One of the best mesh routers in 2021: Asus, Eero, Netgear Orbi, Google Nest and extra

One of the best mesh routers in 2021: Asus, Eero, Netgear Orbi, Google Nest and extra


We’re all relying on our house Wi-Fi networks greater than ever nowadays — and few issues are extra irritating than having areas round the home the place you simply cannot join. The excellent news is that you would be able to resolve the issue by upgrading your router to a mesh system that pairs a router with range-extending satellite tv for pc units to decimate useless zones.

With these satellites, or nodes, unfold strategically all through your house, a superb mesh setup will mechanically “route” your connection as you progress via the place, steering you from band to band inside a single, unified Wi-Fi community. It will additionally resolve when to route your connection via a satellite tv for pc machine and when to ship your sign straight to the principle router. That is higher than what you may get from a easy vary extender, and it makes for close-to-seamless house web, with extra constant speeds in every room. 

The rub is that mesh Wi-Fi techniques are much more costly than vary extenders, and usually costlier than single-point, stand-alone wi-fi routers, too — however with plenty of new competitors hitting the market, the associated fee has come down fairly a bit within the final 12 months or two.

A number of the high choices embody techniques from Eero, which popularized mesh networking earlier than being purchased by Amazon in 2019, in addition to the most recent setups from Netgear Orbi and Google Nest. Mesh techniques like these repeatedly offered for as a lot as $400 and even $500 a couple of years in the past, however now all of those producers and others supply multipoint mesh router techniques — together with the principle router and the satellite tv for pc units, or nodes — that value lower than $300, if not lower than $200. I’ve even seen entry-level mesh techniques promoting for as little as $99, supplied you may catch the correct sale.

Learn extraOne of the best Wi-Fi routers for 2021

We have nonetheless acquired plenty of routers and mesh techniques we would wish to check out — together with a rising variety of new mesh choices that use Wi-Fi 6 know-how to vow higher efficiency and quicker speeds. Mesh routers that assist Wi-Fi 6E, which implies they will entry a newly unlocked mass of bandwidth within the 6GHz band, ought to begin to arrive this 12 months, too, together with new choices from Linksys and TP-Hyperlink that we noticed at CES.

Count on common updates to this submit within the coming months as new Wi-Fi mesh routers like these make it to market. For now, listed below are the highest mesh routers we would suggest proper now for anybody able to make the improve.

Learn extraOne of the best Wi-Fi extender for nearly everyone

Chris Monroe/CNET

Just a few years in the past, the Google Wifi grew to become a breakout hit because of its simple setup and its means to unfold a quick, dependable Wi-Fi connection all through your house for all your linked units. Now, there’s the Nest Wifi, a second-gen follow-up that provides in quicker high speeds and a better-looking design, plus Google Assistant sensible audio system constructed into every vary extender. The value is a bit of decrease this time round, too — $269 for the two-piece setup above, with roughly the identical space of Wi-Fi protection as a three-piece, $300 Google Wifi setup from a couple of years again.

On common, the Nest Wifi notched the quickest high speeds that we noticed from any Wi-Fi 5 mesh router (and quicker speeds than the latest Linksys Velop system, which helps Wi-Fi 6 and prices greater than twice as a lot). Plus, the two-piece setup provided sufficient sign power to supply adequate protection on the 5,800-square-foot CNET Good Dwelling. It additionally aced our mesh checks, by no means as soon as dropping my connection as I moved about my house operating pace checks. I by no means caught it routing my connection via the extender when connecting on to the router was quicker, both.

The dearth of Wi-Fi 6 assist may seem to be a missed alternative, however the Nest Wifi does embody assist for contemporary options like WPA3 safety, machine grouping and prioritization and 4×4 MU-MIMO connections that supply quicker combination speeds for units just like the MacBook Professional that may use a number of Wi-Fi antennas without delay. It is also totally backward-compatible with previous-gen Google Wifi setups, which is a brilliant contact. All of it’s simple to arrange, simple to make use of and straightforward to depend on, making it essentially the most well-rounded mesh router choose of the bunch, and the primary one I might suggest to only about anybody trying to improve a house community.

