You may have places in your home where the Wi-Fi sucks. And bad Wi-Fi is in some ways worse than no Wi-Fi at all.
Wi-Fi Mesh-networking kits, rather than using a single router, use multiple access points spread around your house to enhance the range and performance of your Wi-Fi, and they’re great for big homes or old flats or houses with mortar, brick, or solid walls. After spending over 100 hours testing 25 mesh Wi-Fi networking kits in-home and lab environments, we’re confident the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit set is that the best mesh-router choice for most people who need one.
Most people, however, don’t need mesh Wi-Fi. Our testing showed that most people in smallish homes and apartments can do fine with just a router.
The Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons Wi-Fi mesh-networking kit is a solid baseline for homes with complex layouts, allowing you easily connect odd dead spots in your home such as a kitchen behind a masonry steel wall or a loft home office on the third floor. Adding extra Eero, Eero Pro, or Beacon units as needed is also easy. The Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons kit listed near the top of the pack on our special tests—unlike the new, third-generation Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit—and attached seamlessly to devices all over our test lab. Its components don’t take up as much space, and they’re not as ugly as many of their competitors. We do have a few nits to pick—for starters, the Eero Pro base unit has only a single spare Ethernet port, and the Beacons have no Ethernet ports at all. Some folks may not like the fact that Amazon now owns Eero, though so far the company hasn’t changed anything. This set is also a little pricier than rivals when it’s not on sale.
If your home is large but has a fairly simple layout (like a three-story townhome), the less expensive two-piece D-Link Covr Tri-Band Whole Home Wi-Fi System ( COVR-2202) Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit may be a good Wi-Fi mesh-networking kit choice. Thanks to the third band, the Cover system can dedicate one of its radios to passing data between the two units, which makes the system faster and more responsive than kits without dedicated backhaul. In our tests, its latency and throughput were among the best of the kits we tested, and this kit is typically about $200 less than the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons set. There are a few downsides: First, D-Link’s app, parental controls, and router settings are more simplistic than those of the Eero and Synology mesh kits. Like the Eero Pro base unit, all Cover has simply two Ethernet ports. And unlike the Eero and Synology systems, which let you add extra satellites à la carte, D-Link’s system requires you to buy another complete COVR-2202 or COVR-C1203 kit if you need to extend the mesh network’s range.
If you actually like fiddling with your router settings, consider a combo of the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac Wi-Fi mesh-networking kit. The RT2600ac is one of our favorite routers, and adding the MR2200ac turns it into a flexible, surprisingly good mesh system with more Ethernet ports, USB ports, and more tweakable router contexts than our other mesh-kit picks offer. This combo takes a few more steps to set up than other mesh kits, and these models are not the best in overall speed (though they came close to or reached the top on all our latency tests, which measure the time delay between when a computer requests data and when it gets that data, which is just as important). They’re also pretty ugly—they look like routers. But as a two-piece kit, they are significantly less costly than the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons set. Last but not least, this system also allows you to expand it by adding up to five extra MR2200ac routers (for a total of seven devices).
How we picked the best mesh network
For past versions of this guide, we tested absolutely every mesh kit we could find—but these days the number of mesh kits is growing, and we’re starting to get pickier. For this round, we dropped some of the poorest-performing kits from our previous rounds of testing (such as the AmpliFi HD, Google Wifi, and Zyxel Multy X kits). That left us with more than a dozen kits from eight vendors (AmpliFi, D-Link, Eero, Linksys, Netgear, Samsung, TP-Link, and Zyxel) to test, in over 20 configurations, to find the best Wi-Fi mesh router.
Our goal was to find a system that hit the sweet spot, meeting five main criteria:
- Ease of setup and administration: Setting up a new network is often hard, but it doesn’t need to be. You should be able to get your home on the Internet in less than half an hour with a mesh network.
- Flexibility and coverage: We study for a mesh system that can quickly handle various devices over a wide area. After all, isn’t that why you’re searching for better Wi-Fi?
- Raw performance: Though it’s not the most important feature, we like to see a nice, fast download under good conditions—preferably, at least 100 Mbps. That’s sufficient bandwidth for a family to stream two 4K videos simultaneously while continuing to listen to music and surf the Internet. According to Speedtest, the common broadband download speed to American houses is about 96 Mbps. We also look for low latency times on our browsing tests—it’s frustrating when you have to wait longer than a couple of seconds for a response from a website or an app’s servers.
- Cost: We don’t think you need to spend more than about $400 here. Spending more can give you better results, but most people don’t need to spend that much to get great Wi-Fi.
- Expandability: You should be able to add more pieces later to extend and improve coverage even further, if you discover dead spots or if you move to a larger house.
