Updated 23 May 2022
Do you need to upgrade your home wireless network? With a mesh router, you can spread out several smaller routers over your entire home that “talk” to each other so you experience the best possible internet coverage. We have tested mesh routers and believe the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is the best mesh router of 2022, equipped with an impressive range and fast connection.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
We tested the best mesh routers’ functionality and performance under normal usage and higher loads, together with their range and their user-friendliness during installation.
The mesh routers were tested in a domestic environment, in a flat with several rooms and thick concrete walls. Five devices were used during the test and were positioned in different parts of the flat. They were a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, an iPhone and an Android phone.
The first mesh router unit was positioned in a wardrobe where the internet connection was located. Unit number two was positioned in the office and connected with a cable to the desktop computer, while unit number three was positioned on the balcony.
During the test, a 4K video was streamed from YouTube to the two computers and the same video was streamed in Full HD to the other devices. At the same time that these five video clips were being streamed, a large test folder of 11 GB (containing a large number of folders and files) was moved from a NAS (connected via cable to the mesh router) to the desktop computer and the internet speed was measured using the Bredbandskollen internet speed testing tool a dozen times (simultaneously on the desktop and laptop computers). We also carried out a test in which we moved our large test folder without simultaneously measuring the internet speed.
The range and handover between the mesh router’s different units was tested when the five video clips were streamed by taking the laptop out to the courtyard outside the building and checking the stability of the 4K video, at 15 and 20 metres from the balcony, respectively.
Fast and stable with dedicated channels
Specifications: AC3000 Tri band Wi-Fi System Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 1 x Gigabit WAN, 3 x Gigabit LAN (router), 4 x Gigabit LAN (satellite) Beamforming: Yes Tri-band: 2.4 GHz up to 400 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 866 Mbps plus 1733 Mbps (for backhaul) Antennas: 6 pcs: 4 for connection between router and satellite, 2 antennas for connected products Wireless encryption: WPA, WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO and 256 QAM
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 offers a good range and really fast speeds, despite the standard kit only consisting of two units.
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 is unlike the majority of other mesh routers in that their system consists of a router and a satellite, and one of the two 5 GHz channels is dedicated to just communication between the router and satellite, or satellites if you choose to expand the system. As well as the RBK50, which is aimed at normal consumers, Orbi also has a sister model in the business segment, namely Orbi Pro SRK60. The two units are almost identical. The consumer version RBK50 can be set so that it has two networks, for example for you and guests, while the corporate version Pro SRK60 can have three networks. Otherwise, they differ in that the Orbi RBK50 has USB outlets on the router and satellite, but thus far the functionality is not activated – something that may happen in a future software update. The RBK50 also has “Circle with Disney” built in, where you can control and mitigate your children’s use of apps and the internet.
When we tested file transfers, we actually achieved speeds in excess of 100 Mbps, which is unusual amongst the products we tested. For example, our large test folder of 11 GB takes 11 minutes to move wirelessly, which is really quick.
Netgear’s system is also really quick when it comes to internet speed, with speeds in excess of 500 Mbps – 618 Mbps down and 505 Mbps up to be exact – when the network is under a heavy load.
Despite the fact that Netgear’s system contains two units and other tested systems contain three units, this one stands up to the competition really well. At greater distances, streaming 4K videos to a laptop works well, but about 15 metres away from the flat it starts to buffer and the internet speed is then measured at 14 Mbps.
We didn’t run into any installation problems; everything went smoothly when we followed the instructions. The satellite occasionally lost contact with the router, but found it automatically again within a few minutes. That’s the only negative comment we have. When it comes to range, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 isn’t quite as good as the best systems with three units, but if you invest in one more satellite it’ll be excellent. With top class performance combined with its ease of use, we consider the Netgear Orbi RBK50 as our best mesh router of 2020.
NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System (RBK50) | Router with 1 Satellite Extender | Coverage up to 4,000 sq. ft. and 25+ Device |MESH AC3000 (Upto 3Gbps)
NETGEAR Orbi Tri-band Whole Home Mesh WiFi System with 3Gbps Speed (RBK50) – Router & Extender Replacement Covers Up to 5,000 sq. ft, 2-Pack Includes 1 Router & 1 Satellite White
Netgear Orbi RBK50 Wi-Fi 5 IEEE 802.11ac Ethernet Wireless Router - 2.
A stable system, with top-class coverage and speed, but a whopping price tag.
