Best mesh Wi-Fi routers 2019: Reviews and buying advice

A great wireless router is an essential element of tech life, whether you’re building out a smart home or you just want the best experience streaming music and video at home. We pick the best models here, because even those of us fortunate enough to have ethernet drops in every room have devices—smartphones and tablets, for instance—that depend on Wi-Fi to connect to the home network if not the internet.

Twin and sometimes conflicting demands for high performance and ease of use are powering a thriving and rapidly evolving market. Innovation is one of the biggest upsides of this dynamic, and confusion its biggest downside. Today’s hero could be tomorrow’s has-been, as established brands like Linksys and Netgear try to one-up each other while simultaneously fending off new challengers such as Eero and Luma. But it’s those challengers who have innovated the most, starting with Eero, the first manufacturer to bring mesh networking to the consumer router market.

The home Wi-Fi router market can be divided into two broad categories: traditional routers designed to cover an entire home, sometimes with the aid of wired access points or wireless range extenders, and whole-home Wi-Fi systems that consist of a base station with one or more satellite nodes. Our most recent router coverage has focused on the latter, so our initial picks will be in that category. We’ll circle back later and make recommendations for traditional routers as well. Scroll down a bit and we’ll discuss the features you should look for in a wireless router and explanations of some of the jargon you’ll encounter when you shop for one.

Updated July 10, 2018 to add our review of the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus. While it does combine a fast Wi-Fi router with a smart home hub, and it includes strong antivirus and parental control features, the Deco M9 Plus didn’t knock the Samsung Connect Home of its perch as our favorite router for smart home enthusiasts because it doesn’t have a Z-Wave radio onboard (it does have ZigBee and Bluetooth radios).   

Best Wi-Fi system

The secret to the Orbi RBK50’s success is Netgear’s dedicated 4×4, 1,733Mbps radio used for data backhaul between the router and its satellites (the RBK50 comes with one satellite, which Netgear says is sufficient to blanket 5,000 square feet). We also like the fact that the Orbi router has a built-in three-port ethernet switch (the satellite has a four-port switch), because those ports provide so much flexibility in terms of connecting other devices to your network, be it a NAS box for media streaming and data backup, a network printer that doesn’t support Wi-Fi, or an older ethernet-only A/V receiver in your entertainment center.

The Orbi RBK50 is not the least-expensive solution at $400, though, and it’s overkill for smaller spaces. We’ll have reviews of the scaled-down Orbi RBK40 and RBK30 soon.

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