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 like powerline and Wi-Fi repeaters, but mesh networks do it better: they send signal 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 got black spots? Then you can seamlessly add another. It’s easier, it’s faster and it’s all app-controlled.
Zyxel Multy X WSQ50
One for raw power
If you’re not a fan of the traditional router look, Zyxel’s heavy, wide white pebble of a device won’t fl oat 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.
One for technophobes
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Google’s marketing muscle fired up the mesh Wi-Fi revolution, and the product 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 lowpower AC1200 signal. The accompanying app is a masterwork, making keeping tabs on your network and configuring individual devices an absolute breeze.
Ubiquiti Labs Amplifi HD
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 it’s cheap and discrete.
TP-Link Deco M5
One for risky clicks
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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. They’re simple to set up, with an app that offers a good slice of peace of mind: built-in traffic-sniffing antivirus and web filtering, which you can activate and configure on groups of machines at once, gives supreme control over network activity.
BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
One for bargain hunters
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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 set-up with great signal strength and speed, a straightforward setup process, and stand-up small footprint Wi-Fi discs which tell you (and feed back to the app) when they’ve been positioned poorly in different areas of the house.
One for large homes
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Parental controls are a common feature on modern Wi-Fi devices, but few do it better than Linksys in its excellent 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.