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Top Five DIY Mesh Wi-Fi Approaches: Build Yourself the Fastest System Today!

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While shopping for a home Wi-Fi system, we often overlook DIY mesh options and opt for a purpose-built β€” or "canned" β€” solution. And that can be a grave oversight.

Examples of canned Wi-Fi systems: Amazon's eero, Google's Nest Wifi, Netgear's Orbi, and TP-Link's Deco. These easy-to-use pre-made mesh systems are restrictive in one way or another. Some might incur huge privacy risks. Others are ridiculously expensive. Find all in the link below.

Wi-Fi mesh: The best lists

You'll find in this post five of the best do-it-yourself Wi-Fi mesh approaches β€” encompassing multiple Wi-Fi standards β€” that will give you super-fast speeds, reliable performance, or a ton of customization.

Most importantly, they all allow you to start with a standalone router and scale up the coverage seamlessly as your needs grow.

Dong's note: I first published this post on January 18, 2023, and updated it on October 11, 2023, with up-to-date information.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine Special Edition UDM SE Hosting the U6 Enterprise Access Point
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: Coupling a non-WiFi router with access points, while messy and requiring more work, is the best way to build a robust Wi-Fi mesh system.

DIY Mesh Wi-Fi systems: The top-five list

It's important to note that DIY mesh systems are not meant to be easy. All of the Wi-Fi ecosystems below will require some work.

But in my experience, none of the below options are too complicated, either. If you're willing to spend some time and have enough interest, you'll be able to figure one out with the help of the linked related how-tos and reviews. And knowing one likely means you'll be able to take on the rest. They are all the same in principle.

Making your own mesh Wi-Fi gives you the best control over the hardware and, hence, the performance, features, and, most importantly, the cost. Below is the list of the best DIY mesh Wi-Fi systems that will give you all those benefits and possibly more. I've used all of them, with great success, in various configurations and locations.

This list is sorted by the level of recommendation, from the least to the most. However, they are very similar and only differ by flavors and nuances β€” all options are semi-equally excellent.

Ubiquiti UDM SE vs UDREnGenius FIT hardware piecesTP Link Omada EAP670 vs EAP610 with controllerSynology mesh routers RT6600ax vs WRX560 vs RT2600acAsus RT AXE7800 vs GT AXE11000 Port Side
NameUbiquiti UniFi Mesh's RatingEnGenius FIT DIY PoE Mesh's RatingTP-Link Omada-based DIY PoE Mesh's RatingSynology Wi-Fi Mesh System's RatingAsus AiMesh's Rating
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5. Asus’s AiMesh: The most versatile ecosystem

The Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E comes in an interesting design with non-detachable antennas that can collapse on its top. It's also much smaller than Asus's first Wi-Fi 6E router, the GT-AXE11000.
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: Almost all Aus routers can work as a member of an AiMesh Wi-Fi system.

AiMesh is by far the most flexible in custom-built home mesh Wi-Fi systems thanks to the sheer number of available hardware β€” virtually all Asus Wi-Fi 6 and later routers support this feature.

Asus also has the ZenWifi family of canned systems built around the AiMesh feature.

Consequently, there are countless mesh combos, and since an Asus router generally has comprehensive network settings and features, an AiMesh system is also feature-rich.

But that hardware flexibility and versatility also translate into a big shortcoming: the likelihood of unreliability or unexpected bugs. To avoid those, it's crucial to pick the correct hardware combo and set it up properly.

Asus AiMesh's Rating

8 out of 10
Asus RT AXE7800 vs. GT AXE11000 Port Side
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
8.5 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
7 out of 10
Value and Privacy
8.5 out of 10

Pros

The most flexible way to build a robust, scalable home Wi-Fi mesh system

Excellent performance, top-notch feature set

Built-in online protection

No vendor login is required, or other privacy risks

Comparatively affordable

Cons

Certain router combos can be buggy or have issues with new major firmware releases.

