Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Home Mesh Brands in Brief: AiMesh, Deco, eero, Orbi, Velop, and More

Folks have been asking me to compare popular home mesh Wi-Fi systems of different vendors. Stuff like eero vs. Netgear Orbi, TP-Link Deco vs. Linksys Velop, Google Wifi vs. AiMesh, Aimesh vs. Synology mesh, so on and so forth.

This post will give you an overview of how each mesh brand differentiates itself from others. While a particular mesh set’s performance depends on its hardware, it generally shares the common attributes available in all of the brand’s variants.

So, when through with this post, among other things, you’ll be able to tell which brand is the best for your case.

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

Home mesh brand compared: Deco X5700 vs Velop AX4200
Home Mesh Brands: Most home mesh systems come in a 2- or 3-pack.

Popular home mesh brands: Two types, one list

In my opinion, there are two types of mesh systems.

The first are those built from the ground up, which I call purpose-built or canned systems. They tend to be easy to use but lacking in features and settings. You generally have to get these in a 2-pack or a 3-pack.

The second are those made from a standalone router. You first get a single router and then add more hardware to scale up the coverage when need be. These are harder-to-use but generally give you more options in features and customization.

In most cases, though, the line between these two types is a blur. That said, I’ll list them all here in the chronological order of their first release, according to my memory and experience with them.

Consequently, this order has no meaning in terms of ranking or favoritism. And this post will also give you a sense of how home mesh has evolved over the year.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.


The eero (Feb 2016): Ease-of-use trumps all

Eero 6 vs Eero Pro6 4
Home Mesh Brands: The latest eero variants, the eero 6 (top) and eero 6 Pro.

The eero — all lower case — is the mother of all canned home mesh systems. First introduced back in February 2016 as a 3-pack of identical routers, the eero started what I called the home mesh revolution.

Eero’s hardware as a service approach: Big on ease-of-use, little customization, privacy concerns

At the time, the eero’s idea was quite revolutionary. It was and has remained basically hardware as a service. You don’t really own outright the product but use it via a constant connection with the vendor who will take care of your home network for you.

As a result, the eero has always been super easy to set up and use — as long as you have a mobile device and a live connection to the Internet.

In return, you have no or little control over the system — you can’t even set it up or make changes when there’s no Internet. There’s not much in customization, either.

From the get-go, eero has been big on collecting user data supposedly for performance optimization. What data it collects is unclear, but you should be concerned about your privacy, considering Amazon bought it in 2019.

Eero: Hardware availability

The eero generally is available in identical units. Each can work as a router or a satellite.

Amazon eero 6
Home Mesh Brands: The backside of the eero 6 (left) and and the eero 6 Extender. Note the lacking of the network ports in the latter.

However, with Wi-Fi 6 models, you’ll also find an extender unit, which can only work as a satellite.

Generally, you want to use same-tier units together, but mixing them up will likely work out, too, especially in a wired setup.

Eero: Modest hardware and performance

As for performance, the eero has always been modest at best. It uses relatively low-end hardware housed in fancy-looking chassis. But it’ll make those with a slow broadband connection and wanting something plug-n-play happy.

All Wi-Fi 5 models use dual-band Wi-Fi. The eero 6 Pro is the first that uses a tri-band. You can use wired backhaul with the eero, too, which helps with the performance.

With the latest firmware, the eero also offers a few parental control and online protection features as subscriptions.

Generally, if you have wired your home, the eero can be an easy option with good performance. Just make sure you’re OK with the data collection.

Who should get the eero

If you want something super easy to use and generally reliable, the eero is an excellent home mesh choice. If you want top speeds, real control of your network, or privacy, it’s as bad as can be.