Designation: AXE11000 Quad-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System WiFi: 802.11ax/ac/n/g/b/a and WiFi 6E Ports: 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN and 3 x Gigabit LAN on both router and satellite Beamforming: Yes Quad-band: 2.4 GHz up to 1200 Mbps and 5 GHz up to 2400 Mbps plus 2400 Mbps (for backhaul) and 6 GHz up to 4800 Mbps Antennas: 12 x internal antennas Wireless encryption: WPA3 Ethernet backhaul support: Yes Installation and management via app: Yes Other: 10 Gigabit WAN port for connection to the Internet, MU-MIMO, Guest network, Armor security package (requires subscription) and parental control (requires subscription for everything but the basic features).
Netgear Orbi RBKE963 is the company’s latest flagship in the Orbi range, consisting of a router and two satellites, with additional satellites available to purchase if you want even better coverage. However, unlike previous Orbi models, there’s currently no package with just a router and one satellite, which is a shame as our previous tests show that such a system is quite sufficient for smaller homes.
With this product, Netgear is implementing the new WiFi 6E, which means that the 6 GHz band is also used. Netgear Orbi RBKE963 is a Quad-band system, where connected devices use the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz or 6 GHz band while one of the two 5 GHz channels is dedicated to communication between router and satellites (backhaul via WiFi 6).
The relatively large and heavy units are solidly made with a high finish, and under the shell there’s a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 12 built-in active antennas. There’s connectivity for voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but the lack of USB port means it’s not possible to connect external USB storage for sharing via the network or FTP.
The installation via Netgear’s Orbi app requires you to create an account with an email address and then scan the QR code on the router to install it. By following the instructions, the system is optimised and the software is updated. However, this only applies to the router, we noticed during installation, which means that you have to search via the app for new software for first one satellite and then the other. It would have been more convenient and faster if the satellites were also updated automatically at the same time as the router, to avoid all the restarts before everything is updated (it took us about 15 minutes to update all three devices).
Netgear’s Orbi app gives you access to the Armor security package, which you can try free of charge for 30 days and which then costs around SEK 700 a year if you want to continue using it. Armor protects all units on the network from viruses, malicious code and similar, and is based on Bitdefender technology. Netgear offers Smart Parental Controls, where the basic features (such as giving children’s units their own profiles and restricting internet access) are free, but which also includes more advanced features that you can test free of charge for 30 days and then sign up for if you wish for around SEK 700 a year.
When testing, we achieve top-class speeds (819 Mbps) right next to the router. Upstairs in our house, where the signal needs to pass through a concrete floor, the speed drops only marginally (813 Mbps) and that’s also very good. In the room in our house with the worst coverage – where the signal has to pass three concrete walls – the speed drops to 484 Mbps, which is the highest we’ve recorded. Coverage is also very good outside the house, and at our two measurement points we record 179 Mbps (also a new record) and 17 Mbps (the second-highest result we measured).
When streaming 4K video clips wirelessly to a TV and two PCs at the same time, we don't encounter any problems at all, nor do we notice any lags in the videos when we start moving files from a NAS to a PC. When we put a lot of strain on the network by also measuring the speed – with both Bredbandskollen and WiFi Speed Test – the video clips tend to lag for a few seconds. With Netgear Orbi RBKE963 nothing lags and this is the first time this has ever happened. The average speed of file transfer under heavy load on the network was measured at 179 Mbps, which is exactly the same as last year’s top model from Netgear (RBK852).
Netgear Orbi RBKE963 is (together with Orbi RBK852) the fastest mesh system we’ve tested, the coverage and stability are very good, and this is definitely a system where you get what you pay for, even if that is a hefty amount.
Easy-to-install high-speed system with NFC connectivity
Designation: AX3000 Whole Home Mesh WiFi System WiFi: 802.11ax/ac/n/g/b/a with WiFi 6 Plus Ports: 3 Gigabit WAN/LAN on each unit Beamforming: Yes Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 574 Mbps and 5 GHz up to 2402 Mbps Antennas: 4 x internal amplifiers Wireless encryption: WPA3/WPA2/WPA Ethernet backhaul support: Yes Installation and management via app: Yes Other: MU-MIMO, WPS, HomeSec Security Protection, Parental Control, Guest Network, One-Touch Connect, VPN passthrough
Huawei WiFi Mesh 3 is a mesh system consisting of three identical – white and compact – units, all of which can function as main routers and have three network outlets, and can be connected to the network via NFC by placing your mobile on top of one of the devices.
Huawei WiFi Mesh 3 is equipped with 802.11ax WiFi technology (WiFi 6) and Huawei calls its version HarmonyOS Mesh+ WiFi 6 Plus. The theoretical maximum speed is 2.4 GBps in the 5 GHz band.