Rigid Wi-Fi management when mixing hardware of different Wi-Fi tiers, standards, or number of bands

Only one Guest SSID (instead of three) per band can be made system-wide


4. Synology Mesh: An enterprise-class mesh by home-grade hardware

Synology WRX560 vs. RT6600ax Back
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: The WRX560 and RT6600ax make a Synology mesh combo.

Synology Mesh is the way I call the no-name feature that turns select Synology routers into a mesh system β€” similar to Asus's AiMesh. You start with a standalone router and add more to increase the coverage.

On the one hand, Synology Mesh tends to be a lot more stable than AiMesh, thanks to its enterprise-class firmware, called Synology Router Manager (SRM). On the other, it has only a few hardware options, and currently, none supports Multi-Gig wired backhauling.

Synology Wi-Fi Mesh System's Rating

8.1 out of 10
Synology mesh routers RT6600ax vs. WRX560 vs. RT2600ac
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
8.5 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value and Privacy
8 out of 10

Pros

Fast, reliable, and extensive Wi-Fi coverage

Advanced interface with high-quality add-on features

Highly customizable network and Wi-Fi settings

Effective Parental Controls and online protection

Advanced Guest network

Cons

Limited hardware and combo options, no satellite-only hardware, users have little control over the satellites

No 10Gbps or 5Gbps Multi-Gig option, no hardware with two or more 2.5Gbps ports


3. TP-Link Omada: A robust access point-based mesh with lots of hardware options

TP-Link Omada EAP670 vs. EAP610: The access points and their retail boxes.
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: The EAP670 and EAP610 access points are part of TP-Link's Omada mesh family.

Omada is a family business access point. You can use a controller β€” in the form of a standalone hardware controller or computer running controller software β€” to manage multiple units as a robust mesh Wi-Fi system.

Like EnGenius FIT below, this approach is standard in business and enterprise Wi-Fi applications, available in known brands such as Cisco's Meraki, Netgear's Insight Managed, or Zyxel Nebula.

What sets Omada apart is its affordability β€” the hardware tends to cost significantly less than similarly-specced equipment from competing vendors. Additionally, the Omada family has access points to all popular Wi-Fi standards, including Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and the upcoming Wi-Fi 7.

Generally, it's cheaper to go with Omada than with any canned system. Most importantly, you won't need to pay a subscription to use all of its features.

On the downside, you'll also need an existing router, preferably a non-Wifi one.

TP-Link Omada-based DIY PoE Mesh's Rating

8.4 out of 10
TP Link Omada EAP670 vs. EAP610 with controller
Performance
8.5 out of 10
Features
8.5 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
7 out of 10
Value and Privacy
9.5 out of 10

Pros

Excellent Wi-Fi coverage, fast performance

Affordable; easy setup option; no additional cost for management

Lots of mesh features and settings

APs include mounting accessories, and PoE or power adapter

The system can be managed via a local web user interface, a useful optional mobile app

Cons

A controller is needed; the hardware controller can't work as a router, nor does it include a power adapter or PoE injector

Networking knowledge is required to set up and maintain


2. EnGenius FIT: A flexible access point-based mesh approach

The EnGeinus FIT is a newcomer in the router + access points mesh crowd. It shares the affordability with TP-Link's Omada above but has a bit more flexibility.

Specifically, all you need is two or more access points to form a mesh system, thanks to the fact the cloud-based management is built-in within the hardware's FitXpress firmware. Additionally, it also has a hardware controller option that offers better performance, more features, and a larger-capacity network.

First introduced in October 2022, EnGenius FIT currently only includes Wi-Fi 6 access points, but there will likely be hardware support for Wi-Fi 7 in the future.