Amazon eero Pro 6 Tri-band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 Router

$229.00
6.9

Performance

7.0/10

Features

6.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

6.0/10

Pros

  • Easy to set up and use, especially for iPhone users
  • Good Wi-Fi speeds
  • Compact design
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Wi-Fi range could be better
  • Internet and login account required for setup and ongoing management
  • Minimum ports, no Dual-WAN, Link Aggregation, or Multi-Gig
  • Online Protection and Parental Control require a monthly subscription
  • Home automation feature requires Amazon integration
  • No web interface, spartan Wi-Fi and network settings
  • The eero app for Android is a bit buggy
READ  eero Pro 6 vs. eero 6: How to Get the Most out of Your Amazon Wi-Fi

Netgear Orbi (Oct 2016): Thinking of going fully wireless, ain’t ya?

Orbi RBK752 with Box
Home Mesh Brands: The Netgear Orbi RBK752 mesh set.

Netgear launched its first Orbi set, the RBK50, in October 2016, somewhat as the answer to the eero.

Negear Orbi’s hallmark: Tri-band with dedicated backhaul

But it’s a lot more than that. The Orbi’s hallmark has always been the fact this is a tri-band system that dedicates one of the two 5GHz bands as the permanent backhaul that links the hardware units.

What’s more, the backhaul band of the RBK50 was the most powerful at the time, and Netgear proprietarily tuned it solely for the back-linking purpose. As a result, the RBK50 was one of the most effective home mesh at launch and still is a formidable option today.

Netgear Orbi: Full web interface, optional mobile app

What’s also great about the Orbi is that apart from being an (optional) app-operated system — like the case of the eero — it also has a full local web interface. That’s been the case with all Orbi sets.

Consequently, users can use it without having to be hooked to Netgear at all times. They also get a standard set of network customization — stuff like Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, VPN server, QoS, and many other settings — found in most standalone standard routers.

On top of that, starting mid-2019, you can also opt for Netgear Armor online protection as an add-on subscription.

Netgear Orbi: Hardware availability

The Orbi comes in many variants with the majority being tri-band. The RBK13, released in late 2019, is the only dual-band variant, so far. They all are available in router + satellite combo, each with their exclusive role.

Orbi RBK752 Ports
Home Mesh Brands: The backside of an Orbi router and the Satellite counterpart. Note the WAN port on the router.

Indeed, the Orbi hardware is rigid. You can’t use the router unit as a satellite and vice versa, nor can you use hardware of different Wi-Fi standards — Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 — together. This makes the Orbi a rather expensive choice, especially when you want to upgrade.

Initially, the Orbi doesn’t support wired backhaul. Later on, Netgear adds this option (via firmware updates for older sets). But, in this case, the dedicated backhaul band is still not available for clients.

For this reason, Orbi is generally good for those needing a fully wireless mesh system.

Who should get the Orbi

Generally, the Orbi is expensive, and for those who have gotten their home wired, it’s a bit of a waste. That said, consider it only if you intend to use it in a fully wireless configuration.

Another thing to note is that Orbi, like most wireless systems, in general, tends to have lag (latency) issues. So it’s not ideal if you want to play online games or use real-time communications (video conferencing etc.). This is especially true if you use more than two hardware units in a daisy-chain topology.

In return, Orbi is the only mesh brand so far that comes with a built-in modem for cable users, including the CBK40 (Wi-Fi 5) and CBK752 (Wi-Fi 6) variants.

Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (RBK752)

$379.99
8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with large coverage
  • Relatively affordable
  • Useful, well designed mobile app
  • Support WAN 2Gbps Link Aggregation
  • Full web interface with all common settings and features

Cons

  • No 160MHz channel support, limited Wi-Fi customization
  • Not compatible with Wi-Fi 5 Orbi hardware
  • Few LAN ports; No Multi-Gig, Dual-WAN, or LAN Link Aggregation, or USB port
  • The fast 5GHz band only works as backhaul, even in a wired setup
READ  Netgear Orbi AX4200 (RBK752) Review: A Well-Balanced Wi-Fi 6 Mesh

Google Wifi (Dec 2016): The true eero alternative

Google OnHub
Home Mesh Brands: The Google OnHub which morphs into the Google Wifi.