Guest networks and parental controls are available, as well as HomeSec Security Protection and the possibility of using VPN servers. The lack of USB port means it’s not possible to connect external USB storage for sharing via the network or FTP.
Installation is very quick and easy. First you connect your mobile phone to the router (which can be any of the three units as they’re identical) and then follow the simple instructions that appear in a web interface on your phone. With just one click, you can update all three devices at once and the entire installation process takes less than five minutes, including updating.
Right next to the router, we reach speeds of around 700 Mbps, which is slightly slower than any other new mesh system with WiFi 6, but completely acceptable. When we go upstairs, where the signal must pass through a concrete floor, the speed drops to 429 Mbps. In the room in our house with the worst coverage – where the signal has to pass three concrete walls – we measure 134 Mbps, which is acceptable. At our two outdoor measuring points, we record 27 Mbps and 8 Mbps respectively – which is good, but not quite as good as the best new mesh systems.
Loading the network by wirelessly streaming 4K video clips to a TV and two computers simultaneously works without any problems, but when we also move files from a NAS to a computer and measure the speed – with both Bredbandskollen and WiFi Speed Test – the video clips occasionally lag for a few seconds, and the file transfer speed drops down to zero a few times.
All things considered, Huawei Mesh 3 is the best mesh system we’ve tested from Huawei and it really feels like they’re finally starting to hit their stride. It also holds up well in comparison to other systems, although it might not be top of its class.
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 solution with incomprehensible software
Designation: 2 Pack Tri band Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax Ports: 1 Gigabit WAN/LAN, 4 Gigabit LAN Beamforming: Yes Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 300 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 867 Mbps 5 GHz Wi-Fi 6 up to 4804 Mbps Antennas: 4 Wireless encryption: WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO
The Asus AX92U is actually a perfectly normal router. But for the Asus AI Mesh system, it’s sold as a two pack to cover larger areas. It’s also one of the first mesh routers with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax).
The installation and other settings are either done via the Asus app or a web interface. The whole thing is incredibly easy to set up and you can add the other router via Asus AI Mesh technology with just a couple of clicks.
Wi-Fi 6 is also a bit of a makeshift affair. If you run the mesh solution wirelessly, this is the band used as the dedicated channel between the routers. To switch on Wi-Fi 6 on the routers, you need to connect them with a cable and activate Wi-Fi 6 in the settings. You can merge and make the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands visible for connecting devices, but the Wi-Fi 6 band can only be run as its own network name.
The advantages of using two “real” routers instead of pucks in a mesh network are clear when we run the system under load. The larger devices have significantly more powerful hardware than average and maintain the speed even with lots of devices connected simultaneously. We actually achieve more than 100 mbps under heavy load and our file transfer test clocks in at 13 minutes.
The design, with four antennas (which make the router look like an upside down table), is nothing like as attractive as other mesh solutions. But it does very well in terms of range, and we only start to run into stuttering in video playback from about 15 m away.
The Asus AX92U isn’t an attractive solution for a home mesh network, and the number of functions mean that it can feel overcomplicated. But for the more advanced user it pays off in the shape of a really fast and stable network, whether wired or wireless. As we’ve mentioned above, it does have Wi-Fi 6, but you have to activate it yourself and have devices that support it to make it worth your while.
Easy to use and fast wi-fi
Designation: 3 Pack Dual band AC1200 Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 1 Gigabit WAN/LAN, 1 Gigabit LAN Beamforming: Yes Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 300 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 867 Mbps Antennas: 5 pcs: 2 x dual band antennas and 1 x Bluetooth antenna Wireless encryption: WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO
Google Wifi is an easy-to-use system with extremely good performance
Google Wifi was one of the first mesh systems on the consumer market.
It’s easy to install and operate, and the network is amongst the quickest we tested. Moving 11 Gb takes 23 minutes. What distinguishes Google Wifi from other mesh routers that reached the same speeds with a normal load on the network is that Google Wifi didn’t lose as much speed when we loaded the network. The average speed was measured as 64 Mbps (with the network loaded both normally and with more traffic).
We measured internet speeds of around 300 Mbps with a bigger load on the network, and the five streaming video clips were stable the entire time.
we found it odd that the coverage received when outdoors wasn’t very good even with three units connected. It started to buffer at distances around 15 metres outdoors, despite the fact that the third unit was positioned on the balcony; the speed was then measured to be just 13 Mbps. But Google Wifi stands up well to the competition, with easy operation and a really stable connection even under higher loads. Google Wifi is a good system if you don’t want to have to fiddle with settings too much, but want to easily install it and operate it without worries.
