tabletop Wi-Fi system that created a consistent signal throughout homes, kicking off the whole-home Wi-Fi system as we know it today. eero then launched its latest product in June 2017, the Beacon, which can sit straight in an outlet while providing the same signal boost, making it a great addition to hallways between rooms or other tricky spaces.
eero is available for purchase in packs based on the number of bedrooms in your home, and the app will guide you to place your eero devices in the most ideal spots. The app’s prompts will easily lead you through the set-up and run tests to make sure each device is placed in an ideal location for better Wi-Fi throughout your home, no matter the layout.
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Google’s system is aptly named Google Wifi (from $198), and the system provides what Google does best: simple set-up and a modern, minimalist design both in the hardware of the routers and within the app itself. The app makes it easy to add more devices, test the speed, and prioritize traffic from particular devices in your home (especially handy if the kids tend to borrow all the bandwidth.)
Just three devices should cover up to 4,500 square feet, but it makes a huge difference even in small spaces that had inconsistent or spotty Wi-Fi.
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Samsung Connect Home
If you’ve got a smart home hub, you know that while it’s great for managing your smart home devices, it’s probably plugged into your router and creating more clutter alongside your modem and router. Enter the Samsung Connect Home (from $129.99), which takes Samsung’s previous SmartThings hub and adds a Wi-Fi router to make it a handy solo device.
Buy it as a solo device if you’ve got small space, or buy a pack of three that can connect and create a mesh that not only creates stronger signal, but better smart home control at the same time from one of the best hubs out there.
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The Netgear Orbi (from $170) system is one of the strongest out there, coming in packs of two that bring a ton of speed and range. Choose between two tabletop devices or one tabletop and one outlet Orbi to make the most of your space and get the signal you really need, and add additional Orbi units as needed. It comes with straightforward instructions to make it easy to set up, and also grants access to features that tech-savvy folks will love diving into, like controlling your network without an active Internet connection.
Orbi also stands apart for its integrations. They’ve partnered with Circle by Disney for parental controls over content and time kids spend online, as well as with Amazon Echo to turn on guest networks, reboot the router, and even check the Wi-Fi settings.
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You might recognize the sleek Plume (from $39) from Sunset’s tech gift guide. These Wi-Fi pods stand apart by only sitting in outlets, and coming in three trendy neutrals: Champagne, Silver, and Onyx. The beautiful design doesn’t take away from the easy set-up out of the box, making it both easy on the brain and on the eyes.
Plus, it allows you to easily create guest passwords to keep Wi-Fi borrowing under control - especially when the neighbors are hopping on your network.