We also consider other criteria, including whether Ethernet ports are present on the satellites and the main router, whether the system automatically updates its firmware, the length of each kit’s tech support and warranty coverage, and whether a tri-band kit supports a dedicated wireless backhaul.
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How we tested Wi-Fi mesh-networking kits
Testing for most Wi-Fi router reviews consists mostly of connecting a single device to Wi-Fi at various distances, trying to get the biggest throughput number possible, and declaring the router with the biggest number and the best range the winner, at least in terms of raw performance. The problem with this method is that it assumes that a big number for one connected device divides evenly into bigger numbers for all devices. This is usually a valid assumption for wired networking, but it doesn’t work well for Wi-Fi.
Instead of just testing for the maximum throughput from a single laptop, we used six laptops, spaced around our New York test facility, to simulate the real-world activity of a busy home network. The cellar of our office building has the luxury of space, as well as a mix of Wi-Fi challenges: masonry walls and drywall construction, open spaces, glass windows, and metal-framed doors.
Because these tests simulated real-world traffic, they did a better job of modeling everyday performance compared with a tool like iPerf, an artificial testing tool that moves data from one machine to another as fast as possible. We did similar testing for the latest version of our guide to standalone routers.
Putting devices in the right places is key to any mesh network’s success; you should space them out in a way that gives all areas of your home Wi-Fi coverage. We started by placing the main router or node in our office’s prep kitchen, in the center of our testing space, connecting it to our Internet drop via Ethernet.
When testing three-piece kits in a “star” topology—multiple satellites all connected directly to the main router—we put one satellite access point about 20 feet away in a conference room across from the prep kitchen and placed the second about 40 feet away in our lounge on the other side of the office’s main kitchen. This is how we tested three-piece kits such as the D-Link COVR-C1203, the Eero 3-pack, the Eero Pro 3-pack, the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons set, both Linksys Velop kits (Dual-Band and Tri-Band), the Samsung SmartThings Wifi set, the TP-Link Deco M4, and the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus. For two-piece kits alike the Netgear Orbi RBK50 and D-Link COVR-2202 kits, we set the whole satellite in the lounge.
During testing, the six laptops, our wired controller laptop, and an Apple iPhone running the router app (if needed) were the only devices connected to the test network. We didn’t disable any of the surrounding Wi-Fi networks or wireless devices like Sonos speaker systems; these kept doing their usual noisy things, just as they probably do in your home. The neighbors and our corporate network also kept their Wi-Fi networks going, which left somewhere in the vicinity of a dozen network names visible at any given time.
Our six laptops ran the following tests:
- Three laptops affected real-human Web browsing by loading a “Web page” once every 20 seconds. Each “Web page” consisted of 16 separate 128 KB files, all requested simultaneously, and we measured latency from the time the requests went out to the time all 16 requests were fulfilled. This is the most important test—it accurately represents the thing that frustrates real users most (slow and inconsistent Web browsing)—and it usually fails before any of the other tests do.
- One laptop downloaded a very large file.1 We wanted to see an overall throughput of 100 Mbps or better, to simulate the experience of an impatient person waiting for a device to complete an update. This test is a big challenge for the rest of the network—if this laptop gets all of the available airtime, the other tests suffer.
- Two laptops individually simulated a 4K video streaming session. They attempted to download data at up to 30 Mbps, but we were done if they could equate 25 Mbps or better, which is what Netflix suggests for 4K. If this laptop can’t get at least 20 to 25 Mbps, that means a real video would be pausing and buffering. Like the test involving the download laptop, this test presents a real challenge to the rest of the network.
We ran all these tests at the same time for a full five minutes to simulate a realistic overly active time on a home network. Although your network probably isn’t always that congested, it is that busy often enough—and those are the times when you’re most likely to get annoyed, so they’re what we were modeling in our tests.
These tests simultaneously evaluated range, throughput, and the router’s ability to multitask. We did verify that the core features of a mesh network were enabled, namely using a single network name (or SSID) to enable roaming for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels. We also let the router choose its own channels using the automatic setting, if that was the default. For some mesh systems (such as Eero and Velop), MU-MIMO is a core feature and cannot be turned off, but if that function was changeable (as in the Orbi system) we left it in its initial setting. We didn’t touch most of the other settings—you should be able to connect to your Wi-Fi and have it work without constantly fiddling with things.
For three-piece kits, we tested with all six laptops spread out around the test facility’s ground floor. We spaced them so that they should naturally try to connect to the closest node or satellite, but we also grouped them close enough that some of the laptops could switch between satellites if necessary.
