As with TP-Link’s budget mesh offering, the extras are barebones. There are no additional security features, and parental controls are limited, but they include the basics like filters and time limits. QoS only covers device prioritization, and there is no support for WPA3 security as with Wi-Fi 5 systems. But you can split the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands and create guest networks. Finally, the Deco app is a little slow and basic but deliberately simple. Anyone who likes to tinker or check the speeds their ISP delivers will be disappointed.
If you can stretch your budget to the often discounted Deco X20, I think you’ll get Wi-Fi 6, beefed-up protection, and slightly better performance. For busy homes with multiple people online at the same time or connections above 500 Mbps, you should look for something more powerful. But if money is tight, this is your best option.
Google Nest Wifi Pro (3-Pack)
Perfect for simplicity
Mesh systems don’t come much simpler than this. You don’t need to install the app to use Google’s Nest Wifi Pro (7/10, WIRED recommends) because you can add it through Google Home. These sleek bullet-shaped routers come in packs of one, two or three. There are four colors, and they are small enough to sit unobtrusively on a shelf. Each router sports two 1-gigabit ports.
Setup is very simple, as you scan the QR codes and follow the feedback in position for a strong signal. Backhaul uses the 6-GHz band, and you must place your router and nodes close together because it has limited range. Each router should cover up to 2,200 square feet and can connect up to 100 devices. Coverage and performance were solid and consistent, and testing was refreshingly free of glitches and buffering. But the Nest Wifi Pro came in mid-table with raw speed at short, mid and long range.
The Wi-Fi section in the Google Home app is barebones. Scant options include guest network support, parental controls (safe search, scheduled downtime, adult website blocking), and preferences for specific devices. But this is mainly a mesh system for people who don’t want to configure anything. The Nest Wifi Pro also has built-in Thread and Bluetooth LE, and will soon support Matter, so, like the Eero, it’s a good choice for people with smart home devices.
Disappointingly, it’s not backwards compatible with older Nest routers, and the Nest Wifi Pro doesn’t have any special security software. With gigabit ports, this system isn’t great for anyone with a fast internet connection. But for people pulling 1 Gbps or less, this is a reliable, straightforward mesh system you can set and forget.
Netgear Orbi AX4200 RBK753 (3-Pack)
Perfect for larger homes
The huge Netgear Orbi range has a strong reputation, but the company’s many similar models make it difficult to choose the right one for you. The AX4200 RBK753 (I swear they’re mashing the keyboard at this point) falls somewhere in the middle of the mesh system range I tested and proved perfect for a large home. Setup was surprisingly difficult, taking over an hour to complete and multiple restarts, with the app sticking at the loading screen. The router and nodes are large, but I like the curved design. I also appreciate that things work when the LED light is off and display different colors on flag issues; Every router should work like this. There are three Gigabit Ethernet ports on the main router and two on each node.
Once up and running, the coverage, speed, and stability proved to be worth the wait, and each node was able to deliver the same speed as the main router. Speeds were a hair behind the Asus XT8, with some limitations at long distances for individual units. But with two nodes, this system provides wide coverage. A simple mobile app lets you pause the internet entirely or by device or profile, see which devices are connected, check speed, analyze Wi-Fi (see connection strength as you roam), set up a guest network, and more the things It is very good at identifying devices, which makes it easy to divide them into profiles. You must access the web interface for advanced features.