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Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems of 2020

Asus’s AiMesh helps turns many routers into some of the best Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems on the market. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Since the first consumer-grade Wi-Fi system — the original Eero — debuted in early 2015, there have been so many others on the market, giving those living in large houses plenty of options. Below is the list of what I consider the best Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems. Among other things, they have the ratings of 7/10 or higher. 

By the way, the concept of mesh Wi-Fi system, where multiple hardware units work together to deliver a unified wireless network for a large area, is probably the most significant legacy of the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) standard.

As the world is moving to Wi-Fi 6, it’s only appropriate to take a look at these systems and appreciate Wi-Fi 5 in its best glory. Among other things, you’ll understand why you shouldn’t ditch your Wi-Fi 5 devices yet, not in many years.

Dong’s note: This is a frequently updated post.

A. Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems of 2020: The list

This list includes mesh Wi-Fi systems I’ve reviewed on Dong Knows Tech that I’d use for myself — and I’ve been using at least a few. I put these in the order I evaluated them with the latest on top.

Scroll down to the bottom to see all systems’ performance in numbers. Also, if you think a standalone router is enough for your situation, check out this list of the best Wi-Fi 5 routers instead.

11. Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8: The official AiMesh system that rocks

Since early 2018, AiMesh has been the most popular feature from Asus that turns two or more supported routers into a mesh system. The ZenWiFi AC CT8 is the canned Wi-Fi system built around this feature.

If you’ve been holding up on a mesh system, this is the one to get. It has excellent Wi-Fi coverage and a set of features that beats any of its peers. Alternatively, you can also consider other Asus routers and use them in an AiMesh setup.

ASUS ZenWiFi AC CT8 Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh System

8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Significantly improved AiMesh feature
  • Fast performance, excellent Wi-Fi coverage
  • Tons of useful features and settings, including free network real-time online protection for life
  • Fast dedicated backhaul, wired backhaul supported
  • Helpful mobile app

Cons

  • Web user interface doesn't always work as intended (bugs)
  • No Guest networking at mesh nodes
  • SMBv1 required for NAS when hosting an external drive
  • Only 3 LAN ports per router
  • Not enough setting instructions
READ MORE:  Asus ZenWiFi AC Review: A True, and Improved, AiMesh System

10. EnGenius ESR580: An affordable tri-band system

At launch, the EnGenius ESR580 had some issues, but now with the latest firmware, it’s a mesh worth considering. It’s a tri-band system with a dedicated backhaul band to deliver fast Wi-Fi speed in a wireless setup. It also comes with a price-tag that won’t break your bank.

EnGenius EnMesh ESR580 Whole-Home Smart Mesh WiFi System

7.8

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Tri-band Wi-Fi specs with fast performance
  • Compact, wall-mountable, easy setup
  • Well-designed mobile app, useful Parental Control feature
  • Wired backhaul support

Cons

  • Needs to restart to apply almost any changes
  • Spartan feature set
  • Some functions of the mobile need improving
  • Extremely slow NAS write speed when hosting an external drive
READ MORE:  EnGenius ESR580 Tri-band Mesh Review: Almost Ingenious

9. Netgear Orbi RBK13: A Mesh for the budget-minded

The newly-released Orbi RBK13 is the first Netgear Orbi that comes in a set of three units (instead of two.) It’s a low-power dual-band system with modest Wi-Fi specs. But it’s reliable and will work well for those with an average broadband connection.

