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Mesh Wi-Fi Systems, Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters

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You must have heard of "mesh," "Wi-Fi system," or "mesh Wi-Fi system," and might even have some idea of what they are. They refer to the same thing. And this post is a lot more than just semantics.

I'll explain in simple terms this type of Wi-Fi solution and offer tips on how to build an optimal one for your home. Sometimes, the little things I mention here can make a big difference.

Right off the bat, similar to the case of getting a single router, only you would know which mesh system fits you best -- no "expert" can decide that for you from afar. There's no one-size-fits-all Wi-Fi solution. This post aims to point you in the right direction.

Tip

There's no such thing as "best" routers for a particular Internet service provider or type -- Fiber-optic, Cable, or whatnot.

If you run into that type of information somewhere on the Interweb, it's likely nonsense content written for SEO purposes.

Any standard router, including the primary unit of a mesh Wi-Fi system, will work, at its full potential, with any standard Internet broadband terminal device -- modem, Fiber-optic ONT, or others. That's true as long as the two can connect via a network cable, which is almost always the case.

Compatibility is generally applicable only between a terminal device and the ISP. For example, certain modems work with Comcast Xfinity while others might not. This is also the case for any gateway unit.

In relatively rare non-standard cases, some Fiber-optic lines might require a router that supports VLAN tagging (a.k.a IPTV). The majority of Wi-Fi 6 and newer routers support this.

Dong's note: I originally published this piece on April 28, 2018, and updated it on July 15, 2023, with up-to-date information.

Synology WRX560 vs RT6600ax
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: A set of two Synology standalone routers can make an excellent Synology Mesh system.

Mesh Wi-Fi network explained: It’s more than lumping a bunch of broadcasters together

A mesh Wi-Fi system has more names than those mentioned above, but "mesh" is a short and sweet moniker. I like it.

The mesh concept has been around for a long time in enterprise applications. In February 2016, mesh entered the consumer-grade space in a big way when a company named eero -- all lowercase -- announced the original eero Wi-Fi system. Since then, there's been a boom in home mesh options, and the rest is history.

Popular home mesh brands: Their Similarities and Differences

With that, let's start with the simple question: What constitutes a mesh Wi-Fi system?

What is a mesh?

In a sentence, a mesh consists of multiple centrally-managed Wi-Fi broadcasters working together to form a unified Wi-Fi network.

Initially, "mesh" meant using multiple centrally managed Wi-Fi broadcasters wirelessly linked together to create a single network. Nowadays, using network cables as the backhaul links is commonplace -- it's the only way to get the best-performing mesh system, as you'll learn more about below.

There are two ends to a Wi-Fi connection: the broadcasting and the receiving. In the traditional infrastructure configuration, a Wi-Fi broadcaster is always an access point, which can be part of another device, such as a Wi-Fi router. One Wi-Fi broadcaster can handle multiple recipients (clients.)

You need at least two separate Wi-Fi broadcasters to form a mesh -- many purpose-built mesh systems are available as a 2-pack.

These hardware units are called different things by different vendors, such as base stations, access points, nodes, satellites, hubs, mesh points, Wi-Fi points, routers, etc.

But in all cases, one of them acts as the primary router unit to connect to the Internet -- each network only needs one router -- and the rest of the hardware units links back to this router unit to extend the Wi-Fi coverage.

This link is called the backhaul.

Backhaul vs fronthaul

When you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters -- in a mesh network or a combo of a router and an extender -- there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signals broadcast outward for clients or the network ports for wired devices. It's what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

Backhaul (a.k.a backbone,) on the other hand, is the link between one satellite Wi-Fi broadcaster and another, which can be the network's primary router, a switch, or another satellite unit.

This link works behind the scenes to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular broadcaster.

The connection type, a Wi-Fi band or a network port, used for the backhaul is often called the uplink. A Wi-Fi broadcaster might use one of its bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz) or a network port for the uplink.

Dual-WAN: Where the distinction between bandwidth vs speed is clear

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct parties occurs in a single band, using one fixed channel, at any given time. This principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards, up to Wi-Fi 6E.

When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it's called the dedicated backhaul.

In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware -- those with an additional 5GHz band -- can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.

Generally, it's best to use network cables for backhauling -- wired backhauling. And that's an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a satellite broadcaster can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

Let's find out when a mesh system is necessary.

When do you need a mesh?

Generally, it's best to have just one broadcaster (typically a Wi-Fi router) in a home or an office to avoid interference.

In a situation where a single router doesn't provide enough Wi-Fi coverage, we need more broadcasters, and that's when a mesh is applicable.

As for as Wi-Fi is concerned, more hardware is not necessarily better. A mesh is not an upgrade to a single broadcaster in terms of performance. It's a necessary alternative in coverage.

Besides the coverage, a Wi-Fi system doesn't solve any problem you might have with a single router of the same specs and feature set. Using multiple broadcasters too close to one another can be a bad thing.

It's hard to say precisely when a mesh is needed. But generally, if your place is airy and of 1800 ft2 (167 m2) or less, you probably only need a single broadcaster. In this case, a standalone Wi-Fi router near the center is better than getting a mesh.

A Wi-Fi broadcaster's coverage depends a lot on the layout of your home, the number of walls, where you place a broadcaster, etc. The cabinet below will give you some highlights on general expectations in the Wi-Fi range.

Extra: Wi-Fi range in brief

Wi-Fi range, in theory

The way radio waves work, a broadcaster emits signals outward as a sphere around itself -- the range is the radius of this sphere.

The lower the frequency, the longer the wave can travel. AM and FM radios use frequency measured in Megahertz -- you can listen to the same station in a vast area, like an entire region or a city.

Wi-Fi uses 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz frequencies -- all are incredibly high. As a result, they have much shorter ranges compared to radios. That's not to mention a home Wi-Fi broadcaster has limited power.

But, regardless of Wi-Fi standards, these bands generally share the following: The higher frequencies (in Hz), the higher the bandwidth (speeds), the shorter the ranges, and the more bandwidth progressively lost over increasing distance.

Generally, bigger Wi-Fi broadcasters tend to have better ranges than smaller ones. Still, it's impossible to accurately determine the actual content of each because it fluctuates a great deal and depends heavily on the environment.

That said, here are my estimates of home Wi-Fi broadcasters' ranges determined via personal experiences:

These were determined in the best-case scenario, i.e., open outdoor space on a sunny day. Also, note that Wi-Fi ranges don't die abruptly. They degrade gradually as you get farther away from the broadcaster. The distances mentioned below are when a client still has a signal strong enough for a meaningful connection.

  • 2.4GHz: This band has the best range, up to 200ft (61m). However, this is the most popular band, also used by non-Wi-Fi devices like cordless phones or TV remotes. Its real-world speeds suffer severely from interference and other things. As a result, for years, this band has been considered a backup, applicable when the range is more important than speed.
  • 5GHz: This band has much faster speeds than the 2.4GHz band but shorter ranges that max out at around 175ft (50m).
  • 6GHz(*): This is the latest band available, starting with Wi-Fi 6E. It has the same ceiling speed as the 5GHz band but with less interference and overheads. As a result, its actual real-world rate is faster. However, due to the higher frequency, it has just about 70% of the range, which maxes out at about 130ft (40m).

(*) Wi-Fi 7 has a new feature called Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) that, when implemented, increases the broadcasting power of the 6GHz band enough to make its range comparable to that of the 5GHz.

Some might consider these numbers generous, and others will argue their router can do more, but you can use them as the base to calculate the coverage for your situation.

Wi-Fi range in real life

Wi-Fi broadcasters of the same frequency band and broadcasting power generally deliver the same coverage.

Specifically, they are all the same if you measure the signal reach alone. What differentiates them is their sustained speeds and signal stability, or how the quality of their Wi-Fi signals changes as you increase the distance. And that generally varies from one model or Wi-Fi standard to another.

In real-world usage, chances are your router's Wi-Fi range is much shorter than you'd like. That's because Wi-Fi signals are sensitive to interferences and obstacles.

While the Wi-Fi range doesn't depend on the channel width, the wider a channel, the less stable it might become -- it's more susceptible to interference.

The new 6GHz band generally doesn't suffer from interference other than when you use multiple broadcasters nearby. On the other hand, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz have a long list of things that can harm their ranges.

Common 2.4 GHz interference sources
  • Other 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi broadcasters in the vicinity
  • 2.4GHz cordless phones
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Bluetooth radios (minimal)
  • Microwave ovens
Common 5 GHz interference sources
  • Other nearby 5GHz Wi-Fi broadcasters
  • 5GHz cordless phones
  • Radars
  • Digital satellites
Common signal blockage for all Wi-Fi bands: Walls and large objects

As for obstacles, walls are the most problematic since they are everywhere. Different types of walls block Wi-Fi signals differently, but no wall is good for Wi-Fi. Large objects, like big appliances or elevators, are bad, too.

Here are my rough estimations of how much a wall blocks Wi-Fi signals -- generally use the low number for the 2.4GHz and the high one for the 5GHz, add another 10%-15% to the 5GHz's if you use the 6GHz band:

  • A thin porous (wood, sheetrock, drywall, etc.) wall: It'll block between 5% to 30% of Wi-Fi signals -- a router's range will be much shorter when you place it next to the wall.
  • A thick porous wall: 20% to 40%
  • A thin nonporous (concrete, metal, ceramic tile, brick with mortar, etc.) wall: 30% to 50%
  • A thick nonporous wall: 50% to 90%.

Again, these numbers are just ballpark, but you can use them to know how far the signal will reach when you place a Wi-Fi broadcaster at a specific spot in your home. A simple rule is that more walls equal worse coverage.

Mesh system vs individual extenders or access points

It's important to note that just because you have multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters in a network doesn't mean you automatically have a mesh system. As mentioned above, having two or more hardware pieces is only part of the requirements. Let's take a closer look.

A mesh system consists of multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters (access points or extenders) that work together and can be managed in one place, such as a mobile app or the web user interface of the router unit.

In a mesh with wireless backhauling, each satellite unit of the system is essentially a centrally-managed Wi-Fi extender. In a mesh with wired backhauling, each satellite unit of the system is essentially a centrally-managed managed access point.

The biggest difference between a mesh system and using multiple individually-managed broadcasters is that the former gives you better ease of use, low (or no) interference between broadcasters, and seamless handoff, while the latter doesn't.

Extenders are quick and dirty fixes that work to only some extent and will likely break when you change your Wi-Fi settings (SSID, password, etc.) On the other hand, thanks to the wired backhauling, an individually-managed access point can deliver excellent performance.

An access point always delivers better performance than a wireless mesh satellite of the same Wi-Fi grade.

Extra: The access point mode of a mesh system

When you put the router unit of a mesh system into the access point mode, the entire system is now working in this mode to extend the network of the initial router, allowing you to still manage the Wi-Fi settings of all mesh units via the interface of the primary unit.

But this AP-mode-as-a-system is not available in all mesh brands. Some canned systems, such as the Google Nest Wifi, only have this AP mode when you use each hardware unit individually.


Mesh Wi-Fi network: The benefits

Using a real mesh network has many advantages over lumping a bunch of Wi-Fi broadcasters together willy-nilly. Specifically, there are three main things to gain from a Wi-Fi system:

1. Ease of use

A Wi-Fi system is easy to set up. At most, you only need to set up the primary node (the router). After that, the rest of the satellite will replicate the Wi-Fi settings and expand the coverage.

That's the case in the ongoing management, too. For example, you only have to do that on the router unit when changing Wi-Fi settings, such as the network name (SSID) or password. The system will apply that to the satellites automatically.

Asus GS AX5400 Aimesh
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The mesh section of an Asus mesh system where users can manage all broadcasters in one place

2. Seamless hand-off

In a mesh, it's easier to have continuous connectivity on your device when roaming from one broadcaster to another, as though there's just one.

Specifically, as you roam around within a mesh's Wi-Fi coverage, the device in your hand will automatically switch to the broadcaster with the best signals. Additionally, signals from one mesh unit don't adversely interfere with those of another.

By the way, signal hand-off works on band per band basis and doesn't require Smart Connect, where you name all bands as a single network (SSID).

The seamless hand-off also applies when two or more satellites are in a wireless setup.

In this case, a satellite will automatically pick which other satellite or the primary router to form the backhaul link, depending on the real-time condition.

Notes on the seamless hand-off

It's important not to take seamless literally. That doesn't exist.

Physically, the client needs to disconnect itself from one broadcaster and move to another, and there's always a brief interruption during the process -- it's a matter of how quickly. It's seamless when it happens so fast that you don't notice it.

But generally, you will always notice the interruption if you use real-time communication apps -- like Wi-Fi calling or video conferencing. To avoid that, pick a location with solid signals and stay there.

However, if you stream a video or do general web surfing, file downloading, etc. The transition can appear seamless.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • For seamless hand-off to work, involved hardware devices on both sides (broadcasters and clients) must support the IEEE 802.11r, 802.11v, or 802.11k standard.
  • Most Wi-Fi systems and clients support at least one standard above, but there's a chance they don't feature the same one, so seamless hand-off is not a sure thing. In any case, turning Wi-Fi off and back on, or disconnecting and then reconnecting to the SSID, is the sure way for the client to connect to the best mesh broadcaster.
  • It's the speed that matters. If your connection is fast enough for your task, there's no need to be concerned about which mesh point within the system your device connects to.
  • Wi-Fi doesn't follow human logic in terms of distances. Within a specific range where signals are consistently strong (or weak) to a certain extent, devices might not see anything better or worse between closer or farther broadcasters.
  • The oversensitive hand-off is not a good thing. Constant jumping from one broadcaster to another will cause unstable connectivity.

In my experience, via testing hundreds of hardware devices, the seamless hand-off is almost always hit or miss. It varies depending on your existing router, clients, and other factors.

Mesh hardware often uses the connection speed as the base for the hand-off.

Specifically, a client would consider jumping from one broadcaster to another only when the connection speed between it and the current broadcaster is no longer fast enough for its general bandwidth needs.

Depending on the situation and varying by hardware or Wi-Fi standard, this threshold can be very low, like 50Mbps, because most clients generally don't need more than that in real-world usage.

In any case, this is the reason why in specific mesh setups, devices are more clingy to a far mesh node -- they don't reach the speed threshold required for the jump yet.

3. Better performance

All the broadcasters work together as a single unified Wi-Fi network in a mesh. As a result, they leverage one another's Wi-Fi signals to deliver the best efficiency instead of working independently.

For this reason, multiple wireless mesh satellites generally have better performance and reliability than using extenders of the same Wi-Fi grade at the exact locations.

Still, wireless backhauling is temperamental, and using network cables to link the broadcasters -- wired backhauling -- is the best way to build a well-performing mesh Wi-Fi system.

Signal loss: The biggest drawback of wirelessly connecting broadcasters

There's always signal degradation due to distance or interference when wirelessly linking Wi-Fi broadcasters. And, if you use dual-band (or Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E) hardware, there's also this phenomenon I'd call signal loss.

That's when a satellite broadcaster's wireless band receives and rebroadcasts Wi-Fi signals simultaneously. Having to do two things simultaneously, the band has, at most, only 50 percent of its bandwidth on either end.

Take a specific example of the Asus RP-AX56, which is a dual-stream (2x2) AX1800 broadcaster. It has up to 1200Mbps on the 5GHz and 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz.

In a wireless setup -- as a standard extender or a mesh satellite -- we can expect the RP-AX56 to deliver the theoretical fronthaul ceiling speed of 600Mbps on the 5GHz band. The band's half of the bandwidth is used for the backhaul link.

The signal loss won't happen when you get either of the two bands to work exclusively as backhaul. But in this case, the broadcaster will be slow due to the speed limitation of the 2.4 GHz band.

The speed numbers above are theoretical. In real-world usage, the actual sustained rates will be markedly lower due to distance, interference, and additional overhead.

Mesh Wi-Fi network and Wi-Fi 6E

Starting in 2021, we have new hardware that supports Wi-Fi 6E.

Wi-Fi 6E: What it is behind the hype

Wi-Fi 6E has a new 6GHz band. As a result, for compatibility reasons, all of its hardware (broadcasters and clients) will come with three bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. It's a new type of Tri-band instead of the traditional Tri-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 5GHz).

Having three different bands, a Wi-Fi 6E broadcaster is not better than a Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 counterpart in a wireless mesh configuration. Like Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or 5 hardware, it has no extra band working as the dedicated backhaul.

In other words, a Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E mesh is similar to a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 counterpart in wireless backhauling. Consequently, a Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E mesh system also suffers significantly from signal loss unless used via wired backhauling.

To fight signal loss, networking vendors use hardware with an additional 5GHz band (5GHz + 5GHz + 2.4GHz).

Netgear is the pioneer on this front with its Orbi product line, which dedicates the second 5 GHz band to backhauling. This type of dedicated backhaul allows the other two bands to focus on serving clients.

Even then, you still have to deal with Wi-Fi signals getting weaker over the range. So, the best way to combat signal loss and degradation in a wireless backhauling mesh is to set up your system correctly.

Using multiple broadcasters in a mesh vs non-mesh setup: The summary table

The table below includes a general idea of when you should use a mesh system vs other non-mesh setups and what type.

