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Do I really need a mesh network?

Google Wifi
Google Wifi (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Wireless mesh networking has become something that's ready for you and me to buy and put in our houses. The technology and hardware that powers it is no longer too expensive or too complicated, and companies like Google with their Google Wifi setup want in on it.

But do you — yes, you personally — really need a mesh network setup? The answer (as usual) is maybe.

I've looked at a couple of consumer wireless mesh routers recently here at AC — the Amplifi HD home system and Google Wifi. I'm talking with some other companies to look at more. There are two reasons for this: I actually enjoy fooling with network gear, and because reliable, comprehensive Wi-Fi coverage has become essential in most homes.

Lately, we've been getting a lot of questions about mesh routers. The most frequent is "Would a mesh network be better for me? I have (x) setup now."

Router vs Mesh Networking: What's best for your home Wi-Fi network?

So let's talk about what a mesh network is good at, what it's not good at, and what kind of user needs one.

Are they fast?

A mesh network has zero impact on your internet speeds. None whatsoever. Nothing can make your internet faster except the people you pay each month for the service doing something on their end. Your internet is a garden hose, with you at the open end and your ISP at the faucet; they have all the control over your flow speeds.

Any equipment you can buy will only affect the speed of your network, not your ISP's.

What a mesh network does, both wired and wireless, is provide more consistent network performance in more places around a home. When you install a "regular" router and a network extender, you automatically lose up to 50% of your speed when you are attached to the extender. Mesh networks have several ways around this, with the most common being frequency (or channel) hopping — essentially running on more than one channel at the same time. Most of the companies who are making consumer mesh routers aren't clear on how they mitigate speed loss while amplifying and passing along a wireless signal, but those results are the end goal. With a properly set up mesh network, you will have the same network speeds anywhere you're connected to the network.

What this means for end users is that every spot in your house can have a good Wi-Fi signal. You can have a good signal in the room next to the router, a good signal out in the garage and a good signal sitting on the toilet upstairs. The internet speeds aren't any faster but you're getting data from your router faster so it makes a difference.

If you have spots in your house that are dead or have a really poor Wi-Fi signal and you know you have a good wireless router, you need either an extender or a mesh setup. If you need to buy more than one extender at different ends of the house, you need a new router and should look at a mesh system and see if it fits your budget.

Gamers

A mesh setup might fix the lag when you're playing online games. The lag comes from you being out of sync with what the game engine thinks you should be doing (that's why lag glitches and cheats work) which is usually a connection-based issue. Most of the time that issue is between your modem and the game server. A mesh network won't be able to fix that. Latency (ping times and round trip times) on even a weak Wi-Fi signal are usually more than fast enough between your PS4 or computer and your router, and a stronger signal, while always a good thing, isn't the fix you're looking for.

A mesh setup might fix the lag when you're playing online games.

If local network (the network in your house) pings are slow enough to make a difference, you definitely need to do something. If everything else you and your family does on the network is fine, try running a cable from your router to the back of your console or computer. If that doesn't fix it, you're stuck with "bad" internet for gaming. If it does, look into getting new equipment and think about an extender. Online gaming doesn't need very high speeds as long as the latency is low. Of course, a mesh network won't be worse than a cheaper extender setup, so if the budget says yes there's nothing holding you back.

Streaming video

While online games don't need a lot of bandwidth and speed, streaming video does. To stream a 4K video on your Chromecast without any stutters, companies like Netflix and Google recommend a consistent connection of about 30 Mbps. That means the connection between your streaming device and the server you're streaming it from should never drop below 30 Mbps. A mesh router can have a big impact here.

A 4K stream needs a fast — and consistent — signal.

You don't have much control over the connection between your router and the server, but you can do a lot of things to make sure as much of that data gets to your streamer as fast as it can once it comes into the house. When you drop below the speed threshold, you draw data from a buffer. When you're faster than the threshold, you put data in that buffer. If you fall below it too often and draw more data out than you can put in things will pause if your network just isn't fast enough. If your network is just fast enough, your image will look bad or the audio will be poor, out of sync, or both.

You want the signal from the router to the TV as fast and strong as possible to help stay faster than you need to be at all times. Ideally, you'll use an ethernet cable. If that's out of the picture (like it is for many of us) a mesh networking setup can definitely help.