Google Wifi, in my opinion, was somewhat of a “gosh, why didn’t I think of it!” moment — the search engine giant was just jealous of the eero.

Indeed. Google debuted its first home mesh in December 2016. It was the true counterpart of the eero. It’s also hardware as a service with a little customization, even worse than the eero. (And it has been that way since.)


The replacement of OnHub

Truth be told, Google had been involved with Wi-Fi much earlier.

In mid-2015, the company introduced its first home Wi-Fi router, the OnHub, which used TP-Link hardware and Google’s firmware.

The OnHub was sleek and one of the first app-operated standalone routers on the market at the time. Later on, it morphed into the now well-known Google Wifi mesh that’s the biggest competitor of the eero.


My biggest issue with the Google Wifi is that it can’t work in the AP mode as a mesh — you can only do that with a single hardware unit.

That said, you can only use it as the only router of your home or in a double NAT setup if you must keep your ISP-provided gateway.

Later on, with Nest’s acquisition and the release of the subsequently Google Nest Wifi version, the Google Wifi can now integrate with other Nest smart home devices, such as the Nest thermostat.

Google hasn’t released any Wi-Fi 6 version of the Google Wifi, and for that reason, I haven’t reviewed it for this website. (I’ve worked with them all in my past life.)

Generally, consider Google Wifi a true alternative to the eero. It has the same level of ease-of-use and privacy concern. It’s a question of Amazon vs. Google, as in who you trust more.


Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi (Oct 2016): Quirky but cool and effective

Alien Light
Home Mesh Brands: The AmpliFi Alien has a cool color touchscreen.

Around October 2016, Ubiquiti Labs introduced the AmpliFi HD as a single router that can also work as a mesh system with two add-on plug-in satellites.

The HD at the time was the first Wi-Fi router with a color touchscreen. It was a novelty. You can use this screen to manage the router (or mesh), but you’ll need the mobile app to do more.

AmpliFi: The novelty in limited hardware options

The AmpliFI HD, and subsequently the Wi-Fi 6 version of the AmpliFi Alien, sure are fun to use and effective, both as a single router as well as a mesh.

While they don’t offer a lot of customization and feature, they are not available in any other system. One of which is the Teleport VPN which makes using VPN a super easy option for home users.

So far, there are only two options, however. You can either go with the HD (Wi-Fi 5) or the Alien (Wi-Fi 6.)

AmpliFI HD Touchscreen
Home Mesh Brands: The AmpliFi HD router and its novelty-of-the-time touchscreen.

Who should get the AmpliFi

If you’re into ease-of-use, performance, and cool stuff, either the HD or the Alien is a great choice. The latter also supports wired backhaul if you want to build a fast-performing mesh.

AmpliFi Alien Router and MeshPoint

8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

9.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Dead-easy to set up and manage
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage
  • Fast performance, wired backhaul supported
  • Users can manage backhaul link and virtual Wi-Fi networks
  • Useful VPN and ad-blocking feature
  • Cool hardware design

Cons

  • MeshPoint has only one LAN port, and only works with the one router of the same Alien Kit
  • No dedicated backhaul band
  • Expensive
READ  Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit Review: An Odd Pair of Wi-Fi Tango

Linksys Velop Intelligent Mesh (Jan 2017): Don’t forget “intelligent” part!

Linksys Velop MX4200 Mesh Router 17
Home Mesh Brands: The linksy MX4200 Mesh system.

Belkin released the first Linksys Velop (model WHW0303) in January 2017 to answer both the Orbi and the eero. The full name is Linksys Velop Intelligent Mesh, with the emphasis on “Intelligent.” But of course!

Linksys Velop: A more flexible option

The intelligent notion is a bit subjective but the original Velop sure is more flexible.

It’s a tri-band system that has “dynamic backhaul” meaning it’ll use any of its three bands at any given time as backhaul or fronthaul depending on the situation.