Netgear Orbi RBK13 Whole Home Mesh WiFi System

8

Performance

7.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Reliable Wi-Fi, excellent coverage
  • Relatively affordable, plenty of settings, useful features
  • Easy to set up, compact design
  • Environmentally conscientious packaging

Cons

  • Middling Wi-Fi specs, low Wi-Fi throughputs
  • No dedicated or wired backhaul option
  • Not wall-mountable
READ MORE:  Netgear Orbi RBK13 Review: A Reliable Budget Wi-Fi Mesh

8. Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFI HD: The cool mesh

The AmpliFi HD was first intruded back in 2017, but I didn’t get a chance to review it until late 2019. And it turned out to be quite a novelty — imagine how more so it was at launch! The mesh’s router unit has a useful display that gives you lots of information at a glance. It’s also reliable and easy to use. In return, there’s not much you can do with it in terms of settings and features.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD WiFi System

8

Performance

8.5/10

Features

6.0/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Rediculously easy to set up
  • Fast and reliable performance
  • Well-designed mobile app

Cons

  • Limited feature
  • No wired backhaul
  • Vendor login required for remote administration
  • Bulky mesh points
READ MORE:  AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System Review: Still a Mesh Novelty

7. Zyxel Multy U: A mesh system for fashion buffs

The Zyxel Multy U tries a bit too hard to be trendy and becomes a bit hard to use in terms of placement. As a Wi-Fi mesh, however, this mesh has a great combo of reliable performance and affordable pricing.

Zyxel Multy U AC2100 Home Wi-Fi Mesh System

7.3

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.5/10

Ease of Use

6.0/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Good Wi-Fi performance and coverage
  • Tri-band with dedicated backhaul
  • Can work in access point (bridge) mode
  • Wired backhaul support

Cons

  • Impractical design
  • Buggy mobile app
  • Limited networking settings and features
  • No web user interface
READ MORE:  Zyxel Multy U Wi-Fi System Review: A Bit of a Mess

6. Synology Mesh: A custom professional mesh you can always count on

Synology introduced a mesh add-on feature via a firmware update and the introduction of the MR2200ac router. It’s a similar feature to Asus’s AiMesh.

Synology Mesh is not as diverse as that of AiMesh — it includes only two router models — but, therefore, is more reliable. It also has a more professional interface.

Synology Wi-Fi Mesh System

8.8

Performance

9.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable and large Wi-Fi coverage
  • Advanced interface with high-quality add-on features
  • Highly-customizable network settings
  • Effective Parental Controls and online protection
  • Advanced Guest network

Cons

  • Limited hardware options
  • Few network ports
  • Not available as a package (you need to get two or more units)
READ MORE:  Synology Mesh Overview: Home Wi-Fi Turned Pro

5. Asus Lyra Trio: An ideal mesh system for a wired home

As far as I know, the Asus Lyra Trio is the only mesh system on the market that uses three 3×3 routers. For this reason, it’s a perfect mesh for a home that’s already wired with network cables. 

Via wired backhaul, the Lyra Trio will deliver the fastest Wi-Fi 5 speeds among canned mesh systems, even though it also works well in a wireless setup.

Asus Lyra Trio

8

Performance

8.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable performance, excellent Wi-Fi range
  • Generous feature set and robust web-interface
  • Easy setup, helpful mobile app
  • Built-in security, no privacy risks
  • Ability to work as an extension of an existing network via the access point mode, or as part of an AiMesh system

Cons

  • Not able to block secure (HTTPS) websites
  • Can only work as AiMesh nodes
  • Minimal Wi-Fi settings
READ MORE:  Asus Lyra Trio Review: Versatile Mesh at a Friendly Price

4. Netgear Orbi Voice: How your Wi-Fi can sing, too

Though available as a system named RBV50, the Orbi Voice is just a satellite unit of Netgear’s Orbi ecosystem — it works with any Orbi router. The selling point is it’s also an Alexa-enabled smart speaker with decent sound quality. The fact that recently Netgear has upgraded its firmware to make it work with any router means it’s a quite excellent buy for those needing both Wi-Fi and a smart speaker.

