We go through the three major players in Mesh Wi-Fi: eero, Google Wifi, and AmpliFi HD
Back in February we took a quick initial look at the eero Home Wi-Fi System, one of several new entrants in the burgeoning Mesh Networking industry. Like its competitors, eero's goal is to increase home Wi-Fi performance and coverage by switching from a system based upon a powerful standalone router to one which utilizes multiple lower power wireless base stations positioned throughout a home.
The idea is that these multiple wireless access points, which are configured to communicate with each other automatically via proprietary software, can not only increase the range of your home Wi-Fi network, but also reduce the burden of our ever-increasing number of wireless devices on any one single access point.
There are a number of mesh Wi-Fi systems already available from both established networking companies as well as industry newcomers, with more set for release this year. We don't have every system ready to test just yet, but join us as we take a look at three popular options to see if mesh networking performance lives up to the hype.
The basic idea of extending a wireless network with additional access points isn't new. Networking companies have long offered a variety of "extenders" to both consumers and businesses which are designed to increase the range of traditional routers. More technologically savvy users could also extend their own networks by adding a second router to their setup and configuring it to operate in bridge mode. The problem with most of these traditional approaches, especially when it comes to consumer-level products and price points, is that each "hop" in your extended network cut your effective Wi-Fi speed in half, as the wireless radios in these products were forced to pull double duty: both communicating with your devices located in the extended area of the network and then relaying those communications back to the primary router, and vice versa.
This new crop of mesh networking products addresses this issue by including multiple wireless radios in each access point. The exact number of these radios and how they are programmed to function vary by product, but each mesh access point has at least two Wi-Fi radios, one (or more) for communicating with your devices and a second radio dedicated to staying in touch with the other access points.
At least, that's the theory. Our (very) preliminary testing back in February revealed that mesh networks can indeed offer substantial performance gains when compared to a traditional standalone router. Now we're back with results from further testing of the eero Mesh Wi-Fi system as well as performance results from two of eero's competitors: Google Wi-Fi and Ubiquiti Networks' AmpliFi HD. We'll look at how each system compares in terms of features, setup and maintenance, and, most importantly, performance.
Although eero launched at a much higher MSRP, current street prices place all three products within a $100 range:
- eero Home WiFi System (3-Pack): $397.95
- AmpliFi HD Home Wi-Fi System: $339.93
- Google Wifi System (3-Pack): $297.80
One note before we begin, however. While the portions of our previous article on eero regarding the eero setup process are still valid, I moved to a new state after that initial article was published so the performance measurements referenced in that article are not relevant to the results in this article. I have therefore completely re-tested eero in my new house and all results on the following pages are from the same testing environment.