Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Routers
Wi-Fi 6 was designed with the future of routers in mind. As more people work from home in the wake of coronavirus, holes in our Wi-Fi are more annoying than ever. As our homes get smarter, we have more connections than ever that need to check in consistently and reliably. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to bring more capacity to a network and even allows for greater speed with a lot of devices. Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems have come down in price, and the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 is one of the best choices for most people.
Best Overall: Netgear Nighthawk MK62
The Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System from Netgear takes on compact AC-only mesh systems with its compact housing and understated design. Measuring only 4.8 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall, each router has a smaller footprint than a CD case. This compact design makes this mesh system one of the easiest to integrate into a home.
While you do give up some speed compared to the larger and more expensive mesh systems, the AX1800 speeds should be more than enough for most homes. 4K streams should be a breeze, and if you need a few more wired connections, a network switch could be connected to one of the gigabit LAN ports available on each router.
Netgear claims these routers can cover a 3000 sq ft home, and of course, more satellite units could be added down the line. This is helped by compatibility with Wi-Fi Certified EashMesh. EasyMesh is a Wi-Fi standard developed to help ensure future compatibility with mesh products. This is all brought together with Netgear’s robust Nighthawk app.
- Small housing
- WPA-3 security
- Wi-Fi EasyMesh support
- Only dual-band
- 1 LAN port
Best Wired Support: Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 System (RBK752)
The newest addition to Netgear’s Wi-Fi 6 enabled Orbi family is the RBK752 system, which including one base router and a satellite and can cover approximately 5,000 square feet with it’s tri-band, six-antenna setup. This Orbi is in line with the older Orbis as far as size and appearance with a two-tone gray and matte white housing. Wi-Fi 6 speeds come in at AX4200, which breaks down to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz channel and 1200 Mbps on the 5GHz band. The remaining 5GHz channel can operate up to 2400Mbps, however, it’s dedicated to the connection between the Orbi units. This speed should be more than enough for the vast majority of home network use including multiple 4K video streams.
The base unit has one uplink gigabit Ethernet port and three Ethernet ports for wired devices. You can also combine the uplink with one of the other Ethernet ports for link aggregation allowing for a faster uplink to your router. The satellite has two Ethernet ports to connect more wired devices. This makes it a good fit for a home office or media center that needs a wired connection.
- 2.5Gbps WAN port with link aggregation
- Three Ethernet on base, two on satellite
- Tri-band Wi-Fi
- Approximately 5,000 square feet of coverage
- Large size
- Slower than others at this price
Best Speeds: Asus ZenWiFi XT8
Asus was one of the first networking companies to really commit to mesh networking with its robust AiMesh software that is able to work on most of its routers regardless of whether or not they were designed specifically for a mesh. Asus has once again proven its abilities with the ZenWiFi XT8 which features a sleek and reasonably compact design with great capabilities. The routers come in white or charcoal colors and have three available ethernet ports on the back of each.
The ZenWiFi XT8 is capable of wireless speeds up to AX6600 with a tri-band setup. That is 574Mbps at 2.4GHz as well as 1201Mbps and 4804Mbps on its two 5GHz bands. While most connections today max out at 1Gbps, the ZenWifi is ready for the future with a 2.5Gbps input for faster internet speeds or, more realistically, a fast wired home network.
If you are looking to expand your mesh, you’ll need an Asus router that supports AiMesh and will be best served by a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 capable router. The ZenWiFi XT8 is capable of covering up to 5,500 square feet so most homes should be covered. Still, it’s nice that you can use an older Asus router as an expansion in low priority areas.
- 2.5Gbps WAN
- Fast AX6600 speeds
- Tons of expansion
- Quick setup
- Only three LAN Ethernet ports per unit
Best WPA3: Linksys MX10 Velop
The Linksys MX10 Velop is just the name given to the two-pack of Linksys MX5 Velop routers. These routers are capable of delivering AX7800 speeds across three Wi-Fi bands. While these speeds are quite high, the wired connection to your modem will max out at 1Gbps, and other wired devices will be limited to the same speed. While this is more than enough for the vast majority of people, it would have been nice to see more wired capability.