Netgear Orbi Voice Whole Home Mesh WiFi Satellite Extender

7.6

Performance

7.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Mesh Wi-Fi satellite and Alexa smart-speaker all in one
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage and speed, good sound quality
  • Nice, compact design

Cons

  • Only works with a Netgear Orbi router
  • Expensive, slightly buggy mobile app
  • Short delay in Alexa's response
READ MORE:  Netgear Orbi Voice Review: Useful but Expensive

3. Netgear Orbi CBK40: An Easy Mesh for Cable Users

The Orbi CBK40 is Netgear’s only Orbi mesh system for cable users. The router unit, by itself, is a cable gateway. The system works very well for cable customers, as long as they don’t also cable Internet as their phone service.

Netgear Orbi CBK40 WiFi System with Built-in Cable Modem

7.6

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Easy to setup
  • Built-in fast cable modem

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Middling Wi-Fi specs
  • No WAN port, no telephony capability
READ MORE:  Netgear Orbi CBK40 Review: Easy but Pricey Cable Upgrade

2. TOTOLINK T10: A safe and affordable mesh choice

The T10 is one of the most affordable mesh systems on the market, but it’s not a cheap one. It delivers excellent coverage and good performance and has a standard web interface with all common settings and features. It’s a safe choice for those with simple Wi-Fi needs.

TOTOLINK Smart Home Wi-Fi System T10

7

Performance

6.5/10

Features

6.5/10

Design and Setup

7.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Ability to block secure (https) websites
  • Fast performance as a single router
  • Easy to setup, compact design

Cons

  • Slow as a mesh network
  • Rudimentary interface with poorly written instructions
  • No easy way to find out signal strength between hardware units or to which unit a client is connected
  • No access point mode as mesh system
READ MORE:  TOTOLINK T10 Review: A modest Wi-Fi Mesh System

1. Linksys Velop Dual-Band: An affordable, reliable mesh

The Linksys Velop Dual-Band is a downgrade to the original Velop by using dual-band routers instead of tri-band. In return, it’s a lot more affordable. Alternatively, you can also consider the Linksys Velop Plug-In.

Linksys Velop Dual-Band

7.1

Performance

6.5/10

Features

7.5/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Compact design, easy to setup and mange
  • Reliable performance
  • Ability to use network cables as back-haul
  • Access point (bridge) mode supported
  • Ability to block Facebook, YouTube and alike.

Cons

  • A login account with Linksys is required
  • Short range
  • More expensive than competing systems
  • No built-in online protection
READ MORE:  Linksys Velop Dual-Band Review: A Sensible Downgrade

B. Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems of 2020: The performance

I tested the performances of these systems at the review time with the latest firmware version available then. The charts below are sorted in the reviewed order — latest on top.

I evaluate all mesh systems’ throughput performance by testing their router and then their satellite, placed some 40 feet (12 m) from the router. For the official scores, I always use the hardware units in the star topology, where each satellite unit has a direct wireless link to the router.

For throughput testing, I place the Wi-Fi client at some 10 feet (3 m) and some 40 feet (12 m) from the broadcaster (router/satellite) for the close- and long-range scores, respectively.

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

43 Comments

  1. Wired backhaul recomendation: I was considering the Lyra ($260) or 3 Blue caves ($360) or 1 RT-AC86U + 2 Blue Caves ($416) but woudl consider others. 4 story 4000 sq.ft. house with cat5e. Main computer is a MBP with 3×3 wireless. I did not see any perfomance comparisons with wired backhual. Thank you.

    1. Get the Lyra Trio, John (not Lyra). It will take a bit longer to set up, you’ll have to update it firmware etc but it’ll work great for a house with wired backhaul. Wired backhaul will give the node the same performance as the router unit, so no point in testing that for my reviews.