As a result, users will have access to all three bands. And if you use wired backhaul, you won’t lose any band for the backhaul link, making it clearly a better alternative to the Orbi.

Linksys Velop: Full web interface with mobile app coercion

Like the Orbi, the Linksys Velop has both a full web interface and the Linksys mobile app.

Together with Wi-Fi 6 hardware, though, Belkin has started to coerce users into using the mobile app and a login account, which can be upsetting for long-time Linksys fans.

As a result, the Velop generally has fewer features and customization options than the Orbi. But it’s still much better than the eero on this front.

Linksys Velop: Hardware availability

Apart from the original tri-band option, the Linksys Velop has also been available in dual-band, including the Velop Dual-band and Velop Plug-in, both dual-band. Its Wi-F 6, the MX4200, or MX5300 hardware, has always been tri-band.

A Velop home mesh set tends to comes in multiple identical routers. You can use any as the router role, and the rest will work as a satellite(s).

Apart from sets, new standalone routers, such as the MR9600, or MR7350, can also work as apart of a Velop system.

When to consider a Linksys Velop

A tri-band Linksys Velop is an excellent alternative to the Orbi, and a dual-band one is about as good as the eero in a wireless setup.

In a wired backhaul configuration, though, the Velop is better than the other two.

Linksys Velop Tri-Band AX4200 Whole Home Mesh Router WiFi 6 System (MX12600)

8.3

Performance

8.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
  • Helpful mobile app, full web interface
  • Fast NAS speeds when hosting external drives
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No support for 160MHz channel bandwidth
  • Mobile app (and login account) required for initial mesh setup
  • Spartan Wi-Fi settings, modest feature set
  • No multi-gig network ports, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
  • No setting backup/restore
READ  Linksys Velop MX4200 Review: A Well-Priced Velop for a Large Home

TP-Link Deco (April 2017): More bang (and options) for your buck

TP Link Deco X5700 Cross
Home Mesh Brands: The Deco X5700 is one of TP-Link’s many Wi-Fi 6 mesh options.

TP-Link introduced its first Deco set, the M5, in April 2017 as a much better alternative to the eero.

The M5 was a dual-band 3-pack set that was more affordable yet came with many features, including Antivirus, QoS, and others. It did, too, require a mobile app and a login account. And it was also hardware as a service.

TP-Link hardware availability

Over the year, the Deco has remained the same in terms of features for the most part. All variants are app-operated.

However, TP-Link has been one of the most prolific home mesh makers.

The Deco has been available in most hardware options, including dual-band and tri-band of various performance grades and Wi-Fi standards. It’s fair to it’s a mesh brand that gives users the power to choose.

Who should get a Deco

Generally, Deco is middling on all counts. This brand has a good combo of performance, features, and price without much standing out.

If you want a system that will give you a good deal for the money, pick a Deco set that fits your needs.

TP-Link Deco X5700 AX5700 Tri-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

8

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance and coverage
  • Tri-band with multi-gig port and 160MHz channel width support
  • User-friendly, comparatively affordable
  • Good-looking

Cons

  • Spartan Wi-Fi customization, network settings, and features
  • Only one multi-gig port per hardware unit
  • No USB or additional Gigabit network ports
  • HomeShield Pro requires a monthly subscription, limited web interface, impractical design
READ  Deco X5700 AX5700 Review: TP-Link's Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Effort to Date

Asus’s AiMesh (Feb 2018): The most versatile home mesh option

Asus RT AX92U AiMesh
Home Mesh Brands: With AiMesh you can put almost and two Asus routers into a powerful Wi-Fi system.

Asus introduced the AiMesh option as an add-on feature via firmware update in February 2018, together with the release of the RT-AC86U.

Since then, this has been one of the most significant home mesh development thanks to its versatility. You can create so many mesh combo from more than a dozen (and counting) broadcasters and use them however you want.

