Call it what you may – Mesh Routers, Whole Home Wi-Fi System or Distributed Wireless System – Wi-Fi hardware has undergone quite the colossal shift. Most brands have come out with their own specialised mesh routers while some simply upgraded the firmware on older routers to support meshing. With more folks going in for more than one Wi-Fi router, it was natural for the mesh routers to enter the consumer market.
Mesh networking has been a common phenomenon since the time IEEE 802.11-1999 standard came into being. Routers, back then, had it as an option called Wireless Distribution System (WDS) and the standard wasn’t all-encompassing or complete in any way. This led to incompatibility between devices from multiple manufacturers.
All of that is now in the past and Mesh Routers are here to stay simply because they solve a major problem that many face with the increase in Wi-Fi devices and subsequently, the interference caused by high-density of the same. We saw some interesting Mesh Routers this year. Almost all of them take great effort is not looking like routers. That’s a story for another day, let’s see the best that this year has for us in this particular category.
2018 Zero1 award Winner: Netgear Orbi
The Netgear Orbi isn’t a small device at any means. Compared to some of the other mesh routers we saw this year, the Orbi takes up a lot of real estate and stands tall as well. This gives it a very commanding presence in your living room, something that most customers don’t seem to prefer. Also, the Orbi had a rough start with not-so-great performance over short distances but as we kept increasing the separation, the Orbi showed its prowess in maintaining a strong link.
It’s also one of the few systems to be available in a multitude of variations. Most manufacturers have one or two SKUs but Netgear has multiple combinations to suit a myriad of use cases. Since performance over distance is why this particular category even exists, the Netgear Orbi shone through as the best that we’ve seen this year. It definitely deserves the Zero1 award for the best Mesh Router in 2018.
Runner-up: Linksys Velop
While the Orbi works its magic over longer distances, the Linksys Velop remains consistent across distances but is exceedingly good over short distances. Since we prioritised the performance at larger distances over shorter distances, the Velop lost out to the Orbi. Nevertheless, the Velop also offers multiple SKUs for consumers and is more versatile.
By that, we mean that each node can act as the router connected to the backhaul. You don’t have to get a specific SKU just for the primary node or as secondaries. Any node can play any role. The Linksys Velop comes in as a runner-up in this category.
Best Buy: D-Link Covr
The D-Link Covr take up little real estate and do pack quite the punch. They’re dual-band devices so they are at a disadvantage from that perspective. However, two bands are more than enough for most households. Only extremely congested areas would require the additional band. The per-hub-cost for the D-Link Covr was the lowest among all the units we received. Thus, making it the Best Buy for this year’s Zero1 Awards.