  2. Hi Dong, really appreciate your reviews and your detailed responses to comments. I am in the market for a new mesh system, I currently have an original eero mesh system, but I have a larger home now, ~3500 sq ft over 3 floors, and the eero isn’t quite keeping up. I have AT&T gig service but I do not have Ethernet throughout the home and am debating between the ASUS CT8 or XT8. I have a few AX devices, mostly new phones, is it worth future proofing my WiFi system for the $120 difference between the 2 systems? I am open to other suggestions as well. Beyond the phones, there are multiple non-AX devices, including laptops, tablets, video consoles and a lot of smart home devices (TVs, Hue bulbs, Google Home and Amazon Alexa, Google Nest security, Kasa plugs and switches, etc.), so I would like something that will make it easy for those to connect to going forward. Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. If you have Gigabit Internet and the house isn’t wired with network cables then you should consider a Wi-Fi 6 system, Lu. Best if you could place one unit on the first story’s ceiling (or close to that) and the 2nd on the 3rd’s floor. Both close to the middle. But you can also place on the 1st and 2nd floors, respectively.

  3. Thanks alot for answering quickly. Good valid points.
    Nice to know that part of the value of the synology router is the ability to act as a nas. I do think i’ll go with with the UDM! I like to tinker 🙂

    Im not a networking professional. Actually physical therapist, but i spend a couple of years studying software development. So im not actually going for the most ease of use. I admit I find the access to the more technical setup in the unifi products is actually alluring.
    Thanks again.

  4. Hey Dong. I really enjoy your reviews. I would like your opinion on wether I should get a Ubiquiti Dream Machine or Synology RT2600ac for our family’s 1700sq ft home. We have three small kids, aged 3,5 and 8. And timed internet access control, content filtering is a considerable benefit. I understand you are very impressed with both routers. We have a Synology nas and like it very much. But I also see the age of the synology router, and the unifi controller seems very capable.
    My reason for wanting another/new router is reduced 5ghz signal in our livingroom. So the signal strength of the two devices would be a decisive factor.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Considering you already have a Synology NAS, the RT2600ac is not necessary, Peter. I’d recommend an Asus router though, like the RT-AC86U, since it’s going to be much easier to use and will deliver what you need. But the UDM will do.

  5. Hello Dong, I have a dual-band router ASUS AC 68-U and I would like to buy a second router to set up an AImesh network. Should I get a tri-band or second dual-band router? If I set up the new tri-band router as the router and the AC68-U as the node would I have a dedicated wireless backhaul or does the node need to be tri-band as well?

    1. Get another dual band router, Stefan. And no, you want have dedicated backhaul when there’s a dual band router involved. Check my post on AiMesh for more.

  6. Thanks, Dong! Would it be worthwhile to wait for the AX8 or just pick up the CT8? From what I read, though the router is Wifi 6 capable, most devices currently are not.

  7. Dong – would you mind briefly elaborating on the eero/google information collection. I was unaware and now worried that I using one of those brands.

    If money was not a factor, which of the products you reviewed would you use?

    Thanks again

    1. I’ll write a post on this at some point but generally, these devices collect lots of information from your network to “learn” about you so that it can “improve” the performance. They might say they don’t collect this or that but you never know. The thing is, if their server goes down, you lose access to your router since you have to connect with the vendor first before you can access your network settings.

    1. The Eero (as well as Google Wifi and alike) turns the users into the vendor’s product. Considering the amount of information it collects, I don’t test it and its type anymore. At least for now, until I find a way to test it in sandbox.

  8. Cool. I’m using my ZenWifi as my main network backbone with my old AC86U as a aimesh node running backhaul via ethernet, for a little extra coverage as I suspect that the 86U still has greater range.
    I’d normally use the AC86U as the main router (having read about triband routers being ‘pointless’), but having played around with the updated firmware on the ZenWifi, I simply can’t bring myself to give it up (FW386 has a AiMesh UI page – looks like Synology’s but since I don’t own those products, I don’t have a first hand account).
    Looking forward to your analysis/discoveries.

  9. Windows 10 supports WPA3 since 1909, so does Android 10 and iOS/iPadOS 13. Thus, many people already got WPA3 compliant clients.

    And yes, WPA3 is usefull even if only one of your devices supports it. At least that connection will be more secure. And some times faster too actually:

    When it comes to privacy, Google is bad, can’t argue that. But many other vendors also profit on user data. Ubiquiti for instance, which has been in the news lately.