EnGenius FIT DIY PoE Mesh's Rating

8.1 out of 10
EnGenius FIT hardware pieces
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
8 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
7.5 out of 10
Value and Privacy
9 out of 10

Pros

Flexible hardware and software options with enterprise-class Wi-Fi and network customization; built-in could-based management with a hardware controller option

Comparatively affordable; easy setup option; no additional cost for management

The system can be managed via a local web user interface or cloud manage a useful optional mobile app

Cons

FitXpress has interface-to-hardware lag and doesn't support multiple sites of distinctive Wi-Fi needs; the FitCon100 controller is a bit confusing and tedious to set up

For now: No 160MHz Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E support, no Multi-Gig PoE switches, generally performance is limited at Gigabit

No support for WPA or older security; most PoE access points and controllers don't include a power adapter or PoE injector


1. Ubiquiti UniFi: The most advanced all-in-one ecosystem for the home and SMB

Ubiquiti UDM SE vs. UDR Back
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: The UniFi Dream Router (UDR) and the Dream Machine Special Edition (UDM-SE) from Ubiquiti.

UniFi is Ubiquiti's enterprise family of hardware. Initially, it's only relevant to home users via the Dream Machine (UDM) and, subsequently, the Dream Router (UDR). As the need for faster local networks and broadband grows, the Dream Machine Special Edition (UDM-SE) has now become the ultimate option.

You can use any of the routers as the controller for a network and add UniFi access points or wireless extenders, such as the Enterprise U6 or the BeaconHD or U6, to scale up coverage. Alternatively, you can also use third-party access points, including those mentioned in the Omada option mentioned above.

An UniFi mesh system is best-in-class in customizability and features. However, it requires networking know-how to figure out its advanced features.

Additionally, networking is just one of the many things an UniFi controller can do, such as VoIP phone or IP camera support, so things can become either exciting or overwhelming depending on the situation.

Ubiquiti UniFi Mesh's Rating

8.5 out of 10
Ubiquiti UDM SE vs. UDR
Performance
9 out of 10
Features
9 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value and Privacy
8 out of 10

Pros

Seamless support for UniFi hardware; supports multiple hardware categories (Network, Protect, Talk, Access, etc.)

Reliable (Wi-Fi) performance with excellent coverage

Tons of useful networking features, a comprehensive web user interface, and a mobile app

Practical hardware design

Cons

Limited Multi-Gig support

Requires a login account to set up and manage


Extra: Amazon’s eero PoE hardware β€” the easiest way to get multi-Gigabit performance at a stupidly high cost

Amazon eero PoE 6 Access Point and Gateway togetherAmazon eero PoE mesh combo
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: An Amazon eero PoE mesh combo includes an eero PoE Gateway unit and at least one eero PoE access point.

The combo of eero's latest PoE hardware, including the Amazon eero PoE Gateway and the eero PoE 6 access point, qualifies as a robust router + access points mesh approach.

While individually, each is greatly overpriced and limited, when working together, they become the easiest way to create a modern network with multi-gig wired backhauling. But as hardware from eero, this approach is poor in customization and includes lots of big and small surprises, ranging from subscription nags to severe privacy risks.

Make sure you read their reviews to be aware of the catches before making the purchase.

Amazon Mesh with eero PoE Hardware's Rating

7 out of 10
Amazon eero PoE 6 Access Point and Gateway
Performance
9 out of 10
Features
5 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
9 out of 10
Value and Privacy
5 out of 10

Pros

Two auto-sensing 10GBASE-T ports and eight PoE++ 2.5GBASE-T ports on the router and a 2.5GBASE-T POE port on the access point to deliver true multi-Gigabit wired performance

Compact design, easy to use

Good coverage, reliable performance

Cons

Expensive with extremely limited customizability and privacy risks

No web user interface (or desktop app) or command line support; no common business features, such as VLAN; all useful features (Dual-WAN, VPN, QoS, Parental Controls, etc.) require the eero Plus subscription

The router's internal fan is a tad noisy; runs very hot


The takeaway

Pick any of the options above, and you will get a mesh Wi-Fi system far better than any canned option of a similar price point.