Distance

A mesh network is not built for carrying a wireless signal for long distances. The days of high-gain wireless that blasted to the horizon from a set point are over for most people, and your neighbors will thank you for not doing it. If you look at the list of Wi-Fi networks you can connect to and it's more than the number of available channels (11 2.4GHz channels and it depends on who you ask about 5GHz channels) your signal will be affected. That's before we talk about cordless landlines, microwaves and random things like 35mm cameras, which all can interfere with a Wi-Fi signal. If you can see your neighbors' Wi-Fi networks, your network speeds are probably negatively affected.

Beaming your Wi-Fi down the street doesn't help you and hurts everyone else.

Ideally, a Wi-Fi signal is contained to the areas where folks will be actively using it. That's difficult because nobody wants any device that doesn't have a fairly large coverage area. The best Wi-Fi network would be built of small mesh nodes with a 10-foot coverage area placed 9 feet apart. The cost of this far outweighs any advantage so most nodes in a mesh are designed to have about a 30-foot radius (multi-directional antenna make this a sphere) before the signal drops off. The Amplifi system I tested was unique and actually designed to cover a longer span rather than a sphere, but Google Wifi wasn't. Buy a three-pack and place the units within 25 feet of each other and no closer to the wall than 10 feet and you've built a balanced network that's fast and powerful where it should be and doesn't intrude too much where it shouldn't.

Think of how your house is laid out. I'm lucky — my house is 41 feet wide and 40 feet long on two floors. I don't even need three mesh nodes. If your house is very narrow and very long (or tall) — especially if you live in a row house of any type, you're wasting a lot of signal by using multiple small radial output devices. Ideally, you want a wired router and switch network with wireless access points in places you need them. The next best thing is something you can push in the right direction. A wireless mesh network is not for you. In extreme cases, it's worthwhile to talk to a professional before you spend a lot of money on equipment.

Advanced features

A lot of folks ask about things like QoS scheduling or per-device network rules or MAC address filtering. None of the current consumer grade mesh systems are for you.

These systems are designed to be as simple as possible to use for people who don't know what QoS schedules are and don't care. In fact, Google touts remote monitoring and troubleshooting by a machine as a feature so folks don't have to worry about things like channels or bandwidth. What seems like a nightmare to you and me (yes, I am that guy, too) is a boon for most.

Outside of the most rudimentary controls, the apps that power the interface for the current crop isn't going to suit you. Unless you get a Netgear Orbi.

The Orbi has the same features and interfaces through a local web server just like the Netgear Nighthawk high-end routers do.

Why are they so expensive?

Because they are so damn good at what they do! These devices are tuned to be very powerful within their working area and use the same technology that every other $200 router uses. A single Google Wifi unit will cover a 1500 sq. ft. zone with fast and strong Wi-Fi. Other routers will have different range, and you should buy what best suits your needs. Just realize that in the end, it won't be any cheaper. The man gonna get his one way or the other.

Make sure you buy what you need. An extender might be a better fit for you. It will be cheaper than replacing everything with a mesh kit.

Is Big Brother watching?

Thankfully, people are questioning what data Google Wifi is collecting and how it is being used. You're presented with the terms of service during the setup, but since I know most of you didn't read them, they are also available here. Read them. Decide if the value of the data you are giving away matches well with the value of the service you get in return.

I know plenty of folks have other questions about all this stuff. You should ask them! Asking questions never makes you look like a dummy — it just means you want to know more about something. There are comments below. There are folks with answers who may be reading them. Everybody can get together and talk about mesh networks.

Don't worry, we can go back to fighting about phones later.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