It was a bit of shocking that we did not see a Wi-Fi 6 model of Nest Wifi in 2020, however which may have been a savvy transfer on Google’s half — a mesh router will get essentially the most out of Wi-Fi 6 if it provides in a second 5GHz band for devoted visitors between the router and its satellites, and tri-band designs like that get costly quick. Amongst dual-band mesh routers, I might a lot fairly have a top-of-the-line Wi-Fi 5 system than an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 system. Even amongst new competitors final 12 months, the Nest Wifi matches that invoice.

Learn our Nest Wifi overview.

Finest for giant houses

Eero Professional 6

Amazon

Eero was an early pioneer of the mesh networking strategy, and in 2019, it acquired scooped up by Amazon. Then, in 2020, we acquired two new variations of the Eero mesh router: the Eero 6 and Eero Professional 6, each of which add in assist for — you guessed it — Wi-Fi 6.

Every system is priced at a price, netting you a three-piece setup with two range-extending satellites for about as a lot as some rivals cost for a two-piece setup. That is nice in the event you reside in a big house and also you want your Wi-Fi community to cowl a whole lot of floor — the extra extender will make an enormous, noticeable distinction in your speeds once you’re connecting at vary.

However between the 2 of them, I strongly want the Eero Professional 6, which prices $599 for a three-pack. Not like the common Eero 6, which upset in my checks with poor band-steering, the Eero Professional 6 setup I examined labored like a attraction, spreading quick, dependable speeds throughout my whole house. Plus, it encompasses a tri-band design with two 5GHz bands, which is vital for optimum mesh efficiency. It is also an awesome choose for Alexa customers because of a built-in Zigbee radio that permits you to pair issues like sensible locks and sensible lights together with your voice assistant without having any additional hub {hardware}.

$599 is not cheap by any stretch, but it surely’s about nearly as good a value as you may discover for a three-piece, tri-band mesh router with full assist for Wi-Fi 6. That makes it a worthy and wise improve for giant houses.

Learn our Eero Professional 6 overview.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

At a retail value of $700 for a two-pack, the latest, brawniest model of the Netgear Orbi is simply too costly to suggest outright — however in the event you simply need the quickest mesh router cash should buy, look no additional.

With full assist for Wi-Fi 6 and a second 5GHz band that serves as a devoted backhaul connection for the router and its satellites, the highly effective system was downright spectacular in our checks, with high speeds of almost 900Mbps at shut vary in our lab. That is one of many quickest numbers we have ever seen from a mesh router in that take a look at, and it solely fell to 666Mbps at a distance of 75 ft — which remains to be quicker than we noticed from the Nest Wifi up shut, simply 5 ft away.

Issues acquired much more spectacular after we took the Orbi AX6000 house to check its efficiency in a real-world setting. With an incoming web connection of 300Mbps serving as a pace restrict, the system returned a median pace all through the entire house of 289Mbps, together with speeds on the farthest level from the router that have been 95% as quick as when connecting up shut. That is an impressive end result — no different mesh router I’ve examined in my house comes shut.

Once more, the issue is the value: $700 is just too costly for most folk, particularly given that you will want a connection of a minimum of 500Mbps so as to discover a lot of a distinction between this technique and others we like that value lower than half as a lot.

Nonetheless, if the Orbi AX6000 ever goes on sale, I do know I will be tempted. Within the meantime, know that Netgear simply quietly launched a cheaper AX4200 model of the Orbi mesh system that prices $450. It is nonetheless a tri-band router that helps Wi-Fi 6, however you aren’t getting the multigig WAN port that comes with the AX6000 mannequin right here. We’ll control that one and replace this area as soon as we have examined it out.

Learn our Netgear Orbi AX6000 overview.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It is not fairly as quick because the Wi-Fi 6 model of the Netgear Orbi listed above, however the Editors’ Alternative Award-winning Asus ZenWiFi AX got here awfully shut — and at $450 for a two-piece system, it is quite a bit simpler to afford.

The truth is, the ZenWiFi AX presents the identical multigig WAN ports because the Orbi 6, the identical devoted backhaul band to assist hold the system transmissions separate out of your community visitors, the identical ease of setup and regular mesh efficiency and the identical sturdy efficiency at vary. It even is available in your alternative of white or black.