Overall
Grade
Speed
(at the router)
Speed
(at satellite)
Seemless
handoff
Top Applicable
Broadband
Speed

(real-world performance)
Note
Mesh with Multi-Gig wired backhaulingUltimateGigabit or fasterGigabit or fasterYesMulti-GigabitPerformance decided by port grade
Mesh with Gigabit wired backhaulingBestGigabit or fasterGigabit at mostYesGigabitGenerally, Gigabit is the top speed
Router + Access pointGoodGigabit or fasterGigabit or fasterMaybeGigabit and fasterPerformance decided by port grade;
Can be a real mesh system with certain hardware
Mesh with mixed wired and wireless backhaulingOK to GoodGigabit or fasterdepend on the backhaulYesGigabitSlow performance at the wireless satellite
Mesh with wireless backhaulingOKGigabit or fasterSub-Gigabit or slower;
Potentially 50% signal loss;
Performance at satellites depends heavily on the backhaul range
Yes≈500Mbps or slowerSlow performance overall
Router + ExtendersBadGigabit or fasterSub-Gigabit or slower;
50% signal loss
No≈150Mbps or slowerSlow performance;
Hard to manage;
Potentially unreliable
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The general use cases of multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters

How to best set up a mesh Wi-Fi system

A mesh system often comes in two or three broadcasters -- referred to as a 2-pack or 3-pack.

One works as the primary router that connects to an Internet source -- such as a cable modem, a Fiber-optic ONT, a gateway, or another router -- using its WAN port. After that, the rest work as satellites to extend the network of the router unit.

Some mesh systems come with pre-synced hardware, such as the Asus ZenWiFi or Netgear Orbi family. All you have to do is set up the router unit and then place the satellite at a reasonable distance.

Others require adding the satellite manually via a mobile app or a web interface. After that, they automatically work with the main router to form a unified Wi-Fi network.

Extra: Mesh and gaming

This portion of extra content is part of the explainer post on gaming routers.

Mesh Wi-Fi and Internet quality for gaming and real-time communication: Important rules

For the best online experience -- including online gaming or whenever you want to make sure the connection is the most reliable and with the lowest latency -- it's always best to get your home wired.

Get your home wired (almost) like a pro today!

After that, connect your gaming rig to your network via a cable. No matter how fast, Wi-Fi is always less ideal and will put a few extra milliseconds, or even a lot, on your broadband's latency.

Reliability and low latency are more critical than fast speeds in gaming or any real-time communication applications. So it's more a question of wired vs Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi 5 vs Wi-Fi 6.

But we can't use wires all the time. That said, the rule in Wi-Fi for gaming is to avoid multiple hops.

Specifically, here is the order of best practices when connecting your gaming device to the network via Wi-Fi:

  1. Use a single broadcaster -- just one Wi-Fi router or access point.
  2. If you must use multiple broadcasters (like a mesh system), then:
    • Use a network cable to link them together (wired backhaul).
    • If you must use a wireless mesh, then:
      • Connect the game console directly to your home's first broadcaster -- the primary router. Or
      • Connect the gaming device to the first mesh satellite node using a network cable. Also, in this case, it's best to use tri-band mesh hardware.
      • Avoid the daisy-chain mesh setup.
  3. Avoid using extenders. If you must use one, make sure it's a tri-band.

Again, the idea is that the Wi-Fi signal should not have to hop wirelessly any additional time before it gets to your device -- you'll get significantly worse latency after each additional hop.

The general rules of connecting mesh Wi-Fi hardware

A satellite must be behind the primary router unit of a mesh system in terms of the network connection. Specifically, it needs to connect to the router directly or indirectly -- via a switch or another satellite.

This arrangement is generally automatically the case in a wireless backhauling setup.

In a wired backhauling setup, you won't have a mesh if you connect the satellite to a device in front of the router, like an existing switch or an Internet gateway.

Mesh Hardware Connection Diagram
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: Here's a diagram to connect mesh broadcasters, applicable in situations where you have both wireless and wired backhauling. If a satellite doesn't have a WAN port (the case of an access point), use its LAN port.

That said, here's a simple diagram to connect a mesh system's hardware via network cables:

Service line -> Modem or Gateway (*) -> the primary unit of the mesh (the router) -> switch(es) / satellite unit(s) -> (switches) -> more satellites.

(*) If you use a gateway, check out this post on double NAT.

eero 6
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The eero 6 Extender unit (right) has no network port, making it impossible to have a wired backhaul.

Wired backhauling: The only way to get the best-performing mesh

Again, wired backhauling is the only way to have the best possible Wi-Fi performance out of a mesh network.

In this case, you don't need to worry much about hardware arrangement. You'll get the same performance from each broadcaster regardless of distance or placement. Still, place them strategically so they can collectively blanket the desired area.

If you have Gigabit-class Internet and want to enjoy it via Wi-Fi, Multi-Gig wired backhauling is a must. Alternatively, you can use a good MoCA connection, but Powerline won't cut it.

In a wired backhaul setup, you can also use unmanaged switches between broadcasters or daisy-chain the mesh hardware -- all the more flexible in hardware placement.

But running network cables can be hard or even impossible in some situations. So the use of wireless mesh systems is commonplace. In this case, how you arrange the hardware is crucial.

Wireless backhaul: Convenient but temperamental

Over the air, the wireless connections between the mesh broadcasters can vary greatly depending on the range of each broadcasting unit.

So, in mesh Wi-Fi coverage, there are two things to consider, distance and topology.

1. The distance

That's the gap between two directly connected broadcasters.

The closer you keep them to each other, the stronger the signals are between them, which translates into faster client speeds. The catch is you'll have less Wi-Fi coverage and probably more interferences.

On the other hand, a longer distance means more extensive coverage, but you'll have a slow Wi-Fi network, especially when the system has to use the 2.4GHz band for backhauling. This band has a better range than 5GHz.

Most, if not all, Wi-Fi mesh systems automatically pick the 2.4GHz as backhaul when you place a satellite unit too far away. This is true even for those with permanent 5GHz backhaul by default or when you manually pick a different band (5GHz or 6GHz) for the job.

It's tricky to find the sweet spot that balances coverage and speed. Generally, if there are no walls in between, you can place a satellite between 50 ft (12 m) to 75 ft (23 m) from the primary router unit -- 30 ft to 40 ft is the maximum distance if there are walls.

The easiest way to find out where you should put the satellite is via the signal indicator on your phone or laptop. You want to place it where the signals of the band you intend to use as backhaul, which is often the 5GHz, change from full bars to one or two bars lower.

More on those bars or visual ways to figure out the Wi-Fi signal strength at a particular location in this post on Wi-Fi power.

Ultimately, it's the speed that matters. If you only need modest network speeds -- such as in a home with slow broadband -- you can go a bit crazy on the distance to get the most extensive coverage.

2. The topology

In a wireless setup, signal loss and latency are inevitable. To reduce their effect is where topology comes into play.

Topology is how you arrange the broadcasters. It's relevant only in a system with wireless backhauling that includes three or more hardware units. Have a 2-pack mesh? You can skip this part.

Mesh Topology
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The recommended star topology (top) vs daisy-chain topology applies mainly to a mesh without wired backhauling.
The star topology

This one is the recommended topology. It's where you place the satellites around the primary router.

This arrangement ensures each satellite directly connects to the main router, making the Wi-Fi signals hop only once from the router before it gets to the end client.

The daisy-chain topology

The daisy-chain topology refers to when you linearly place the hardware units. As a result, the signal has to hop more than once -- from the main router to a satellite, then to another satellite, etc.-- before it gets to the device.

In this case, the actual speed will suffer greatly, and you'll experience severe lag due to compounded signal loss. In a wireless setup, it's always a good idea to avoid this topology.

Tri-band hardware with a dedicated backhaul generally has better speed than dual-band. Still, it's best not to daisy-chain the broadcasters.

Netgear Orbi RBKE960 Quad-band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The Netgear Orbi RBKE960 series is the first Quad-band mesh system ideal for a wireless or mixed environment with sub-Gigabit bandwidth demand.

Mixing wired and wireless backhaul

In many cases, you can't use wired backhauling throughout and need that extra wireless satellite at a tricky spot.

If so, keep the following in mind:

  • It's always better to mix wired and wireless backhauls than pure wireless.
  • Only Wi-Fi clients connected to a wireless-backhauled satellite will suffer signal loss. Those connected to a wired broadcaster will still enjoy fast and reliable connections.
  • It's best to wire the router to a satellite and then use another wireless satellite (that connects to either.)
  • It's OK to wire the broadcasters together and have (any of) them connected to the router wirelessly. However, in this case, clients connected to any satellite will still suffer from signal loss.
  • In a mixed setup, how the dedicated wireless backhaul (available only in traditional tri-band hardware) works depends on the vendor. Some specific examples:
    • If you use Netgear hardware (Orbi, Nighthawk), the dedicated backhaul band is never available to clients. It's wasted.
    • Linksys Velop, eero, TP-Link Deco: It'll work dynamically.
    • Asus AiMesh or Synology mesh: It can be opened up to clients and is no longer dedicated (for the wireless satellite.)

How to pick the best mesh Wi-Fi system for your home

First, remember that you should avoid using hardware of different Wi-Fi standards on the same frequency band.

For example, Wi-Fi 6 hardware generally won't work well with the Wi-Fi 5 counterpart in a system -- the two use the same 5GHz band differently. In some cases, they can work, but your luck will vary.

After that, there are four things you should consider when getting a Wi-Fi system: hardware units, speed, features, and privacy.

1. Number of hardware units

A home Wi-Fi broadcaster emits signals outward, somewhat like a sphere. Conservatively, you can assume each can cover about 1500 ft2 (140 m2) -- multiple floors. Now consider these:

  • In a wireless setup, you can't place the hardware units too far away from each other, as mentioned above.
  • In a wired setup, you can place them farther so their signals won't overlap, though it's OK if they do to a certain extent. (Use a phone or laptop to determine each unit's coverage, as mentioned above.)

Use the numbers above to figure out how many broadcasters you will need. Generally:

  • If a single broadcaster is almost enough, then a 2-pack will do.
  • If a 2-pack of low-end hardware is barely enough, a 2-pack of a higher-end will be perfect.
  • If you're comfortable with a low-end 3-pack, a high-end 2-pack likely won't cut it -- you'll need a new 3-pack set of a similar higher tier.

It's always tricky to figure out the number of necessary broadcasters. The good news is you can always start with a 2-pack and add more units later to scale up the coverage.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is an excellent choice for those wanting a solid mesh with Multi-Gig wired backhauling.

2. Speed

Speed is, by far, the most critical factor. And this depends a lot on if your home is wired with network cables. Here are some quick bullet points:

  • Gigabit or faster: Getting your home wired is a must.
  • 300Mbps to Gigabit: Wiring is recommended, but traditional Tri-band wireless mesh will do.
  • Slower than 300Mbps: Most systems will do, though it doesn't hurt to get your home wired.
  • For a wired home: It's generally best to get a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or a Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E system. There's no need for hardware with an additional 5GHz band.

Generally, for sharing a modest Internet connection (100Mbps download speed or slower), any mesh system, especially one using the Wi-Fi 6 standard, will do. The reason is that even slow Wi-Fi speed is still much faster than the broadband speed.

However, if you pay for a fast Internet plan -- 300 Mbps or higher -- you'll need a system that has a dedicated backhaul band or a top-tier dual-band system.

And if you have an ultra-high-speed internet connection (500 Mbps or faster), you'll need to run network cables to connect the broadcasters. There's no way around this.

Even when you use a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, you won't get full Gigabit at the end device unless you use wired backhauls.

Again, with a wired backhauling, all you need is a Dual-band system with top Wi-Fi speed. But if you want to get the last, pick one among these Wi-Fi 6E systems.

For example, the Asus ZenWiFi XD5 will deliver excellent sub-Gigabit Wi-Fi rates in a wired setup. If you have Gigabit Internet, a couple of Asus RT-AX8xU units or most dual-band Wi-Fi 6 systems will do.

If you intend to mix both wired and wireless backhaul, it's good to use a system that supports both well, such as a Tri-band AiMesh or Netgear Orbi set.

And finally, if you're looking into Gig+ broadband, that's Internet speed faster than Gigabit, you must get your home wired and use one of these systems with multi-Gigabit wired backhauling.

3. Features

The feature set of a system means what you can do with your home network.

If all you want is Internet access, don't worry about the features. However, it's always helpful to have a system that includes lots of customization and built-in online protection.

AiProtection ZenWiFi AX
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: Network Protection is one of many features the Asus mesh systems have to offer.

I'm not a fan of mesh systems (or routers) without a web interface since they don't offer users complete network control.

If you want many valuable features and network settings, use one of these advanced DIY mesh approaches. The runners-up are canned systems from TP-Link, Netgear, or Linksys. Others tend to have a limited amount of features and network settings. In return, they are much easier to set up.

4. Privacy

All Wi-Fi systems requiring you to register a login account for setup and ongoing management can cause privacy risks.

Your router and privacy risks: It's about the (lack of) awareness

Your network connects to the vendor at all times; potentially, third parties can keep tabs on what you do online. What happens behind the scenes is generally unknown, and some vendors are worse than others.

Extreme examples of this type of what I'd call "data-mining mesh systems" are those from Google and Amazon. I'd recommend against them even though they might offer reliable performance and ease of use.

Synology mesh routers RT6600ax WRX560 and RT2600ac
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems: Synology Mesh is one of the best mesh options for privacy.

Final note

The primary broadcaster of your mesh system should be the only router of your home network.

If you already have an existing router, such as when you can't remove the ISP-provided gateway, get a mesh that can work in the access point (AP) mode. In this case, the mesh extends your existing home network without offering any features or particular settings.

Or you can also turn the existing gateway into a modem by putting it into bridge mode.

Double NAT vs Single NAT: How to best use the ISP-provided gateway

No matter what setup you decide to go for, two things are always true:

  • Using network cables to link the hardware units is the only way to get the best-performing system.
  • Wi-Fi is always a matter of nuance:
    • It never works like when you connect your computer via a network cable.
    • The performance is always worse than what the vendor claims.

That said, get your home wired, take what the vendor says with a great grain of salt, and most importantly, read each mesh review with some attention. Match the information with what you want, need, and your home's layout, and you'll be able to figure out which best suits your situation.

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439 thoughts on “Mesh Wi-Fi Systems, Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters”

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  1. Hi, thanks for this helpful article. A quick question: How reliable are the mesh systems where one relies on the system to keep switching users between bands? Is one better off creating three separate SSIDs for the three separate bands and then manually connecting to one or another depending on how good the connection is in a particular part of the house?

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  2. thank you for such a great post Dong. I may have the simplest question. I have a three-piece mesh network that I can’t backhaul wired. everything is set up wireless. My stereo/receivers and televisions are located right next to the two wireless mesh nodes. Currently I have them set up wireless to the wireless nodes but I could easily run cat cable to the nodes. I’m a novice but it sounds like that makes sense to do? So basically my television and receiver would connect to a node wired and the node would backhaul to the main mesh modem wireless.

    Thanks for your insight,

    David

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong,
    I think my RT-AX86U is reaching it’s limit, about 85+ connections, which is why i’m seeing dropoffs.

    Thinking of adding another to create a mesh, would this alleviate the load by splitting the load? I would probably put them in a wired setup next to eachother, although that might cause other problems.

    Or should i just go for a better router that supports 100+ connections. I have no problem with coverage overall, i just have a lot of smart devices.

    Thank you,

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this great article which convinced me to go to the extra effort of hardwiring my 2nd Synology RT6600ax mesh point which was previously wireless. I’ve run ethernet cable from the 2nd mesh point to the location of the 1st mesh point, which is already hard-wired to the primary. However, what’s best – directly connect the 2nd to the 1st (i.e. daisy chain them), or add a switch between the primary and the 1st and also connect the 2nd to that switch, so that both mesh points connect directly to the primary via the switch?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  5. I may come late, but this proves your excellent articles is still relevant years after its initial posting.
    Situation is a large (I mean, large) open office space where I would distribute 3 or 4 wifi broadcasters, one the primary router. Planning on wired backhaul.
    The ISP infrastructure sits in a cubicle outside of the office space, and is where all cabling comes together. This is the place where a POE switch will be installed, also connecting to wired devices like printers etc.
    Does this mean I will need to run 2 (two) ethernet cables from the cubicle to the primary router broadcaster?
    1. One from ISP infra to primary router
    2. One from primary router to POE switch

    Reply
    • That’s correct, Roel. The router must be the first device after the Internet source. Check out the related posts in the box at the beginning of the post for more. Good luck with the project!

      Reply
  6. Hi Dong:
    Does it matter if your main router shows the satellite routers as clients, rather than AI Mesh nodes. They’re hard wired with Cat8 cables on different floors of my house.
    I upgraded a motherboard and had to reset my Asus AX89X router. It used to show the main router and 2 nodes with double green connection lines. Now they show up as clients.

    Reply
    • If you reset the router, you have to reset and set up the satellites again, Edgar. Satellites, when working properly, are also shown as clients by the way.

      Reply
  7. Hi Dong,

    I have a quick question, about the interaction between a modem and a mesh system.

    Firstly, for various reasons I have decide to opt for a mesh system and am planning on purchasing one from your recommended page.