And the fact that you can say you build and maintain it yourself is a satisfying bonus.

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30 thoughts on “Top Five DIY Mesh Wi-Fi Approaches: Build Yourself the Fastest System Today!”

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  1. Dong, I currently have a Deco mesh set up. I need to add a outdoor broadcaster. I need something to cover an acre or two. I do not have PoE at the moment, but getting a new switch with that ability is no problem. I am using Starlink as my ISP. I am a DIYer and need to keep a budget in mind. Would a couple outdoor AP’s be a better option than a single AP? If a single AP is used I would need to mount to a pole higher than my house since I need coverage in front and back. My geography is flat but there is the house, a detached garage and
    a stand alone shop. Running the ethernet cable is no problem, it is already installed in the house, garage and shop. What would you recommend? It would need to work with the Deco system, I have to many AP’s and don’t want to buy a new system. I am not aware of any TP link outdoor AP’s that look like they would work as far as coverage is concerned. Thanks,
    Woody

    Reply
  2. One WiFi router feature that I have been looking for is the capability to block VPNs. As you know, a VPN is an easy way for kids to circumvent parental controls. I know people have been able to block VPNs using OpenDNS, but it would be a lot easier if it could be done by the router. Do you know which WiFi routers can block VPNs?

    Reply
    • You don’t block VPN, Gary, you block the entity that provides a particular VPN service. And that varies depending on what entity it is. For example, if you want to block the A VPN company, just block its software or its IP address(s). That’s the general idea.

      Reply
  3. I recently installed an Omada system comprising an ER605 router, OC200 controller and three AX1800 access points. I’m very pleased with the system. I preferred Omada to Ubiquiti not only for price, but also because the router and controller can be wall mounted. Unlike the Ubiquiti Dream Router, the ER605 does not have built-in Wi-Fi, which I consider a feature, because I have installed it in my wiring closet, and have located the APs in more strategic locations. Dong’s reviews of Omada helped to convince me to buy it. But I would add to the reviews that the Omada system includes routers and also a combination router/controller/switch (not AP).

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing the experience, Randy. Omada has evolved quite a bit since I last updated the review. But generally its switches and routers lack Multi-Gig supports, for now. The same thing can be said about EnGenius FIT. This will change, though.

      Reply
  4. Yeah, I was reading another of your (older) posts and then posted the question on this one before I read it. Duh!

    Reply
  5. Dong,

    I’m curious why you didn’t include a pair of the RT6600ax in your list of best tri-band mesh systems. It would be about $600 on Amazon so similar in pricing to some of the others like the Asus XT12. Maybe I’m missing something here?

    Reply
    • You missed everything starting with the title and the intro of this post. But, sure, you can use that pair, but it’s not purpose built, like the case of the XT12. Read #3 on this list. Basically, you need to pay attention. πŸ™‚

      Reply
      • Yeah, I was reading another of your (older) posts and then posted the question on this one before I read it. Duh!

        Reply
  6. Love your content! Do you have a note detailing DIY mesh-like setup with multiple routers? I have a couple asus ax92U boxes setup in double NAT. One in the house and other wired in a detached garage. This gives me many more guest SSIDs and better switching control than I was able to get using AIMesh.

    I’m considering an ax88u pro for the front box, which supports VLan, asus supported merlin firmware and more horse power for router based VPN. I find it very hard to source non-IT pro information on such things and how these options effect security.

    Reply
  7. Very useful article, will have to go back re-read later when I have some time. I would like to do a mesh system for my home, right now I have a Xyxel (?) AP in my basement just below the ceiling, and it gives me pretty good coverage throughout the house (two story house), but have thought a mesh system might be better, one on the main floor, and one on the second floor.

    Couldn’t tell from this article, but are any of these Wi-Fi 6E Devices? I know I am limited in devices for 6E, but looking to do a bit of future proofing.