I additionally appreciated the depth of management within the Asus app, which helps you to handle your community and customise that backhaul as you see match. The value of $450 remains to be quite a bit, however this technique is robust sufficient to really feel like a worthy improve choose for these prepared to spend. And, if $450 is a bit an excessive amount of to your finances, know that there is a new, smaller model of this technique known as the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini. It is not as high-powered, but it surely comes with three units that each one assist Wi-Fi 6 for $300, which makes it fairly fascinating. We’ll let you already know as quickly as we have had an opportunity to check it out for ourselves.

Learn our Asus ZenWiFi AX overview.

Ry Crist/CNET

I did a double take the primary time I noticed the value tag for the slimmed down, dual-band model of the Netgear Orbi mesh router system. At $200 for a three-piece setup (or much less, in the event you catch it on sale), it is a clear worth choose — and a dramatic turnaround from the unique Netgear Orbi, which was method too costly at $400 for a two-pack.

Netgear introduced the associated fee down by sticking with Wi-Fi 5, ditching the built-in Alexa speaker that comes with the Orbi Voice and skipping the tri-band strategy and the devoted 5GHz backhaul band that different Orbi techniques use to attach every machine within the mesh. I’m wondering if Netgear missed a chance by not branding this technique as “Orbi Lite.”

All of it makes for a much less strong mesh system than different Orbi setups, however I hardly observed in my checks. Among the many Wi-Fi 5 techniques I’ve examined, the dual-band Netgear Orbi truly notched the quickest high speeds at shut vary, it stored up with the Nest and Eero in our real-world pace checks and it provided wonderful sign power within the massive CNET Good Dwelling.

Netgear’s app is not as clear or intuitive as Nest’s or Eero’s, and the community did not appear fairly as regular as these two because it steered me from band to band in my checks, however these are quibbles at this value. For those who simply need one thing reasonably priced — maybe to tide you over till you are able to make the improve to Wi-Fi 6 — then the brand new Netgear Orbi undoubtedly deserves your consideration.

Learn our Netgear Orbi AC1200 overview.

This graph reveals the highest speeds of a single router from every system we have examined, no extenders. The Eero Professional 6 was the one one to notch a high pace greater than 1,000Mbps (1Gbps), with Wi-Fi 6 techniques from AmpliFi, Arris, Netgear and Asus shut behind. In the meantime, the Nest Wifi router had the quickest common obtain speeds of the Wi-Fi 5 techniques we examined. 


Ry Crist/CNET

Prime speeds

As I stated, we have already run a superb variety of pace checks with these techniques. After we clocked the highest wi-fi switch speeds for a single Wi-Fi router from every system, it was the Eero Professional 6 that led the best way with a close-range high pace of 1,008Mbps. That makes it the one mesh router we have examined that was capable of high out above gigabit speeds on this take a look at. In the meantime, the AmpliFi Alien, the Arris Surfboard Max, the Netgear Orbi 6
, the Netgear Nighthawk and the Asus RT-AX92U carried out nicely, too, every with high speeds comfortably north of 800Mbps at shut vary. No shock there, as these all assist Wi-Fi 6, the quickest model of Wi-Fi but.

Behind these got here the Nest Wifi, which holds the highest spot on this take a look at amongst Wi-Fi 5 mesh routers. The budget-friendly, AC1200 model of the Netgear Orbi impressed us, too — it was even quicker than the Nest at shut vary.

Simply know that these high pace checks happen in our lab. We wire every router to a MacBook Professional ($973 at Again Market) that acts as a neighborhood server, then obtain knowledge from it to a different laptop computer on the router’s Wi-Fi community. That lets us see how briskly every router can transfer knowledge with out the variables and limitations that include downloading knowledge from the cloud by way of your web service.

Except for Eero 6, the Wi-Fi 6 mesh techniques I examined in my house have been every capable of carry out noticeably higher than previous-gen techniques at vary (the main bedroom and again toilet). Even when your house makes use of Wi-Fi 5 devices like mine does, your community will nonetheless profit from that Wi-Fi 6 connection between the router and the satellite tv for pc.