85 Comments
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  • Thanks Jerry for another great article. I've been thinking about a mesh system and your article helped make the decision.
  • This may be what I have to do.
    Family of four. Two xboxes, 4 fire tvs, 2 Chromecasts and three laptops, four phones plus some hardwired devices.
    Lots of lag lately, even though at most 6 devices are used at one time. Problem is it's probably the crap router that my provider gave me, but don't want to spring for a new one of mesh is the better option.
  • Mesh isn't necessarily better. You have to understand how mesh actually works. Mesh has hops just like router access points have hops. Suggestion: get your own router and modem. any solution is better than renting their solution. If your xbox is connected to an access point in the living room, it still hops over to the main access point near the modem. that's 1 hop regardless of whether its mesh or "traditional" AP. a hop is a hop and delay is delay. ANYTHING you buy is going to feel like "the right choice" after renting sub par hardware from the ISP. I recommend an Asus router with AsusWRT personally. I have 54 wireless devices connected to my home in addition to wired gigabit devices. Xbox's Apple TV, Shield, TV's, FireTV's FireTV Sticks, Nests, Echos, Canary's, Augusts, Harmony's, oodles and oodles of stuff. No problems. Asus AC3200 router running AsusWRT by Merlin.
  • Since I have an AT&T UVerse gateway/router, should I just get something like an Asus router with AsusWRT as you suggested, to place behind it and then put the AT&T router in "DMZ mode" so that acts as a dumb bridge? I don't have quite as many wireless devices as you, maybe 12 that I can think of, but our house is about 2600 sg ft and there are some areas that don't get as strong of a signal as others.
  • I have 30 active WiFi devices and 8 hardwired devices running on an old Buffalo router. It covers every square inch of my home, including the attic and basement. The difference is I installed OpenWRT (Chaos Calmer 15.05.1). Added two modules: Adblock and Smart Queue Management, which addresses buffer bloat and dropped my maximum latency from over 1000ms to under 5ms. The router has been rock solid; not rebooted since OpenWRT was installed, several months ago. The point is that you can't ask old software to address new problems that weren't common when it was created. We didn't have loads of WiFi devices a few years ago, and we didn't use VoIP that needs low latency and low jitter. But manufacturers abandon routers after two years or so; the only solution is an open source update. Or buy a new router every time you need updated software.
  • You are correct. It's worth noting that the software running on your ISP-provided router is setup to best facilitate the ISP's management processes, not necessarily your best possible internet speed.
  • 200 megs a second holy crap I get around 14 megs over here
  • Yeah right!!!! I got 4mbps, 3rd world country reality man.
  • I get about 290 to the router. BUT (a big but) I'm paying for dedicated IP business-class internet. I use it for work and write it off every year, so it works even with the outrageous pricing.
  • Through Midcontinent I pay $77 including tax and everything for 100Mbs... And in early 2017 they're updating to their Gigabit service in my area which at point I'll probably get 500Mbs for that same $77... or it's $99 plus tax for their top tier residential service, which will be the 1Gbs at that point. Midcontinent is by far the best Internet service I've ever had... In the last 3 years I've had them I've never had one issue or complaint about them... And one great thing about them is when they increase their speeds across their packages you automatically get these new speeds... No need to call to get the latest speed.
  • I'm on Comcast, and pay the extra $10/month for "speed boost" which gets me just over 130mbps with ping times of about 16ms. I pay about $90/month, total (internal only, no cable TV). My parents, who live about 12 miles away, have uVerse and only get about 16mbps, but swear it's faster than it was when they had Comcast. It all depends on where you live. Apparently, to a very narrow degree.
  • With only a 600 sqft home I'll stick with my wireless router.
  • I have a small house too, probably only about 800 square feet upstairs and about the same downstairs. But my problem is my wireless router is downstairs and I don't get a good signal upstairs. So I plan on getting a 3 pack... one for upstairs, one for downstairs, and one in the shed to cover the backyard and my fire pit. It's very common for access points to have trouble with multi level homes because the Wi-Fi signal travels out from the antenna in an oval shape not a circle... the signals have much greater lateral range than they do horizontal.
  • Due to smart home functionality router has to be placed in the basement of 3 story. I've been debating on if mesh is the way to go, thanks for the article.
  • If you put one on each floor it should carry the signal up to the top well.
  • I will never buy a Google Wifi. Way too much information going through their pipe.
