Everybody in the Western world uses a WiFi connection nowadays, most of us even have experience with trying to set up a WiFi router (or, which is much more likely, trying to get it BACK up).
There are many things that can cause the WiFi signal to not reach you properly: the distance is too long, too many walls in the way, but even a copper wiring in the walls or a mirror might cause the signal to get lost.
Even when that is true, most of the people still see a router as the only way a wifi signal can be produced and spread, the more technically inclined might be aware of the existence of range boosters and extenders, but that is usually it.
I don’t mean to bash the standard WiFi setup or its user. Instead, I want to talk today about the next step in WiFi hierarchy- Mesh.
Those not familiar with the Mesh WiFi setup: this video does a very good job of explaining the system.
In short: The standard WiFi setup has 1 router as the sole signal transmitter. The range can be increased with a plethora of range boosters and signal extenders, but if the router goes down, so does the signal. The same applies to the range extenders, if it goes down, every device connected to it will lose internet access. This system is used in small houses or offices where the signal can reach all devices and the uptime is not critical. In those situations, a mesh network would even be excessive, if not harmful.
The Mesh Network
The WiFi signal is spread by many nodes, which all transmit the same WiFi signal and can communicate with each other. This setup will usually cost you more, but will probably solve your signal strength problem. Also if one of the nodes goes down, the rest will take its job and you as a user won’t probably even notice a problem.
Plus most of the systems come with integrated support with the smart home devices, which is what is it all about in the Homestead Toolbox.
With that said, we can now look at the different Mesh WiFi products. There are 4 products which stand above the rest, they are as the title suggests Google Wifi, Orbi, Eero, and Velop, let’s see how they are compared to each other. Are there some better than others? Or does it only depend on the situation they are used in? Let’s dive right in.
Google Mesh WiFi
The internet giant is the undisputed #1 when talking about all things internet related, could you even imagine your life without it?
I can’t, not in the modern world anyway.
With that said, it is pretty self-explanatory that they will be pushing the progress in more branches of technology, so what do you get when you combine internet giant and a smart home technology?
The Google WiFi
And let me tell you, Google is really setting the bar here as well. Their system is both the Overall winner as well as the Value option, I was really blown away by what you get when purchasing this pack. For a very reasonable price, you get two nodes and one main ‘WiFi Point’. It is very easy to set up with Google holding your hand through the whole process, so no way you can mess it up, which can’t be said for most of the routers.
The nodes themselves are also very visually appealing, looking very sleek and modern, making them easy to ‘hide in plain sight’, but I really like their design so I make them a visual candy in my house.
As I said the app walks you through the whole installation process, but it doesn’t stop there. It includes tips on how to maximize what you get from your WiFi, your nodes health report and even a WiFi speed test.
Now let’s see some stats, Google official info says, that its 3 node system can cover 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) and the internet speed provided even exceeds the speed of the Orbi, which is quite the feat.
Pros & Cons
- Very simple and appealing design
- Security guaranteed with Google updates
- The best value for money
- Easy to set up and keep running
- Strong signal
- Compatible with the Google Smart Hub
- Only two Ethernet cable ports
- Settings can only be changed through a mobile app
Picking the winner was an easy task here, Google swept up the competition by a large margin.
It is cheaper than Netgear Orbi, Eero and Linksys Velop. It is also the most convenient system to have with many cool features such as the priority of a device for a set amount of time/ forever, meaning your movie streaming won’t be interrupted by someone downloading torrents. There are also parent’s settings, such as monitoring all the devices on the network or disconnecting the desired device from the internet and many more. I personally really like the Network check function, which will scan the network and find any bottlenecks causing your new setup to underperform and tell you how to fix it (usually by rearranging the nodes). Also if one or more of the nodes go offline the network automatically fixes itself to provide you with the best user experience. From me, Google Wifi gets 5 stars.
The first thing that will catch your eye is probably the price, it is quite high. Even with a higher price than the Google Mesh it gave off weaker signal and on less area. With that said, there are instances where I see someone reaching for the Orbi instead of the G. Mesh WiFi. Let’s see what hides behind the price tag.
To get it out of the way, the Netgear Orbi isn’t a true Mesh per se. It comes with one central node (router) and one satellite with the option to purchase as many satellites as you want. So why isn’t it a true Mesh? Well, the satellites don’t communicate with each other, only with the central node (which you connect to your modem).