While testing two-piece kits, we moved two laptops from the large testing room into the lounge area. That way some would be in the range of the main router, some would be in the range of the satellite in the lounge, and some would be in the range of both. In all testing configurations, we checked which laptop was connected to which node, though occasionally a laptop would switch nodes in between tests.
We also tested raw throughput at the farthest spot in our employee lounge, and at a closer spot with a difficult “bounce”—one laptop was in the same room as the main router but had a metal-clad commercial freezer and refrigerator in its direct line of sight to the router. We wanted to make it difficult for the mesh-router kits but not impossible, so we surveyed and dismissed other spots in the cellar during our initial setup: For example, we encountered some far-flung spots where a laptop could connect to the network but couldn’t keep a reliable connection while running through the tests, even on the most powerful mesh kits we tested.
Testing mesh kits this way—in the most difficult spots to reach, in a space with a mix of building materials—ensures that we find the ones that work best throughout your house, rather than just looking good in the easy spots.
In addition to testing for raw throughput and the quality of Web browsing, we made sure roaming worked well on our picks by checking each router’s interface to confirm that all the laptops weren’t bunched on a single node, router, or satellite.
Our picks for the best Wi-Fi mesh-networking kits are below. If you’d like to skip down and read the test results first, jump to the results and analysis section.
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The best Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit: Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons
After testing dozens of Wi-Fi mesh-networking kits, we found that the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons set is the first mesh kit most people should consider. The system is physically attractive, simple to deploy and maintain, and high performing, and you can easily expand it with additional units for especially large or complicated spaces. Eero was the first home Wi-Fi mesh-networking system, and this is the second time we’ve tested and recommended its second generation. It’s more expensive than our other picks, but we think it’s worth that investment.
In our testing environment, the Eero Pro kit had excellent performance, hitting 186 Mbps throughput in the prep kitchen and 128 Mbps at the far end of the testing cellar about 80 feet away, through several walls. The Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons kit placed fifth in our latency test, easily adapting to the stresses of multiple laptops trying to access the network at once. This means it will reduce the time you and others in your home are sitting there, waiting for something to happen on your devices.
Initial setup is app-based, and in our tests setup took only a few minutes after we connected the Eero Pro router to our cable modem. Setting up the Beacons is as simple as following the directions in the app: You place and connect the router first and then place the Beacons. After you’ve plugged them in, the app checks the signal between the router and the Beacons and gives you helpful advice to bring them closer if they are out of range or in a fringe area of your home. Having two Beacons in addition to the router gives you better flexibility than having just a two-piece mesh kit, especially if your home has an odd shape, like a sprawling L-shaped ranch; in that situation, you can place the main unit centrally and place a single Beacon in each of the wings of your home.
Both the Eero Pro (router) and Beacon (plug-in satellite) units have attractive, sleek designs that won’t look out of place in any decor, and the system offers good throughput and range along with serious expandability. Each tri-band Eero Pro base station has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the dual-band Beacons are purely wireless. You need to connect one of the Eero Pro’s Ethernet ports to your modem; you can connect the other to a wired device (or to a switch, which you can then plug several wired devices into). The sole USB-C port is only for power, not data.
You can buy more Eero, Eero Pro, or Beacon units and adopt them into your existing network, if your place is big enough to justify the extra coverage. Most people should probably opt for more of the smaller Beacon units rather than fewer of the bigger, more expensive Eero routers. Our testing shows that proximity to the access point is usually more important than the access point’s raw speed. On the other hand, if you have wired backhaul available and want to use it, you’ll need Eero or Eero Pro base stations—the Beacons don’t have any ports.
Eero’s intuitive app lets you enable an “Internet pause” feature that makes it particularly easy to shut off Internet access—instantly or on a schedule—to get the attention of unruly kids, spouses, or roommates (or just keep them offline at particular times). Overall, the feature is a lot more convenient than the simple on/off Internet switch that more traditional routers offer. The Eero system is extremely well documented online, in a style that doesn’t scare off network novices yet still gives technically minded people all the details they want.
Eero also offers an optional $3-per-month Eero Secure “Internet filtering” service and a $10-per-month Eero Secure+ service, which boasts both family and network security filtering. The more expensive plan includes subscriptions to 1Password (password management), Encrypt.me (VPN service), and Malwarebytes (antivirus and antimalware). We’re somewhat reserved about Eero Secure. The entirely DNS-based filtering (Eero’s service maintains a list of malicious sites and online services, and when filtering is active, it blocks your family from accessing them) is a worthwhile layer of security, but it’s only a layer—don’t uninstall your antivirus software. Similarly, the “family filter” is likely sufficient to keep an innocent toddler from seeing something they shouldn’t, but it’ll barely slow down a teenager, let alone an adult, who is determined to see something you don’t want them to.
