I live in a 3-story townhouse. I have had a single Apple AirPort Extreme on the first floor for 6 years. The device has been fantastic, but there are naturally some issues due to the physics of electromagnetic waves traveling through solid objects, and having a 3-story home:
- Very weak signal on 3rd floor. Unable to stream HD content without “wait” cursors appearing constantly. Because of this, I haven’t been able to put Apple TV’s in the bedrooms, and I have had Ethernet running to my main desktop machines for 15 years. (My house is Ethernet wired.)
Weak spots on 2nd floor.
- Couch with a MacBook Air: Transfer Rate 150 to 200 Mb/s most of the time, compared to 800 Mb/s sitting closer to the router.
- Deck: Also spotty coverage: dropouts, buffering, etc.
- Gaming consoles (PS4 Pro and Xbox) sometimes having trouble connecting to the Cloud. They throw occasional “can’t connect” errors.
To solve this, some might install “repeaters” or extra routers. There are a few problems with that. You now have 3 separate wireless networks that your devices must manage. Very few devices seamlessly hop from Access Point (AP) to Access Point. Sometimes you have to manually switch your device to the other network, every time you walk to the underserved location in your home. You are also now burning undue bandwidth between your router and those endpoints - bandwidth that should be going to your personal devices. In most cases, those Access Points can only communicate directly with the Router, not with each other. (That’s an inefficient routing path.) You spent $900 to make all this happen, and you needed to hire your “I.T. buddy” to install and configure it, and you bribed him with old Comic Books (I mean “Graphic Novels”).
If you enlisted Geek Squad 3 years ago to “make my WiFi better”, odds are they put in some repeaters or more traditional Access Points. With a network like that, each AP is a small, independent, unintelligent “bubble” with a highly local signal - no awareness of the other bubbles. With a Mesh Network, it’s a single, giant Wi-Fi bubble that wraps your entire home.
With a Mesh Network, each device is interconnected. Nodes can pass thru data to other Nodes. Signal strength is not lost, because it makes small jumps from device to device, rather than one large jump to the Router. Because of their decentralized nature, Mesh Networks scale endlessly, by adding more cheap $99 nodes, and maintain signal strength and reliability.
I got this one:
It’s one of two that they sell in Apple Stores, and I’ve had plenty of LinkSys gear, over the years, and trust the brand. I got the Mesh Router and 2 nodes (3-band), one for each floor.
The install could not have been easier:
- Put router in the spot where my AirPort Extreme was, and connected it to the same FiOS ONT, via the same Ethernet cable.
- LinkSys’s mobile app guided me through the install.
- Plugged in 2 more nodes, and the app detected them and added them to the Mesh.
I connected various devices to the network and dog-fooded it for a few days.
- Wired reliability in a wireless network. No drop-outs, buffering, flakiness, etc.
- Dead spots: gone.
- Weak areas: gone.
- Transmission rates consistently high.
The MacBook Air in this screenshot used to get 250 to 300 Mb/s while sitting on the 2nd-floor couch. Machines upstairs would get 100 to 200 Mb/s, and have buffering problems with video. Now, all 3 of these areas connects at 850 Mb/s, and suffer zero connectivity issues.