    Reply
    • The ZyXel NWA220AX-6E is similar to the TP-Link Omada mentioned here. Get a few and mesh them up over the Nebula portal — the free tier is good enough.

      But for your case, it’s best to go with the Omada or Asus AiMesh or UniFi, just use Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters.

      Reply
  8. Hi Dong – Continued thanks for all your work. My current set up is a Asus RT-AC86U with wired backhaul to a Asus Blue Cave satellite. It seems to get good coverage, but I’m thinking it is time to upgrade because I’m having to reboot the router about once a week now.

    I could upgrade and stay within the AiMesh ecosystem, but based on your comments and the fact that my home is hardwired I’m inclined to try Omada APs. I could use my existing router (wifi off) and would just need to purchase/install the APs, PoE switch and controller. Which of those two directions would you recommend?

    Reply
  9. Hi Dong,

    Great article. I read both this one and “Picking the Best 6 Wif-fi access point”.

    I have a specific question and hopefully you can steer me in the easier to implement and affordable direction.

    My daughter just both a three story house. The modem (supplied by the internet provider will be in the first floor).

    There is one CAT6 cable running from the first floor (same closet where the modem will be) to the ceiling in the third floor. Since it is on the ceiling, there is no power outlet.

    So my options are:
    1. Just buy her a router to place next to the modem in the first floor, and hope the coverage will be strong enough also in the third floor. I have the Asus RT-AC86U and am pretty happy with it. But my house is only two floors.

    2. Buy her a router, for example like my AC86U , put it in the first floor. Buy any poe ceiling mounted AP and hang it on the ceiling in the third floor and connected to the router (probably will need a poe injector)

    3. Buy a canned system. routher and poe in the same package. I don’t know too much (except what reading in your posts) about router vs switch vs AP. For example – is it better to have modem –> router –> AP or, is it better to have modem –>switch–> 2 APs (one in first floor next to modem and switch and one in third floor on the ceiling.

    I am looking to have the same SSID so laptop/phone/TVs through the house will pick the strongest signal automatically.

    I would also like a cheap and easy to manage solution since she is a young girl and lives few hours from me.

    if you could please stir me towards a recommended brand/model/package, it would be very appreciative.

    Thanks so much for your advice! -Drew

    Reply
  10. I am not new to the concept of networking but I had never implemented a Wi-Fi mesh system before. I used older Synology equipment and so far, I am pleased with the outcome. I picked up a RT2600AC for around $100 and a MR2200AC for about the same price. I had a CAT 5E cable in place I used for the min router and MR2200AC. I also have FIOS internet with cable TV, so I needed the MOCA connection on the FIOS router for the cable channel guide. Your site was helpful with understanding the basic set up and some of the specific information I needed. Although this is a Wi-Fi 5 setup it works well for me. I now have excellent coverage in my back yard for my lights, grills and cell phone/ tablets when using them out back.

    Reply
  11. Hi Dong, really like reading your posts. Do you have a post about mixing dual band and tri band Asus routers to make an Aimesh system? I think I have read information on this topic here and there in pieces but not sure if there is something dedicated to this subject.

    Thanks

    Reply
        • Dong, one more question on the Aimesh system. I remember you once sharing your home network on some post. And as far as I can remember you had three powerful routers in your setup. One primary and two nodes. My question is that unless you have a really giant house don’t you see issues like sticky clients (clients sticking to one router which is far as against the one which is near)? Also clients sticking more to the primary router than to the nodes. Another question, do you think a connection speed of 500Mbps dropping to 200Mbps at a certain place in the house as a reason to have an extra mesh node ? 200Mbps can pretty much do most of the tasks anyways.

          Reply
  12. I have Omada WiFi access points (some stand alone, some meshed) in place for my small business, a few rentals, and several friends and family. Just absolutely love it. I am now starting to get their POE switches and am considering their router. You use either? (I no longer recommend Meraki for most small business, just too expensive)

    Reply

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