The internet connection is often inconveniently located. Instead of being in the living room, the line comes out of the wall in the hallway or basement. If the Wi-Fi router is placed next to it, the best Wi-Fi coverage is in a place where it is not needed. A few rooms away, the internet already lags because the wireless signal is greatly weakened by ceilings, walls, furniture, and human bodies.
The most stable solution is to equip the apartment or house with LAN cables. But since that is not always possible, repeaters are a cheap alternative – although they come with reduced throughput. In contrast, WLAN mesh systems reliably extend the Wi-Fi coverage and are also fast – the new tri-band mesh systems can even match LAN connections.
In this comparison test, we compare well-known mesh products, from single-band to tri-band. The following products are included in the current comparison test.
Tri-Band Mesh Replaces LAN Cabling
The most technologically advanced WLAN mesh points have three radio modules. The most powerful module operates in the upper 5 GHz band and is used for communication between mesh endpoints. This wireless network replaces the LAN cable between the devices. The other two wireless networks communicate with the devices on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. To measure the performance of the devices, we test the throughput at five points in the house. We only refer to the Wi-Fi internal data traffic, as access to the internet is usually limited by the available connection. Details about the test procedure can be found in the respective individual tests.
The Asus RT-AX92U, which is perhaps the strongest (and actually available) tri-band mesh system, was released in 2019. It internally connects its mesh points with a 4804 Mbps fast Wi-Fi 6 bridge.
However, it only provides speeds of up to 400 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 866 Mbps at 5 GHz for end devices. Currently, Wi-Fi 6 is still relatively rare in end devices, so this limitation is not a major issue. The 4.8 Gbps speed is not wasted because when multiple Asus RT-AX92U mesh points serve 866 Mbps devices, the load can be distributed to multiple gigabits. Additionally, each Asus RT-AX92U mesh point has five 1000 Mbps Ethernet ports. If these ports are used to connect fast LAN devices in remote rooms, the 4.8 Gbps from the WLAN mesh backbone can be easily utilized.
Netgear Orbi RBK50
When the Netgear Orbi RBK50 mesh set (test report) arrived in Europe in 2017, it offered maximum internal networking speeds of 1733 Mbps with Wi-Fi 5. The specifications for end devices are similar to the newer Asus RT-AX92U: 400 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 866 Mbps at 5 GHz. Additionally, each Orbi master and satellite unit has four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Orbi had impressive range right from the start and it still performs well today. Its oval flower vase design was and still is visually appealing.
However, over the years, the author has been repeatedly surprised by various software bugs in the Orbi system. Netgear has not always excelled in quality control and maintenance of delivered Wi-Fi products. Nevertheless, Orbi is still a good solution for larger homes and apartments in 2020.
AVM Fritz Repeater 3000
In February 2019, AVM introduced its first tri-band WLAN mesh point, the AVM Fritz Repeater 3000 (test report), to the market. Its WLAN architecture with speeds of 400 Mbps, 866 Mbps, and 1733 Mbps is very similar to the Orbi RBK50. However, the AVM device is significantly smaller than the Orbi units.
If you already have a Fritzbox 7580, 7590, 6590, or 6591 in your home, you can use it as the mesh master and build a useful combination with just one AVM 3000. AVM still has the advantage of integrating modems or telephone systems directly into the router. Many competitors do not offer this feature anymore.
Another advantage of AVM products is their excellent software support. Even after years, the devices still receive updates and new features. Some other manufacturers neglect such service and save on this cost.
Ubiquiti Amplifi HD
Ubiquiti’s access points are popular in professional environments. For end consumers, the company offers the Amplifi series. Its highlight is undoubtedly the router, as very few manufacturers combine design with a well-functioning touchscreen that is easy to use. During testing, the setup and configuration were highly rated.
However, the Amplifi HD suffers from reduced throughput, especially when only one router is used. This problem can be solved by combining it with another access point. The design of the access points also received positive feedback: they can be directly plugged into electrical outlets and the antenna can be adjusted using a ball joint. Overall, the Amplifi HD offers a good mesh system with an attractive design, although it is relatively expensive.
D-Link, Linksys, and Zyxel Mesh at 866 Mbps
The other tri-band Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems, D-Link Covr 2202, Linksys Velop, and Zyxel Multy U AC2100, connect their mesh points to each other at “only” 866 Mbps. This saves costs, which is reflected in the reasonable end-user prices: D-Link starting from 70 euros, Linksys around 100 euros, and Zyxel only 60 euros per mesh point. These devices are suitable for those who need to provide Wi-Fi coverage over a large area but do not necessarily require the fastest connection at every endpoint.
For comparison, the Asus RT-AX92U costs from 185 euros, the AVM 3000 from 110 euros, and the classic mesh Netgear Orbi RBK50 from 185 euros per device.
