2021 Guide to Mesh Wi-Fi systems – All you need to know

A single wireless router can occasionally operate perfectly on its own, but depending on your home’s architecture and size, you may need some assistance pushing your Wi-Fi signals along. While wireless range extenders are designed to take your existing 2.4 or 5 GHz wireless signal and boost it to reach more difficult areas of your home, the extender is a separate device that requires its own installation and is operated by its own user interface. While these devices can and do operate successfully in many situations, problems can and do arise.

When you look at Whole-home smart Wi-Fi solutions, you’ll notice that they’re multi-component systems with two or three devices, known as access points or nodes, that work together to provide Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home. The setup and installation process is what distinguishes these systems. 

Each node should be installed in various locations across your home, similar to how wireless range extenders are set up, but because they work as a single system, installation is streamlined, so there are no strange handoff concerns as you move from node to node. When you’re in range, your Wi-Fi stays connected.

What Is Whole-home Wi-Fi, and How Does It Work?

A connected system of one or more access points that extends and shares wireless signals throughout your entire home is known as Whole-home Wi-Fi. As a result, as compared to standard Wi-Fi settings, a “Mesh network” is developed, enabling higher internet connectivity and stability.

Two or more access points, also known as nodes, make up a whole-home Wi-Fi system. One access point can either replace or connect directly to your router via Ethernet wire. It then distributes your internet signal to other access points within its range, who subsequently distribute it to other access points within their range, resulting in a long-range wireless network.

What are the benefits of improved Whole-home Wi-Fi?

The most prominent benefit is that one or more nodes are installed in your home to create a Mesh network that blankets your entire home in high-speed internet. You may have observed that your Wi-Fi signal in the living room is sometimes greater than in the bedroom or you could watch videos in your kitchen but can’t get a webpage to load in your backyard. Traditional Wi-Fi networks have the disadvantage of relying on a single router to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal. This implies your signal is strongest while you’re close to your router and weakens as you get further away.

What exactly is a Mesh network?

A Mesh network allows many routers to work together to increase your Wi-Fi network’s range, speed, and stability. The majority of other Wi-Fi systems only allow for one hop in each direction. A simple wall can keep your devices from receiving the Wi-Fi signal they require. Wi-Fi seamlessly jumps between routers, travels along halls, and goes around walls with a Mesh network like TrueMesh.

Mesh Wifi vs Extenders

Behind the Scenes of Mesh Wi-Fi Networking

Mesh Wi-Fi networking creates a secure and powerful Wi-Fi network by combining two or more devices, or nodes. These nodes are critical for distributing Wi-Fi efficiently since each one acts as a “daisy chain” for other nodes in the system. Even the nodes farthest away from the router can transmit a strong signal. Nodes communicate with one another using self-healing technology to find the fastest band for your devices and to reroute traffic if one node fails.

What are the differences between Whole-home Wi-Fi devices and Range Extender Wi-Fi?

Mesh technology is used to construct a Wi-Fi network in whole-home Wi-Fi systems. Mesh networking has been around for a long time and is widely used in companies and public spaces. It wasn’t utilized in consumer routers earlier due to the cost and difficulty of setting it up and maintaining it, but that problem has now been solved – whole-home Wi-Fi solutions are incredibly easy to set up, even easier than traditional routers.

While Mesh Wi-Fi and range extenders appear to be similar in operation, there are several significant differences. Mesh technology is designed to provide the strongest Wi-Fi signal as you move from room to room.

To retain a good connection after you’re far enough away from your router, range extenders demand you to manually join on to a new network. Mesh Wi-Fi is faster and more efficient than a range extender in delivering a Wi-Fi signal. Because of its long-range signal, ease of use, and simple setup, this technology has quickly evolved and become the go-to for Wi-Fi routers.

A range extender always creates another network in addition to your router’s network; Mesh allows numerous devices to work together on the same network. As a result, range extenders can only capture and rebroadcast Wi-Fi signals, not communicate with the main router. This is a problem because Internet data is transmitted over the air on channels or bands, but the number of channels available, as well as their capacity, is restricted.

Range extenders don’t help your data because they don’t have an overhead view, whereas whole-home Wi-Fi devices can communicate about the amount of data on multiple channels and then choose the best channel or band to send it on. They can also learn about traffic patterns over time, as well as why traffic has slowed, and then adjust Wi-Fi speed and strength in the future.

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What are the benefits of Mesh Wi-Fi over Range Extenders?

Setup is a lot easier

When setting up, all of your Wi-Fi devices will recognize each other, making the process go more quickly and smoothly with no need to enter any settings. They also share the same network (SSID), unlike range extenders, which create a separate network in your home.

Management simplicity

Because Mesh Wi-Fi devices are all connected to the same network, you may change the network name, password, encryption, or channel on the primary device, and it will automatically sync to the others. Nothing will be synced with range extenders. Even if you do something as basic as changing the password on your router, you’ll need to re-configure the range extender.