Stable system with reasonable range
Designation: 3 Pack Tri band AC2200 Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 2 x Gigabit WAN/LAN Beamforming: Yes Tri-band: 2.4 GHz up to 400 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 867 Mbps (x2) Antennas: 7 pcs: 2 Tri band antennas and Bluetooth Wireless encryption: WPA2 personal Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO and 256 QAM
Linksys Velop gives you a stable network with reasonable speed and range.
The Linksys Velop is straightforward to install using the app and Bluetooth, but it took a few minutes longer per unit than several of its competitors. During installation, we were forced to create an account and enter an email address, but the promised verification message never turned up via email, which was a bit strange.
The Velop affords a stable network and we never noticed any buffering in the our streamed video clips. However, we did notice on several occasions that the file transfer speed had dropped to zero when we ran the Bredbandskollen speed check on the computers. The average speed was measured at 53 Mbps under a normal and heavy load on the network, and our file transfer test took 28 minutes.
The range is similar to that of many other mesh systems. It started to buffer at a distance of 15 metres outdoors, and the speed was then measured at 1 Mbps. It’s a little odd that you can’t do a factory reset on the units. The help section about this even states that it’s unnecessary. Is it?
The Linksys Velop is a stable mesh system that’s easy to operate, with reasonable performance and range. The system isn’t a bad choice, and it will suit the majority of people even if it’s not top of the class.
Linksys Velop WHW0301 Tri-Band Whole Home Mesh WiFi 5 System (AC2200) WiFi Router, Extender & Booster up to 2000 sq ft Coverage for 20+ Devices with 2 Gigabit Ethernet Ports, MU-MIMO - 1 Pack, White
Linksys WHW0301-UK Velop Tri-Band AC2200 Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System, Router Replacement for Home Network, Works with Amazon Alexa - White, Pack of 1
Linksys WHW0301-UK Velop Whole Home Intelligent Mesh WiFi System Tri-Band 1 Pack
Versatile system with very good coverage
Designation: AX3000 Deco X50 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System WiFi: 802.11ax/ac/n/g/b/a Ports: 3 x Gigabit WAN/LAN Beamforming: Yes Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 574 Mbps and 5 GHz up to 2402 Mbps Antennae: 2 x internal antennas Wireless encryption: WPA3/WPA2/WPA Ethernet backhaul support: Yes Installation and management via app: Yes Other: MU-MIMO, Guest Network, TP-Link HomeShield (parental control and security), AI-Driven Mesh
TP-Link Deco X50 is a small and versatile mesh system, consisting of three identical units, with WiFi 6. While they look identical to their sister model Deco X60, they have three instead of two network ports. Guest networks and TP-Link HomeShield (parental control and security) are included in the standard version, and you have the option of trying the Pro version free of charge for 30 days (for more features), after which it will cost you SEK 65 per month if you wish to keep using it. The lack of USB port means it’s not possible to connect external USB storage for sharing via the network or FTP.
The system is very quick and easy for you to install – you just download the Deco app and register. After naming the first unit, simply connect the two others within two minutes and they will automatically be installed – but this means that they won’t be named, so if you want these two units to have their own names, it’s better to connect them manually, one after the other. In the app, you can check whether the software needs to be upgraded, and we found that all three units were updated simultaneously in about four minutes.
The app doesn’t offer a lot of functionality, e.g. there is no network map (where you can see which units are connected to which router), so if you want to keep track of these details you’ll need to log into the web interface instead. There is no VPN feature.
The speed right next to the router is acceptable but not top class (537 Mbps) and upstairs we lose about half of the capacity (284 Mbps). In the room in our house with the worst coverage – where the signal has to pass three concrete walls – we measure 202 Mbps, which is acceptable, but not as good as the best systems we’ve tested. That said, outside the house we get top results: recording 155 Mbps and 73 Mbps respectively at our two measuring points, which is absolutely top class. So it’s fair to say that while Deco X50 offers very good coverage, the speeds are not as high as the best systems we’ve tested.
Streaming 4K video clips wirelessly to one TV and two PCs simultaneously is not without its problems, as the video clips have a tendency to lag. When we put a heavy load on the network by also moving files from NAS to a computer at the same time and measuring the speed – with both Bredbandskollen and WiFi Speed Test – the video clips freeze for a few seconds before resuming. The average speed of file transfer under heavy load on the network was measured at 135 Mbps, which is very good.
