Mesh networking vs. traditional Wi-Fi routers: What is best for your home office?

Mesh networking is still a relatively new product in the consumer market. You would be mistaken to believe it would automatically be better than a standard router. Some people may find a mesh network unnecessary.

A router serves as the central hub for Internet connectivity. Traffic and requests for internet connectivity from devices granted permission to connect via the main router’s service — usually through a password – are directed through one access point.

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The benefits are:

  • Price: Standard routers tend to be more affordable than mesh networks products. Although you may still need to spend hundreds of dollars on a premium router for your home, there are many budget-friendly options that are fast and stable enough to keep your home running smoothly without any additional input. 

  • Plug and play: I have found that setting up a standard router is easier than a mesh network. A typical router is a good choice if you want something that works. Set it up, make sure that updates are applied, then forget about the router. 

  • Speed and wires. Many routers, like the Netgear Nighthawk, and the Asus ROG are built with streaming and heavy bandwidth in mind. For gamers and streamers, it is better to use wired Ethernet connections than wireless-first products.

  • Separating devices: Most modern routers can be set up guest WiFi networks. However, if you want to separate your IoT devices from your home network for security reasons, most routers will allow this. 

The drawbacks:

  • Coverage issues: Internet access is distributed through one point. This can lead to slow or intermittent connections in remote areas. Range extenders are a cheaper option than investing in a mesh system. 

  • Overload: Too many connections can cause overloading, bottlenecks or drops.

  • Tweaking: To change the settings of a router’s more advanced settings, it can be frustrating to visit the platform via a desktop computer. This is in contrast to the seamless mobile app connectivity that many of our modern services offer. 


What about Wi Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 system (also known as 802.11ax) is worth mentioning. This standard is the next in wireless technology after Wi-Fi 5. It is designed to improve wireless device performance and wi fi coverage in comparison with 802.11ac. This standard is supported on many modern home devices and could be used to future-proof your smart home office. 

MU-MIMO (Multiuser, multiple input, multiple output) should also be considered. This technology is used by some routers to increase data transfer speed when multiple devices are connected simultaneously, but not all. 

Mesh networking

Traditional routers have a single, central access point. Mesh networking devices such as mesh wi fi routers, tri-band or dual-band mesh wiifi and whole-home mesh wifi are decentralized. Mesh networks are not created by one device connecting to the Internet. Instead, multiple nodes provide web connectivity. You could have a central hub in the kitchen, and satellite nodes in your home office, kitchen, or bedroom. 

If you were trying to access the internet while in the kitchen, the hub would automatically connect, while you would jump on to the node from your home office.

Remote working and video calling are becoming the “new normal”, so now is the right time to upgrade your wi fi with the latest mesh networking systems to improve coverage.

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The benefits are:

  • Extended coverage: Mesh networks provide greater coverage. A mesh network will eliminate coverage blackspots in larger properties that have a lot of square footage. 

  • A boost in reliability: Your device will connect directly to the nearest satellite node, rather than to a central point of entry. This ensures that connectivity drops are less likely, no matter where you live.

  • Additional controls: Many vendors will allow users to manage their routers through a mobile application once a mesh network has been activated. This could be used to monitor network traffic, reboot, or turn off the Internet completely — which is a possibility for parents with children.

The drawbacks:

  • Initial expense: Mesh devices usually require a larger outlay to set up. Although a hub and one satellite may not seem too expensive, if you want to maximize the benefits of a mesh network, you might need to purchase more — and the money can add up.

  • You will need more than one power outlet to set up a mesh network. You’ll need to make sure there is power for each satellite you add. Also, ensure they are placed around your property in a way that is attractive.

  • Speed: Mesh means coverage over speed. Mesh networks may not offer the same speeds that traditional wireless routers, especially in certain cases.

What is the best option for my home office?

It is up to you to decide if the cost of a complete mesh network is worth it. Mesh networking can be a great way to improve wi-fi signal strength in larger homes with weak signals. 

It can be costly to replace your router setup for large homes. A full mesh may be considered overkill if you have multiple users and connected devices constantly competing for bandwidth. A wi-fi extender is the best option for expanding your home. Your home’s size in feet 

There are many mesh networks available, including Google WiFi/Google Assistant, Nest WiFi and eero. They are very affordable to set up, as long as there are not too many satellites. These mesh networks are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google nest, or an Apple device.

Also, see: Working from home 101: A guide for remote workers to the essential tools of telecommuting

Before you change your setup, make sure to check your ISP package. New equipment won’t necessarily help you if your ISP has a low-speed offer. Upgrades to package packages could be a better option.  

A traditional router is the best option if you are a single user who needs reliable internet access. The internet connection should be faster than wireless so a simple Ethernet cable that can be easily purchased for $10 to $15 could be sufficient. 

Wi-Fi range extenders can also be an option to mesh if you only need to increase coverage or throughput in certain areas. They are likely to be cheaper than buying individual mesh nodes. Some vendors offer mesh ‘bolt ons’ like Asus’ AiMesh. These can be used to connect existing routers to create a mesh-like coverage wireless system without having to rip everything out and start again.

Mesh networking is here for the long-term. It’s a smart investment at a time when many people work from home, so it could prove to be a viable option. Mesh systems may not be right for you if your business relies on speed and wired connectivity. However, mesh systems can be a great upgrade to your home equipment if you want to ensure that drops and dead zones do not affect your work day and are willing to pay the extra cost.

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