  • Hey Jerry, how about an EULA and TOS comparison between all the new Mesh service routers? Lets see who values our privacy most?
  • I can say who values my privacy the most to me and why, but I can't say what you think. What's important is that any terms are written in language that you can understand and presented to you before you say OK to anything. This way you can decide if the value of the service is high enough to pay for it with your data.
  • I wouldn't mind a mesh setup, but I don't really need one enough to spend the cash. And I'm probably not allowed to buy Google wi-fi anyway.
  • Thanks for the article, Jerry! I was looking forward to hearing your thoughts on mesh networks, and also because you've spent time trying out both Amplifi and Google Wifi, which are both (along with an OnHub + Wifi combination) a possible coverage solution for me.
  • "but Google Wifi wasn't. Buy a three-pack and place the units within 25 feet of each other and no closer to the wall than 10 feet and you've built a balanced network that's fast and powerful where it should be and doesn't intrude too much where it shouldn't." So in my 3 floor house I shouldn't put one of these on each floor? Does the 25 feet cover as the crow flies? Or around floors and down stairs?
  • In my experience, that 25-foot rule applies vertically, too. I have wood floors and have a good strong signal in the room above my office where the router itself is placed. I put another in the opposite corner of the house on the second floor in my bedroom. I put the third right behind my TV stand on the second floor. Everything is fast and strong, and the only spot in the house that isn't consistent is the upstairs bath — but fiberglass reinforced drywall and all the electric/plumbing between floors is run through the inside wall of that bathroom. The furthest spot from a unit is the table on my back porch, and it still has a good signal and network speeds are above 200 M/s
  • Thanks Jerry...it looks like it'll work. Router currently on floor 3 in a den. The finished basement is where I start to lose the signal. So this should help things...
  • If you don't mind me asking, where abouts are you in this wild and wonderful state? I'm a Motown resident myself.
  • Just across the border from Winchester, Va. There's a little town called Bunker Hill, I live just south of it
  • I'd love to get thoughts on the Netgear Orbi-- it's way more expensive, but it's got outstanding reviews. I'm trying to set up my folks when I'm home at Xmas, and I can't decide if I go with a bunch of smaller Google devices, or if I throw in a couple of the big guns and go with the Netgear. I do worry that I'll have to get a third Orbi to really get coverage where I want it, which really drives the price up. It's a bit of a moot point, given that the Google product is back-ordered. I just really need to get this right during the week that I'm home, because if it's not working, they're never going to be able to fix it themselves.
  • Also interested in the Orbi now that I've read Jerry's article. I currently run two ac1900 routers with DDWRT, one extending the other, but the handoff between the two has been an issue. I was hoping Google wifi would be a good solution, but I use a few of the extra ddwrt features that it does not sound like Google wifi would provide, so Orbi may be a good, albeit expensive, alternative. Side note on the article's assertion that "Beaming your Wi-Fi down the street doesn't help you and hurts everyone else." -- I agree, unless like me, you live where there is zero cell service, then a down-the-street wifi signal is nice as I can get texts, email and call when in the yard. :-)
  • Or in my parents situation, where they live in the middle of the woods and "down the street" requires getting in a car.
  • My in-laws have a house that kills wifi. It is a pretty small house but wifi will not work from one corner (where the router is) to the other corner (in the kitchen). I installed one of those ceiling mount APs that looks like a smoke detector. They have fantastic wifi throughout the whole house now. That one AP was only $80 and has plenty of smarts to auto change channels and has both 2.4 and 5 GHz. I even put a network jack in the wall so they could connect it to the router nice and neat.
  • This is the AP I used. http://a.co/eZ7imNd I put two of these in my 3200 square foot home then found out I only need one. http://a.co/dXqjfgN
  • Pretty much the same for me. I use the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO. I have a 3200 square foot, 2 level house with an ethernet cable run to the closet in the master bedroom in the second floor. I get great coverage pretty much anywhere inside the house and even out into the yard.I thought I would need more but the coverage is great.
  • what are the physical connections required for this?
  • With any of these systems, you will need one piece connected with a network cable to your modem/ethernet plug (whatever you are supplied with from the people who give you internet access) and power in. The other nodes only need power. Some systems also have an ethernet port of the nodes that let you run a cable FROM them TO other equipment that may need it. But you don;t have to plug anything in for it to transmit Wi-Fi except for a power cable.