TP-Link Deco X50 doesn’t provide super-speed close to the router, but offers the best range (slightly better than Deco X60) overall of all the mesh systems we tested, maintaining good speeds even far away from the units.
Smart speaker but no cable connections
Designation: Google Nest Wi-Fi (AC2200 router & AC1200 access point) Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 1 x Gigabit WAN and 1 x Gigabit LAN (only on router) plus Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and 802.15.4 Thread (2.4 GHz) Beamforming: Yes Dual band: Router 2.4 GHz up to 400 Mbps and 5 GHz up to 1733 Mbps, access point 2.4 GHz up to 400 Mbps and 5 GHz up to 866 Mbps Antennas: 4 Wireless encryption: WPA3 Ethernet back-haul support: No Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO. Google Home built-in (hub in router and smart speaker in access point)
Google Nest Wi-Fi is the replacement for Google Wi-Fi, which was one of the first mesh systems on the consumer market, and it’s quite different from its predecessor. The new system consists of a router plus an access point instead of two identical units, and more access points can be purchased to cover a larger area (previous generation Google Wi-Fi can also be used as access points where they are compatible). The router is AC2200 while the access points are AC1200, which means you get more bandwidth in the vicinity of the router, while the access points have the lower bandwidth that the predecessor used. The access points don’t have Ethernet ports, so they can only have wireless connections.
Google Nest Wi-Fi – the access points also work as smart speakers with Google Assistant so you can play music, get answers to questions, control connected devices etc. using your voice. The router has a built-in hub for smart homes, which means the system can handle smart products via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Thread (but Zigbee and Z-wave are not supported).
Installation and configuration are very easy via the Google Home app on your mobile. Our testing process is based on a mix of wireless and wired devices. Since Nest Wi-Fi has no Ethernet ports on satellite units, this means that the total in our test turns out to be really slow. So our testing method can be said to be a little unfair to this system. But you need to remember that only Wi-Fi can be used. From this point of view, only the speed AC1200 on the satellites is a little less than acceptable.
Moving over 11 GB of data took 36 minutes (with its predecessor Google Wi-Fi it took 23 minutes). The range can be considered to be moderate, as video began stuttering at a distance of 15 metres outdoors, and we then got 12 Mbps with Google Nest Wi-Fi. Nest Wi-Fi is a very easy-to-install and easy-to-manage product. The connection is stable, but far from the fastest. At the same time, you’ll have to see the point of the satellites doubling as smart speakers and that there’s virtually no wired connection. If this sounds like you, Nest Wi-Fi is a good choice. Otherwise there are both faster and more focused products.
Good range but can’t take intense traffic
Designation: 3 Pack Dual band AC1750 Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 1 x Gigabit WAN/LAN plus 1 x Gigabit LAN Beamforming: Yes Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 450 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 1300 Mbps Antennas: 7 pcs: 3 x dual band antennas and 1 x Bluetooth antenna Wireless encryption: WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MIMO
The Asus Lyra Trio has good range and performs well under low and normal loads on the network. But under high loads the performance becomes uneven and less convincing.
The Asus Lyra Trio is installed via the app and Bluetooth between your phone and the router. Everything went well with the first unit when we followed the instructions. However, we couldn’t find routers number two and three until the third attempt with the app. We should probably have waited for a while before trying to add an additional unit, but that wasn’t clear. Everything was fast and straightforward once we’d found the units.
There was a certain amount of buffering on the laptop when we streamed a 4K video, and we found that the speed was rather sporadic. When we ran the Bredbandskollen speed check, we got varying results. But when we changed down to Full HD, it ran fine the entire time. The speed during file transfer went down to 1 Mbps in our heavily loaded test, but it never stopped completely as some models did. The speed is (along with Google Wifi) the second highest in the test under normal load in the network, with 82 Mbps. But under a heavier load, the speed dropped to 32 Mbps (while Google Wifi it only dropped to 53 Mbps). The file transfer took 32 minutes.
Outdoors, the laptop rapidly changed to the router on the balcony and we could stream stable 4K video even at a distance of 15 metres. At 30 metres, it worked reasonably well, but buffered quite a bit; we measured a speed of 10 Mbps.
One clever function is AiMesh, allowing the Asus Lyra Trio to be expanded with other Asus routers (even older models), which are upgraded with new software. This is useful if you need to cover more areas in your home.