Parental controls

Children now access the internet via tablets and smartphones rather than the family computer, making it more difficult to monitor your children’s online activities. Mesh, on the other hand, maybe installed once on the network and will cover all of your devices. This is not achievable with range extenders because they must be installed on each one.

What features should a Mesh Wi-Fi router have?

Design – Since you’ll be scattering these Mesh Wi-Fi nodes across your home, it’s a good idea for them to be visually pleasing or, at the absolute least, unobtrusive. While there was a tendency toward minimalism in 2020, the addition of Wi-Fi 6 in 2021 implies that some unit sizes have expanded marginally. As a result, rather of focusing on the tiniest feasible design, try to choose a product that blends well with your existing home decor.

Speed – When it comes to wireless connectivity, having more speed is always preferable to having less. In this way, Mesh Wi-Fi systems are no different. Greater speed enables more bandwidth-intensive activities such as 4K media streaming. It also allows more devices on the same network to do those tasks without interfering with one another. Choosing the quickest Wi-Fi system available can also help you future-proof your purchase.

Coverage – While it’s nice to know that you can always add more Mesh nodes to fill in any gaps, it’s also nice to be able to get away with utilizing fewer Mesh nodes when possible. The more coverage each Mesh node in your Mesh Wi-Fi system provides, the fewer Mesh nodes you’ll need to cover your entire home.

Software – The simplicity of use of Mesh Wi-Fi systems is a key part of their attraction, and many of them come with software apps to help with that. Because you’ll be required to use the official app for your Mesh Wi-Fi system of choice, make sure it has the functionality you want. Parental restrictions, high-traffic priority indicators, and built-in cybersecurity scanning are just a few examples.

Ease of setup – If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, having an app-assisted installation and setup rather than a browser-based one can make a huge difference and substantially ease the procedure. Installation should ideally be as easy as going to the Apple Store or Google Play Store, installing the supplier’s app, and then following the on-screen instructions. 

Tips for Whole-home Wi-Fi Setup

The first step to set up most Wi-Fi mesh systems, you’ll need to download a smartphone app and have an active internet connection. Although setting the Wi-Fi network to gain an internet connection may appear to be an oxymoron, keep in mind that your cable modem will have already been set up by your internet service provider (ISP). The cellular network of your mobile device is also taken into account.

After you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to create an account and a password for the administrator. To avoid needing to reset your system later, make a mental note of the password. Unplugging the modem or router to which you’ll be connecting your mesh system allows it to reset itself and assign a valid IP address to the mesh router node, which is suggested by most vendors. Open the app and follow the on-screen directions for connecting the mesh router to your modem and adding satellite nodes to get started.

Recognize your weak spots

Where does your Wi-Fi signal go dead? Is it in the cellar? Is it in your yard? Do you do a lot of rooftop work? When you’ve found your weak area, think about how far you are from the router and whether there are any signal obstructions in the way, such as thick concrete or brick walls. Consider purchasing an extender if you have a weak signal in a single location in your home. The signal won’t be perfect if there are several spots, and then whole-home will serve you well.

Learn about the capabilities of your system

Mesh networking does have a few nice features, such as automatic firmware updates, encryption, and mild security mechanisms (including many family-safe protocols like turning off the Wi-Fi during dinner time or disabling Wi-Fi to a specific device). Many whole-house systems will proactively adjust your Wi-Fi zone to provide you with the best signal with the fewest disruptions. You can even prioritize gaming, movie streaming, and other activities.

Parental controls and prioritization of devices

It’s time to use the functionality of your Wi-Fi mesh system now that it’s been deployed. Because they’re designed specifically for home users, many of these systems include parental controls that allow you to create profiles for each family member, restrict access to specific websites, and turn off network access at specific times of the day, such as bedtime and dinner. Almost all Wi-Fi systems include a stop button in the app that allows you to turn off the internet connection at any time, and some systems also include age-appropriate parental controls.

Use the QoS (Quality of Service) settings to allocate bandwidth where it’s most needed if you have any online players in the house or if you use your mesh system to stream video. Gaming consoles and devices that stream video can be allocated the lion’s share of bandwidth without having to compete with other devices on the network by dragging and dropping devices into High, Medium, and Low priority boxes. QoS presets for gaming, streaming, surfing, and chatting are available on more user-friendly systems, allowing you to prioritize both devices and applications.

Managing options

Once your mesh Wi-Fi system is up and running, it’s a good idea to check network utilization, visited websites, and client lists on a regular basis. When a new client joins the network, most systems worth their weight will give a push notification, allowing you to deal with unwanted users right away. Many systems include anti-malware tools that protect against viruses and other dangerous content, so keep an eye on network attack logs and quarantine any infected client devices. Finally, verify sure your firmware is current, as newer versions typically improve speed, provide new features, and address security issues.

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