Welcome to the T3 guide to the best mesh networks, ready to help you banish dead spots and cover every corner of your home in sweet, high-speed, fully reliable Wi-Fi around the clock.
We've put a pile of the best mesh Wi-Fi networks in the UK through their paces, so we can make our recommendations confident that we know what we're talking about: what you see below are the mesh networks for 2020, all worthy of a place on your shortlist if you're shopping for a Wi-Fi upgrade.
- Here's everything you need to know about mesh networking
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What is a mesh network?
Rather than having one router serving up Wi-Fi to your home, these mesh network routers and nodes give you several access points, blanketing all the rooms in your home with the wireless internet connectivity you need – Netflix need never be interrupted by the buffering symbol again.
What's more, now is a great time to be shopping for one of the best mesh networks, as hardware manufacturers continue to introduce price drops and deals, even on newer systems. Before we get to our list though, let's first take a look at what mesh networks are, and how to choose the best mesh network for your home.
What is the best mesh network?
There are a few features a mesh network needs to get right to be truly great, and at the moment the Netgear Orbi package hits most of the right targets for most Wi-Fi nightmare sufferers we know, making it our current pick for the best mesh network in the UK right now.
Some of the features are obvious – like extending your Wi-Fi right through your house, with no dead zones allowed (we don't want 56k modem speeds in the attic, even if it is just filled with cardboard boxes of clothes).
We'd also say decent looks (to fit in with your home decor) and affordable prices are important considerations as well – you're extending your Wi-Fi, not streaming video from outer space, and the costs should reflect that.
The Orbi set isn't necessarily the best mesh networking kit for everyone – the likes of Google Wi-Fi combine decent speeds, attractive looks and mid-range prices, for example – so weigh up all the factors we've talked about below before making your final choice.
How to buy the best mesh Wi-Fi system for you
Bear in mind that there are other ways to extend your Wi-Fi and get rid of dead zones around the home, including Wi-Fi extenders and Powerline adapters. Before you start splurging cash on the best mesh Wi-Fi network gear, make sure a mesh networking kit is definitely the right choice for you.
It's easy to see the appeal of mesh networks: they're fast, reliable, and easy to set up (it's almost as if tech companies are waking up to how easy home Wi-Fi should be). Even if you've never had to configure your own wireless network before, the best mesh networking kits make it all very straightforward.
On a technical level, these mesh networks are made up of little Wi-Fi 'nodes' that talk to each other and get as a strong a signal as possible out to all your devices. As far as your devices are concerned, it's just one consistent wireless network.
Look for the speed, often written as something like AC2200 – that's the type of Wi-Fi (AC) and theoretical maximum speed (2,200 Mbps), though you probably won't get that in reality. You'll also need to decide on a number of nodes: two should do most homes, but bigger places might need more.
The best mesh networks you can buy today in 2019: get the best mesh network for you
1. Netgear Orbi
The best mesh networking system for most people
Reasons to buy
While you'll see Netgear Orbi kit sold alongside mesh networks, it's actually a little different to most packages: it's more like a turbo-charged wireless extender than a conventional mesh network. All the nodes talk to the main router unit, rather than to each other, so you need to take that into account when positioning them.
In our testing, using a pair of Orbi nodes to cover the areas of the house where a normal router starts trailing off, the Netgear Orbi gear performed admirably, with very little loss of speed when connected to the secondary box.
Setup is refreshingly painless, as well, and the Orbi router and satellite extenders are stylishly designed. Each of the satellites brings with it a generous four Ethernet ports and a USB connection too (though that port is currently used to connect printers, rather than offering a way to add networked storage).
Orbi is also a great home networking solution as it can be picked up in either a 2-pack or a 3-pack, so depending on how big or small your home is you can get it covered accordingly. The new Netgear Orbi Voice system also allows you to add in smart speaker functionality (Amazon Alexa built in) to your base router, too.
Overall, then, strong home networking performance and easy setup, as well as a large dollop of style and scalability, really do combine to make this the best mesh networking system going today in 2020.
Affordable, stable, fast mesh Wi-Fi networking
Reasons to buy
Eero is a company with a strong tradition in the mesh Wi-Fi networking game, and that heritage is definitely on show with its latest offering: the 2019 Eero pack isn't quite the fastest option out there, nor is it the absolute cheapest, but it's a compelling blend of performance and features at the right price.
The system is incredibly easy to set up and use, and it has one of the most intuitive and polished apps we've come across in all our years of mesh Wi-Fi network testing. You can pause internet access, set up a guest network for your friends and much more, all with a few taps on your phone.
If you're looking for something that can be configured in minutes and that 'just works' – and we expect that most of you are – then you can't do very much better than the 2019 Eero system. For a faster and more expensive option, have a look at the Eero Pro set.
3. Tenda MW6 Nova
The best mesh network kit for wide coverage on a budget.
Reasons to buy
The white cubes that make up the Tenda MW6 Nova system are undeniably stylish, and they'll do a great job of getting Wi-Fi coverage all around your home – even if the top speeds don't quite match the very best that the competition can offer.
Even if the speeds aren't the maximum that the market can offer, this is still one of the best mesh network kits in the UK: you get a simple to use guest mode (to keep visitors away from your key equipment), straightforward parental controls, and support for Amazon Alexa control.
All that and the sort of reliable, far-reaching Wi-Fi that you've come on this page to find out about. To seal the deal, you can pick up a pack of three router nodes for a very decent price too.
