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Since they first hit the scene a few years back, mesh Wi-Fi systems have changed the look and feel of home networking. In place of an unsightly router that you would normally tuck away in a closet or somewhere else out of sight, mesh systems typically use smaller components called nodes, which are designed to be more attractive and blend in better with your home decor. But the real attraction of mesh systems for most home users is that they usually come with free mobile apps that make it easy to install and manage the network using a phone or tablet. And since all of the nodes use a single SSID and password, you can roam from room to room without having to log in to a secondary extended network, like “MyWifi_EXT,” as you move into the range of an extender rather than the main router.

Mesh systems are popular because they’re all about ease of use, with their chief selling points being quick and simple installation as well as that seamless home Wi-Fi coverage. But even with their added simplicity, you need to keep a few things in mind when selecting and installing your mesh network. Read on to find out how to set up your new mesh system to blanket your home with glorious, strong Wi-Fi.

What Is a Mesh Wi-Fi System?

Typically purchased in packs of two or three components, Wi-Fi mesh systems usually consist of one device designated as the main router that connects directly to your modem. Usually, it will be accompanied by one or two satellite modules, or nodes, that you place throughout your house, each generally requiring only an electrical hook-up. If this initial set of two or three mesh devices isn’t enough to blanket your home with a strong Wi-Fi signal, you can purchase more nodes, and they’ll simply integrate seamlessly into the mesh.

The “mesh” refers to the wireless network these nodes create among themselves, not only passing wireless traffic among them but also keeping signal strength smooth and strong throughout the network. When configured, all these devices will be part of a single wireless network sharing the same SSID and password. This means you won’t have to switch networks and passwords as you move from room to room like you do with an older (though admittedly usually cheaper) wireless range extender.

Most Wi-Fi system satellites use mesh technology to talk to the router and to each other. Each node serves as a hop point for other nodes in the system. This helps the nodes farthest from the router to deliver a strong Wi-Fi signal as they are talking to other nodes and not relying on one-to-one communications with the router. Not all Wi-Fi systems use mesh networking, however; some use a dedicated radio band to communicate with the router and with each other. As with mesh, the dedicated band frees up the standard-use 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for your connected devices to use.

The Best Wi-Fi Mesh Systems on a Budget

How Many Wi-Fi Mesh Nodes Does Your Home Need?

Since more coverage usually means more nodes, before you go out and buy a mesh Wi-Fi system, you’ll need to calculate how much wireless coverage you’ll require. To start, figure out the square footage of your home and any outdoor areas that you want to cover, and don’t forget to factor in the distance between floors for multilevel homes.

Wi-Fi Mesh Node

Coverage varies from system to system, so make sure you check the specs before plunking down your hard-earned cash, and keep in mind that all homes are different. Structures such as walls, doorways, and flooring will affect wireless signal transmissions, as will interference from other wireless devices such as microwave ovens and portable phone systems. As mentioned, almost all mesh systems are expandable, so if you find that your system doesn’t quite reach certain areas in your home,…

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