Eero has continually and significantly improved the quality of its devices via firmware and hardware updates since its debut. This makes us feel particularly comfortable recommending an Eero kit, because it’s clear that the company won’t simply abandon customers a year or two down the road.
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Flaws but not dealbreakers
As mentioned above, the Eero Beacons don’t have any Ethernet connections, so you can’t use them for hard-wiring, say, a gaming PC or a streaming TV box. This also precludes you from using the Beacons as wired access points, such as in a detached garage that you’ve previously run Ethernet cables to. And last, but not least, for Ethernet: The base unit has only one extra port, so you’ll need a switch if you want to connect more than one device to the Eero Pro’s base.
The Eero kit has a one-year warranty that includes online and phone tech support. Although we think one year is sufficient to determine the presence of any factory defects, other router manufacturers provide more coverage; D-Link and Synology, for example, have three- and two-year warranties, respectively.
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Budget Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit pick: D-Link COVR-2202
The D-Link Covr Tri-Band Whole Home Wi-Fi System (COVR-2202) is a great alternative Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit if you have a big home with a simple layout or one that a single router can’t cover, or if you would rather not buy networking equipment made by an Amazon-owned company. The COVR-2202 is a two-piece tri-band mesh kit that’s a lot less expensive, and in all our tests it had great latency and throughput. Its software is a little more simplistic since it doesn’t present all the esoteric router settings in the phone app, but on the other hand, it’s truly a snap to set up. Plus, like the Eero Pro kit, this Covr kit receives automatic updates, offering peace of mind. True, it’s not as expandable as the Eero Pro kit (nor the Synology mesh kit below) if you find that you need to expand coverage down the road, but the COVR-2202 is an excellent budget option.
The D-Link COVR-2202 mesh kit is quite easy to set up, with the main router and its satellite marked by removable stickers, as on the Netgear Orbi RBK50 kit. Once you load the D-Link app on your phone, the app asks you to scan the QR code on the router’s label, which starts the pairing and setup process. After plugging the power cords in and waiting a few minutes, you’ll have a working mesh network. The D-Link app doesn’t have as many settings or information displays as the Eero or Synology administration screens, but that’s fine for most people, who just want to hook up a simple mesh network and start using it quickly.
Thanks to its dedicated wireless backhaul (a 5 GHz band reserved for communication between the router and satellite), the Covr kit’s coverage and throughput was excellent all over our test area. (Eero’s dual-band Beacons use a slightly slower dynamic backhaul to the tri-band base unit, and the Synology system has a dual-band router connected to tri-band mesh satellites.) The COVR-2202 downloaded large files quickly to our prep kitchen (143 Mbps) and the far corner of the lounge (177 Mbps). It also topped our browsing and combined latency charts, showing that the mesh network could continue to serve websites with very little lag in the face of the voluminous traffic from the 4K-streaming laptops and the laptop that was downloading updates.
At about $200 for the two-piece kit, the COVR-2202 is one of the least expensive mesh kits in our roundup. However, it’s less flexible than the Eero and Synology systems: You can connect another two-piece COVR-2202 kit or get the dual-band D-Link COVR-C1203 Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit working with the COVR-2202, but you can’t buy single Covr units. But if you’d like to limit your mesh-router budget to about $220 to $250, the D-Link COVR-2202 is your best bet.
The COVR-2202 kit’s router and satellite are somewhat larger than the Eero Pro kit’s main unit and Beacons. The Covr nodes look like filled-in bud vases but are much slimmer than the oblong Netgear Orbi units and the boxy Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac routers. The Covr units have space for two Ethernet ports each (one on the base unit connects to your cable modem), a luxury that the Eero Beacons don’t have, whereas Synology puts four spare ports on the RT2600ac and two on the MR2200ac.
You can set the Covr kit to auto-update its firmware (as the Eero Pro kit does), and it’s easy enough to update manually because the D-Link app will prompt you. That said, D-Link’s app isn’t quite as comprehensive as Eero’s app or Synology’s administration pages. For example, it doesn’t list which Covr Point each client is connected to, which could help you in troubleshooting. Also, although you can turn off access to wireless devices manually, if you want to group, for example, your child’s devices by profile, filter which websites they visit, and schedule each profile easily, you’ll need to install a separate phone app called D-Link Defend. In contrast, parental controls with these features are well integrated into the Eero and Synology interfaces. D-Link adds to the Covr kit’s value with a three-year warranty, longer coverage than on any of the other mesh kits we tested aside from the Linksys Velop kits, which have a warranty of the same length.
