Wi-Fi is brilliant - as long as you can get a decent signal. Unfortunately, the connection can be severely affected by thick walls, obstacles or simply distance from the router. A mesh system is an elegant way to extend your coverage, using multiple transmitters to broadcast your network over a wider area than a standalone router could ever manage.
The question is, which mesh product is best for your home or office? There's a whole range of brands offering mesh solutions for home and business, from Draytek to Zyxel. Needless to say, however, the various systems have different features and capabilities - not to mention prices. It's important to buy the one that suits your needs, and the number of users or devices who need coverage. Here's our guide to the best of the bunch.
Zyxel Multy Plus
Zyxel's Multy mesh Wi-Fi system has long been an IT Pro favourite. It comes in packs of two, and can be expanded to connect up to six stations. It's ideally suited to smaller businesses, with fast speeds and simple setup. It also comes with a year's subscription to Zyxel's AiShield service, which provides a variety of network-level security features.
Larger enterprises might find the limit of six nodes restrictive, and the lack of PoE support is a disappointment too, but SMBs may well find the Multy Plus perfect for their needs.
|MIMO Channels||2x2 on each band|
|Ports per node||4 x Gigabit Ethernet|
Price when reviewed: £368 exc VAT
Read our full Zyxel Multy Plus review for more information.
Draytek VigorAP 903
DrayTek's VigorAP 903 isn't just another Wave 2 802.11ac AP - it provides self-healing mesh technology at a very SMB-friendly price. You don't even need to buy two of them to start with, as a single VigorAP 903 will happily work on its own, presenting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz services concurrently.
Wired connections are well served too. The first Gigabit Ethernet port accepts a PoE source, while the fifth can be employed to create an isolated LAN with its own wireless services. If you don't have a dedicated IT department, you'll also be pleased to know that it's a cinch to deploy.
|MIMO Channels||2x2 on each band|
|Ports per node||5x Gigabit Ethernet|
Price when reviewed: £114 exc VAT
Read our full Draytek VigorAP review for more information.
Netgear Orbi RBK50
The Orbi’s tri-band design ensures that communications between the two stations don’t slow down the client connection, and the backhaul radio runs at a lightning-fast 1,733Mbits/sec with 4x4 MIMO, making it speedier than almost any other rival. That being the case, it was no surprise to see the Orbi come close to the top of the table in our speed tests.
On top of that, there are a few distinctive extras to appreciate. One is a built-in VPN server, which allows you to “dial in” to your home LAN from anywhere on the internet, using the industry-standard OpenVPN protocol. However, users will also appreciate the optional Netgear Armor service, offered in partnership with Bitdefender, as well as integrated parental controls, provided by Circle.
|Ports per node||4x Ethernet, 1x USB 2|
Price when reviewed: £208 exc VAT (two-node kit)
Read our full Netgear Orbi RBK50 review for more information.
Netgear's WAC564 is ideal for growing businesses. It works on its own as a router, but once you invest in additional units - or Netgear's WAC540 APs - it seamlessly turns into a mesh controller, allowing you to effortlessly extend your network with no need for extra cabling.
Performance is strong, thanks to a dedicated 5GHz backhaul radio that frees up bandwidth for client devices - we saw short-range download speeds of an astonishing 65MB/sec - and while mesh configurations of more than two nodes require you to subscribe to Netgear's Insight Premium cloud service, that won't break the bank, costing just £4.47 per device per year for mobile management or £8.95 for access to the full desktop portal.
|MIMO channels||2x2 on each band, 4x4 on backhaul|
|Ports per node||2 x Gigabit Ethernet|
Price when reviewed: £161 (exc VAT)
Read our full Netgear WAC564 review for more information
Ubiquiti Networks UniFi Dream Machine
The name writes a big cheque, but if your office needs a simple, one-stop networking solution, the Dream Machine is so good you might need to pinch yourself. It handles all the essential router tasks, with built-in enterprise-grade security - and if you kit out your premises with UniFi APs it can instantly configure them as a high-performance mesh, with all the high-end administration options you're likely to need.
Best of all, you don't even need to be glued to your screen to manage the Dream Machine: free smartphone and tablet apps give you instant control no matter where you are. Harried network managers everywhere, rejoice.
|MIMO channels||4x4 on each band|
|Ports per node||5 x Gigabit Ethernet|
Price when reviewed: £248 exc VAT
Read our full Ubiquiti Networks UniFi Dream Machine review for more information.
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Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.
Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognise him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.