  • I have a server/client network. I run software from the client that needs constant connection to the server. Switching from one access point to another (like when I walk around with my laptop) causes a momentary break in connection. Too fast for internet to be affected but enough to lose connection to the server. Would a mesh network solve this problem?
  • The handoff is seamless. But we both know that seamless isn't the right word and there has to be a time when no network is connected. It's fast enough that I can't see a switch with any standard network monitoring software and tools. I have no idea if that would be fast enough for your client software. If you try it, holler at me and let me know how it worked out.
  • Will do. Thanks.
  • Thanks Jerry. This is really relevant for me right now. My gaming laptop is in the next room over from the Arris DOCSIS 3.0 I lease from Comcast. Do you know if Comcast messes with the firmware in its devices at all? I ask because I looked up the model on Amazon and it got stellar reviews. Wired, I have no issues easily get 230 Mbps down (I know that is thanks to Comcast's faucet). I actually get 150-200 wireless as well (mostly on my GS7E) but I loose my connection to the Internet wirelessly all the time (not my connection to the access point but the Internet). I live alone so it's not the biggest deal to run a 20ft CAT 5 across the floor to connect with a wired connection but it is not ideal. The same $129 Google wants for one of its mesh units is the cost of leasing the Arris for a year. Only problem is ports. The Arris has ports galore. I hard line my Roku and TV as well as an old desktop I took home from work. Oh and yah, the Arris is a combo modem and router so I'd have to buy a cable modem as well as a mesh unit. I think I just have to face the fact that trial and error, buy and return my be the only path to a solution. Best Buy has a pretty good return policy so maybe I'll pick up a modem and a Google Wifi unit this weekend and give it a whirl.
  • Those leased units are terrible. Buy a nice modem for $50-50 and buy a OnHub router on sale for $100 (mesh able and runs at 1900ac instead of 1200AC).
  • That's what I've always done in the past. Not sure why I changed. Thanks.
  • "Do you know if Comcast messes with the firmware in its devices at all?" Yes, they do. Custom firmware works better for them (easier management, better customers controls, etc). "I lose my connection to the internet wirelessly all the time" At the same time every day or at regular intervals? If yes, and it quickly corrects itself, it could be your IP address lease expiring because of a lot of customers in a close area to each other. Nothing you can do about that without paying more every month. Just buy the OnHub that's on sale like Jordan G recommended. Shut off (or ignore) the Wi-Fi from your existing modem and run the OnHub in bridged mode. The setup will walk you through it and you'll have the fast-ass Wi-Fi from the onhub (it has really damn good radios and antennas) connected back to the internet through the 230M/s you get through from wire in your hub.
  • Jerry, Jordan, you guys are the BEST. I understand enough about networking to have a really good feeling about your suggestions. I'm 99.9% sure I can disable the WiFi radios on the Arris so I'll do that and try OnHub. Hopefully Best Buy has one in stock today. Thanks for the thoughtful responses.
  • All you said. I had a senior moment wondering why I could not set up OnHub using the Google Home app (as opposed to the Google WiFi app). But once my brain came back online, everything went smoothly. Can't seem to disable the Arris radios so I'm going to bring it back to Comcass, save the $120/yr and just buy my own modem and hub. I really liked dropping from two power cords to one on the combo, but so far that's all I like about it. I have a 1,500 SF raised ranch and coverage is solid end to end. I also have a 600 SF finished room downstairs (actually right below the room where the OnHub is). Upstairs, within 20 feet of the OnHub, my S7E got a download speed of 239 Mbps (average is 200 depending on Comcast's mood). In the room downstairs that dropped to 70 Mbps but that is more than adequate for setting up a TV and Roku or online gaming.
    I still might try a single Google WiFi puck down there at some point (I believe the original post was actually about mesh networks and not my woes with leased routers). I'll feel much better about one working with OnHub than I would have the Ariss. Thanks again for the advice.
  • I currently have a RT-AC68U, which is a very nice router. However, my network transfer speeds (not ISP) are terrible. If I sit right beside the router, I might be able to get 20 Mbps. If I move 20-30 ft away (still line-of-sight) it drops in half. I have a laptop with an "N" card, and have checked to see if the channel is congested and whether other devices are connected and slowing things down. Is this normal?
  • Yes, your N card sucks but maybe fixable with newer drivers, you would have to have a MiMo AC card to see high speeds...also make sure you are on the 5ghz network and that you are on 20hz not 40hz...