    Currently, I have an awful generic modem/router from my ISP, which to my understanding, I’ll have to plug my main mesh router into.

    My question is, if I am using the mesh system, does the quality of the modem that it is plugged into significantly matter? ie If I get one of the best mesh systems available, would I be severely limiting its performance using my generic modem. If so I’ll obviously need to purchase a new Modem as well.

    Thank you for your time!

    Reply
    • I have a similar setup to yours. All i can say is the obvious. Your mesh is downstream from your modem. If the modem is slow or dropping packets there isn’t anything your network can do to make it better. The best you can hope for is to not make it any worse.

      Reply
  8. Hey Dong,

    I’m a little confused trying to figure out the best configuration for my scenario, any input would be greatly appreciated…

    Brief rundown… I recently got rid of spectrum and am using T-Mobile 5G Home Internet, which is new to me because traditionally I’ve always just had the main connection point be a coax port in the wall… however with T-Mobile 5G home internet, the modem/router can be placed anywhere and the ideal location is wherever the strongest signal can be had… This is where it gets wonky for me… I live in an apartment and am on the 1st floor, so for my situation I happened to have found the best placement for my modem/router (Sagemcom model) is in my garage (lol)…

    This is where my uncertainty comes in… With the best placement being in my garage, I can connect via wifi on my PC/phone in the nearest room to the garage and get 350mbps download 25mbps upload peak, sometimes more sometimes less… If I place the main modem/router in that room instead of the garage, I get 200-250mbps download 15-20mbps upload at best, often times it will be 150mbps at most…

    So what I did was order the Asus zenwifi xt8 mesh 2 pack as well as a moca 2.5 two-pack from Asus (the ethernet ports on the moca are 2.5gbps if it matters)

    To my knowledge the T-Mobile 5G Home Internet modem/router from Sagemcom cannot be put in bridged mode, (however I think it may be possible to disable the wifi with some powershell stuff)
    Oh by the way, the reason I ordered moca adapters is because I’m having trouble getting decent wifi speeds at the other end of the apartment – and unfortunately the apartment is not wired with ethernet, but does have coax already run. (Unfortunately there’s no coax ports in the garage though)

    What I’m trying to determine is if it would be best to setup the zen wifi xt8 main node as an access point/extender and have it wirelessly connect to the T-Mobile router in the garage since that’s where the best signal/speeds would be had… or my concern is that setting it up to connect to the main router wirelessly would impact performance to a higher degree than the 100-200mbps speed loss by just keeping the T-Mobile router in the house and connecting the XT8 mesh to the main router with an ethernet cable… I’m also wondering if with all the above specs/details in mind- whether or not the performance from just using the XT8 wireless backhaul to the satellite on the other end of the apartment might be better than daisy chaining it with moca?

    Hopefully I did an okay-job at explaining that.
    Thanks in advance for any input, it’s greatly appreciated !

    Reply
  9. Hey Dong,

    Quick question for ASUS routers and wired backhaul.
    I have the ROG AX-6000 and would like to backhaul it to another ASUS unit. Due to wiring difficulties/access, I may end up having to connect through a switch.
    I really wanted to put in another AX-6000, as you previously suggested. However, if am unable to directly wire them together, will a switch kill the 2.5G port connection advantage. If so, just use a lesser client instead of the ROG AX-6000?

    Reply
  10. “Wi-Fi doesn’t follow human logic in terms of distances.” Thanks, as I see this in my own network with my 80+ connections and keep wondering if I should try and ‘improve’ things or just leave it alone. I’ll just leave it alone.  I’ve got an ASUS RT-AX58U, and use a Python script that number crunches the system log to see which devices are having issues (connecting, disconnecting), and with time, everyone is pretty settled. When a device gets ‘noisy’, a simple reboot or moving it a bit usually settles it down. In another post, you mention that adding a wireless mesh node to a wired mesh one only slows the wireless. Thanks, I was wondering about that.
    AiMesh SmartConnect with three ZenWiFi AX Minis backhauled by MOCA (iperf3 at 800-900 mbps) covers 3000 sq ft, three floors, in a suburban environment. 

    Reply
  11. Thanks Dong for your valuable insight. My ISP requires me to use their Wifi Router/ Gateway as I also subscribe my TV service from them. However, with the only one Wifi Router, I am getting many dead spots at my home. Hence I am looking to upgrade to a Mesh set up (wired backhaul). However, my ISP informed me that I can’t turn their router/gateway to bridge mode as the TV cable boxes won’t work. If I don’t want to run a double NAT set up, and use a Eero set up, I will need to turn them all into AP mode. With the Eeros in AP mode, while using the ISP main gateway (with its WIFI turned off), will I lose the Eero’s seamless handoff capabilities? Thanks for your advise!

    Reply
      • Thanks Dong for your advice. This set up is for my parents place who isn’t very tech savvy and Im not there all the time. Hence I’m trying to find something that just works and is reliable and apps where I can delegate admins. From my impression both Nest and Eero seems to excel in this from a set up and forget perspective but Nest can’t go into AP mode, so need to try out how double NAT would affect the network in real life. Do you have other suggestions in terms of brand and mesh set ups (that can work in AP and yet still have handoff function) that would fill this criteria? Thanks

        Reply
  12. Hello Dong,
    Thanks for sharing so much insight. I came across your blog as I’m having issues with my current mesh system. I have a tri-band Wifi 5 Velop mesh (3 units) with a wired backhaul via MoCA (can’t run ethernet cables as it’s a rental) and my ISP provides 1Gbps service. However no matter what I do, I get unreliable wifi speeds between 40 and 110 Mbps but perfect 900-1000 Mbps on wired connections. The ping seems off too, when browsing there’s often a 2-3 seconds delay before the page starts loading (only on wifi not on wired or on 5G for the phone). I have a fair number of smart devices so the 2.4GHz is likely saturated but even when I make sure to be on 5GHz it’s still poor.
    I’m considering switching the system to TP-Link XE75 but I’d like to make sure moving to Wifi 6E would actually address my issues. Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Nobody knows, but you, Arthur. It’s likely your “smart” devices. Check out this post and change things up accordingly. Make sure you spend some time and read carefully. Wi-Fi is about nuance.

      Reply
  13. Hello! My current home network is using an MB8611 Modem, RT-AX58U AX3000 Dual Band Router and the ZenWiFi AX AX6600 Tri-band Mesh WiFi system (two nodes). Paying for 1 Gig speeds. Seeing 770 Mbps download and 37 Mbps upload. Should I upgrade the router from dual-band to tri-band? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Your setup doesn’t seem right, Christopher. So,

      1. Make sure you read this post.
      2. Check out this one on how to set up AiMesh.
      3. Extra: This post talks about speed testing.

      It’s impossible to give you a quick answer since there are so many variables. You need to figure stuff out yourself. Give it some time and really read — don’t skip around — the posts, and you’ll figure it out.

      Reply
  14. Interesting article. I’m just trying to understand whether the hype is purely marketing or if there is an advantage to “MESH.” It seems like a traditional network with wired backhaul access points accomplishes the same thing. I understand “MESH” when it comes to protocols like zwave where each device is both a receiver and a transmitter. You extend your range by adding new devices. I needed to install zwave wall switches in a room that was out of range from the next closest device, so I swapped out an outlet in the hallway, getting me coverage. Ideally, there would be multiple paths to my bedroom, but sometimes we have what we have. The way you describe mesh though, it just sounds like traditional wired APs or the agreed-on bad performance from a wireless extender. But nice article.

    Reply
    • Give the post a serious read, Chip. From your comment, I don’t think you actually read it thoroughly. And if you didn’t, you missed a lot of not all of it. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Thanks Dong. Your posts specifically on MESH networking have been a huge help and I’m happy to say I have my home configured based on many of the details you shared. In the end, It was a fun project to build out. After wiring my home with CAT6a, I ended up with an all ASUS setup comprised of the AXE16000 as the main router setup in mesh with the WIFI-ET8 nodes as well as a segmented network where my AXE16000 connects to an AX55 which is then in mesh with an AX3000. The only reasons for this layout were 1. The inability to centrally locate my main router and 2. The inability to use the Guest network of my main router as an IoT network. I ran into numerous issues where 2.4GHz devices simply refused to connect to the Guest(1) network. So in the end I was able to create two separate mesh setups, both with wired backhaul, the main one being 2.5 and the second being 1Gb. So far everything has worked flawlessly and I can say that your insight helped me through several areas in refinement. Appreciate all your knowledge and for sharing it with us all. Be Blessed.

    Reply
  16. Hi Dong,
    First of all, I would like to tell you that I have very much enjoyed this particular post on Mesh WiFi.
    I am seeking for advice and an expert eye on how to get the most of my Asus AiMesh setup, as I fear from the current test results that I have conducted that it is not yet optimal and could be improved. Let me describe my current topology and configuration.
    I have 2 ZenWiFi Pro XT12, one configured as AiMesh Router mode, and the second one as an AiMesh node. They are physically distant by about 10 meters, with half walls in between. I am on a 1Gbps Internet (FTTH) service from my ISP. I have setup Tri-band Smart Connect. The 2.4 GHz band is setup as 20/40MHz. The 5 GHz-1 band is setup as 80MHz. The 5 GHz-2 band (backhaul) is setup as 160MHz, to be used as backhaul and fronthaul connection. I confirm that I am having no particular RADAR interference on that band, therefore fully benefiting from the 160MHz, for those Wi-Fi 6 AX devices connected to it (these devices are showing link speed RX / TX of 2402/2402 Mbps when checking the network adapters). When I conduct an Internet “speed test” on an AX device connected to the AiMesh node 160MHz band, I am getting 540Mbps download and 263Mbps upload. The first thing is I don’t understand why the upload is not at the same level as the download? When I run the same Internet “speed test” on a device connected to the AiMesh Router, I am getting 800 to 900Mbps both for download and upload. Are these poorer performance results on the node somewhat expected, or could I get better performance by changing my current WiFi configuration? Note that I need to stick to a wireless backhaul and cannot consider a wired backhaul due to my home configuration.
    Thanks in advance for any feedback and suggestions!
    JC

    Reply
  17. Hi Dong,
    Great article and I’ve now set up mesh (both wired and wireless) from reading it.. thanks.
    2 questions
    1. I can(and should as there’s a dead spot) add a second wired back haul.. there’s cable between my home office back to modem..but with my Deco X60 there’s only 2 ports. 1 is used from modem the other to my first wired unit. I’m a bit of a novice here, so what do I need to get to presumably place between main unit and the 2 wired units to get proper wired back haul?
    2. My sons bedroom although it has good signal from one wired nodes has a wireless node in order to daisy chain to another node at bottom of garden (only way I can do this).
    So on his gaming pc.. is it better just to use the pc WiFi and make sure connects to wired node, or use a wired connection to the wireless node?… suppose I’m asking if the node wireless connection is better than a pc one?
    Thanks so much

    Reply
      • Thanks for such a quick reply…
        1. I’ll go research gigabyte switch(was the word switch a link? Doesn’t seem to work)
        2. so it seems no real difference between WiFi to primary node or wired to wireless one… suppose just try both and see which ping us quicker!

        Reply
        • You can get any of these, Jeremy. Pick one with the number of ports that meets your need — more on switches here. With wired backhauling, generally, the performance is the same between the primary router and a satellite. Wireless backhauling is far inferior on all counts. More about how to best use multiple broadcasters in this post.

          Links are generally underlined and have different colors. 🙂

          Reply
  18. Hello Dong! I would like to double-check one thing. I am currently preparing CAT cables for all rooms, but regardless of the setup I pick (wired mesh, wireless mesh, or just plain APs connecting to the switch), one thing after reading lots of articles on this site is puzzling me. For example, if I connect a system like ET12, XT8 to my ISP router (or to the switch connected to the ISP router), can I have CAT cables for the other in-house devices like a desktop computer connected in front of the connection point where ISP router LAN connects to ET12 WAN? I don’t plan to connect my main desktop computer over the mesh system, but directly via a cable to the ISP router or a switch connection to it. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes, you can but you’ll have a double NAT — more in this post. It’s not about a matter of “can” or “cannot” but about how THAT works and if it’ll work for your need.

      Reply
  19. I hooked up my 3 deco m4 mesh and I have one outstanding issue. I cannot connect to my security dvr which is 192.68.1.x. /85 using the mesh. Any ideas.

    Interestingly I am using a static IP for the router and I can connect to the DVR from outside my home mesh network.

    Reply
  20. Hi Dong,

    If I completely ignore the ease of management, is there an actual technical difference between (a) running a main router + secondary APs all set to the same SSIDs/keys and (b) running an AiMesh? (Asus, specifically).
    Again, other than the ease of management, is there a benefit in choosing (b) over (a)? If there is, why?

    Some of the reason I ask is – I plan on setting up 3 Asus devices (RT-AX86U) in my house across 3 floors, and using AiMesh would force all 3 floors to run on the same channels, potentially causing interferences between each two adjacent floors. Whereas if I set them as non-aiMesh I can choose to run on different channels and avoid interference (but still keep same SSIDs/keys). Would I be losing anything by choosing non-aiMesh aside from ease?

    Thanks, could not find a clear answer anywhere online that speaks to the technical difference if any.

    Itay

    Reply
    • It depends, Itay since we can’t take stuff in absolute terms. Without the “mesh” notion, you’ll have to worry about signal hand-off, interference, and other things. But most enterprise-grade network consists of multiple APs on top of a router. It’s a matter of what APs you use. An example is in this post. So the answer is it depends. 🙂

      Reply
      • Appreciate your response, however I’m not sure I understand why it ‘depends’.

        I understand that it can vary whether or not I get better performance in one option over the other, but in terms of what it actually does when you enable mesh, there should be a pretty clear answer on what the technical difference is.

        From a technical standpoint (if I literally looked at the code), does setting “AiMesh” do anything more than just send the configuration to the other APs and sets them to the same SSID and keys automatically or does it apply any more logic and exchanges data between the APs and the Router that I would otherwise not have?

        In terms of ‘seamless handoff’, even if I don’t use AiMesh I could still set a signal threshold for each AP to kick the client which to my understanding is the same thing AiMesh does.

        To my best understanding, there is no technical difference between the two options except one configures everything automatically from one management console (but also enforces some constraints, such as running all APs on the same channel) while the other you need to configure manually (without constraints), but the end result would be the same.

        Any reason to think that’s wrong? There’s a lot of handwaving around Mesh with no explanation anywhere on the technical aspect and if there’s actually a technical difference.

        Thank you, appreciate the input and discussion!
        Itay

        Reply
        • It’s hard when you can only see black or white, Itay.

          Let me repeat: it depends.

          Specifically, if you use certain types of access points with a controller, you can have an enterprise-class mesh system that’s better than the notion of “mesh” that you know. I use mostly these in my daytime work. Examples: TP-Link Omada APs, Ubiquiti UniFi APs, or Netgear Insight Managed APs. There are also other hardware options that you’ve never heard of. It’s all in the firmware. Most home “canned” mesh systems use dumbed-down firmware to make things easy for home users, they are not the end-all-be-all of “mesh” but they sure are better than when you use a bunch of mixed APs willy-nilly.

          Take it or leave it. I’m not interested in validating or invalidating what others already (want to) believe. 🙂

          Reply
  21. Thank you for the informative site! I was wondering if you could weigh in on my situation when you have a moment. We live in a 2400 single story L shaped house. We currently have a tmobile modem/router at the corner of the L, with poor service at one of the ends of the L (master BR.) Our download speeds are usually from 50-150mbps. I would like to improve service throughout the house, and also bring service to a barn about 500ft away. I don’t need to increase our max speed though as we just use wifi for email, browsing and occasional movie watching.

    For the home I was thinking to use a wifi6 mesh router system such as the Eero 6, with a router and two access points, router at the current T mobile modem/router. For the barn I was looking at the EZ bridge LT+ device to bring signal to the barn, and then use another eero router at the barn to distribute the signal.

    Does this setup seem like a good idea? Any suggestions? I wasn’t thinking to wire the access points in the house but am not sure how much performance loss we would get.

    Reply
  22. Hey Dong, Great article, and I must say you are my one-stop source of wifi home networking knowledge source. I understood that mesh is just an alternative and not ideal for a single broadcaster. However, a 2-story house about 4500 sqft with 5-6 bedrooms, and several drywall obstructing a clear line of sight broadcasting. So when I have an opportunity to build a house from scratch, and can request the builder strategic ethernet ports in all rooms (Bed, Study, office space, Living and Entertainment rooms, etc.), then It is advisable to have a central Primary Hub router and distributing to all such 15 to 20 ports using an unmanaged switch. (I assume this is your recommendation as well)

    However for all my KASA TP-Link Smart switches (about 90 of those), wifi streaming Devices (5-6 of those) Google mini (15 of those), Work and personal computers which can either dock or go wireless frequently) 6 of those.

    How would you suggest designing a Mesh and wired routing design topology?

    Should I just have three GT-AXE11000 or Six satellites of TP-Link AX35300 for best performance if my spending budget is around $1500?

    I have an ATT Gigabit Up & Down Modem and Router Combo (Model BGW320).