Slow but with good range
Designation: Mesh Kit MK-2 AC1200 Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 1 x Gigabit WAN plus 3 x Gigabit LAN on the main unit, 1 x Gigabit LAN on satellites Beamforming: No Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 300 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 900 Mbps Antennas: 2 pcs: 1 x Dual band antenna Wireless encryption: WEP, WPA, WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: No (only web interface) Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO. Satellites are connected directly via electrical outlet. USB outlet on the main unit.
The Dovado WiFi XL has good range but relatively low network speeds – and the interface feels old fashioned.
During the installation of the Dovado WiFi XL, we followed the instructions and tried to log-in with a mobile phone, but were met with a “Website cannot be reached” message. We then connected the router to a computer, using the password on the back of the router, and accessed the router’s homepage, where we could change to the SSID and password we wanted. To begin with, there was no internet connection, but after popping the network cable in and out it worked. This installation process wasn’t as straightforward as a number of others we tested, but more like how things used to be a few years ago.
In terms of simplicity, the Dovado system isn’t anywhere near the other models, but in their web interface you can access and alter a number of different parameters in the network – which you can’t with other apps. A knowledgeable user will probably be happier with the Dovado system, while beginners will probably prefer their competitors’ apps.
This was the only system where the streamed 4K video began to buffer on the desktop computer, probably because the system simply can’t cope. Yet, if we shifted to Full HD instead of 4K it became stable once again.
The file transfer speed fell but never stopped completely during the heavy test, which gave quite varied results during the Bredbandskollen checks. Moving 11 Gb of data took 34 minutes, which is an average speed of 43 Mbps – and this is really slow.
Outdoors, the laptop quickly changed to the router on the balcony and streaming 4K worked fine here, even a little bit further away than other routers. Streaming of 4K video was stable at 15 metres distance, and it worked reasonably well up to 30 metres too, although it began to buffer at this point (the speed was measured at 3 Mbps). In other words, the Dovado WiFi XL has amongst the best range we found in the mesh routers tested, but it left a lot to be desired.
Wants to do a lot but doesn’t quite manage it
Designation: 3 Pack Hybrid – 1867 Mbps backhaul, with power-line Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Ports: 3 x Gigabit WAN/LAN Beamforming: No Dual band: 2.4 GHz up to 300 Mbps, 5 GHz up to 867 Mbps Antennas: 5 pcs: 2 x dual band antennas and 1 x Bluetooth antenna Wireless encryption: WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK Ethernet backhaul: Yes Installation and admin via app: Yes Miscellaneous: MU-MIMO. Support for power-line Gigabit backhaul.
The Huawei WiFi Q2 has a number of neat refinements but the network speed is low and the range short.
When we began to install the router by scanning the QR code as mentioned in the accompanying instructions, we immediately received a warning message that the connection isn’t private. Which isn’t a very good start. When we instead chose to install the Huawei SmartHome App direct from Google Play, which is where the QR code ultimately led, it worked better. After downloading the app, the installation process was fast and trouble-free.
Under a heavy load on the network, the 4K playback on the laptop began to buffer, and we had to go down to 480p to prevent this. Moving 11 Gb of data took 30 minutes.
During the outdoor range test with streamed video, the Huawei system performed significantly worse than many others in the test. After just a few metres, the video began to buffer, which is really poor for a mesh system.
Like all systems in the test, the Huawei WiFi Q2 supports Ethernet backhaul, which means you can connect routers to each other with a network cable and achieve better performance. Huawei also supports backhaul via power-line (in other words, via the mains grid). However, Huawei has chosen to hide this function outside the app, which means we didn’t test it.
The Huawei Wifi Q2 lags some way behind when it comes to both performance and range. Although the system has a number of clever functions built in, including power-line support, the execution of these isn’t perfectly implemented either, and could be significantly more logical to access and set.
You can find a router in the majority of homes these days, and they enable several devices (computers, tablets and smartphones) to use the home’s internet connection via the wireless network.
Routers have developed over the years, from being wired to wireless using Wi-Fi, and the speed has also increased both through new Wi-Fi standards and because the routers are equipped with more antennas or work on several different frequency bands simultaneously. Today, it’s most common that a router is dual band, which means it works on the frequency bands 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Tri band routers are becoming increasingly common, and these have one transmitter/receiver on 2.4 GHz and two on 5 GHz.
Network speeds have increased in recent years, but when it comes to coverage there are still limitations to what can be achieved with a single router, not least because a higher frequency band means higher speeds but also a shorter range – in other words 5 GHz is faster than 2.4 GHz but has a poorer range.