  • You also might have a bad antenna. Mine on my Acer laptop was cut at the hinge, known problem with Acer laptops from constant rubbing against hinge.
  • I just bought this same router and I'm seeing the same problem. When I plug into the router, I'm seeing 220 Mbps. Sitting on the couch maybe 20 feet away, it's 110. Yes, I know it's still fast, but I feel like it shouldn't be killing half the speed while still on the same level. Wondering if I should return it and get the 3 pack of Google Wifi to put one on each floor.
  • Is the device you are connecting with capable of 802.11ac, or just 802.11n? If your laptop or phone or whatever is only 802.11n, but 111mbps is probably about right, assuming an average level of channel congestion in a rural area.
  • Nah, all the stuff I'm using to gauge speed is ac. And I live in a townhouse with 9 other houses within 100 or so feet. Plus a condo building behind us and an apartment building across the street. There are a ton of networks floating around, but I've done my best to configure the router to give me the best signal throughout my house. I think I also have FOBO haha.
  • Try forcing the AC68U to 2.4GHz and see if the range before drop off is better. There are a lot of complaints about really poor 5GHz range from those, like there was a bad batch or something.
  • My understanding, Jerry, is that 5ghz offers better bandwidth, but has significant "penetration" issues (ei: won't go through walls, glass, etc). Please correct me if I'm wrong. It has also, historically, had a slight benefit because so few people run 5ghz, so there's less congestion. But I'm seeing that to be the case less and less lately.
  • Welp, the 2.4 network starts of drastically lower than the 5 Ghz. I'm sitting in my rec room directly below the router on the floor above. 5 network is 129 Mbps and 2.4 is 57 Mbps. So should I just shut up and enjoy getting over 50 Mbps in all areas of my house? Even though it's only 1/4 the speed coming into the house?
  • Do a PowerLine adapter. Find the best circuit. Then place an extension wireless device. My setup: router, aebs, wired connection from aebs to PowerLine. 4 port PowerLine point upstairs with a wired airport express attached to it. Good coverage and minimal speed loss. I have an unmanaged switch that allows more ethernet ports. So I have complete coverage without much signal loss. The problem with the mesh and orbi is that the satellite nodes do not and can not act as wan extenders. Ie you cannot attach the wired Lan to them to extend the network. Supposedly the orbi satellite will have a software update to enable that capability. Mesh is good if you want coverage but don't expect much in terms of extreme streaming gaming etc. Wired is where it is at.
  • OK, here's my question: I have a Netgear C7000-100NAS located in a closet under the stairs (where the cable internet lines come in). I also have an underground storm shelter maybe 30 feet from this router. The shelter is fiberglass and is under a porch and slightly below ground. There is no cellular or wireless signal that can reach down there. I do however have two Cat5e lines running down there, their purpose being to make a connection to the server in the closet (where the router/modem is), and to a NAS device for backups. What I need to know is what do I need to get a wireless signal down there? Most every extender I've seen depends on being able to receive a wireless signal in the first place in order to extend it. I need something that can take signal from those lines and send a wireless signal.
  • Plug a Google Wifi unit it at your closet and create a Wireless network with it. Get a second Google Wifi puck and connect it to the network while it's sitting beside the one you're using as a router. Plug one of the cat 5 cables into the LAN port of the router Google Wifi. In the storm shelter, plug the other end of the cable into the WAN port of Google Wifi number 2 and plug it in. I tested this over a 100' cat 5e cable from my office to the pool and it worked. Google Wifi can use wireless, cable or a mix of both to create its mesh. When the weather gets warm I'm going to make it a permanent thing to have Wifi on the pool deck for a Chromecast Audio.
  • But at $129 x2, that's damned expensive.
  • Yep. If all you want is Wifi in the shelter and are OK and don't need a continuous network, put a Wi-Fi AP or router running in bridge mode on one of the cat 5 cables. I imagine the shelter isn;t very large so any cheap AC 900 router should work just fine
  • One trick I have found, if all you're worried about is "internet", you can connect one cheap WiFi router's WAN port to another router's LAN port, disable all the DHCP and any other network management stuff and give it the same SSID (but a different channel) and same security key. Your WiFi devices will jump between whichever router has better signal. Effective way to turn an old WiFi router you have laying around into an access point. As I said, that will only give you internet, because it is effectively creating a second Local Network with internet access, but it will get the job done if that's all you're looking for.