Four Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port on each unit allow for a lot of expansion. The Wi-Fi 6 Velops are quite a bit larger than the Velop dual-band or tri-band AC mesh routers. Compared to a traditional router, however, the internal antennas help keep the appearance understated.
If you already have a Velop system, there’s no need to get rid of it thanks to compatibility with the entire Velop family of routers. The most powerful routers, in this case, the Wi-Fi 6 Velops, should be connected directly to the modem with the older routers providing extra coverage in areas that don’t need as much speed.
- 4x 1Gbps Ethernet per unit
- AX7800 speeds
- No multi-gig Ethernet
Most Flexible: Asus RT-AX92U
Asus was one of the first companies to make a Wi-Fi 6 router for consumers and quickly followed that up with the RT-AX92U mesh system. Thanks to fast tri-band speeds, these routers can connect with a fast backhaul of up to 4.8Gbps, and each unit has four gigabit Ethernet ports.
Disappointingly, there is no multi-gig Ethernet, but link aggregation can combine two of the gigabit ports for up to 2Gbps internet support. This will be quite a bit faster than most people have access to. Thanks to Asus’ AiMesh software, another Asus router can be added in as a mesh point, but you’ll need to make sure it has full tri-band Wi-Fi 6 support to get the most out of your network.
I like the more traditional gaming router appearance. The gamer aesthetic here isn’t for nothing since Asus included its gaming software to keep ping times low and prioritize game traffic on your network. Gaming and mesh don’t normally mix, but Asus has managed to bring the two together with some of the best technology available.
- Link Aggregation
- 4x 1Gbps Ethernet per unit
- Built for gaming
- Hard to conceal
- No multi-gig Ethernet
Best Mesh Add-on: Netgear Nighthawk EAX80
If you’ve already bought a Wi-Fi 6 router, like the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 but find yourself needing more coverage, Netgear has a solution. The Netgear Nighthawk EAX80 is an eight-stream Wi-Fi 6 mesh expansion capable of speeds up to AX6000. It’s compatible with any existing router, though I would recommend a Wi-Fi 6 router with at least a matching eight data streams.
You can set this router up with the same Wi-Fi name as your existing wireless network, so there’s no need to manually switch between two different networks like older extenders.
Four gigabit Ethernet ports onboard and a USB 3.0 port make this a great way to bring the network to your media setup or a desktop PC that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. You can also use it to improve the signal to the rest of your home like any mesh.
There are a lot more if-then considerations due to the extender being reliant on the speeds of the base router, but this is true for any mesh. If you have already invested in Wi-Fi 6 and just need a bit more coverage, this is a great option.
- 4x 1Gbps Ethernet
- Keep your Wi-Fi name
- Only dual-band
- Needs existing router
Can you make your own mesh?
Something to keep in mind about mesh networks is that pretty much any router with a powerful enough CPU and enough RAM can technically act as a mesh router. Asus has taken this further than most other manufacturers by including its AiMesh in nearly all of its routers. It is technically possible to put together your own Wi-Fi 6 mesh with compatible routers, but the setup process will be more complicated than a complete mesh system. This technology is more promising with Wi-Fi 6 routers thanks to the improved capacity and speeds over previous generations of routers. Some routers such as the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 are even compatible with EasyMesh which is a standard for connecting future devices.
Most people simply don’t need much more than gigabit speeds on their home Wi-Fi networks. Luckily, even Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems are available for people that don’t need a ton of speed but still want to take advantage of the other advancements. The Netgear Nighthawk MK62 strikes a great balance between speed and features offering expandable coverage and plenty of speed for most people.
Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems are bringing features like MU-MIMO and better handling of multiple connections to your whole home. Not that many devices sold in the past couple of years support Wi-Fi 6, but many new phones are supporting the protocol. Thankfully all of these devices support older versions of Wi-Fi to maintain compatibility with the added benefit of better connections between the base router and satellite units.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It’s the Pentium 3.
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