    Please suggest. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  23. Thanks for the info.
    I have a wired network that I added a mesh wifi system to, so one receiver is plugged into the network.
    I can comunicate from the wireless devices to other wireless devices and from wireless devices to wired devices, I can comunicate from wired devices to wired devices.
    What I can’t do is comunicate from wired devices to wireless devices.
    I understand that I need to tell my wired network that the wireless devices exist but I don’t know how.
    My printer is on the WiFi, and my PC is wired and I can’t see the printer to print.

    Reply
    • This can be many things, Mike. But chances are you have chosen to use your Wi-Fi (or your wired network — less likely) as the “Guest Network” or isolate it somehow. More in this post. (Note: this is a specific and potentially complicated matter, you might want to hire a professional, or put aside some time to really understand it. If you want a quick answer, there’s none.)

      Reply
  24. Excellent write-up and endlessly informative. I work for a ‘small’ family plant nursery and we are wanting to implement a mesh network for employee use to cover our 7 acres of grounds. It is flat, and mostly unencumbered except for a number of greenhouses but we are an outdoor facility and having a hard time trying to find a good option to suit our situation. The location of our main offic and retail point of sale is very much to one-end of the property and so our main hub will be favoring one quarter of the grounds heavily thus suggesting daisychaining is in our future. We are relegated to wireless backhauling due to the layout of the property and inability to extend more wiring.
    Given this and the vastness of the property, I was just curious if you might have any tips or system suggestions for us?
    Thank you so much

    Reply
      • Our dilemma with running cables is a lack of available ground to trench and a strict policy against exposed overhead lines between buildings. If running underground conduit is the only option I guess we will have to assess a means to do so. Our current arrangement only really was hoping to provide enough signal to pair a few security cameras at the corners of the property and offer infrequent access to our inventory system by tablet wifi access.
        Thank you for your speedy response by the way

        Reply
  25. Thanks for this article. I must say I found it very informative and it has helped me improve my Ai mesh setup.

    Switching the toplogy from daisy changing and placing the routers closer has made a world of difference

    Reply
  26. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for the info!

    My current setup is as follows:
    Asus RT-AC68U: Main Router (in basement)
    Translite MC84-W: 2nd floor of main home Access point (connected via MOCA)
    EAP615-Wall: Access point in detached outdoor studio (connected via ethernet)

    I have everything on the same SSID and have specified the channels on each to avoid interference.

    How much of a ‘seamless handoff’ benefit could I expect if I consolidate the router / AP in the main home to Ai-mesh instead? I could buy a new Asus router to replace my current main router and move my existing unit upstairs to replace the Translite MC84-W.

    Reply
    • It could be a lot or nothing at all, Jonathan, depending on your devices, and what you’re experiencing right now, as mentioned in the section about the hand-off. But going with AiMesh will make managing your network much easier. Also, run a 2nd cable in the place of MoCA.

      Reply
  27. Hello Dong,
    For my house I need to use daisy-chain wireless mesh of 3 or 4 units, ideally achieving 1Gbps broadband speed throughout.

    If I use an XT12 as the main router, and another XT12 as a node, I get Max Rate of 4804 Mbps on all 5 GHz BSSIDs at 160 MHz.

    If I then add my GT-AX11000 as a node – that needs to connect to the ‘node’ XT12 in daisy chain (ie XT12>XT12>AX11000), as otherwise it can’t reach the main router – I get a drop to 2402 Mbps at 80 MHz at 3 out of 6 BSSIDs.

    Is this drop from 4804 to 2402 Mbps what I need to expect? And swapping my GT-AX11000 node for another XT12 (to achieve XT12>XT12>XT12) would not change anything due to how tri-band routers work?

    Many thanks.

    Reply
  28. Hello Dong, I’ve got a question about the topology of nodes. I read this article and the reader questions and dongknows.com/mesh-wi-fi-system-explained/#2-The-topology. (And a few others as well) I’m not sure how to combine the info given. I’v got a GT-AX11000 and 2 RT-AX92U’s. They are in a mixed wired/wireless set-up. I understand when you connect the 92’s to the 11000, all the benefits of the big boy are available through the network. Since you can prioritise to what piece of hardware the node connects I have in my specific situation the choice that the wireless 92 node connects to:
    The 11000 with ‘weak’ signal quality;
    The 92 which is connected via ethernet to the 11000 with ‘good’ signal quality.
    What’s the better option? Are there differences at all to which it connects if the one 92 is wired to the 11000?

    Hope to hear from you, best regards Henk.

    Reply
      • Hi Dong, thanks for pointing me to that article. I read that as well before posting the question. I think I’m not knowledgeable enough to apply what I’m reading to my situation. I understand the shortcomings of mixing dual- and tri-band hardware. I also get that in a full wireless set-up you should not daisy chain the nodes. What I do not get is the ‘in between situation’. I have a mixed wired/wireless set-up. I can link the second node wirelessly to the main router with ‘poor’ signal quality. Or I can link de second node to the first node which is wired to the main router with ‘good’ signal quality. My gift-feeling tells me that in this case the latter should be better (since the connection between main and first is wired), but I’m not sure? And re there other things to consider?

        Best regards, Henk

        Reply
        • Wi-Fi doesn’t work the way general humans perceive things they can see — it’s invisible and I mentioned that briefly in this part which you probably didn’t read. The system will decide which source the satellite should connect to in real-time for the best result — it’s called “a system” for a reason. I’d be more concerned about how the 2nd 5GHz band is used in your situation. Generally, it’s not a good idea to look for specific answers all the time — put two and two together! For example, while it’s fair to ask which pair of gloves keeps you warmer, it’d be a bit too much if you followed up with “What if I have just one glove?” or “Can I mix them up?”. That’s a long way to say that your question was irrelevant — there’s no good answer to it.

          Reply
  29. Hi Dong,

    I appreciate your experience and expertise. I have a unique situation that I’m hoping you can advise me on. My place has three homes on the property. The main house (800 sqr ft) + 1st ADU cabin (400 sqr ft) located 70 feet from the main house + 2nd ADU cabin (also 400 sqr ft) located about 70 feet from the 1st ADU cabin and 140 feet from the main house. I currently have a rented xfinity gateway with 300mbps and an outside repeater to send the signal to the ADU cabins. This works but not well. The cabins only get about 40-50 mbps and they are constantly loosing connection and or having buffering issues when streaming movies etc. So I want to go with a mesh system if possible. I want to stop paying equipment rental fees so I ordered a new Netgear Nighthawk CM1100 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem and I’m wondering if you can suggest which mesh system might work best with my situation.

    Reply
    • You’re on the right post. The entire post is my suggestion. Make sure you read it, Jim! Starting with the intro. Good call on getting your own modem!

      Reply
  30. Dong,

    Do you have experience in wifi point to point compatibility between different suppliers …( i.e. Deliberant APC 5M-12 and a Ubiquiti Loco 5M).. I had a multipoint setup with an old deliberant system and one transmitter has failed. I was hoping to just add a Ubiquiti into the mix (deliberant has merged with ligoWave and sales rep wasn’t sure of compatibility, LigoWave is 3x the price of a Ubiquiti so I thought maybe the Ubiquiti would be an option)… Is there any way to look at compatibility aside from frequency? (eg. protocols, others) what else should I be looking for/at?

    Reply
    • I’m not sure what you meant by “compatibility” in this case. If you’re talking in terms of Wi-Fi connectivity, then that’s a matter of standard. All devices from all vendors are supposed to (and will) work with each other. If you meant hardware management, then the answer is likely no.

      Reply
  31. Hey! Thank you very much for this post. I decided to acquire a Mesh networking system, the D-Link COVR. The network works really well but the setup is way too simplified and it seems not to work with switches: when I connect their Internet port to a switch, they seem to get very confused and not cooperate well to create the mesh network. Right now I am about to test that again to see if that is really the case. I wish I had found your post before making a purchase! Haha. Thanks again.

    Reply
  32. Hi Dong

    Many thanks for these extremely informative articles.

    I would like to be able to roam my devices as seamlessly as possible in a largish house. I would prefer to run two Unifi U6-Pro “Access Point WiFi 6 Pro” APs off a router, and until the UDR becomes available, an ASUS router is attractive.

    You do recommend router+APs as a better option than two routers with one in AP mode.

    Could this be a set and “interfere minimally” arrangement, having the controller software run off a Synology 920+ using Docker?

    Or would it be best to wait until Ubiquiti release a fitting router to better facilitate roaming through their APs?

    Reply
  33. Great writing!

    What would you recommend for a wired appartment where I plan on using the asus mini mesh system around the appartment plugged inn via ethernet, connected to a technical cabinet where my modem ( different provider) stands. Is it possible to find an Asus router that would work with the minis? or do I have to use the one mini as a router connected to a switch, and then buy another mini ( I need 3 to cover my appartment well.. solid concrete walls) and plugging the 3 in to the wall ( going to a terminated connection in the technical cabinet connected to the switch) ?

    Horrible explaination, but to sum up. Can you combine an asus router with the asus mini mesh system? or could you possibly combine one of the XT8 ( as a router, since it has enough LAN ports) with the minis ( working as nodes?) Or do I have to use a switch and buy another mini making it a total of 4units?
    If I had 900$ to spend on a mesh system I would just buy 4 of the XT8, but that’s not sensible.

    Reply
  34. Dong, Outstanding write-ups on all your topics. Love reading them; extremely informative. I looked around and I’m not sure I found an answer to this:

    Q: Not sure how effective clients that comply with the IEEE 802.11r, 802.11v, or 802.11k standards handle “hand-offs”. If handled well, does that mean that any Network that uses APs with the same SSID as the main router should “act” like a mesh (even more so Netgear EX8000 and EX7500) so long as the client complies with these standards? What part does the AP node or router play in this?

    I assume the primary disadvantage is the number of used channels and possible interference within the wireless network vs that in a Mesh.

    Reply
    • That’s the idea, Derec, but in reality, there’s more nuance to this — among other things, these standards are not compatible with one another and not all devices support all of them — as I mentioned in the hand off section of this post.

      Reply
  35. Hi, I just recently updated to At&T 2 gig internet speed. I have purchased the Orbi AX6000 852. The router has a 2.5 gig ethernet port and 4 gigabit ports. The Satellite has only 4 gigabit ports. My question is, in order to get as much speed as possible over a gig to the Satellite is should I keep the mesh wireless, or would it be better to do a wired backhaul to the Satellite? I am thinking if I wire it, My Satellite will cap at a gig of speed while the main router is able to do the full 2 gigs. I appreciate any feedback for the best setup.

    Reply
  36. Hi Dong,
    I’m looking into overhauling my network system in my house.
    I currently have a TP-Link router to serve the main house and a wired AP to serve the external garage and parts of the outside security system.

    The problem I have is that when I get home my Phone locks onto the Garage AP and doesn’t let go even if I’m standing next to the home router, which is unfortunately expected in this setup.

    Based upon what I see above, for ASUS routers with AiMesh, when setting up a mixed 2 and 3 band router/AP respectively, I assume the AiMesh router will still manage the AP (vs a node) and have seamless handoffs. Is this correct? (Concern that in access point mode, as in my garage situation, there won’t be a seamless handoff.). I wasn’t sure if the Wifi 6, when thrown into this mix, caused issues in hand off. Or is it best I get matching multi band router and node system?

    Also as a side question, Does ASUS routers provide a means to set the threshold point for hand off, or does it strictly work on whichever is the stronger signal? My observation is that TP-link OneMesh routers seems to have a signal strength hand-off point. If the router and node are too close together one may never reach a minimum signal strength threshold to hand off.

    Reply
  37. This is such a great source of information and I appreciate all the time you put into maintaining the information. I see where ASUS has released their new ZenWiFi AX XT9 and was wondering if that is on the roadmap for review anytime soon? I have an old single router to replace in my home and like the XT8 system, but will wait for the XT9 system if its significantly better.

    Reply
  38. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for the very informative articles. Just a quick question regarding my current setup.

    I previously had a 3 pack ASUS Zenwifi CD6 mesh system, but found the router in this setup to be underpowered with a single 775Mhz processor with 128MB RAM and causing buffering with 4K streaming etc. I have replaced the Zenwifi CD6 router with a Asus AX-86U, and put the old Zenwifi CD6 router into AIMesh node mode to use as an additional node, all three CD6 nodes are hardwired back to the AX-86U and it’s in Ethernet Backhaul Mode. Am I correct in thinking that now the AX-86U is doing the heavy lifting with routing etc the underpowered CD6 nodes are ok to use as AIMesh nodes? I assume they are fundementaly now providing an AP function within the mesh so their lack of processing power shouldn’t cause an issue? Just wanted to know whether the processing power of AIMesh nodes is that important.

    Reply
  39. Hi Dong, hope you’re still managing this post.
    I currently have the 3 Lyra’s setup but it’s lacking.
    I’m thinking of
    1) getting a new Asus router as main and have the 3 Lyra’s as nodes (to be cost effective)
    or
    2) spend a bit more money and go with Unifi APs.
    My home has at least 10 devices using Wifi at the same time, some are streaming netflix/youtube and the others are browsing or working (conference calls).
    Which out of the 2 solutions would you recommend? (3000 sqft home not including basement)

    Reply
    • Hi Ben,

      1. I hope that you actually read this post in its entirety (your questions suggested otherwise.)
      2. Considering #1. I’d recommend you get a tri-band Wi-Fi 5 AiMesh router and use the Lyra as the satellites.
      3. Your issue might be Internet-related and has nothing to do with your Wi-Fi. More in this post.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong

        Yes I didn’t read the whole blog so sorry on that. But thanks for the reply and recommendation =)

        Reply
  40. Hi Dong,
    Based on a re-read and detailed look at your articles. I have decided to do the following: I ordered an RT-AX86U for the primary node of the mesh. I will put the BGW320 Arris ONT / Gateway in IP Passthrough and map it to the AX86U. I also ordered 2ea of the XD6’s for my secondary nodes and will use wired backhaul. I have to figure out how to run CAT5e or better cable out to my shop, but I committed to wired backhaul with my choice and purchase. Thanks for the help and the in depth write ups. I am still re-reading them.

    By the way, I am in Semiconductor Sales and one of the lines I represent is Qorvo…I now have a burgeoning customer that will be designing Wifi 6/E solutions to supply to service providers. I am starting to dig in to FEMs and PAs for building Gateways/Routers. I don’t know whose FEMs the ASUS products use, but will be tempted to open the case and look 🙂

    Take care,
    Andy

    Reply
    • That’s a good setup and will work out well, Andy. Keep me posted if you find something interesting with those FEMs. 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi Dong,
        Just following up to let you know I received my AX86U and 2pack of XD6’s. I have the ONT Gateway in IP passthrough mode and fixed it manually to the MAC address of the AX86U. I also turned off its radios…I connected its output to the AX86U WAN port and ethernet backhauled from AX86U LAN port to the XD6 (WAN port) in my office across the house.

        I am getting 600Mbps pretty symmetric up/down with my MacBook Pro and closer to 700Mbps with iPhone when in the office. I have my wife’s iMac connected directly/wired to the XD6 LAN port and the iMac is getting over 900Mbps since all is hardwired back to the AX86U.

        Very pleased with the choices so far. I started this process due to how many Teams/Zoom/Webex meetings I attend using my MB Pro in my office and I was not getting enough signal for the video to be great every time…I lost connection from time to time all too frequently. I will next learn how to manage QoS through the ASUS web interface which is quite good, and prioritize my MB Pro for help with these Video Meetings.

        Setting up the AIMesh with the ASUS tool was easy and their tool is intuitive and nice to use. Lots of interesting information available with that tool!

        I will add ethernet cable to get out to the shop from the AX86U and add the second XD6 node out there.

        I made my product choices purely from what I learned on your site…including cable selection and installing ports on the Cat5e cables for my backhaul. Thanks for a well done bunch of lessons and tutorials…very cool!

        -Andy

        Reply
  41. Hello Dong, I have a follow up question…I did read the size matters post…Thx! I am still deliberating. I started reviewing my router in my Arris Gateway supplied by AT&T for their Gig fiber service…BGW320-500. I was looking at it to make sure I could put it in passthrough mode and turn off its internal antennas. It started making me wonder if, instead of setting up a mesh, would it work well if I pulled a wire to the shop somehow and place a satellite in there and also a satellite in my office where I already have a wire pulled and treat them like APs…?? Would I get better performance this way or with a mesh as we described in below post? Thx!

    Reply
  42. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for the insight and the humor. If I buy through the links in your article is there a way to help your site benefit? Would like to do that if it helps.

    Thanks!
    Andy

    Reply
  43. Hello Dong, I have been reading multiple articles on your site. Great information. After reading, I believe the Asus brand AiMesh line up was possibly the best fit. I wanted to get your take to check me.

    I have 4100sf + a shop including gym that is detached 3-car size…about 20 feet off the back of home. 3200sf is on main floor…I really don’t care to maximize performance upstairs…half story with 2 guest bedrooms…I care mainly about the 1st floor and shop/gym.

    Current system is AT&T Fiber 1000Mbps and BGW320-500 Gateway – Modem + Router (no extenders). It is in the center of the home North/South but on the West side of home…it is in line with my office which is 50feet South with walls between. The shop is 70 feet North of Gateway and a little East.