  • Get an Access Point (Ubiquiti is a good one - the Unifi Dual Radio Pro or Lite) since you already have Ethernet in the area.
  • I am getting a 4 module mesh solution for my house. I have over 6000 sq ft developed on 3 floors plus I want service in my woodworking shop and firepit area. 4 will do the trick I think.
  • All these companies making mesh routers should just use powerline as the backbone medium for connecting the routers. Would be incredibly fast and reliable.
  • Not necessarily. Devices that have used the electrical wires to transmit signals between them date back to the early 90's. I worked at Radio Shack back in high school, and we had a (wireless) phone line that could do this. The problem is that the "noise" on a lot of electrical wiring made it horrible. You could use it ok for a phone call (just sounded like a bad connection) but there was pretty much 0% possibility of getting a dial-up connection working over it. I suspect trying to push Ethernet signals across a live electrical wire would be just as bad, with so much packet loss you'd be better off with the weak signal. I'm a software developer, not an electrician, though. But, I think if it were feasible, we'd have seen some company looking to get rich off the idea already.
  • Have you used Powerline these days? It's impressive. They've got 2 gigabit models out now.
  • Admittedly, I have not. it was so horrific back in the day, that I have written off the idea entirely. I guess I should do some research on how the tech works these days before running my mouth ;) I wonder what kind of speeds I could expect in my apt, with 30+ year old wiring?
  • Yea, I'd certainly give it a try. Obviously the wiring DOES affect the speeds, but I'm sure you'd get speeds that shouldn't bottleneck your internet connection :p
  • While there are 11 different 2.4ghz channels, there are only 3 non overlapping channels, 1, 6, & 11. If you're on any channel other then these you'll be getting double the interference from others on the channels both above and below you in addition to adding to the congestion they're dealing with. So really there are only 3 usable channels in this spectrum, period. Jerry, since wired mesh is discussed here, why hasn't the (IMO) the much better, cheaper, and only slightly more complicated solution of a router with several access points been mentioned as a more robust solution to out of the box mesh networks? I'm specifically referring to Ubiquity's Unifi line of AP's. @ $75 per AP that can be powered with POE, you can get (almost) enterprise level equipment and reliability for less the cost of a 3 pack of Google's new thing. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but I think this, or some other similar solution, should be added to the lineup. At least than if someone is tech savvy enough they can consider all the options before parting with their hard earned cash. Just my $0.02
  • That's interesting, but are they ONLY powered by PoE?
  • Yes, but they come with injectors if you don't own a compatible switch to power them.
  • No arguments from me. But the reason I'm writing about mesh equipment is because Google now sells it. If we ever expanded from Google stuff into general networking stuff, Powerline and ethernet+Wi-Fi AP setups would be awesome to talk about. People just go other places for that and come here for stuff about Google. Setting up a mixed network used to be hard(ish) but now software is able to make a basic configuration almost plug and play.
  • Fair enough, you have to keep the scope reasonable. But this has been a fairly hot topic lately and has gotten a good bit of coverage lately. When Google stated to do VR and things like PlayStation stated to get an honourable mention this too seems like a good opportunity to broaden the horizons of Android enthusiasts. As our IoT continues to grow, our broadband connections get closer to wire speeds and the demands we place on our home networks become increasingly high, I think it's a good time for us start to learn more about how we choose to design and build our home networks. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed reading about Google's Wi-Fi offerings and I think you've written some really informative articles; I hope you keep up the good work. But maybe Wi-Fi in general is something we all could benefit to learn (and read) more about.
  • I always go with the 3 networks per non-overlapping channel, for a total of 9 non interfering networks (2.4ghz). This isn't perfect, but in the real world it seems to play out pretty well. I ususally see the threshold for WiFi problems at 15 visible networks, for normal people.
  • You agree that Google may collect and use technical and related information, including but not limited to information about your computer and/or mobile device, operating system, peripherals, applications, connected devices, network traffic, and data use to facilitate the provision of the Software and Services, including support and other related services. The Google Wifi Privacy FAQ describes the categories of data collected and how you can use privacy settings to change what data is collected by the Services.