Ry Crist/CNET

Actual-world speeds

Prime pace checks are one factor, but it surely’s vital to additionally take a detailed have a look at how nicely these mesh routers carry out once you add within the vary extenders and pull knowledge from the cloud, the best way they will be used 99% of the time. So, I took each house, set it up on my 300Mbps AT&T fiber community, and spent fairly a little bit of time operating pace checks so as to discover out.

It is value noting that, not like our lab-based high pace checks, I run my at-home pace checks on a laptop computer with previous-gen Wi-Fi 5 {hardware}. I will possible make the leap to Wi-Fi 6 sooner or later, however for now, it is a good alternative to see whether or not these new Wi-Fi 6 routers could make any kind of noticeable distinction in a Wi-Fi 5 house like mine.

And, because it seems, they really do. Particularly, I might see higher efficiency at vary, with speeds that did not dip as a lot in that main bedroom and again toilet. With the top-performing Netgear Orbi AX6000 system, speeds hardly dipped in any respect. Connecting close to the satellite tv for pc in that main bedroom and again toilet was virtually nearly as good as connecting close to the router itself in the lounge.

That possible stems from the truth that the router and the satellite tv for pc are in a position to make use of Wi-Fi 6 to relay alerts forwards and backwards extra effectively, and at quicker speeds. The system additionally dedicates a complete 5GHz band to the backhaul transmissions between the router and satellite tv for pc, which additionally makes an enormous distinction.

Bear in mind that including an additional band to the combination actually brings the value up. The Asus fashions I examined every value about $400 or so, whereas the Linksys Velop MX10, AmpliFi Alien, Arris Surfboard Max Professional and Netgear Orbi AX6000 techniques every value about $600 or $700 for a two-pack. Of all of them, I just like the Asus ZenWiFi AX the most effective — that one completed my efficiency checks in a really shut second behind the Netgear Orbi AX6000, and at $450, it prices about $250 lower than that top-of-the-line system.

The Eero Professional 6 is one other sturdy choice with a tri-band design and full assist for Wi-Fi 6. That one prices $599 for a three-pack, which remains to be costly, however much less than simply about another system prefer it prices for a three-piece setup.

Most just lately, I’ve began testing the Linksys Velop MX5, which prices $400 for a single, tri-band router that you would be able to construct upon with further Velop satellite tv for pc units. I will have extra knowledge as soon as we’re capable of check it out as a mesh in a bigger atmosphere, however in my single router pace checks right here at house, the place I take a look at out a mesh router with no further satellite tv for pc units, it completed second in general common obtain speeds. A promising begin, for positive.

I additionally examined the Netgear Nighthawk mesh Wi-Fi system, which helps Wi-Fi 6 however would not embody an additional backhaul band. That signifies that your community visitors has to share bandwidth with the transmissions between the router and the satellite tv for pc, but it surely additionally brings the associated fee method down. At $230 for a two-pack, it is fairly tempting, however the efficiency was too shaky for me to suggest it.

I’ve additionally examined the TP-Hyperlink Deco X20 mesh router at my house, although we cannot have the ability to take a look at its high speeds in our lab till early 2021. At $270 for a three-piece system, and with full assist for Wi-Fi 6, the Deco X20 is actually the identical factor as Amazon’s commonplace, non-Professional Eero 6 system, but it surely did a greater job of steering me to the correct band throughout my checks, which raised its general speeds.

It is also value remembering that your router can solely pull knowledge from the cloud as quick as your web connection permits. With the common obtain pace within the US at the moment sitting round 100Mbps or so, there’s little or no probability that you’ll push a Wi-Fi 6 router to its full potential anytime quickly — although you will notice barely greater speeds to consumer units that assist Wi-Fi 6. The listing of units like that’s rising, together with flagship smartphones such because the iPhone 12.

cnet-smart-home-promo-pic-2017.jpg

A mesh router system makes essentially the most sense in a big atmosphere — like, say, the 5,800-square-foot CNET Good Dwelling.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

High quality of protection

Velocity checks are all nicely and good, however a mesh router system is overkill in a 1,300-square-foot house like mine. So, for our subsequent take a look at, we headed to the CNET Good Dwelling, a four-bedroom, 5,800-square-foot home on the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky. Our aim: to find out which system supplied the strongest alerts and Wi-Fi entry throughout the complete place.