Dual-Band Mesh Systems from AVM, Google, and Telekom
Dual-band mesh systems use one band for system internal meshing and the other band for data transmission to the end devices, depending on the situation, architecture, or user preferences. There is no third radio band in these systems. This affordable compromise between expensive tri-band systems and cheap repeaters generally functions quite well in practice. The image clearly shows the difference in throughput compared to tri-band models. It is also evident that the dual-band devices benefit greatly from a second or third access point. Details about the test procedure can be found in the respective individual tests.
AVM Fritz Repeater 1750E, 1200, and 2400
The AVM Fritz Repeater 1750E was introduced to the market in 2014, long before the mesh hype that began in 2017. Through firmware updates, AVM has given the old 1750E new mesh and security features. As a result, the old device can now be easily integrated into an AVM-based mesh. The younger models AVM 1200 and AVM 2400 also have LAN ports like the outdated 1750E repeater. All three Fritz repeaters can be reconfigured as conventional Wi-Fi access points thanks to these LAN ports. In this mode, they are directly connected to an internet router via LAN cable. This allows them to fully utilize the power of both frequency bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) for the connected Wi-Fi devices.
While Netgear Orbi has been successful since spring 2017 (despite sometimes sloppy software), Google opted for user-friendly management software in the summer of the same year. The dual-band mesh system performs relatively well, with the highlight still being the app-based management.
The Google Wifi system operates at speeds of up to 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and up to 866 Mbps on 5 GHz. The actual net speeds can be seen in this test report. Unlike AVM repeaters, the Google Wifi mesh points can only be installed, configured, and managed via smartphone app and cloud. Some users love this app and cloud convenience, while others dislike it.
Google Nest Wifi
In 2019, the search engine giant introduced its renewed mesh system under the Nest product line. The Google Nest Wifi now comes with an integrated microphone, speaker, and Google Assistant. Unlike the first mesh system, the new Nest Wifi system is set up using the (completely different) Google Home app instead of the Google Wifi app.
In the author’s experience, the enthusiasm for the elegance of the Google apps waned when mixing the old and new Google Wifi systems. The Wi-Fi cloud management no longer feels seamless. However, the previous elegance might return through software updates, especially since it mostly resides in the cloud. Therefore, it is advisable to choose one system and avoid mixing generations of Google mesh systems.
Amazon is following in Google’s footsteps by offering the relatively affordable Amazon Eero WLAN mesh system. The easy installation and sleek design were well received during testing. In addition, the device offers numerous features, such as the ability to put children’s devices in a separate network. The data throughput is considered average. Similar to Google, Amazon also requires users to use the app and cloud for management.
Telekom Speed Home WiFi
The WLAN mesh repeaters from Deutsche Telekom are quite different. The provider’s main focus is to deliver internet to the farthest corners of DSL and Magenta TV customers’ homes as effectively and affordably as possible.
The Telekom Speed Home WiFi repeaters operate at up to 300 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and up to 1733 Mbps on 5 GHz. At the time of writing, they were priced well below 100 euros each, even without cloud or app requirements.
Emergency Solution: Single-Band Mesh like AVM 600
The complete opposite of tri-band mesh systems is a simple single-band repeater. For example, the compact AVM Fritz Repeater 600 costs as little as 35 euros. It uses a single Wi-Fi 4 radio module with a theoretical maximum speed of 600 Mbps. This module has to transmit data to both the Fritzbox and the end devices simultaneously, so in theory, each connection can achieve up to 300 Mbps.
Nevertheless, this small Fritz cube can bring some older 11n devices to a decent Wi-Fi network in the farthest room of a home, depending on the size of the apartment and the desired speed. During testing, it received positive feedback for its affordable price and easy setup – as long as you are using the Fritzbox universe.
In apartments with simple wireless technology up to 70 square meters, a good Wi-Fi modem-router like the AVM Fritzbox or Telekom Speedport should be sufficient without an additional Wi-Fi repeater. This is especially true if the Wi-Fi router is centrally located in the apartment. In such cases, we recommend using a simple mesh point to expand the Wi-Fi coverage and fill in the remaining gaps.
For homes up to 150 square meters, a dual-band repeater can often significantly improve the Wi-Fi availability. Fritzbox users should take a closer look at AVM devices. The Telekom Speed Home WiFi mesh repeaters up to 1733 Mbps are also a solid alternative. If you don’t mind the cloud, Amazon or Google systems are worth considering.
For larger areas or high data throughput, we recommend using tri-band mesh systems. The classic choice is the Netgear Orbi RBK50, one or two AVM Fritz Repeater 3000 units, or a pair of Asus RT-AX92U devices with Wi-Fi 6 backbone for the most powerful and readily available Wi-Fi amplifiers.