    I still think GWifi is a worthy candidate for this summary. For the non technical person, it’s hard to beat the simplicity/ performance/ security/ usability total package.

    1. I agree. Vendors love to collect user info, and they all do to a degree. Google has so much on us already, giving it our network traffic is a bit scary. But it’s a matter of opinion.

  10. Hi Dong, thanks for a great summary. Would you care to explain why you left Google WiFi out of it? Or even Nest WiFi? They are both great alternatives, the only reason I see not to like them must be privacy related. Features worth mentioning:
    * Optional wired backhaul, even with Nest WiFi if you only buy router units or reuse Google WiFi units with a Nest WiFi router
    * WPA3 (even for Google WiFi)
    * Easy setup
    * Great parental control
    * Decent priced and speed

    1. WPA3 is just a matter of firmware/software update. It’s totally useless unless ALL clients you have support it, which will take a long time. In short, it’s not anything worth noting right now, but maybe a few years in the future. But you got a point, Olav. The main reason I don’t include those mesh systems anymore — I reviewed the original Google Wifi when it first came out and raved about it that the time — because I personally would not use them for myself. Considering the amount of information the vendors collect, those systems should be free (and then, I still would not use them 🙂 ).

  11. Hi Dong, A little surprised that ZenWifi isn’t on this list yet. I just got mine even though it came out a couple months ago. Any thoughts on it yet? Would love to see a range/performance breakdown.

  12. Hi Dong, what’s your take on the Gryphon mesh router? The parental controls seem promising but having several devices (really heavy on the smart home devices, over 30 devices) I don’t sacrifice performance. I have been having intermittent internet and streaming issues. Or should I just stick with you list?

  13. Thanks Dong. Costco sells a version of the Orbi wi-fi 6 called the RBK 842. Any idea how it’s different than the RBK 852? Is the RBK 852 worth the extra cost and would the performance difference be noticeable vs the RBK 842?

    1. They are very similar, Jason. The RBK852 has Wi-Fi 6 on the 2.4GHz band while the 842 uses Wi-Fi 5 on this band. Since this band is not super important, you’ll likely see no difference between the two.

    1. They all have the same range. Considering there are only 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, they’ll also deliver similar speeds. That said, I’d recommend the Orbi. I like the Alien, too but you should wait to learn more about its mesh capability as I said in the review. 🙂

    1. Either one will work, Ivan. Just make sure you find good spots to place the hardware units. But if you don’t want to have to mess around with the settings, get the Orbi. The latest version for sure will work out best though it might be cost-prohibitive.

  14. Thank you Dong. I’m considering the Arris SB6183 or Netgear CM500? Which would you suggest based on longevity, stability and performance?

    Also, I read that some people get slightly faster speeds when they switch from Docsis 3.0 to Docsis 3.1, even if they have a lower speed service like 100mps. Is there any truth to that? Thanks,

    1. For your case, either one will work, Dale. But get the Netgear since the Arris is rather old and might be phased out soon, if not already. As for DOCSIS 3.1 delivering faster speed on an existing plan, don’t count on it. If that’s the case it’s only in a particular situation.

  15. Hi Dong, I’m sorry for all of the questions. I would like to get everything set up this weekend. Can you suggest the best cable modem (I have xfinity) to use with my 2x MR2200ac mesh system? I have 100mps service.

    1. Would a Docsis 3.1 modem give me better performance than a Docsis 3.0 modem?

    2. Trying to decide between Arris, Motorola, and Netgear. Depending on the model, I’ve read good and bad reviews for all of them. I really need your expert opinion. I want the one that is the most reliable and stable, but also offers the best performance.

    I really appreciate your help!

    1. For 100Mbps, any modem will do, Dale. It makes no difference if you get a more expensive modem. Get a Docsis 3.1 only if you think you’ll get 1Gbps or faster speed down the line (though you can always get a new modem then.) Modems are pretty the same, but I’d recommend a Netgear if you want to be sure.

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