On the back of the router, you will find 3 Ethernet ports, one port to connect your modem to, a DC power port and a USB 2.0. The satellites have the same only without the port to which you connect your modem, that is swapped for a 4th Ethernet port.
You can use a smartphone app from Netgear to set up your system or do it through an internet browser. Basically, you plug the central unit to a modem and connect it and any satellites you want to use to a DC power outlet. After that, you press the ‘Sync’ button located on the back of the central node. Be sure to already have your satellites in the location you want to use them in, as the system will check whether the units are communicating at a decent speed, if not it will let you know by changing colors on the central router.
What I don’t like about Orbi is, that if your power goes out, it becomes quite a hassle to get the units working properly again. The norm is that the WiFi should go back up as soon as the power is back up, but that is not what I’ve experienced. If you often find your power down and don’t wish to spend a better part of an hour getting your network back up every time, maybe this isn’t the right choice for you.
On the other hand, if you are a very technically savvy person, Orbi offers many backend features you might use and love, such as port forwarding and much more.
Pros & Cons
- Strong signal
- Great for the technically versed
- Easy first time set up
- Very pricey
- Large units
- Issues when the power goes out
The units themselves are very large, but I suppose you could hide them if you tried. After trying it for a couple of days, I have to say that even though the signal is very strong and goes through walls very easily I still can’t recommend it without a small warning: if you are not going to use most of its special features, then you are probably wasting money on this product.
Eero was one of the first WiFi mesh systems on the market, that means that they had plenty of time and opportunity to tweak their product. This is as well as Netgear Orbi a tri-band mesh system, meaning there are 3 lines of communication that the nodes are using to transfer your data as well as to talk to each other. The price is again on the higher end of the spectrum, but let’s see what you will be purchasing for it.
One of the great features Eero offers is that you can buy and deploy as many nodes (called ‘beacons’ by Eero) as you want to, this will come especially handy to huge households and offices.
The basic setup is said to cover 3,000 square feet (280 square meters). Which is less than both Netgear Orbi and Google WiFi, but again, you can increase the range with another node, although the beacon needs to be connected to the central node.
The beacons themselves plug directly into the power outlet, which is pretty standard.
Installation is really simple, you just download the official smartphone app, set up your router set up a password and name, connect it together and you are good to go.
What I really found interesting is the vast variety of features this product offers, one of them being the nightlight function of the beacons. This can be controlled from the app as well and is a nice cherry on top. Some other great features that can be controlled from the app are parent control and a WiFi speed test.
Pros & Cons
- You can purchase as many nodes as you want
- Very easy to set up with the free mobile app
- Many extra features
- Guaranteed security
- Large units
- Weaker signal than Google Mesh
- Lower area of coverage than the Google Mesh
- No Ethernet ports on the beacons
This Eero caused a huge splash, but to be honest it is not the best Mesh system on the market at the moment.
What I like very much about it is all of the extra features it offers, if you are a technology enthusiast you can control them with your smartphone or through your smart home setup.
This review will be shorter, as I don’t think much needs to be said about Velop. It is a setup of three nodes that should cover your whole house with an internet connection, but honestly, I wasn’t really happy with this product.
First of all, be ready to spend half a grand on this trio of nodes, which is nearly double then you would need to purchase the winner of our Mesh WiFi match. If you chose to only purchase 2 nodes, the price would go down by nearly 50%, but if you only needed 2 sources of signal, then you shouldn’t be looking at Velop in the first place.
To highlight some of its pros if you are really set on buying this system: it was very easy to set up, there are many options and different settings you can tinker with and the coverage and speed are also fine (still worse than the #1 on the market though)
Cons are the aforementioned high price and the fact that there are many competing products which are just better overall.
Pros & Cons
- Many different settings
- Easy to set up
- High price
- Worse than competitors
My recommendation is to stay away unless you really know what you are doing. It is pricier and offers less than competitors’ products.
Summary of the comparison of Google Wifi vs. Orbi vs. Eero vs. Velop
Our verdict would be that the Google Mesh Wifi system is the best on the market right now, the price is really good when you look at what you are getting for it. It is also compatible with the Google Home line of products.
I could see someone choosing to go for the Orbi, especially if he is a real technical geek. It is also compatible with the Amazon Alexa and all the other products.
To stay away from the Velop would be my recommendation for everyone looking to get a Mesh WiFi system, it is just not worth it.
I hope this article has helped you decide which Mesh WiFi system to get. I hope you will be satisfied with the choice you make and check the other articles in the Smart Home section if you feel like it.
Till next time