    I have a wire pulled to my office and thought I would use it for backhaul for the South satellite. I want service in the shop / gym to stream music and TV. Will be tougher to wire the backhaul there…but not impossible. (Have not researched running cable outside either above or under ground).

    I would like to mix wired/wireless backhaul on first attempt and see what performance is in the shop that way…if not good enough I will figure out how to get a cable to it. You mentioned to use a system that supports both well in regards to mixed backhaul, such as a tri-band AiMesh or Linksys Velop set.

    Reply
    • Sorry, didn’t mean to end the post abruptly…hit control key and it posted. I believe I need a 3 pack…one on the north for the shop and one in the south to get my home office.

      Thanks for any guidance.
      Andy

      Reply
        • Hello Dong, Thanks for the reply. I can see where that set up (GT-AX11000 + 2x RT-AX92U) could be a good performer and nice feature set! I’m an engineer and would likely have fun working with it and learning. My wife, however, might want to shoot me if I put the AX11000 with all the external antennas up in the middle of our center room that she has a keen eye for haha.

          Maybe I go for it anyway…but curious how you think a 3 pack of the ZenWiFi AX XT8 AX6600 would perform in this situation…is it iffy on the mixed backhaul config?

          Thx,
          Andy

          Reply
          • I’d say it would work well, Andy. The thing is, it has happened that, when wired, a new firmware would break the mesh. But that might not happen again, or it might. Only Asus can know. As for the lady, you need to explain why size matters. This post will help.

  44. Hello, really enjoy reading your articles. I currently have an Asus AX11000 and it does for the most part cover my 2300 sq ft house enough that I’m not complaining- there are however some rooms where my download speeds drop a bit. I typically average 300mbps on speed test throughout the house but some rooms will get about 150mbps. Would it be worth adding an Asus rt-ax92u to the mix in a mesh setup or am I not going to see much if any improvement? I know that’s a tough question to answer without more details – really I would like to know would it HURT to add it! thanks

    Reply
  45. Hi Dong,
    Truly appreciate the very informative articles and all the related posts. Unfortunately, I am not very tech savvy, and I am trying to provide a more stable wifi environment at home, particularly for my many, many smart home devices. My home is a 3-story (2 above grade and a below grade basement, totaling just under 4K sq ft – roughly 1400 sq ft on each of the lower flowers and approx. 1k on the upper floor) wood frame construction without any CAT wiring (just telephone and coaxial). I recently was upgraded to a fiber optic in-coming and have subsequently subscribed to 1G service. After many initial issues getting everything set up properly and stable, the service provider finally got a configuration that works and has decent speeds. They have provided an Actiontec T3200 modem/gateway and have added a pair of range extenders to get good coverage throughout the house. I am also being provided my TV service from this provider through this set up (1 hardwired 4K DVR set-top and 3 4K wireless linked set-top boxes). Unfortunately, I still get regularly inconsistent wifi (it often stalls when watching video on computers or mobile devices), and most annoyingly will occasionally disconnect some of my smart home devices which then in turn don’t always automatically successfully reconnect. I want to give the smart home devices their best chance at a stable environment, and currently they are connected to the 2.4G network as many of them only work on 2.4G and they all seem to integrate better when on the same network. I realize that channel traffic and interference may be playing a factor, but I am trying to avoid a scenario where I have to regularly and frequently reset the network channel as this reconfig. sometimes also results in having to manually reconnect some of the smart home devices. I was thinking of bridging through the current gateway and adding my own ‘better’ router or mesh system in hopes of getting rid of the range extenders and providing a more stable consistent wifi environment (particularly at 2.4G) and was wondering if, based upon, all of this information you might have a recommendation of something I should do differently, or, if you agree that a better router might potentially help my cause, a recommendation on a router that might work well for me.
    Thanks

    Reply
  46. Hi Dong – I appreciate everything you’ve written here over the years. It’s been incredibly helpful to read up on background info and advice from an independent party while scouring other reviews.

    I was wondering if it makes sense to seek out a high-performing mesh system based on wired backhaul support only. I’ll be getting gigabit ethernet and I’m looking for the highest throughput on all nodes. Most reviews only compare wireless throughput performance. Getting something like the Orbi RBK852 seems like overkill given my wired scenario.

    Reply
      • Thanks for the additional links! Some of your content is really hidden away in here. Based on that, I’m leaning towards the Linksys Velop WHW0103 (AC3900). For a 3-pack, it’s currently $150 which is tough to beat. My only concern is that it might be a bottleneck for my 950 megabit connection.

        I’d otherwise get one of the Netgear Nighthawk models, but I don’t want to have to deal with an added ethernet switch for wired backhaul.

        Reply
  47. I am in the midst of evaluating a Linksys MX5503 mesh WiFi system, and after a few back and forth conversations with their tech support, and reading the informative posts here, remain perplexed with respect to two issues…maybe part and parcel of what one should expect.
    1. The system does NOT automatically update the firmware. One or two weeks ago, I spoke with one of their Philippines based tech support staff, he noted that the latest firmware was dated in September, yet as of my phone call in November, the firmware had NOT automatically updated.
    2. The system does NOT automatically identify the node with the most powerful signal…once a given device connects to the system, it stays there, and the system cannot reassign from a weaker signal to a stronger one, i.e. closer node versus more distant node.
    3. The only way to get a device connected to a closer node is to turn it off, then turn it back on, and THEN it connects to the closest node with the strongest system.
    4. Sometimes, i.e. when a laptop is turned off and turned on the next day, or we leave home and return home, our Samsung Galaxy S10 devices cannot connect to the system…they “see” the network with strong signal, try to identify the IP address, but cannot connect to the child nodes…they CAN connect to the mother node, however, whatever that means.
    Maybe this is as good as it gets with the current technology.
    Not sure if any other company’s mesh WiFi systems work better than this, but I am slightly disappointed, to say the least.

    Reply
  48. Hi Dong,

    I am curious as to what you think is the best Mesh system for configurable hand-off? I live in a 3 story house that is not that big front to back, side to side but the top floor is a challenge signal wise.

    The ground and 1st floors are hardwired and I have tried a Linksys Velop system (Atlas Pro 2 pack and previously the AX4200) with the main unit downstairs and the node on the 1st floor landing. The thing is it does not hand off between nodes at all as whilst the speeds do drop significantly between them the signal must be strong enough to not trigger it.

    On the linksys other than switching node steering on or off (which seems change nothing) you cannot adjust the handoff. I am curious as to whether say an Orbi or Asus setup would allow more configuration? I have had an orbi a few years ago and seem to remember that you could? I also currently have a single Asus AX86U I could add to.

    I am probably looking at diminishing returns here but I just want to resolve!

    Many thanks

    Reply
  49. Dong, is there a tick to using mesh-incompatible hardware (such as TP-link light switches) with a mesh internet? I have a 3-hub Asus RT-AX92U wired mesh system, but my devices look to connect to a particular router, Unfortunately all routers share the same name, so I cannot identify the closest router to my TP-link switch. The switch often configures with the farther router and has signal issues. Any ideas? Thanks in advance for your help,

    Reply
      • Thanks Dong. My issue involves the TP-Link Wi-Fi compatible dimmers that connect to my existing ASUS mesh network. The mesh network has great coverage with three RT-AX92U units (a broadcaster and two satellites with a wired backbone). But the light switches see three different SSIDs of the same name for connection and makes me pick one. I can’t tell which is which because names identical.

        Reply
  50. Hi Dong – I appreciate the research and informative articles on mesh networking and creating a network from scratch. I recently jumped into T-Mobile 5G Home Internet and have my Cox Cable and Home Internet running concurrently since I telework. The Cox Plan is up to 400 mbps, while I observed the T-Mobile Home Internet provides roughly 100-150 mbps during the past week. We are also converting from cable TV to YouTube TV. The T-Mobile Gateway needs to be on the second floor near a window. However, I work in the basement and also have a TV in the basement where the wifi signal strength is not great. Our house is wired with coaxial cable.

    Based on your articles, I understand that a wifi 6 mesh system is the best, but for my bandwidth, a higher end system probably isn’t appropriate (i.e., tri vs. dual band). With this in mind, I still purchased a Orbi AX4200 because we may move within the next six months (it is still in the box). However, I read a few articles about MoCA this morning and I wanted to get your thoughts on an idea. Would it make sense to buy a dual band wifi 6 system (i.e., tp-link Deco X20), use a MoCA setup to convert the coax cable to ethernet, and hardwire a lesser mesh system to the basement and first floor? I know you mentioned that the Orbi shouldn’t be used as hardwire because it defeats the purpose of the tri-band concept. Also, I am not sure if the MoCA idea would work. I appreciate your help.

    Reply
    • MoCA is hit or miss, Jude, and only you would know since you live there. That’s because just because you see a coaxial outlet in a room and another one in another room doesn’t mean the wiring behind them is connected. They are often fragmented, and you won’t know that until you plug the adapters in. As you can imagine, coaxial cables are wired in a way to deliver services from outside to different rooms in your house, and it’s not designed to link the rooms together. But if you want to use MoCA make sure you use the latest adapters — only those will give you Gigabit speed Full Duplex.

      Also, there’s no way for me to know router or mesh system will work in your place. Listing your rooms doesn’t mean anything because it all depends on the layout of your house. But you’re getting close. If you need more information, this post on routers will help. Good luck! Good call on moving to YouTube TV, by the way.

      Reply
  51. Hey Dong, thanks for all the hard work reviewing all the new equipment that keeps showing up. I have a particular scenario at a vacation property where the internet provider also controls the router / gateway. Its a Linksys but not sure the exact model number. The coverage from the single router is marginal, especially on the deck. I would like to install a mesh network with following requirements:
    * Cannot access the router as its locked down, but do have the ability to shutoff the Wifi radio.
    * Need a budget mesh system that can work well in AP mode
    * Only need 2 nodes based on the size of unit.
    * Ethernet available for 2nd Node, but would prefer support for wireless also.
    * Only need Wifi 5 speed due to very low ISP bandwidth (think 20 Mbps)

    Reply
  52. Hi Dong, thanks much for the great site and info.

    After yet another Orbi firmware forced upgrade that totally borked my network, I’m looking for an alternative. I just finished pulling Cat 6e through the house, so have wired backhaul, and GB internet coming in. There’s 3 remote AP’s plus the main router/switch by the cable modem.

    So question: Do I go with just a router/AP setup, or a 2 channel mesh with wired backhaul for best performance? Mostly apple devices, which are notorious for not roaming quickly enough, so want something that works pretty seamless as I walk around the house.

    And with that answer, suggestions on brands? Not netgear obviously, and I’m not a fan of ubiquit after their security issues (or any other cloud-forced management like amazon/google kit). Wifi 6 or 6e for future proofing would be ideal.

    Any advice/suggestions would be very welcome!

    Reply
  53. Thank you for the great article and it’s continuing updates!
    I was wondering if you had an opinion on Ayrstone products {linked removed}
    I am trying to find a suitable outdoor system for acreage on our ranch. I’ve been happy with the synology rt2600 for years, but it can’t get the outdoor coverage I’m looking for. Any thoughts? [or way outside of your purview!]

    Reply
  54. Dong, Excellant explanations on the gaps for mesh networking when ethernet is available, thank you. My son is moving into his first house and has Ethernet throughout – and the only equipment he has is a single AmpliFi HD Mesh Router for his small apartment. Imagine he will have gigabit service from ATT or Comast, thus a combo modem/router as part of the service. Can I setup the internet provider router with a wifi network and then use the Amplifi he has in a remote location and get another access point (AP) for another remote location? All the network names/password should be the same. Also, he is investigating security cameras for several areas, was hoping to have them wired also, does that complicate the situation of the router or AP selections?

    Reply
  55. Fantastic source of info, really grateful for your expert guidance Dong!
    We have a ASUS RT-AC3200 in the basement of a two story home and it worked flawlessly so far, but we would like to cover a few spotty areas on the higher floor bedrooms. Can it be made into a mesh with any newer ASUS routers or should I keep it as a backup and purchase a decent mesh system from ASUS? Thanks!!

    Reply
  56. Thank you Dong, your articles on WiFi and routers have been very thorough and level headed. It’s helped me make sound product choices for my new home networking setup.

    Reply
  57. Dong, great website! Can you actually use Plastic Optic Fibre (POF) cables as wired backhaul instead of ethernet?

    Reply
      • Thanks. Can you clarify when you say PoF wouldn’t be better than running Ethernet network cables (Cat 6E, Cat 7 etc)?

        From what I understand the PoF cables (OM4, or OM5) are more flexible, and data can travel faster in them than Ethernet over the same range. I realise you’d need a PoF to Ethernet converter at one end, and right now the consumer ones seem to be Gigabit switches (but I suppose over time you’d have multi gig switches which become cheaper as time moves on). Just seems like PoF – in theory – should mean the actual cabling will be far more “future proofed.”

        Right now PoF should help act as wired backhaul for Gigabit internet through the home, or am I mistaken? And if the internet speeds start reaching 10Gbps over the next decade, then the cabling could handle it, you’d just have to update the “convertors” surely?

        Reply
        • I’m not an expert in PoF — you seem to know more about that than me actually. But, generally, when it comes to networking, nothing beats CAT cables. Converters are always problematic. But if you can’t run them then anything is better than no wire at all.

          Reply
  58. Hi Dong, Much thanks for the very helpful website!

    Wondering what you would recommend for my situation: hard-wired Ethernet cables throughout a 3-story house. They are set up for phone use right now though, so I need to re-terminate with Ethernet jacks and buy a network switch(?? not sure).

    In terms of routers/APs, I need at least 3, preferably 4 units for coverage reasons: thinking one per floor, plus one in the detached garage. What would you suggest looking at?

    Thanks!

    Reply
      • Thank you for replying, Dong! I’ve spent the last 4 hours learning from your excellent website.

        Hoping you have the bandwidth (ha, ha) to tell me my current plan is reasonable:
        – Buy a ASUS ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4 x 3) set,
        – using one XD4 as a router and connecting it for wired backhaul, via a NETGEAR GS305 5-port network switch, to
        — the 2 other XD4s (one each on the 2nd and 3rd floors)
        — and to an ASUS RP-AX56 (running as an AIMesh node, placed in the garage).

        Does this sound reasonable? Open to any and all thoughts/criticism/new directions to look into. Thank you again so much!

        Reply
  59. Dong,
    new home under construction – large home – 5200 sq ft on two levels, 123′ long shallow house on a downslope. Fully wired with Cat 6. Because of open spaces, multiple ports wired in ceiling for visible ceiling mounted AP’s. final count depends on signal strength.
    struggling to determine best hardware for our needs. Have read your posts. Have some network setting understanding beyond just “plug and play”
    Setup:
    2 offices wired for direct internet connection,
    televisions wired for direct cat 6 connection.
    POE exterior cameras with an NVR

    Want to use Wifi 6 for future proofing.

    Needs:
    AP’s must be ceiling mounted and are highly visible. So white aesthetics matter.
    3 SSID’s minimum – personal, guest and IOT (for smart tv’s, sonos, etc.)
    Would also like smooth handoff as people move through house if possible.

    Like your analysis for Asus / AiMesh/ ZenWifi, but can’t find Asus ceiling POE AP’s. Should I stick with Asus and mix manufacturers for the APs?Or am I better off with one manufacturer for ease of managment and better handoff? Such as Ubiquiti (won’t use their cameras either way – too costly) What would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Depending on your Internet speed, Lake, you can get either Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 APs (they are easily replaceable.) In any case, I’d start with a good router — I’d recommend the Asus RT-AX86U. After that, get this Wi-Fi 5 AP, or this Wi-Fi 6 one. The hand-off is always hit or miss, if you configure these business APs correctly, it will work well. In any case, you don’t want APs that require an app and a login account to work.

      Reply
      • Dong,
        Following up on my recent question about new construction home network with wired in ceiling access points (thanks again for your initial reply). Just spoke with Asus for the AT-AX86U that we discussed. Asus is telling me however, that as a dual band router, I can only have two SSID’s – my personal one and one guest. Not IOT SSID — that with all asus routers I can only have 1 SSID per band. Is this your understanding?

        If so , that means I would have to get a tri-band even with wired backhaul to pair with either TP Link / Ubiquiti access point that supports 3 SSIDs?

        Lastly, if I end up with an unanticpated “dead spot” and don’t have a wired port in the right loaction, could I elect to use an Asus in wall AX1800, would that work in a dual band setup even though that one spot dos not have wired back haul? I think so. Of course that is subject to the SSID question above too.

        Best regards and many thanks for all the wonderful education.
        Lake

        Reply
        • Generally, Lake, an Asus router, gives you one main SSID and up to three Guest SSIDs for each of its bands. You can easily turn a Guest SSID into a “main” one by allowing Intranet access — more in this post on Guest networks. Also, check out this post on AiMesh. But I’d recommend that you start with the RT-AX86U and work it up from there. Don’t make assumptions, and then keep asking questions since nobody knows what you actually have in mind.

          Reply
          • Thanks – your explanation makes much more sense. I asked about multiple guest networks and kept getting told no one ssid per band. Having read your site, I suspected your information was much more accurate!!
            Again, deep appreciation!
            Lake

  60. Hi I have 80mbps internet, I’m trying to decide between m9 deco or x60 deco, I need wireless backhaul with 3 device mesh , which one you think is better ?