Google's mesh networking kit is getting better and better
Reasons to buy
As you can tell from our Google Nest Wifi review, we're quite taken with this upgrade on Google's Wi-Fi networking kit – it's faster, it's more reliable, it offers more coverage, and the satellite nodes now come with Google Assistant built in (so they're really mini smart speakers).
The app is as polished as you would expect from Google, enabling you to do everything from measuring signal strength to stopping the kids from staying on the internet for too long. Setup is very easy too, which is always something we like to see.
While you might get faster speeds from other kit, and there's no Wi-Fi 6 support here, there's no doubt this is one of the best mesh networking kits in the business – especially if you're already heavily invested in the Google ecosystem.
According to Google, a two-pack Nest Wifi hub is good for 210 square metres (2,260 square feet) of coverage, and in our testing we found it had very impressive reach as well as very low latency. It can even work alongside your existing Wi-Fi network to add a second network.
5. BT Whole Home
The best mesh network for BT customers
Reasons to buy
The BT mesh network takes the approach of sitting alongside your router rather than replacing it, which makes it a bit of a bargain as well – you can currently get three satellites devices for £199, which will only get you a single unit with some of the other solutions. This is well worth a spot on our best mesh networking kit of 2020 list.
This setup suits homes where you're locked into using the router that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has given you. If you've signed up with Virgin Media for internet and television services, for example, you can't get at the router (it's inside the main TV box) – BT Whole Home solves that problem.
BT has nailed the price then, but the design of these satellite notes isn't necessarily something we're going to be basing our interior design plans around. These white dishes on little metal stands aren’t exactly ugly, but do look like networking aerials, and that clear BT logo in the middle really doesn't help the aesthetics either.
Other solutions are a little faster but the sheer square footage you can cover with three receivers is mammoth. BT also sells the Whole Home with two units or just a single one these days, so there are solutions to suit just about any living setup and budget, and the app includes plenty of smarts for monitoring and controlling internet access.
6. Linksys Velop
The best mesh network for experts and patient users
Reasons to buy
With its vaguely Bluetooth speaker-like looks, the Linksys Velop networking gear doesn't score many points in terms of its design, but the satellite nodes do have a small enough footprint that you can effectively hide them away around the home.
We found performance to be very good indeed during our testing: we barely saw any speed loss even with a fast 100/150Mbps optical fibre home internet connection. It was a shame then that setup was more fiddly than with the Vesop's competitors – we needed a factory reset and a bit of troubleshooting to get everything working properly.
Also in the negatives column, the Linksys Velop gear lacks a few extras that the likes of the Netgear boxes include, and you only get two Ethernet ports on the bottom of each box unlike the four on the Orbi nodes. You can however set priority devices in the app, and customise your Wi-Fi access in a variety of other helpful ways.
As far as buying choices go, you can pick up the Linksys Velop hardware in a bundle of one, two or three units. If you want to start off with just one router node, we're happy to report that it gave us just about the best wireless range we've seen from one of these mesh setups – even just one satellite is able to cover a very wide area, so you might not even need a mesh at all.
TP-Link's upgraded mesh networking kit ticks all the right boxes
Reasons to buy
One of the reasons we like the TP-Link Deco P9 mesh networking kit so much is because it gives you the flexibility of using mesh Wi-Fi alongside Powerline networking – so internet signals can travel through the existing wiring in your home, as well as through the air.
That gives you plenty of flexibility when it comes to trying to get wireless internet into every corner of your house, and the Deco P9 3-pack really does impress when it comes to blanketing your whole home with a Wi-Fi signal.
The accompanying app is simple and straightforward to use, and lets you prioritise devices as well as cut off the kids' connections to the web when it's bedtime. It's an all-round solid package, and definitely worth a place on your best mesh Wi-Fi shortlist – especially considering the competitive price.
8. Zyxel Multy X Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System
Best plug-in mesh network boxes
Reasons to buy
There's a lot to like about the Multy X system from Zyxel, including the 3,000 Mbps maximum speed and the rock-solid strength of the connections. Oh and it works with Alexa too, so if you've got a few Amazon Echo devices dotted around the home then you can control your internet with your voice.
As well as excellent speeds, you get extras like three Ethernet ports on each of the nodes, plus a USB port – it's only USB 2.0, which is a shame, but it should be speedy enough to use a printer or external hard drive and share it around the network.
From the software angle, the supplied Zyxel app is a little rough around the edges but just about does the job. Other apps are friendlier and more intuitive but we got there in the end with the Zyxel app – and at the end of the day you just want fast, comprehensive Wi-Fi first and foremost from the best mesh network hardware, don't you? You don't even have to use the app if you prefer telling Alexa to turn off the internet instead.
On the downside, the kit is a little on the expensive side and isn't the most compact or well-designed system we've ever seen. Overall though, the problems are minor and the pluses are major, and we'd recommend putting this any shortlist of the best mesh networking gear in 2020.
9. Sky Q
The best mesh network for 4K TV junkies
Reasons to buy
If you're thinking about upgrading your TV equipment at home as well as your Wi-Fi network, then the Sky Q package is well worth considering – the mini boxes that talk to the main Sky Q box also act as Wi-Fi hotspots.
That means your home gets blanketed in Wi-Fi as well as giving you access to all the other Sky Q extras, such as the ability to start watching a show down in the living room, and then switch to the bedroom and pick up where you left off.
Performance isn't as good as some other kits we've mentioned here, and it is expensive, but you get a TV and Wi-Fi upgrade combined – and that's enough to earn it a spot on our best mesh networking kits of 2020 list.