To do that, we mapped out the house’s upstairs and downstairs ground plans, then fed that knowledge into NetSpot’s free software program for measuring sign power. We selected essentially the most wise spots for the routers and vary extenders, together with dozens of particular factors from which to measure every community’s sign power, each inside the house and out.

This is the sign power for every of our high three Wi-Fi 5 techniques within the CNET Good Dwelling with a single router broadcasting the sign to a single extender, each of that are situated on the principle ground. Yellow is nice, inexperienced is nice and blue is dangerous. All three techniques supplied comparable protection right here, although the Netgear system impressed us with how sturdy the sign stayed within the basement.


Steve Conaway/CNET

Then, we arrange every router we have been testing and spent a day taking measurement after measurement after measurement. What resulted was a colourful set of nifty-looking warmth maps displaying us simply how sturdy the sign is from room to room.

A few issues about these warmth maps. First, to maintain issues honest, we measured a two-piece setup for every system — one router and one extender. We could do further checks with two extenders in play if the system contains one, as was the case with the 2019 Eero system we used, however for these warmth maps, we needed to offer you a superb comparative have a look at how these techniques carry out.

Second, we positioned every router and extender in the very same spot for every take a look at — the software program approximates their location, which is why it appears like they’re in barely totally different locations from map to map.

Lastly, it is value reiterating that these maps present you the combination sign power of every system all through the home, and never their precise obtain speeds. That stated, higher sign power means higher wi-fi speeds. My partner-in-testing Steve Conaway summed it up thusly: “Yellow means you are in heaven, inexperienced means adequate, and blue means WTF.”

This is how the sign power appears with the Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers we have examined. The AX6000 model of the Netgear Orbi was a standout right here, however for essentially the most half, issues aren’t dramatically higher than you may get with Wi-Fi 5.


Steve Conaway/CNET

The primary massive takeaway from our protection checks was that the Netgear Orbi AC1200 did a powerful job of spreading a robust sign to the basement, even with each the router and the vary extender situated upstairs. That traces up with our pace take a look at knowledge, the place the Netgear constantly stored up with the Nest and the Eero at vary. These protection checks counsel that in a large-enough house, the Netgear may truly outperform these two techniques outright.

These three — the Nest, the 2019 Eero and the dual-band, AC1200 model of the Netgear Orbi — are our high Wi-Fi 5 techniques. However what concerning the Wi-Fi 6 techniques we examined?

Nicely, have a look for your self. As you may see, there is not an enormous, across-the-board enchancment in sign power — however the AX6000, Wi-Fi 6 model of the Netgear Orbi was a standout, registering particularly sturdy sign power close to the router and extender. The latter may assist clarify why it was in a position to take action nicely in our checks, the place wi-fi speeds close to the extender have been virtually as quick as if I have been connecting close to the router itself.

That is a greater end result than I’ve seen from another system I am examined, and it is a massive purpose why a $700 two-piece Orbi 6 system is the one choose in that high-end class of costly tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh setups that I am at the moment comfy recommending.

I’ve highlighted the opposite key takeaway within the adjoining GIF, which reveals the protection for the complete, three-piece Eero setup. No big shock, however that three-piece setup supplied noticeably higher protection than the two-piece Nest and Netgear setups, as a result of we have been in a position so as to add a further vary extender down within the basement.

All three techniques supplied comparable protection in an enormous area just like the CNET Good Dwelling — however Eero’s $250 starter equipment provides in a 3rd machine. We positioned it within the basement, the place sign power tends to be weak, and it made an enormous distinction.


Steve Conaway/CNET

Translation: For those who’ve acquired a big house that is 4,000 sq. ft or extra, then it is best to prioritize getting a setup with a couple of vary extender. Final 12 months’s Wi-Fi 5 model of Eero is an efficient worth choose at $100 lower than a three-piece Nest Wifi equipment, which prices $349 — in reality, for Black Friday, you will get that three-piece Eero setup for simply $174.

Even higher? Try my high general choose for giant houses, the three-piece Eero Professional 6 setup. At $599, it is undoubtedly extra of an improve choose, but it surely nets you a elaborate tri-band design with full assist for Wi-Fi 6.


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