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Four Popular DIY Mesh Wi-Fi Approaches: Build the Best-performing System Today!

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When it comes to home Wi-Fi systems, the first thing that comes to mind is generally not a DIY mesh but one of the purposed-built options -- or "canned" systems, as I often call them.

Examples are Amazon's eero, Google's Nest Wifi, Netgear's Orbi, and TP-Link's Deco, etc. And in most cases, or to a certain extent, they will work. But these mesh systems are often restrictive in one way or another, incur huge privacy risks, or are too expensive.

The good news is there are much better alternatives for your hard-earned money.

You'll find in this post four of the best do-it-yourself Wi-Fi mesh approaches -- encompassing multiple Wi-Fi standards -- that allow you to start with a standalone router and scale up the coverage seamlessly, according to your needs.

DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: Even the best purpose-built mesh system only give you so much.
DIY Mesh Wi-Fi: Even the best purpose-built mesh system only gives you so much.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems you can build yourself

It's important to note that DIY mesh systems are not meant to be easy. In fact, ease of use is the most significant appeal of any canned system -- the only reason you should get one instead of those mentioned here.

So all of the Wi-Fi ecosystems below will require some work. But making your own mesh Wi-Fi gives you the best control over the hardware and, hence, the performance, features, and, most importantly, the cost.

And in my experience, none of the below options are too complicated. If you're willing to spend some time and have enough interest, you'll be able to figure one out. And knowing one likely means you'll be able to take on the rest. They are all the same in the general idea.

With that, here's the list of the best DIY mesh Wi-Fi systems. I've been using all of them, with great success, in various configurations and locations.

1. Asus’s AiMesh

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 popular in custom-built home mesh Wi-Fi systems thanks to the sheer number of available hardware -- 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 the most comprehensive network settings and features, AiMesh is also the most feature-rich.

AiMesh does have some shortcomings, the biggest among which is the likelihood that a new major firmware update might cause issues. So, the key is picking the right combo and being smart on firmware updates.

Asus AiMesh's Rating

8.1 out of 10
Asus RT AXE7800 vs GT AXE11000 Port Side
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
9 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 Guest SSID (instead of three) per band can be made system-wide


2. TP-Link Omada

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 to manage multiple units as a robust mesh Wi-Fi system.

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 Ingenious's Go-to Cloud.

What sets Omada apart is its affordability -- the hardware tends to cost a third or even lower than similarly-specced equipment from competing vendors. For a large home, it's generally cheaper to go with Omada than with any canned system.

On the downside, these are PoE access points, meaning you generally need to get your home wired first. You'll also need an existing router -- a boon for those with an ISP-provided gateway they can replace.

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 cloud-manage

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

The controller can't work as a router, nor does it include a power adapter or PoE injector

Networking know-know and network cables are required


3. Synology Mesh

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. This feature is similar to Asus's AiMesh in terms of customizability and features.

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. 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

8.8 out of 10
Synology mesh routers RT6600ax vs WRX560 vs RT2600ac
Performance
9.5 out of 10
Features
9.5 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


4. Ubiquiti UniFi

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

UniFi is Ubiquiti's enterprise family of hardware. It's only relevant to home users, thanks to the release of the Dream Machine (UDM) and, subsequently, the Dream Router (UDR).

You can use either of the routers as the controller for a network and add UniFi access points or wireless extenders, such as the BeaconHD, to scale up coverage.

An UniFi mesh system is excellent in customizability and features. However, it's likely the one that requires the most networking know-how to figure out on this list. On top of that, it's also limited in terms of hardware options.

Ubiquiti UniFi Mesh (via UDR or UDM)'s Rating

8 out of 10
Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router (UDR)
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
9 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value and Privacy
7 out of 10

Pros

Seamless support for UniFi hardware; the UDM offers multiple applications (Network, Protect, Talk, and Access)

Reliable Wi-Fi performance, excellent range, supporting both AP and wireless extenders

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

Compact, quiet controllers with beautiful design

Cons

No Multi-Gig, Dual-WAN, or Link Aggregation; middling Wi-Fi specs and modest processing power; UDM can handle only one additional app (Talk, Protect, or Access) is supported at a time

Security feature reduces Wi-Fi 6 speed. UDM's Power over Ethernet doesn't support PoE+ or PoE++

Requires an account with UniFi, not wall-mountable, internal fan


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 built it yourself is a satisfying bonus.

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7 thoughts on “Four Popular DIY Mesh Wi-Fi Approaches: Build the Best-performing System Today!”

  1. 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
  2. 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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