    Reply
    • I haven’t tested the M9, Juan, but for that Internet speed, either is fine. That said, you should go with the X60 since it supports Wi-Fi 6.

      Reply
  61. Can three ASUS ROG AXE11000 be connected via their 2.5Gbps ports to an unmanaged 2.5Gbps 8 port switch to perform backhaul in their AI Mesh config? Or even four for that matter? I know that the AXE11000 can be connected to each other for AI Mesh backhaul, but that obviously uses up the 2.5Gbps ports leaving additional AXE11000 excluded from using the 2.5Gbps backhaul. So can a 2.5Gbps unmanaged switch be used for backhaul among multiple AXE11000 routers in AI Mesh mode?

    Reply
    • Yes, but not the router unit, Danno, when you want to use Multi-Gig WAN. So in the end your network still maxes out at 1Gbps for the most part. If Multi-Gig wired network is what you want, I’d use the RT-AX89X as the main router.

      Reply
  62. Hi Dong,
    Superb article, Dong! Very informative.
    I understand that you said mesh hubs can be connected using a switch in between the main and satellite hubs. The question is, have you encounter any brand like Huawei, Xiaomi, TP-Link that don’t allow a switch in between them?
    Thanks.

    Len

    Reply
    • No, Len. Technically, it’s not possible for any to exclude a switch in between unless you use a configured managed switch, which likely won’t work for a mesh in many cases when placed in between. So by a switch, I always mean an unmanaged switch.

      Reply
      • Thank you Dong. This clears all my doubts about switch. I’m very grateful to you.

        // Off topic.
        Will you be writing a new article about using traditional routers, e.g., 3 number of Huawei AX3 as mesh system VS designed mesh system ( 3 number of TP-Link X90)? I wish to know what’s the differences between them. Thank you.

        Reply
        • Sure, Len. As I mentioned in this post, you can use multiple hardware units, with one as a router and the rest in the AP mode. Not all routers can work as part of a mesh system. I only review hardware available in the U.S. Huawei routers are not.

          Reply
  63. Good Day Doug,
    I’m hoping you can help me decide which way we should go for WiFi in our house. The house is a 80 ft long x 35 ft wide side split. This meaning that we have 4 different floor levels. With this set up, we have a 2.5 ft thick stone / block chimney wall halfway through the house (40 ft mark) and concrete block walls mid way.

    We currently have the following set up.. D-link CVOR-2600 mesh system. With a CVOR-2600 router in the basement, beside the stone wall and furnace. This is also where the modem enters the house.. I also have a 26 port switch and NAS at this location. We then have one CVOR-1300 “node” on each of the upper floors (x2), about 15 ft from each end wall.. I do have cat5 cabling running throughout most of the house with 2 cables to almost each room.

    We do have a LOT of 2.4g WiFi smart home devises connecting to the system.. Including multiple cameras (can be hard wired), multiple google hubs, multiple google mini’s, multiple smart switches, a couple “smart” rumba’s, minimum of 3 cell phones, and 2 tablets, and a couple lap tops.

    So we have terrible signal strength throughout the house.. Averaging about -60 dbs at best, and into -80 dbs at some locations, let alone outside on the patio. Even near the routers / nodes. We have multiple items dropping on and off the system at all times.

    We did try a duel ASUS RT-AX92U at the 15 ft from each end mark. We actually lost signal strength with this set up..

    So, my question is, what would be the best way to get stronger and more stable system.. As I can not relocate my main router location, should i have a very large router at that location (ie: Asus GT-AX11000 or simular) and something larger like ASUS RT-AX88U at each 15 ft mark (hard wired to the switch for back haul. Or would I be better served to run some more network cabling and hard wired TP-link or UBIQUITI access points in each room?
    Thanks,
    Kevin

    Reply
  64. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for taking the time to write up these articles. They are so informative that I just can’t stop reading, and they have given me plenty of insight in planning the home network for my new home. I hope you don’t mind giving me some advice. This may be wordy, so please bear with me….

    I live in Australia. I am moving to a 10-year-old apartment that has brick walls all around, and no pre-wired ethernet. Size is about 1,500 sq ft, 3 bedrooms. The existing owner has had broadband (NBN) set up, and it is in a FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) format. FTTP, in my case here, means the ISP stick a fibre into my apartment through the wall that separates my apartmant and the corridor, and the fibre stops as soon as it entires my place (since the building is not pre-wire for broadband. Such a backward country. Haha). Unfortunately, the fibre stops at my master bedroom, which is surrounded by brick walls and has not direct line of sight to the rest of my place. Since my master bedroom is where the fibre stops, it is the only place where the router/modem has to be placed. Running ethernet wiring is not an option due to the brick walls and my wife’s directive of “no visible wirings”. These are the reasons why I am a bit worried about how to get my home network running.

    One lucky thing is that with FTTP from this particular ISP, I don’t need to use their supplied modem/router (which is actually not bad, a Sagemcom 5366 LTE, a Wifi 6). Now I want to set up a mesh network. But due to the mentioned concerns, I am thinking of adding powerline adapters (e.g. TP-Link AV2000 or Netgear PLP2000) so that the mesh units can use the powerline network as a “pseudo” ethernet backhaul. I am thinking of either Asus ZenWifi AX, or Linksys Velop.

    We don’t play online games, but we stream 4K movies from my NAS to the living room and bedrooms, in addition to the usual laptops, ipads, mobile phones, SmartTVs, etc. As for my internet access, its 100Mbps (I know, internet speed in Australia is pathetic… and super expensive)

    In light of the above concerns and requirements, my questions are:

    1 In an apartment of this size with brick walls, which backhaul do you think will give better performance: a wireless backhaul, or a powerline backhaul (assuming electrical wiring is not messy, and for a 10 year old building, it shouldn’t be)?

    2 And based on your assessment to question 1, which mesh system do you think is better (Asus, Linksys, or others I haven’t thought of)?

    Thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      1. I have no idea.
      2. I have no idea.

      Honestly, I have to be there to know what to do. And you already are. I’d recommend you spend some time (on this website) and figure out what is what. It’s never an easy answer. You can start with this post. Take a serious read!

      Reply
      • Hi Dong,

        Thanks for the reply. I understand your apprenhension in giving advice without being on site or given more concrete information. It is my bad.

        I read the post and took another look at my situation. Furthmore, I went to the apartment today (actually, technically it is still not yet mine, as it has not been settled (means closing escrow in US term) yet) today, and scanned the wifi signals in the house using Wifi Analyzer (the current owner is still there and he has wifi). He uses a TP-Link Archer AC1200, sitting at right where the internet fibre ends in the apartment, which is in the master bedroom, on the east end of the entire apartment. I took the wifi signal reading at several places, and this is what I got:

        A. At the centre of the master bedroom: -35dbm (not really meaningful, just there for kicks)
        B. In the living room where the TV is (the recipient of most of the streaming videos) : -58dbm
        C. In the study, which is on the north side of the apartment, next to the master bedroom: -50 dbm

        As I have mentioned, the internet speed is mediocre (100Mbps), but for me, it is more important that my local network is running at high speed since I stream and move large files around (20 plus GB per file), between my laptops, NAS (QNAP TS-253B), tablets, and 2 TVs in the living room and master bedroom. I would like to ask the following questions:

        1. Do you think a -58dbm signal in the living room warrant a Mesh wifi network, with wireless backhaul, vs the current single point router originating from the master bedroom? (Let’s forget what I mentioned about using powerline as a pseudo wired backhaul for a Mesh network for now.)

        2. Do you think a -50dbm signal is strong enough for a study that will host 4 laptops (all wifi6) running concurrently? With my wife and I both working from home, we need 4 laptops running, and both of us move files around.

        3. I am still trying to think of the best place to put my NAS. If a single Wifi router solution is sufficient, then the NAS must be next to the router, as it requires a wired connection. But if I am going to the Mesh solution, do you think it is a good idea to place the NAS in the study next to my laptop so that at least between the NAS and my laptop, there will be a gigabit connection since with a Mesh node, I will be plugging JR45s to both my laptop and NAS from the same Mesh node, which should work as a switch, I hope. A mesh node (e.g. a Asus ZenWifi Ax or a Linksys Velop) also work as a switch right?

        Of course, the answer to question 3 will depend on answers to question 1 and 2. Would appreciate any insight you may have. Thanks.

        Reply
        • Those -dbm numbers are good, David, though that depends on your environment. More on that here. I don’t think you need a mesh for your place, it seems. And no, you must connect the NAS via a wired connection to the network, with no wireless in between.

          Reply
          • Hi Dong

            Thanks for your reply.

            >> Those -dbm numbers are good

            Do you mean they are strong enough for their respective locations in the apartment?

            >> And no, you must connect the NAS via a wired conneciton to the network, with no wireless in between.

            (Assuming not using a Mesh) By that, do you mean I must connect the NAS to my router with RJ45 in the master bedroom?

            As mentioned, my apartment does not have LAN pre-wired, and running cable through walls to different rooms is not an option as my wife hates to see them, so any LAN cable can only be within a room. However, as I will be transferring a lot of these large files to the NAS from my laptop, I would want to at least make the connection between my laptop and the NAS fast. Now, if I connect the NAS to the router in the master bedroom, my laptop’s connection to the NAS will have to go through wifi, unless I revisit the powerline option to connect my masterbedroom and my study with powerline adapters. But we all know that is a big unknown. A -50dbm signal vs powerline? …

            By the way, if I use a good wifi6 router, and add powerline for things that need/prefer wired connectons (like the NAS, and my network printer, which although is wifi capable, I like using LAN cables), what do you think about TP-link’s OneMesh option? I read from your other posts that you are not high on it. But could it be a satisfactory solution in my case?

          • Hi Dong

            Right, my bad again. Anyway, I have one last question. You may have answered it already but I couldn’t make it out of what you said so I just want to confirm. If I connect a computer and a NAS to the same Mesh node via LAN (assuming of course I am using a mesh network), can the node act as a switch and provide a local fast connection between the computer and the NAS? Thanks

            David

          • Like I said, “wired with no wireless in between”. So make sure it’s NOT a wireless node.

  65. Hi Dong,

    I live in a duplex where I must share an internet connection with my family neighbours. As a result, I have to use their WIFI from my pc.

    At the moment, I am getting full bars in terms of connection but I frequently drop out of connection when gaming.

    So, I have been looking into upgrading the cheap sub-$50 Xiaomi router to mesh.

    I was looking at getting a traditional triband 2-pack mesh with WIFI 6 and was wondering if I am able to maximise the stability and connection of the wireless backhaul with this sort of set up?

    Or, would I be better off purchasing a 3 pack without a traditional triband given that they are both the same budget.

    I live in Australia with a 50/20 Mbps connection so stability is more of what I am after since our speeds are real slow here.

    Thank you in advance,
    David

    Reply
    • For your situation, no hardware will help with gaming, period, David. Don’t waste your money — and you ALWAYS waste your money if you look into cheap networking products. It might help if you run a cable from your neighbor into your home (or to your gaming machine). Ultimately, there are just too many things that can be bad for your gaming needs, starting from the broadband’s speed itself. More in this post.

      Reply
  66. Hey, Dong.

    Thanks for always replying to our wifi issues.

    My setup at home is (240 sqm floor area over three floors. Unfortunately the fiber modem is downstairs, and that’s where the main router is connected. It’s an asus ct8.

    On the 2nd floor is a another CT8 with signal strength on 5ghz backhaul around -55dbm. Across the hall on the 2nd floor is a mesh node connected to the 2nd floor CT8. It’s an asus xd4 mini. It has average signal of -46dbm.

    On the 3rd floor is another xd4 connected to the CT8 on the 2nd floor, too. Its connection quality is around -60dbm.

    It has worked mostly seamlessly and stable since I added the two xd4s. But since 5 days ago, the mesh ct8 disconnects from the main often and reconnects either to the xd4s or back to the main BUT at 2.4ghz backhaul! The signal strength of either xd4 to the main is poor, around -75 to -85 dbm.

    It’s infuriating especially since kid’s school and work is all done remotely.

    Is there any way for me to make the topology static? Also, the mesh node ct8 has a switch wired to it for the work setup of my wife.

    Thanks as always, for the great insight.

    Reply
  67. We have a one level brick house of 2650 sf. I have a shed at one end about 20 feet from the house (long dimension) where I want WiFi. My modem is close to the center of the house’s longer dimension, but off center on the shorter dimension. Would it be best to use three mesh routers in a star pattern?

    Reply
  68. Hello Dong,

    I have a 2400 sq ft. 2 story center hall colonial home (each floor is 1200 sq ft) with an unfinished basement (wireless sprinkler controller down there). I currently have a Netgear r7000p nighthawk router and 2 RT-AC68u routers wirelessly connected as access points. Recently, the r7000p started crapping out (not seeing anything connected) and even rebooted a few times on its own. Rebooting the entire system has helped but I plan to purchase a TP-Link Deco M5 mesh 2 pack to replace this system. Should this work? If not, should I get the 3rd M5 unit or use 1 or both of the RT-AC68u units? If I use the AT-AC68u unit(s), can they work in this mesh system? Thanks!

    Reply
  69. Dong,

    Thank you for the excellent article. I’m ready to buy my first mesh system and you cleared up a lot of things but the options are overwhelming. I have gig internet with main router on second floor and AP in attic that helps a bit. On main floor the other side of the house gets really slow speeds, possibly due to signal going through kitchen and walls. Home is 3200 sq ft and I currently get some signal in basement and outside.

    I believe I need a tri-band system that has option for wired backhaul. The previous owners had a security system and the house is wired with CAT5e. Unfortunately it’s a spaghetti mess in the basement and I may or may not be able to use existing cables if I ever figure out which is which. I’d love to pull better cable but that’s not an option at this point.

    I was looking at the Orbi RBK752. Price is high end of budget but I don’t know if it support wired backhaul; some forums implies that it does but nothing is mentioned in manual.

    Any suggestions?

    Reply
      • I definitely need wired backhaul “just in case”.

        I did additional reading and based on your reviews I’m going to get the Velop MX4200, two units for now. I am going to wait for Prime Day to see if they discount and report back when they are installed.

        Like many of us, I’m often guilty of scanning a review for what I want and moving on. I’ve learned more on this site than anywhere else, thank you for the help.

        Reply
          • Hi Dong,

            I live in a 1100 sq ft apartment and using 100 Mbps Xfinity line. I have around 16 – 18 devices that includes around 2 windows laptops, 1 macbook, 3 phones, 3 tablets, baby camera and couple of minor wifi devices like time clock, weather station etc. Also, i have few devices like TV, PS4, Apple TV which runs on wired internet and directly connected to modem. I will usually get 90 Mbps – 110Mbs on wired network whereas 40 – 60 Mbps on wifi. I use a Netgear C6900 Modem – Router Combo which i have purchase back in 2017 November. Recently, i am seeing lot of problems (Internet slow) with Wifi and every day I am rebooting (either thru app reboot or hard reboot). Internet will become terribly slow and unusable (sped of just 4 – 5 Mbps). I called Xfinity and they rn troubleshooting nd confirmed its my router issues and asked me to upgrade/change my router.
            Hence, planning to get a Linksys Velop AX4200 WiFi 6 Mesh System 2-Pack. I will use my current C900 as Modem and use the Linksys Velop as mesh router. Please suggest if that will be good idea? Also, do i need to connect the Main router and satellite hub thru wired connection or wireless will be ok. I am planning to keep the satellite hub around 30 ft apart from main router (living room and work room) separated by 1 wall.
            Also, can please advise me if you recommend to any other alternate router model.

          • Well, I was wrong. I don’t need wired backhaul, I’m getting 960 DL from wired PC and 942 on the farthest node, not going to bother trying to hookup wire. Speeds drop quite a bit around the house but will try to move node around see if I can get better location, but still strong all around.

            I did notice that when it seems to switch nodes it does take a few seconds because speed will jump quite a bit.

          • Wired backhauls are generally better, Ken, but no, you don’t necessarily need it, especially if your house has a lot of open spaces. That seems great, your speed.

  70. Hi Dong,

    I’ve been trying to figure out the right router setup since I moved about 5 months ago, and your website is the best thing I’ve found in all of my searching. I was a little surprised your website seemed to have the best info on the web until I realized you used to be the CNET router guy and then it all made sense.

    My problem is that I just can’t figure out if my house needs a mesh or single router set up. It’s just under 1800 sqft, but it’s 1.5 story and much longer than it is wide (56′ long x 20′ wide) with a basement I plan to finish at some point in the distant future. I’ve tried a Netgear R6250 in a central location on the top floor and a Google Wifi mesh setup. I have trouble getting signal to the back of my main floor, and I’m not sure if one of your recommended single WIFI 6 routers would do the trick or if I need an upgraded mesh system. I have gigabit internet service and want to future-proof this purchase as much as reasonable. I’m leaning towards a 2-unit mesh since the house is so much longer than it is wide. Also, I feel like a mesh system might be better if I continue to add smart home devices to the network regardless of whether a mesh system is needed to blanket the whole house.

    What would you do?

    Reply
      • Wow! Thanks for the quick reply, Dong! I had a feeling you’d recommend wired back haul. Which AiMesh set would you choose for yourself if you were starting over?

        Reply
  71. Hi Dong, great article and lots of good commenting.