One common solution for improving coverage has been to install repeaters in the network. The disadvantage of this is that when you install repeaters to increase the existing router’s range in your home, you create several networks of units to be connected, while the connected units simultaneously reduce the total speed of the wireless network (because the router has more products to communicate with). And because the different networks have different SSIDs (Service Set Identifier, an alphanumeric key of up to 32 characters to identify a wireless network. Quite simply, the network name.) the way it works is when you come home your phone automatically connects to the network, but then when you move around your home it doesn’t automatically reconnect to a repeater’s network, even if you’re standing only a metre away from the repeater and a great distance from the router. This happens because as long as there is any present signal from the router, your phone stays on that connection. In other words, you have to manually connect to a repeater instead of the router unless the wireless connection disappears completely.
The major advantages of a mesh network are that the router and other units (often simply called routers or satellites) have the same SSID (network name), which means that all products connected to the network automatically communicate with whichever of the two, three or more routers (or satellites) is giving the strongest signal at that particular moment. So, for example if you’re moving through your home with your smartphone, it moves from one router (or satellite) to another without you noticing anything. This means you can achieve much better coverage from any home location than what’s possible with just a single router.
Wireless networks in the form of Wi-Fi have been standard in our homes for a number of years now, and the demands on them are becoming ever greater – not least given the rate at which streaming video is increasing. Video streaming today represents around three quarters of the world's total internet traffic, according to the Cisco VNI Annual Report.
The number of products connected wirelessly in the home and outside is increasing, and we’re at the start of the development of the IoT (Internet of Things), which will increase the number of connected products even more. This places greater demands on our wireless networks.
The optimal solution is to position a router exactly at the centre of the home, but this is rarely possible in reality because the router is normally located where the internet connection is – often in the cellar or right by the entrance to the home.
The great thing about a mesh network is that you can place a mesh router exactly where you have your traditional router today (in other words, probably in a non-optimal position) and then place another mesh router optimally (for example right at the centre of your home) and both units form part of a single network, with the same SSID (network name), which means that all units connected to the network automatically communicate with the mesh router that gives the strongest signal at that particular moment. And if you have more than two mesh routers, you can put the third in a position where you get the next most benefit from it.
Mesh networks aren’t a new discovery. They've existed via professional products (for example at airports and hotels) for a number of years, but they’ve now begun to break into the personal consumer market too.
2009 saw the arrival of the 802.11n standard, which exploits the 2.4 GHz band, has a band of 40 MHz and uses 64 QAM modulation. The maximum speed is 150 Mbps with one antenna and 450 Mbps for products with three antennas; and with dual band technology the maximum speed is 900 Mbps. Even if this sounds a lot, this is only theoretical maximum performance, which is affected by many factors. It isn’t something you can play games or stream high-resolution films with, but it’s enough to get online and browse YouTube.
In 2013, the 802.11ac standard arrived, which contains the previous standard’s technology (and is therefore fully backwards compatible) but also adds exploitation of the 5 GHz band, with a bandwidth of 80 MHz and 256 QAM. This gives a maximum speed of about 2.3 Gbps. By this point, Wi-Fi reaches really usable speeds and works well with online games and high-resolution films.
By 2015, the first tri band routers arrived on the market, and these exploit the 2.4 GHz band, and the 5 GHz band x2. The maximum speed is about 3.2-4.3 GHz per second depending on the technology used. By using more antennas, both traffic and connected units can be divided better, which means that every user gets an improved experience.
This doesn’t mean you can directly obtain this 4 Gbps speed between a product and the internet (or between two products in the network), but instead that it provides three networks in a single router. The advantage is that the router can “talk” to many products simultaneously, using Multi-User Multiple Input and Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology. Furthermore, it divides the data traffic between the three networks so each product receives the highest speeds possible.
In 2018, the names of Wi-Fi technologies were simplified, and they’re now called simply “Wi-Fi 1”, “Wi-Fi 2” and so on. You can find more about the differences and what they mean in the glossary below.
Asus has its own version of the mesh router. While you can obviously buy a complete mesh system, many of us have slightly older routers already in our homes. AIMesh is part of the software for many Asus routers – even older ones – and means you can create your own mesh network with normal routers. You can also connect together an old Asus router. For example, using their Lyra mesh system to add an additional satellite. Asus provides more information about the technology and which routers are compatible.
This is a handy bit of technical magic that gives you a faster and more stable connection. To put it concisely, the signal from the antennas is aimed directly at the connected units rather than simply “radiating out” as is otherwise the case. It’s a bit like watering a tomato plant directly rather than using a sprinkler over the whole vegetable plot.