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Also great: Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac Wi-Fi Mesh-Networking Kit
If you’re not quite sure you need mesh, or if you enjoy tweaking network settings, the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac are standalone routers that can connect to make a surprisingly good mesh network. The Synology RT2600ac, the runner-up in our router guide, offers great range and performance on its own, but adding the MR2200ac to the RT2600ac gives you a relatively inexpensive Wi-Fi mesh-networking kit with impressive range, low latency, good throughput performance, and expandability. These Synology routers are a bit uglier than the Eero and D-Link Covr mesh kits, but in return, these boxes have more Ethernet jacks and extensive, tweakable router settings that can help you nail down tricky networking situations (such as if you have a bunch of smart-home devices that need a 2.4 GHz signal for setup). Whether you buy these devices separately or as a two-piece mesh kit that’s often notably less expensive than our top pick, the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac mesh network is an excellent alternative as long as you don’t mind that the devices look like a traditional router and an extra wireless box.
The RT2600ac and MR2200ac are easy to set up on their own. You set up the RT2600ac first, as you would a standard router. Then you open an easy-to-follow wizard in the Web interface to add the MR2200ac is a satellite. The process is similar to the way you add extra satellites to any other mesh kit; the main difference is that the Synology software doesn’t automatically assume that you’ll be adding Wi-Fi mesh-networking points or nodes during the initial setup.
After setup, the SRM (Synology Router Manager) interface offers a plethora of information, ranging from which channels the router and mesh points are using to the transfer rates between individual devices. Not all of it is necessary for most folks, but if you’re especially geeky, you’ll appreciate the extra info. (You know, in case you need to find a misbehaving device like a smart speaker with a failing Wi-Fi radio.)
SRM’s extensive range of settings can help you solve odd niche problems, as well. The Eero and D-Link Covr mesh kits are locked into a band-steering setting where the same network name applies to both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels, all the time. In contrast, Synology’s SRM lets you temporarily or permanently segregate the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels and assign them to separate network names, such as to connect 2.4 GHz Internet of Things devices that don’t play well with 5 GHz networks. Also, SRM allows you to connect a USB SSD or hard drive to either router to share files on your network. This feature isn’t a surprise, since Synology made its reputation with NAS (network-attached storage) devices.
The Synology mesh network offers good coverage, and will continue to operate even as you demand more from your wireless network. In our tests, the RT2600ac with the MR2200ac topped our latency charts, both in browsing and overall. This combo landed closer to the middle of the pack on our close-range throughput numbers, serving 81 Mbps to our office’s prep kitchen, but the Synology mesh network redeemed itself at long range with an excellent 187 Mbps to the far corner. We also tested the MR2200ac on its own for our standalone router guide, but it was a middling performer when solo.
Pricing for the combo typically falls in between that of the Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons kit and the COVR-2202, especially if you buy the RT2600ac and MR2200ac together. They’re a bit more expensive purchased separately; alone, the MR2200ac is usually about $140. You can add up to six MR2200ac mesh points to a single RT2600ac (or MR2200ac) base unit for seven nodes total, so the Synology mesh network is more expandable than the D-Link COVR-2202, which tops out at four COVR-2202 units (or five with the addition of a COVR-C1203 kit). Our pick, the Eero kit, doesn’t claim a maximum number of nodes.
The Synology RT2600ac has four Ethernet jacks in addition to the port for connecting to your cable modem, while the MR2200ac has two total. Both also have a USB 3.0 port that you can use for print and file sharing, a feature that neither the Eero kit nor the Covr kit has. Both routers are also compatible with WPA3 security, which is more secure than the WPA2 security found in most 802.11ac wireless devices. (A recent study has uncovered vulnerabilities in WPA3 as well. We’ll continue to watch for new WPA3 devices, but there aren’t many available yet.)
We particularly like Synology’s parental controls. In addition to scheduling downtime, you can assign time limits or quotas to your children. That way, for example, you can limit their Internet time to a few hours a day, before bedtime on weekdays, with a few more hours on weekends. We also like that the SafeAccess parental controls work even if the routers are in bridge mode; most mesh kits and standalone routers disable parental controls if another router exists upstream (such as if you have a fiber connection and TV set-top boxes).
Unlike with the Eero and Covr kits, you have to update the Synology system’s firmware manually via the phone app or Web interface. The Web interface informs you when a new update is available. Also, because the Synology mesh network is made of two (or more) standalone routers that work together, the boxes take up more shelf space and are uglier than the units in the Eero and D-Link Covr mesh kits. Synology’s warranty splits the difference between Eero and D-Link, offering two years of coverage.