  • That is enough for me to never buy these. I don't want my network equipment reporting back anything to anyone!
  • That's enough to push any like minded person to not purchase this.
  • That would be limited to the data about those devices that is being transmitted, such as MAC address of network cards and device capabilities (ie: supported protocols). And, by the way, that is stuff your ISP is already collecting anyway. And, if you're using an Android device with Google Play Services, you're also transmitting all of this back to Google already.
  • The fact that there is even a question of what, if anything, these may be reporting back to the "cloud" or whichever company makes them means that these are not for me.
  • OMG, listening to Flo on Twit the New Screensavers, and she has no idea that multiple OnHub routers support mesh. Add in their reduced price (really reduced if you watch Target or Walmart clearance), and you have a less expensive option than Google WiFi.
    I keep giving her the benefit of the doubt, and she keeps missing major things!!! Come on, Flo! Read! Research!
  • I read your article and almost all comments. I continued my research and paused to think about my findings. 3-4 days later I canceled my Google wifi order. I will continue the struggle with my ADSL service.
  • Tenda AC15 for $49.99 at microcenter. Leaves you with $150 for beer.
  • "Any equipment you can buy will only affect the speed of your network, not your ISP's." Well that's just not true. You have to be within roughly 15 feet of an access point to utilize wireless AC. You could easily fall back to N and get less that 100Mb/s which would impact any ISP speeds over 100Mb/s. Now while most people in the US won't even notice this but to say it won't affect your internet speed is providing misinformation. For instance we have AC in my office and my phone also has AC but is only registering a connection link of 102Mb/s. If we had 200Mb/s from our ISP I would only see a max of 102Mb/s of it.
  • Well, what you said is actually not true. If you plug into your router getting 200Mb/s, then your getting your full speed from your ISP. If your WiFi connection is only 100Mb/s, then that's your WiFi speed. Yes you can upgrade you WiFi router to get over 200Mb/s, but that is not doing anything to your speed from your ISP. Second. Wireless AC works farther than 15' away from a router, but you have to have "clean" channels for it to bond. If your in an area with tons of networks on the 2.4 and 5Ghz channels, AC will never work properly. I get around 200Mb/s all over my 2500 sq. ft. house on just wireless N. I've connected to customers AC routers at well over 500Mb/s in good chunks of their house.
  • We since the topic is wireless then what I said was right. I never said the router wouldn't get the full speed from your ISP being plugged in. And real world AC (at full speed which is not 200Mb/s) is hard to reach beyond 15-20 ft and I've tested connection speeds with commercial grade equipment and reliably it's pretty close to the router/access point. I was only trying to say that wirelessly you may not see your ISP speeds with these access points. I work with home customers and many of them don't even have equipment that supports AC so they would not get their ISP speeds via these access points but would highly benefit from the added range.
  • You are conflating the difference between "network speed" and "internet speed". No router is going to improve your "internet speed", aka: the speed that data transits between your modem and the ISP's gateway (outside your home). That's where 99.99% of performance bottlenecks occur (assuming no issues due to weak WiFi signal, etc). What a mesh network does help with is "network speed" between you and the modem, and prevents issues with performance due to weak WiFi signal. For the average consumer, they have no idea what the difference is. But Jerry tends to write to the more nerdy/techy among us. Frankly, if you read this whole article, then you probably qualify ;)
  • You should've just began the article with Googles wifi privacy policy, that'll save everyone time and money as this is a no brainer of products not to buy.
  • This past weekend i purchased the Netgear Orbi system. The best purchase for my wifi. It does exactly what it is advertised to do. deliver fast network speed throughout my home. I used to have two routers on separate ends of my home to cover my 2100 sqft house, but i hated having to manually switch between wifi networks just for a signal when im on one side of the house.
    This eliminates all of my headaches. The main router is in the living room, the satellite is in my Bedroom. The system is advertised to cover up to 400sqft, so my 2100sqft is more than covered. As a matter of fact in my front and back yard i have strong signals too. Everything is one network, and it also have a guest network as well. Extra convenient.
    Performance wise, this device can handle the demands of streaming and managing multiple clients without a hitch. I currently have 12 devices connected to it, two are strictly for streaming media. No buffering at all. This is the performance i wanted in my home and the Orbi system delivered.