    We are about to build our family home and want strong good quality wifi throughout.

    We were thinking to get nine of these {link removed}

    In summary, the best option would be to hard wire all these together from a gigabit switch? Or would using them wirelessly be just as fast?

    Also, if they are hard wired, would the seamless switching between the units still work?

    Thanks so much!
    Aaron

    Reply
  72. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for putting up such a vastly informative site. Really helps to learn and decide on our next router setups. I have a 1500 sqft home, but with a bit of a complex layout and solid brick walls. I am considering either Netgear Orbi RBK353 (3 pack dual band) or Orbi RBK752 (2 pack Tri band). My internet connection is 200 Mbps, and my main need is seamless connectivity while moving across 4 rooms and I have about 5-10 devices at max. Can you please suggest which would be a better option with and without ethernet backhaul.

    Many thanks,
    Ash

    Reply
  73. Hello Dong,

    A very thorough and informative article. Thanks for that. Highly appreciated. I am about to purchase 13 Huawei AX3 Quadcore WIFI6PLUS units and plan to use them as a a backhaul ethernet mesh wireless network with one unit acting as the main hub and the other 12 as satellite hubs. I would be interested in your thoughts, i.e., will the main hub be able to handle all 12 satellites? The AX3 Quadcore units seem to be quite high spec. By the way this will replace my current system which is an 8 year old “NETGEAR WC7500 ProSAFE Wireless LAN Controller with 12 WNDAP360 access points”.

    Reply
  74. Very helpful article… I learned lots of useful things as I looked for an answer to my question, which I didn’t find, so here goes…

    I need to pick a mesh system. Super-high performance is not necessary, and economy is important. I’m probably going to run the mesh in AP mode because I need the ISP’s router to remain as the router (I’ll turn off the Wifi of the ISP router).

    So far, that’s easy. Here’s the complicating part: I have a very unusual house. It’s really two houses joined together.
    House1 is steel frame construction (which seems to interfere with cellphone service but I’m not sure if it interferes with communications in the WiFi bands). The ISP service is to this house.
    In House2, both the exterior AND INTERIOR walls are concrete block with steel rebar reinforcement (this definitely interferes with WiFi).
    There is an ethernet cable running between the “houses” that could be used, for example, to connect a satellite (if the chosen system’s can be connected that way).

    As a result of the nature of my “double house,” I’ve concluded that I may need a mesh setup with more than three total units. I know I can buy extra satellites for some systems, but it seems that it might be more economical to buy two identical mesh systems to get extra satellites. That will also mean I’d have two base units.

    Questions
    1. Is it possible to use both base units of two identical brand/model systems in the same mesh? If not, I’ll have an unused base.
    2. Given what I’ve described about the double house, the single ethernet cable running between them, and your answer to question #1, what deployment of components do you recommend? Obviously, one base unit will have to have a wired connection to the ISP’s router.

    Reply
  75. Right now I’ve got 3x Asus RT-AC68U with Merlin f/w in AiMesh mode with wired backhaul. My house is roughly 4000 sq. ft. and my goal is to support 60+ 2.4ghz smart home devices plus other clients such as tablets, phones, etc. For the more advanced wireless clients I have as many on 5ghz as possible and also everything that can be wired is.

    I’m having issues with wireless clients not connecting to the best AiMesh node and just general slowness with all WiFi devices. Even with 5ghz I find myself often just turning off WiFi on my phone even when I have a strong signal. My thought was to add a RT-AX86U as the main router hoping that the increased performance might help, but after reading your review and the comments that WiFi6 devices had bad 2.4ghz performance, I’m wondering if it’s something else.

    I only have about half of the 60 switches installed and I’m wondering if I’m bumping up against a limitation of the technology. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • It’s not very clear what you were trying to say, Lesh, but the 86U might help. Also, try using them with Asus firmware. Generally, if you need help figuring things out, Merlin is not for you.

      Reply
  76. Hi Dong: Thanks sincerely for the wealth of info! Sorry if this is a duplicate question, but I’m still a little shaky on what’s best for homes where network wiring is not available such as mine. 1950’s 2k sq. ft. house, thick walls, AT&T gig fiber on far end, trying to determine which mesh system best suited for me. At first I thought triband WIFI 6 would give me the best odds but sounds like maybe that’s not the best without a wired backhaul? Any tips are greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • You need a tri-band system, Rick. That’s the only way for a fully wireless setup. How well that works still depends on the walls, though. There’s no magic. Maybe give this post another read and follow the related links.

      Reply
      • Got it. Glad I asked so I’ll cancel the order I just placed for a dual band nighthawk mk63. Follow up question: if triband is critical, what about wifi 6? Thanks!

        Reply
  77. How can I determine the best spacing of my mesh nodes in a wired back-haul setup? I know that since its wired, it’s less important, but what are the considerations? For example: If they’re too close, will that create problems? Are there general rules like “space them 30-50 ft apart, with just one wall or floor between each”? Your guidance is appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Generally, Kelz, you want to put the remote satellite far enough so that its range has the least overlapping with that of the main router (or another satellite). It’s impossible to determine the exact distance since that varies based on the environment, but you can imagine each broadcaster emits signals somewhat in a sphere shape. This post talks more about Wi-Fi range and interferences.

      Reply
  78. Hi Dong, LOVE your website, thanks for this valuable information.

    One question: You mentioned MOCA probably won’t cut it for a wired back haul, why not? It seems like many of the MOCA devices now are gigabit or above, which seems to be sufficient (https://www.screenbeam.com/products/home-networking/ecb6250/)

    I’d like to use MOCA to both connect the router to the modem AND to connect each node to the router. Any reason I would not want to do this? (Other than increased cost in purchasing the MOCA devices).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • MoCA is fine, Kelz. Just make sure your wiring is intact, and you use adapters of the latest standard that supports full-duplex (and not half-duplex). Also, don’t use the wiring for anything else (like TV signals) but the network.

      Reply
      • I am currently using MOCA in the wired backhaul path of one of my satallite nodes in an aiMesh network, and it appears to be working just fine. There is TV on the cable as well.

        Reply
          • It turns out I was wrong, when I went back and checked I had tried Moca, given up, and found another way to get a wired backhaul. It would be great if it worked, but so far I’m 0 for 2 on moca.

  79. Hi Dong

    What an awesome article this is, I am pretty tech savvy but hardly know a thing about networking but just reading this has taught me so much, glad I found your site

    I’m getting virgin gig1 fibre tomorrow and not heard great things about their routers wifi coverage so definately thinking of getting a mesh setup, thinking either NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Dual Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (RBK353) or ASUS ZenWiFi AX Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System(XT8)

    I live in a 3 storey house and there is 6 of us, and we have loads of wifi devices that use the network and I’ve got loads of smart home tech too, so it needs to handle a lot of traffic

    The virgin hub itself will be in my living room so most devices connected to that will be connected via ethernet, but i’m guessing the 2 systems I posted above, one of the hubs will need to be connected to the virgin hub itself? and any others I can position around the house and I know to put the virgin hub in modem mode only

    Wired backhaul won’t be an option for me even though I know it would be the best but running cables from each hub will be too difficult but as long as I’m hitting near 800-900 mbps with my wired devices downstairs i’m not too bothered if all the other devices around the house are only hitting 500 mbps. It’s mainly having strong wifi around the whole house so this avoids disconnects. Not sure of the exact size of my house but would you recommend a setup with 2 or 3 hubs as one will need to connected to the virgin hub and the other 1 or 2 could be on each floor

    Forgive me for sounding a bit dumb here but I get wired backhaul but what do you do when you wireless backhaul, would that be when I’ve got the main hub connected to the virgin hub by wan and the other devices connected wirelessly to the main hub, also when putting the virgin media hub in modem mode, I’m guessing you can still use that hubs ethernet ports?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me

    Reply
    • Two things, Neil.

      1. If you need to keep the Virgin hub (seems like you do), check out this post.
      2. After that get the XT8, I think it’s going to work just by itself. If not, get another XT8 unit or two.

      Reply
  80. Hi Dong, I am trying to achieve as seemless roaming as I can. I currently have an upstairs network and a downstairs network using 2 Linksys EA- 6350 ethernet wired together. I ended up with two networks because my phones (samsung S7’s) would not switch from the upstairs router to the downstairs router when they were connected together to cascade until the signal was so bad that if I were talking on the phone no one could hear me. I could be connected on the upstairs router and standing right next to the downstairs router and the phone (Samsung S7’s) would not switch to the downstairs router. So I had to go to separate networks. Which is very problematic unless I always remember to switch networks. I now have a Samsung S10 and S20 phone that are supposed to support R/V/K. So I would like to find a mesh solution that supports 802.11R/V/K.

    Most mesh systems (Velop, asus CT8, Asus mini XD4) do not specifically call out R/V/K or if the do (Nest, Google) they do not allow wired backhaul.

    Do you have a recommendation for a dual band, router + 2 node (my house is 4200 sq ft rectangle) that can support wired backhaul and R/V/K? Lastly, can I connect the nodes daisy chain or should it be from the router to the individual nodes. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • As I noted in the post, Mark, seamless handoff is a tricky thing. The good news is your current setup is not good so any of the mesh you mentioned will work better. I’d recommend the XD4, but you can get one of these. The post will explain more.

      Reply
  81. Hi, Dong, thank you so much for your amazing work on the site. I read quite a few articles and they really gave me a much in-depth understanding of a mesh system (I was first led to the site through looking for a review of TPlink’s Deco X60 and then can’t stop reading more of your articles). I really enjoy your down-to-earth tone and easy-to-understand yet technical reviews/explainers. With the knowledge learned here, I have purchased the Deco X60 (3pack) and planning to do a wired backhaul setup (house prewired). But I am debating on whether I should use the AP or router mode for the system. I am on a AT&T 1G fiber service and the Gateway is located in a quite hidden-away wirebox inside a small washer/dryer room (where all the prewired cables come out). I have a couple questions,
    1. If I do the AP mode, I can use the three units as AP (wired) and put them at different rooms. In this case, would I be able to disable AT&T’s Gateway WiFi and use Deco’s Wifi or I need to keep the Gateway WiFi? Let’s say I keep the Gateway WiFi and use the 3 units as APs, would this be a good mesh system (seamless hand-off and coverage)? I am currently using an extender and it doesn’t work well since a lot of times I am standing right next to the extender but my phone is connected to the gateway (at 2nd floor) with very poor connection.
    2. If I do the router mode, I need to put one unit next to the Gateway and kinda waste this unit since it will also be hidden away in a small and distance room. Do you think router mode is worth it in this case (a potential better overall performance and good mesh system with Deco’s NAT and WiFi)?
    3. Do you think I should go with other brands or product for my setup? I can still return the Deco if you think there are better choices :).
    Sorry for the long comments and questions. Thank you so much in advance!

    Reply
  82. Thanks so much for the detailed article. I have a question on a specific mesh configuration – Linksys Velop MX4200 or MX5300 – with wired backhaul. Linksys recommends that the wired mesh components all be daisy-chained, i.e., parent to child-1 to child-2 to child-3, etc. Linksys also seems to suggest (and I am not fully sure I got it right) that by placing a switch between the parent and the children, all components can be connected directly to the switch, i.e., without requiring daisy-chaining. Why is that? Are the multiple Ethernet LAN ports on the parent already part of a built-in switch and if so, what difference would an external switch bring about? I guess, my real question is can the children be all wired in a star topology directly to the Ethernet LAN ports of the parent. Could you please clarify?

    Reply
    • With wiring, you can connect them however you want, Sid. As long as the satellites are being the router, the mesh will work.

      Reply
  83. Hi Dong – I have read several of your articles and it has helped me a lot. I currently have AT&T Gigapower. I am currently planning to set up a wired mesh system with an Asus RT-AX86U as my main router behind an AT&T device in pass through mode. My question is should I purchase another RT-AX86U as the satellite point or is that overkill? If it is overkill, what should I use? Thanks!

    Reply
  84. So I installed the TP Link Deco M9 plus (3 pack) router/APs since I was having coverage issues across the whole house with the Linksys 1900AC+.

    Since installation I’ve noticed what appears to be WAN drop on a
    frequent basis. I has local SSH connects to servers, and a VPN connection
    to the office. I do not lose the local SSH connection, so its not the wifi
    that drops. I lose the tunnel and SSH connections over that.. and ping to 8.8.8.8 drops for a bit..

    Its at the latest firmware. Should I try putting the Deco M9 in AP mode and hang it off the Linksys? When working, the coverage is great and I’m getting good speeds all over the house. But the frequent drops are quite annoying.


    Dan

    Reply
  85. Dong:

    You’re website is amazing and has been super helpful. One question I couldn’t find answered:. If you set up a mesh with wired backhaul does it matter whether your best router serves as a “satellite” rather than the primary unit?

    Reply
      • Dong,
        Great article.. I just finished wiring my house with cat 6 and used my old google mesh to attempt to wire them As wired access points. I am getting major signal loss when I tap them into the wired vs using wirelessly. I do have 3 switches connected throughout the house to navigate wire traffic, they are unmanned switches Netgear GS108v4. Could the switch be attempting to assign an address to each “puck” and creating the issue, or is it that the Google Mesh doesn’t support backhaul, and that is causing my issue? I am thinking based on your article I may be able to move to the Asus ZenWifi AX Mini and get the result I am looking for from the benefits of having just wired my home.
        Any advice appreciated

        Reply
        • Not sure what you’re trying to say,Chris, but you can’t compare the performance of a wired connection vis a wireless one. Also, Google mesh sucks. Go with the XD4.

          Reply
          • Thank you! What I was trying to say is when I connect them to the hardwire connection they actually run slower than when I run them as a wireless network.. I will take you advice and ditch them for sure!

  86. Hi, there.

    I’m new to this concept, but believe I have the need for a mesh network. I live in a two story + basement home (each story is approx. 1259 sq. ft.). I have gigabit internet and would like solid coverage on all three levels, plus out back and in the garage.

    Which system would you suggest, and can you tell me a bit about placement? (Ie. would I need one on each floor, etc.).

    Please let me know if I left out any pertinent information you may need.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Read the post again, Kevin. This time with some attention. Also, note the included related links. You’re asking me to repeat myself. 🙂

      Reply
      • I apologize, I went back to re-read and did not see mention of placement in a home regarding varying floors. I do see where you mention interruption from walls and preferred distances apart. Should I have a satellite on each floor of the home (assuming the main router accounts for one floor)?

        Lastly, you made mention that it’s preferred to wire for best performance. If it’s possible to backwire one satellite, but not another, should I do that or operate completely wireless?

        Thanks!

        Reply
        • No worries, Kevin. Glad you found the answers. And yes, you can (generally) mixed wireless and wired backhaul. How that works out depends on the hardware. But a mixed wired/wireless is generally better than full wireless. For a particular set of mesh, I mentioned the backhaul notion in all of my reviews.

          Reply
  87. Thanks for the insight. I am new to this domain so probably digested about 50% of this. Perhaps you can clarify two questions I have. I live in a relatively newer condo building in Singapore with cement walls in a T shape condo unit so having issues extending to the ends of the “T”. I use the Nokia Beacon 1, as per our local service provider. I tried using two additional/older Linksys EA7500 routers in a mesh set up (connecting them to access points in the wall) but the Linksys routers always dropped their connection and had to be reset, so I am relying on the Nokia Beacon 1 for all.

    1.) Can you mix wireless router brands for a mesh system? Or should I buy another Nokia Beacon to cover the apartment?

    2.) To clarify, for the Wired backhaul, does that mean linking each wireless router by an ethernet cable? (as opposed to plugging them in the wall…which I understand is the Mesh AP set up)? Does the length of the cable matter ie. if I buy it too long but wrap up the excess…does that have any positive or negative impact? Based on the answer to #1, which do you recommend I use…mesh or wired?

    Appreciate your response…I am a novice so this is new to me. My kids would appreciate any support that can supplement my knowledge!!

    Reply
    • Welcome aboard, Brad.

      First, reread this post. I noted you asked questions I already addressed in it.

      Done? OK.

      1. No. And you should get a different mesh, the Nokia is pretty bad. Since you have wired backhaul, get a dual-band set in this list. I’d recommend the Asus XD4.

      2. Yes, basically, you use a network cable to link the router unit and the satellite unit. Plugging in the wall is the same thing as long the current network port and the other one at the far end are two ends of the same cable (behind the wall.) More in this post.

      When you have time, check out this post, it’s a place to start.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong,

        I am currently using a router with OpenWRT firmware and I love it. However, the WIFI is not that great. Do you think 3 or 4 nodes of the Nokia Beacon 1 in bridge mode with wired backhaul will be good to complement my openwrt router? Or do you still think it is better to go with something else.

        Thank you very much for any advice.

        Reply
  88. Hi Dong, and thank you for your phenomenal trove of wisdom. Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere. I live in a 30m long, three story victorian semi. The ISP enters on the first floor 2/3 back. There it meets asus 88u distribution router This router and powerline feeds the ground floor and a couple access points downstairs. No issues there really. An rj45 runs to the front first floor into an 87u. So far so good on first floor. All same ssids in a primitive mesh.The loft office is the problem and cannot get a cable up there. Roughly equidistant from the 87 and 88 signals. Tried powerline and tplink 365 but very poor results. Next option is aimesh. The 88u main router is already capable. Thinking to buy two asus (ct8, xt8, 92 or similar), replace the front 87u and position the second node in the loft. Main question: does aimesh allow to mix the existing cable from 88u as wired backhaul, with wireless backhaul up to the loft? Or do i need to make all three wireless? Any other tips hugely appreciated. Again, thank you so much for being.