READ  Picking the Best Asus AiMesh Router Combos: The Real-World Experience

In any case, you’ll get a mesh with the most features, settings, and likely the best performance. Most importantly, you can also use them without worrying about your privacy at all.

AiMesh is so significant that I dedicate a whole lengthy post for it alone. Check it out.

Asus AiMesh Wi-Fi System

8.6

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • The most flexible way to build a robust, scaleable home Wi-Fi mesh system
  • Excellent performance, top-notch feature set
  • Built-in online protection
  • No vendor login required or other privacy risks
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Certain routers combos can be buggy
  • Guest network not (yet) supported in most setups
  • Firmware updates might break certain working combo
  • The seemingly permanent "beta" status
READ  AiMesh in 2021: Asus's Ongoing Effort to Excellent Wi-Fi Coverage

Synology Mesh (Oct 2018): The professional-grade home mesh

Synology Mesh
When coupled with the RT2600ac or another unit the MR2200ac makes an excellent mesh system.

Synology released the MR2200ac in October 2018. Together with it, it introduced a mesh feature which is the true counterpart of Asus AiMesh.

Similarly, you can use two or more supported routers to form a mesh system. However, in my opinion, Synology Router Manager (SRM) is by far the best firmware for a mesh system.

Unfortunately, Synology hasn’t introduced any Wi-Fi 6 hardware so far, and its mesh features are available in two models, the MR2200ac and the RT2900ac.

Nonetheless, this is also such a significant development that I decided on a separate post for it. Check it out and see why you should get one for yourself today.

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  Synology Mesh Review: Home Wi-Fi Turned Pro

TP-Link OneMesh (April 2019): A patch-up home mesh

TP Link Archers AX3200 Status Light
Home Mesh Brands: The Archer AX3200 is the latest TP-Link router that features OneMesh.

In April 2019, TP-Link introduced its OneMesh approach somewhat as the answer to Asus’s AiMesh. This is an alternative to its popular Deco home mesh family.

The idea is you can get a standalone router and then use a supported extender — the first being the RE300 extender — to form a mesh.

I was quite excited about it at the time. Among other things, you will mesh will get the network features and settings of the main router, making it seem a great alternative to AiMesh.

Alas, at the core of it, OneMesh turns out to be similar to using a router and extender — the RE300 works with third-party routers, too.

As a result, OneMesh, while easy and affordable, is quite slow and overall far inferior to the alternatives.

Over the years, TP-Link hasn’t delivered much on the idea, with a limited number of routers supporting this feature and even fewer extenders being made available. And so far, none of these extenders are tri-band or supports wired backhaul.

In all, for now, consider OneMesh is what it really is: An easy and ineffective way to expand your network. It’s only suitable for those needing to deliver no more than a very moderate broadband connection.

TP-Link OneMesh Wi-Fi System

8

Performance

7.5/10

Features

7.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Affordable and easy to set up
  • Reliable performance
  • Responsive web interface, useful mobile app

Cons

  • No dedicate or wired backhaul options
  • Modest Wi-Fi speeds
  • Routers can't work as satellite units
READ  TP-Link OneMesh Review: An Affordable Mesh Alternative

Arris Surfboard mAX (Oct 2019): The new kid on the home mesh block

ARRIS SURFboard mAX AX6600
Home Mesh Brands: The ARRIS SURFboard mAX AX6600 is one of the few new mesh systems from CommScope.

In October 2019, the CommScope released its first ARRIS Wi-Fi 6 device, the SURFboard mAX PRO AX11000 mesh system. This is also the company’s very first router. Before this, ARRIS is a known brand for cable modem and gateway.

This is the top-of-the-line hardware that can deliver Gigabit speeds. Since then, the system has gone through a few changes, including a completely new app.

The gist of it, though, the SURFboard mAX remains the same. This is a canned mesh that has almost no feature or setting at all. It’s also the only one on the market that, so far, has no support for wired backhaul.

