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.
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.
This post will give you an overview of how each mesh brand differentiates itself from others. When through, among other things, you’ll be able to tell which brand is the best for your case.
Dong’s note: I first published this post on March 24, 2021, and last updated it on June 15 with additional relevant information.
The brief history of 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 years.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
1. The eero (Feb 2016): Ease-of-use trumps all
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 supposedly 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.
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. All variants use relatively low-end hardware housed in fancy-looking chassis.
Initially, most Wi-Fi 5 models are dual-band. Later on, there’s the “eero Pro” that’s tri-band. Finally, the eero 6 Pro is the second tri-band option. Both dual- and tri-band versions support wired backhaul, which improves the performance. So far, there’s no eero hardware with a Multi-Gig port.
The eero offers a few parental control and online protection features as subscriptions with the latest firmware. In addition, since early 2020, eero has been integrated with Apple HomeKit. (Apple certified the Wi-Fi 6 versions in late May 2021.)
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. It’ll make those with a modest broadband connection happy. But, on the other hand, 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
- Easy to set up and use, especially for iPhone users
- Good Wi-Fi speeds
- Compact design
- Comparatively affordable
- 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
2. Netgear Orbi (Oct 2016): Thinking of going fully wireless, ain’t ya?
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. Since then, Netgear has also slowly moved in the direction of coercing users into signing up for a login account and using the mobile app.
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.
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.
Netgear Orbi: The wired backhaul issue
Initially, the Orbi didn’t support wired backhaul. Later on, in late 2018, Netgear started to add this option (via firmware updates for older sets).
Unfortunately, even when you use wired backhaul, an Orbi’s 2nd 5GHz band, designed to work as the dedicated wireless backhaul band, is unavailable to clients.
This is true even when you use an Orbi tri-band router as a single broadcaster. In other words, there are no scenarios where a tri-band Orbi’s 2nd 5GHz band is used for clients at all.
For this reason, Orbi is generally good only for those needing a fully wireless mesh system.
Extra: Understanding Orbi model numbers
Generally, though not always, an Orbi set’s model number starts with RBK, like RBK50, RBK13, RBK752, RBK852, and so on.
If you ever wonder how to interpret this naming convention, keep in mind that there are three telling things in one: The first letter, the third letter, and the last digit.
- The First letter (often R or C) means the character of the hardware.
- R = It’s a regular (standard) setup, be it a single router or a mesh system. So, for example, RBK852 means this one is a standard mesh system.
- C = There’s a cable modem involved. For example, CBK752 is a mesh system in which the router unit has a built-in cable modem.
- The 3rd letter (often K, R, or S) means the hardware unit’s exclusive role.
- K = Kit. This means you’re looking at a multi-unit package. So RBK752 refers to a kit of more than one hardware unit. How many? See the last digit below.
- R = Router unit. For example, RBR750 is the router unit of the RBK752.
- S = Satellite unit. For example, RBS750 is the satellite unit of the RBK752.
- The Last digit (often 0, 2, and 3) shows the package’s total hardware units.
- 0 = Single hardware unit (either a router or a satellite.)
- 2 = A 2-pack (router + satellite). For example, RBK752 is a 2-pack cable-ready mesh that includes a CBR750 gateway and an RBS750 satellite.
- 3 = A 3-pack (router + 02 satellite). The RBK853 is a 3-pack mesh system that includes one RBR850 router and two RBS850 satellite units.
OK, if you’re confused, that makes two of us. I’m keeping my fingers crossed right now in hopes of not having made a typo, to say the least. But you get the idea.
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.
Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (RBK752)$379.99
- 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
- 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
3. Google Wifi (Dec 2016): The true eero alternative
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.
4. Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi (Oct 2016): Quirky but cool and effective
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.)
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
- 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
- MeshPoint has only one LAN port, and only works with the one router of the same Alien Kit
- No dedicated backhaul band
5. Linksys Velop Intelligent Mesh (Jan 2017): Don’t forget “intelligent” part!
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 come in multiple identical routers. You can use any as the router role, and the rest will work as a satellite(s).
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)
- Reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
- Helpful mobile app, full web interface
- Fast NAS speeds when hosting external drives
- Comparatively affordable
- 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
6. TP-Link Deco (April 2017): More bang (and options) for your buck
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. So it’s fair to say 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
- Excellent Wi-Fi performance and coverage
- Tri-band with multi-gig port and 160MHz channel width support
- User-friendly, comparatively affordable
- 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
7. Asus’s AiMesh (Feb 2018): The most versatile (and potentially temperamental) home mesh option
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. Well, almost so since some combos are better than others.
In any case, you’ll get a mesh with the most features, settings, and likely the best performance. But, most importantly, you can also use them without worrying about your privacy at all.
In return, you need to tread rather lightly with your choice of hardware since a wrong combo can be a headache. In all, AiMesh is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a gratifying option for those who are up for a bit of challenge.
AiMesh is so significant that I dedicate a whole lengthy post for it alone. Check it out.
Asus AiMesh Wi-Fi System
- 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
- 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
8. Synology Mesh (Oct 2018): The professional-grade home mesh
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, since then, Synology hasn’t introduced any Wi-Fi 6 hardware or any new hardware for that matter. Up to now, there are just two hardware options, namely the MR2200ac and the RT2600ac.
Nonetheless, Synology’s mesh feature was also a significant development that I dedicated a separate post for. So check it out and see why you should consider getting it, even today.
Synology Wi-Fi Mesh System
- 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
- Limited hardware options
- Few network ports
- Not available as a package (you need to get two or more units)
9. TP-Link OneMesh (April 2019): A patch-up home mesh
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 mentioned above.
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, this setup means the router will decide the network’s features and settings, making it seem a great alternative to AiMesh.
Alas, at the core of it, OneMesh has turned 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.
10. Arris Surfboard mAX (Oct 2019): The new kid on the home mesh block
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.
11. Netgear Knighthawk (Mid-2020): Wi-Fi EasyMesh made for a wired home
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 permanent 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)
- Reliable performance, excellent coverage
- First EasyMesh system
- Wired backhaul support
- Compact design
- Modest Wi-Fi specs, no dedicated backhaul band
- 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
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.