    Reply
      • Thank you sir. So i have settled on the asus AC3000 linked below, also described as a CT8, which matches your AC3000 CT8 review except here it is a tri-band, whereas your review says dual-band.
        Wonder if this is a regional difference in UK/EU? https://amzn.to/39DaSz2
        Plan is to:
        1. leave my ASUS RT-AC88U AC3100 in situ as internet gateway, 2. Deploy one AC3000 to replace the 87u, adding the 88u to it’s mesh via wired backhaul.
        3. Second AC3000 will become the untethered loft mesh using its third band to backhaul to Node 1.
        4. 87u gets redeployed elsewhere as AP on e.g. powerline.
        5. Review
        Regards, Gerrard

        Reply
        • That one is the ZenWiFi CT8, Gerrard. Not sure why they call it AC3000, which is just a designation used in many routers. That said:

          1 and 2. You can do that but remember that chances are you’ll waste the CT8’s 2nd 5GHz band. More here — read the section carefully!
          3. That won’t happen. You can’t mix tri-band and dual-band and expect them to work like that. At least for now.
          4. Don’t use powerline, it’s too slow.

          Reply
          • Hey Dong,
            Thought I would bring some feedback now that the CT8s are installed as per my post. I left my ASUS RT-AC88U (dual band) in situ as internet gateway and replaced the upstream 87u with one CT8/AC3000, which the 88u meshes via Ethernet uplink/backhaul. The second loft CT8 is actually using its third band to uplink/backhaul to Node 1, so it seems I am able to mix successfully ethernet and 5g backhauls.

            Result: in the dead-zone that was my loft, I am now getting 1053mbps according to the router app. It sometimes drops from “Great” to “OK” but hitting the optimise button or switching off/on restores it – although even the OK speeds are great to me! Although I am probably wasting a band, it seemed a good price vs dual band options, and maybe it will come in handy at a later date. Also the extra rj45 ports are useful. Totally pleased overall and thanks again for the advice!

  89. I have a Verizon Gateway router and three (3) Verizon extenders (all connected by coax), still have a wifi dead spot (large apartment with concrete block walls). Can I add an Asus mesh for dead spot while keeping existing system?

    Reply
    • You can’t have an AiMesh setup with just one hardware unit, Richard. But you can use any access point there, or router in AP mode.

      Reply
  90. Clear article.
    You DO recommend wired backhaul and I DID this.
    Regarding the network setup of a wired mesh to a modem/router combo from my ISP:
    I would like to have one network with all devices visible, I guess that means the same 3 octets of IPs. Can a wired Mesh system be set-up in a bridge mode to accomplish that?

    Reply
  91. Hoya, interesting read. So i’ve got x3 deco M5 in the hous I got another m5e and it works really well. Have a very old netgear nighthawk EX7000 in a seperate building 25m from main house which is rubbish. Am I right in thinking it would be better if i got another m5 unit down there and connected it to one of the m5 units in the house with an ethernet cable it would solve my problem?

    Reply
  92. Hi Dong

    Really interesting article and helped me realise that most reviewers of systems gave gigabit internet.

    I’m in the UK and only have 76mbps and my parents less than 35mbps.

    I have a wired gigabit network around my house and my parents don’t. I’m looking to get a mesh system for both.

    I know I can go dual band, so long as the mesh system has ethernet ports but would my parents benefit from from tri-band? My father as issues with the Macbook dropping form the WiFi, so being able to connect to a node wired would be helpful.

    The other issue is that my house is Victorian and my parents house whilst 1970s, has various walls so reach dead spots is important.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that many of the systems don’t seem to allow the assigning of static IP addresses to devices, which is something I have done and wish to continue to do.

    I read about the Decor M9 but reviews claim it’s erratic. I don’t want something that one has to keep resetting.

    If there is a problem, it can be helpful to look at logs. I get the impression app ones won’t allow such a thing.

    All this leads me to a point where I don’t think I’ve found what I’m looking for because no one has made it. I could be wrong though.

    Reply
  93. Hello Dong,

    Could you clarify the difference between a mesh system such as the Linksys Velop and a router that has mesh functionality such as the Linksys MR9600?

    I am confused and it seems each manufacturer has some kind of dual offering like this.

    Is it mostly marketing and at equal specifications the mesh system is simplified as much as possible (mobile app management, few settings, pretty much plug&play) whereas the router provide more features (web ui, multiple ethernet ports, extensive settings, etc.), or is there actual real differentiation in the way they work.

    (I couldn’t find an article on the topic so feel free to redirect me to the right place).

    I tried the TP-Link Deco X60 but was struggling with the lack of ethernet.
    I gave a try to the Linksys Velop MX4200 which seems decent.
    In either case, I don’t like the idea of the online mobile UI.

    My home is about 1500sqt but I would like to cover a small office shed in the backyard and cover the backyard as well. I think a unit in my home and one in my shed should be sufficient.

    Reply
  94. Is ASUS looking at allowing me to pin a device to an AIMESH router?

    How has AI-Mesh improved over the last two years?

    Have they published what features they add and what improvements they have made with firmware?

    I run the AI-Mesh system in my house with an RT-AC68U (East and West End downstairs) as satellites connected with cat6 and an RT-AC88U (Upstairs Center of house) as the main point connecting to the 500Mbps Xfinity connection.

    Problem I have is cameras and other devices hop and end up on one of the routers. The hoping messes with the Nest Cameras and takes them offline all the time. Also they get stuck on the weakest signal or one that is not closest. I can walk upstairs, work for a few minutes and then walk to the other side of the house and now I am stuck and garbage speed and no transition to closer router. I would like to stick cameras to device as well and now do it by making one the routers an AP instead and naming it a different network called east and west. Problem is does not create more interference?

    Reply
    • Yes, David. AiMesh 2.0 should give you that. You’ll be able to force a device to connect to a particular node manually. As for how AiMesh progresses, if you started following my post 2 years ago, you’d know. There’s no way I can give you a list of all that has changed. Or you can read the release notes of a particular router’s firmware versions.

      Reply
  95. Greetings Dong,

    I live in the country. Giant house, 5800 sq ft living, very long, with a second story and probably impossible to run ethernet. Internet (a WISP) enters on the far side of the house where I am pleased to get 20mb down. It may be possible to get more via a cellular hot spot in the future, then perhaps at a different location in the house. I would like overall coverage with the speeds that I have and be prepared to plug in a hot spot in the future. What would you suggest?

    Reply
      • Thank you, Dong, that’s what I expected you to say. Is that because even with multiple hop signal loss my bandwidth is so slow that it can still handle what I get? I live with 20mb all of the time, but 5mb on the far end would just suck.

        Reply
          • I didn’t know how to post my own comment , so I just replied .

            I currently have a regular setup with a NetGear router/modem that’s probably 5 years old , and probably due for an upgrade , and a Spectrum /ISP modem (they insisted during the install I needed it for phone capabilities ? ) .

            I have a smart phone , tablet , watch , laptop, tv , and HomePod so 6 devices always connected . However I want to add more homepods , cameras, two more smart tvs, bit defender security hub, smart locks and I know my garage opener will be connected to the internet so atleast 20 more devices . All of them will jot be streaming consistently but when I do uploads for videos to YT or social media I don’t want to lose streaming capabilities . I was looking at getting a dedicated modem NetGear CM1200 (maybe future proof) or a CM700 at the least but I can’t decide if I need this triband router or not for “backhaul” which is how I found your article in the first place. I live in a condo so I’m not sure what you mean by getting it wired but I know my smart tv will be connected directly into the router . And the other outside the living room may be on WiFi , unless I can get Internet directly installed in those rooms and plug that directly into my tv’s. Is that what you mean by getting it wired ?

          • Getting your home wired meaning you use network cables whenever applicable/possible. It’s not always necessary but the only way to get the best network speed. More here.

  96. Hi Dong,

    it seems like I’ll have to put in the cable to connect two nodes as wireless backhaul simply doesn’t work for me. Is there are any specifics I need to know about cable? Should it be Cat6? Also I don’t know what length do I need, ao I plan to buy a higher length and then terminate myself. Is it a good idea? Anything else I need to consider to choose cable for backhaul.

    Thanks

    Reply
  97. I have read your article and l greatly appreciate the information. We have a 3 flat in chicago with a garage across from the yard. We previously had hard wired an airport express system. This allowed us to extend the wifi throughout the house and to the garage to operate our cameras. It recently died and we installed a nighthawk x6S router. The speed has been great but it doesn’t extent the wifi far enough to operate the cameras. We would like to install “wired” access points to be able to run the cameras and other devices with minimal bandwidth loss. I have spent hours trying to figure this out. Can I add an EX8000 as an access point #1 (wired) and then run cat 5 from AP #1 to add an other EX8000 (wired) as access point #2. I have read in different places that you cannot set up a seamless wired system. Is this possible using the same name/password so that our devises can move from one AP to the next seamlessly?
    Thanks so much.

    Reply
  98. Hi Dong,

    Thank you for all the great information. I have a wired backhaul setup at my home with 3 base stations on different floors in my home. I’m curious if each base station (or AP) should be configured to use the exact same channel, or does this cause interference?

    Since each base station is broadcasting the same SSID, I thought it might be preferred for each base station to use the same channels, but I’m concerned about interference of having all 3 use the same channel.

    Right now, I have them on separate channels: Each base station is running both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. For the 2.4Ghz band my 3 base stations use channel 1, 6, and 11 (so they don’t overlap). And for the 5Ghz band each base station uses channels 36, 40, 44.

    Is this correct, or should all three base stations use the same channel to make it easier/seamless to roam and hand-off between base stations?

    Thank you,

    Stewart

    Reply
    • I’d leave that setting at “Auto”, Stewart. It looks like you’re using three separate access points, in this case, the roaming is a matter of luck, there’s no definitive answer. But you can try out different settings to see how things pan out.

      Reply
      • Hi – I have a follow up to clarify your advice to this question. Like Stewart I have a wired backhaul system – specifically a tri-band velop system, therefore it has a 2.4GHZ and 2x5GHZ radios, with a base router (MR8300) and 3x tri-band nodes.
        In a full mesh, the 5GHZ network mainly uses the same channels for each node (except for one which is different) in the 36 to 48 range and >100 for other radio.
        In your response, are you saying there is no definitive answer to whether radios should be on the same channel or not?

        Reply
  99. Hi Dong

    Many thanks for all you articles, it has been really interesting and insightful.
    I have a question which I don’t think I have come across exactly.
    I understand having a dual band mesh system and hardwiring is the way to go in my set up. I intend to get a 3 node systems, probably Asus XD4.
    I can fairly easily wire 2 nodes but the 3rd upstairs may be difficult. If I wire the first 2 nodes but not the 3rd will that impact the performance of the first 2 or whichever one the 3rd is communicating to?
    My thinking is if the 3rd node is not hardwired then some bandwidth of the others will be used up as they need to provide a wireless backhaul to the 3rd node or doesn’t it work like that.
    If I can’t wire them 3rd node am I better off going with tri-band?

    Leon

    Reply
    • If you can’t wire the 3rd node, only devices connected to the 3rd node will be impacted. And no, you can’t do tri-band just at the 3rd node (you can, but it makes no difference) since the way AiMesh works, you need to have tri-band at the router unit to have the 3rd band being used as the backhaul. More here.

      Reply
  100. I’m curious about how the ethernet backhaul works. I live in a split level house with one side wired with gigabit ethernet but the other side is connected via MoCA. With a MoCA 2.0 adapter, it looks like the best throughput I can get will be around 400Mbps on that side of the house. I would only need one node on that side of the house, but I wasn’t sure if the MoCA would negatively impact performance for that one node and/or possibly the entire mesh. I had been planning on using the Asus ZenWifi AX Mini with ethernet backhaul in AP mode with the Fios router.

    Reply
  101. Doug,

    Howdy, I’m an IT guy and just wanted to say thank you for writing this article and responding so quickly to posts. Good to know that the kindness still exists.

    So I moved into a new home and decided to jump into the ASUS AX. So far with my testing I can simply say that I’m truly amazed at how well they work. Almost got the Orbi’s but my thinking was I can get 3 of the Asus Ap’s for the price of 2 Orbi’s.

    Having done tech and IT all my life these are next level good… Of course I have not tested Orbi or Amplifi Alien’s (sold out everywhere BTW) but I’m happy with the purchase.

    Well thanks again for the article peace be with you and live long and prosper 😉

    Reply
  102. Hold up a second… There are a lot of inaccuracies here, starting with how you’re defining meshing (See my comment on the Omada post). “Mesh” only refers to wireless backhaul. Wired backhaul is not mesh.

    It’s also critically important to understand that in wi-fi, there is no such thing as seamless handoff. Or handoff of any kind. When a client gets a signal level from the AP that suggests it’s moving out of coverage, it must then stop passing data to scan for new access points that meet its criteria for roaming, and if it finds one, it must then disassociate from its current AP, associate to the new AP, re-establish encryption, and then check that it can keep the same IP address.

    802.11r allows the encryption keys to be cached, but the APs don’t know which AP the client device is going to want to connect to (although with k/v it can sometimes make a better guess, but each client device has its own algorithms to do this). 802.11r doesn’t generally work very well, and is usually only useful in networks using strong security like enterprise authentication.

    Bottom line, there’s no seamless handoff. Roaming from one AP to another is solely a client decision, and the disconnect/reconnect process takes a long time, about 100 milliseconds under ideal conditions. It can take significantly longer if the AP rejects the incoming connection due to configured limits on client capacity or RSSI, or anything that introduces delay like band steering.

    Reply
  103. Hello good afternoon. I bought asus zen wifi xt8 router to work as Access points in mesh system around the house.
    I have the main router / modem from ISP connected to a switch and I connected 3 Zen wifi routers to the switch as explained in the link below, that is, the main module connected to the switch on lan1 and the other 2 connected to the switch on the wan port.
    https://www.asus.com/support/FAQ/1044151/
    Scenario 3: Using AiMesh or ZenWiFi with network switch. And using Main AiMesh router as AP mode (Bridge mode).

    What happens is that I can only connect via wifi via one device. If connecting another device always gives an error and I have tried with many. I can connect by cable on several different devices (computers) directly to the asus router that is connected to the switch so I think this is not a DHCP problem with the ISP router because assigns IP to the two cable-connected devices. The problem is that I can’t connect via wifi. 

    I appreciate all possible help. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Some info in that post is wrong, JM. That’s quite terrible on the part of Asus. Anyhow, set up your system the standard way Router-> (Switch) -> Nodes. Make sure that works. Now, check out this post to use the system in a double NAT setup, turn the gateway into bridge mode, or the system in AP mode.

      Reply
  104. Hi Dong,

    Due to the lay out of my place, it is rectangular in shape and the main router is at the start / front of the house (entrance).

    There is no way to position the routers in a start topology except a daisy chain topology.

    Can I ask, by using a triband mesh, will I be able to elminate the 50% signal loss by using a triband router instead of a dual band?

    I estimate I need 2 to 3 hops to get to the end of the place.

    Please advise.

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • No, Leroy. As you can imagine, the dedicated backhaul band of the middle unit will have to do two things at the same time. But it sure is still better than using a dual-band system.

      Reply
      • So can I confirm that by using a tri band mesh, when it does 3 hops,

        A -> B -> C -> D for example,

        node B and node C and D will not each experience a 50% decrease in bandwith cos they are all tribands right? Since nodes B and C area all tri bands and they have a dedicated bandwith to handle to backhaul and communications.

        Reply
        • Only A is OK. The rest will be bad, very bad, and really bad. By the time it gets to D, the net speed will be quite terrible. It might still work if you don’t care about fast speeds. Read the post and my previous answer again. Keeping asking the same question in different ways won’t get you a new answer. 🙂

          Reply
          • Hi Dong,

            Thank you.

            Cos I misinterpreted your previous reply. When you said no, I thought you meant no as in no signal loss.

            Looks like it is back to the drawing board to try and fix the WiFi connection.

            I was looking at the linksys velop ac6600 initially.

            Do u have other tri band routers to recommend?

  105. Hi Doug

    I have gigabit connection that comes in thru my basement on one side of the house. Should I run a triband satellite backhaul to the other side of the basement with a hub in between for my basement office and be still be able to provide good speed for my wifi on the 1st and 2nd floor of my 3600 s.f. house? What do you recommend?

    Reply
  106. Hello Dong,

    Thanks for the great article. The prewire includes 3 WiFi access point locations in 6,000 sq ft house. I will be using either charter(spectrum) or AT&T internet with speeds of 400-500 mbps or higher if available with 10-15 devices in total. I read about wired back haul being better in your article. I hope prewired 3 wifi access points will be able to achieve that. I read about concerns with privacy issues with vendors like Amazon and Google in your article. I was considering Eero 6 or Eero 6 pro but after reading your article, I am not sure. Which wifi mesh network would you recommend?

    Reply