That has been the case with all variants, including the latest SURFboard mAX AX6000.

In all, the SURFboard mAX is a great system if you only care about expanding Wi-Fi coverage and don’t mind paying a lot for it.

READ  ARRIS SURFboard mAX Pro Review: Excellent Wi-Fi, Zero Customization

Netgear Knighthawk (Mid-2020): Wi-Fi EasyMesh made for a wired home

Netgear MK63 AX1800 Mesh Wi Fi 6 System 14
Home Mesh Brands: The Netgear MK63 Nighthawk Mesh system.

In mid-2020, Netgear released its first Wi-Fi EasyMesh-based system, the Nighthawk MK63. (And in early 2021, it unveiled the MK83.) This is an alternative to the networking vendor’s Orbi family.

The Knighthawk mesh line shares the same feature set and mobile app as Netgear’s Nighthawk routers. It, too, has a full web interface with lots of customization. Most importantly, it doesn’t come with a permeant dedicated backhaul — it’s excellent for wired backhaul.

On top of that, supporting the Wi-Fi EasyMesh concept, there’s a chance it will work with hardware from other vendors of the same standard.

Like the EasyMesh concept, the Netgear Nighthawk mesh is relatively new. So far, I have only reviewed the MK63, which turned out to be a pretty good mesh option.

But generally, if you’re looking for a flexible system that’s won’t dig a hole in your wallet, the MK63 is a good choice. In fact, it can be an excellent one if you have gotten your home wired.

Netgear Nighthawk Mesh Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 System (MK63)

8

Performance

8.5/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Reliable performance, excellent coverage
  • Affordable
  • First EasyMesh system
  • Wired backhaul support
  • Compact design, easy to use

Cons

  • Modest Wi-Fi specs, no dedicated backhaul
  • Limited number of ports, switch required for wired backhaul configuration
  • Lacks basic Wi-Fi settings, no 160 MHz channel width
  • No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
  • Finicky QoS, online protection require mobile app and not free
  • Not wall-mountable
READ  Netgear MK63 Nighthawk Mesh Review: A Modest but Reliable Performer

Home mesh brands: The takeaway

There you go. These are all popular home mesh systems in the market. There are others, but chances are they are not as significant.

You’ll note that none of the brands above will give you everything. In the end, you have to choose between the ease-of-use, performance, features, and privacy. Find a combo you can tolerate and go with it.

12 thoughts on “Home Mesh Brands in Brief: AiMesh, Deco, eero, Orbi, Velop, and More”

  1. Hey Dong, great post. My Orbi Rbk50 router just died after 4 years. I have gigabit and I’m looking for full wireless with no backhaul for about a 2500 sq foot property with outdoor cameras. Orbi served me well but stuttered at times. Looking to spend around 300 plus tax. I like the idea of wifi6 and tri band future proofing. Any suggestions.

    Reply
  2. 2 Costco specials- which to choose:
    Velox AX4200 2pack for $229 or netgear MX63 3pack for $200?
    The house isn’t big enough that I really Need additional units and I would prefer to go wired back haul.
    Recommendation?

    Reply
  3. Dong, I see you mention AiMesh as a versatile system for mixing and matching ASUS’s line. Is TP-Link’s OneMesh comparable?

    Reply
      • Thank you for the response Dong!

        I have a wired backhaul set up too. they are very similar except the xt8 has usb port.

        Reply
        • Sure, Jeremy. If you haven’t gotten one yet, with a wired setup, I’d recommend a dual-band set. More here. But the TP-Link will work out fine, and yes, an Asus set will give you a lot more features, including those relating to the USB port.

          Reply
          • i’ve got my place fully wired up actually.

            Which would you go for within the price range of a pair of xt8?

            it’s a new place so i’d like to “future proof” it if possible 🙂

            Thanks again Dong!

          • I don’t keep tabs on the pricing, Jeremy. But the post I linked in the previous reply will help.

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