Nokia Wants to Connect All The Things With Cheaper Mesh Wi-Fi Beacons
While Nokia is not the telecom giant of the past, it is not completely out of the consumer hardware space where it still offers home networking equipment. Recently, Nokia added a cheaper version of its WiFi Beacon mesh wireless network system called the Nokia WiFi Beacon 1 – starting at $129.99 for a single base station or $299.99 for a 3-pack – that joins its more expensive and capable WIFi Beacon 3 system it introduced last year.
Resembling a fancy single slot toaster, Nokia’s WiFi Beacon 1 measures 150 x 115 x 42mm and weighs a bit over half a pound at 0.28kg. Rated at AC1200 Wi-Fi speeds, the Beacon 1 supports dual band 2.4 GHz 802.11n and 5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi with both supporting 2×2 MIMO. With maximum output of 500mW and 1 W on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios respectively, Nokia rates each WiFi Beacon 1 at 1500 square feet. The WiFi Beacon 1 also supports wired networking with two Gigabit Ethernet ports (one for WAN, one for LAN) as well as wired and hybrid backhauls which is nice to see.
The WIFi Beacon 1 can be used as your home router or in bridge mode with an existing router or ISP provided gateway modem/router combo device. The cheaper Beacon 1 devices can be paired with additional Beacon 1s or added to a Beacon 3 system with the whole setup being managed by the Nokia WiFi app (iOS and Android).
The Nokia WiFi app is used to setup and manage the Beacons and provides heat maps of network coverage, client device management and network speed results, network surveys for help placing the Beacons in optimal locations and being notified of connection issues, and the ability to create guest networks.
Nokia’s Beacon 1 isn’t quite as capable as the AC3000 rated Beacon 3 with its 3×3 2.4 GHz MIMO and 4×4 5 GHz MU-MIMO wireless and four Gigabit Ethernet ports or the newer tri-band competition from Eero and Orbi, but the cheaper devices at least provide some smart channel selection and device roaming along with a wired backhaul though some user reviews seem to indicate setting that up could be made simpler.
On the pricing front, the new WiFI Beacon 1 is priced at $130 for a single Beacon or $300 for pack of three pre-paired Beacons. Nokia’s WiFi Beacon 3 is priced at $200 each or $450 for three. Amazon’s latest Eero kit is priced at $400 for one Eero Pro and two Eero Beacons or $200 for an Eero Pro and $150 for each Eero Beacon. Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 kit with a base station and one satellite runs $294 with the Alexa-compatible smart speaker version costing quite a bit more and there are cheaper Orbi setups as well–Netgear has a plethora of SKUs). Of course, there is also Google Wi-Fi with each puck running $100 and a three-pack priced at $240.
Mesh systems aren’t for everyone but can be useful and performant solutions in the right situations. Looking online, I was not able to find reviews for Nokia’s WiFi Beacon mesh systems save for a few user reviews which seems overall positive with most of the complaints stemming from setup woes and configuring the wired backhaul option. I am interested to see full reviews of the new mesh systems and hope that Nokia is able to improve its network management app and setup process.
Are you running a mesh Wi-Fi system? What are your thoughts versus a single powerful wireless router or a DIY traditional or full mesh setup with multiple access points? I think the mesh part is nice to have and can be useful (it’s at least better than wireless extenders) but wired backhauls are ideal anyways, and the real benefit to these out of the box solutions is the simplified app-based network setup and management that automatically updates and points out issues; which can be great for both the less tech savvy friends and relatives we support as well as enthusiasts that just want Wi-Fi that works so that they can focus their tinkering and hacking on other technology stuff that interests them more.