Not many mesh routers today have separate wireless connection to communicate with each other – instead it’s often shared with normal traffic. But most systems have what’s known as Ethernet backhaul. This means that you link the different satellites in the mesh system together using a standard
In this method, all of the traffic between the satellites and to the internet travels separately via a cable without being affected by other wireless signals. Of course, this means more work for you when installing it, but it’s ultimately a faster and more stable network.
You likely already know that you need a password on your network to prevent unauthorised people from accessing it. As a user, in practice, you only see this when you’re first connecting a product to a network, but of course there’s a whole load of science behind it and a number of different techniques. Here’s a quick overview:
WEP, Wired Equivalent Privacy. One of the first encryption technologies. Still in use, but not recommended as it’s easy to break.
WPA, Wi-Fi Protected Access. Improved encryption technology that arrived in 2004 and is still in use.
WPA2. The latest encryption technology for Wi-Fi networks, which is essentially meant to be impossible to eavesdrop on.
PSK, Pre-Shared Key. PSK isn’t an encryption technology itself, but a way of simplifying things for the user. You’ve probably encountered very long Wi-Fi passwords when you’re connecting to some routers, while in other cases you only have to use a relatively normal password to connect. PSK is the normal password, and after it’s been approved the WPA technology takes over and deals with the underlying identification.
WPA, Wi-Fi Protected Setup. A way of simplifying connection without a password. You can activate WPS on the router and the product to be connected and they will pair automatically. Often this is a separate button on the router. A simple alternative, but also a potential safety hole you can switch off if you want a bit more security in your network.
Megabits per second. Quite simply how much data can be transferred per second. Here it’s important to distinguish between bits and bytes, and between megabits and megabytes. Bytes are the normal units used for RAM and hard disks in computers, mobile phones and tablets – kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and so on. Bits are the term we use when we talk about transfer speeds in both wired and wireless networks.
There are eight bits in a byte. So if you want to convert it, for example, a router that can deal with 1000 Mbps equatest to 125 megabytes per second. If you can’t be bothered to do the calculation, you can simply divide by 10, which means in the example above you get a bit more than 100 megabytes per second.
MIMO stands for Multiple Input Multiple Output. This is a way of increasing speed between a router and a unit that supports this technology. Instead of simply using one channel for transfer it uses several, which results in higher speeds.
The first version of MIMO is also called SU-MIMO, where SU stands for Single User or one user/unit. And MU-MIMO is Multiple User. In other words, more users. MU-MIMO currently supports four simultaneous users instead of one, assuming that both the router and connected units support it.
A technology for transferring network signals over the mains grid. The idea is that you insert a small unit with a network outlet into a normal wall socket and then use the mains electricity network to “talk” to the router.
This technology has never really taken off like traditional wired networks or Wi-Fi. Even though many technical obstacles have been overcome and transfer speeds have improved over the years, this technology lives in the shadow of the bigger network technologies.
You've undoubtedly encountered Wifi 802.11a/b/n/ac or similar impenetrable characters, but what do they mean? And isn’t there an easier way to talk about this stuff?
The figures 802.11 are the technical term for what we generally call Wi-Fi or wireless network.
In late 2018, the different Wi-Fi technologies were simplified significantly, even though the old letter combinations are still common. We’ll go through both simultaneously here:
Wi-Fi 1, previously 802.11b: Released in 1999 and is a now obsolete technology with slow speeds and short range. Maximum speed of 11 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 2, previously 802.11a: Also released in 1999, and paradoxically now called Wi-Fi 2. Now an obsolete technology with both short range and relatively slow transfer speeds. Maximum speed of 54 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 3, previously 802.11g: Released in 2003 and was broadly better than its predecessors, but still had a maximum speed of 54 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 4, previously 802.11n: Released in 2009 and made possible connection to both the 2.4 GHz band (like previous technologies) and 5 GHz. The maximum speed is 150 Mbps, but SU-MIMO has also been introduced here, giving maximum speeds of 450 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 5, previously 802.11ac: Released in 2014 and is almost standard in Wi-Fi units now. The standard speeds are 433 or 866 Mbps, but MU-MIMO has also been introduced here and quicker sub-versions of the technology, which can increase the speed to a maximum of 3500 Mbps.
Wi-Fi 6, previously 802.11ax: Released in 2019 and is the latest technology for Wi-Fi. MU-MIMO is standard here, instead of an add-on as it was in previous generations. The speed (to begin with) is 9600 Mbps. But the speed is only part of it. Here it’s as much about increased range, better stability and even more resource efficiency so that your Wi-Fi connected units draw less current.