WHETHER YOU’RE TRYING to stream a
Netflix movie to your smart TV, upload
new photos to Facebook while making dinner or listen to a podcast as you shovel the
walk, buffering delays can quickly sour
your wireless experience. You’ve got too
many devices divvying up the Wi-Fi signal
pie at the same time, all reliant on a router
that may be too far away to be effective.
Now, there’s a solution that can clear
up Wi-Fi dead spots in your home and amp
up the signal. It’s called mesh networking,
and it comes in the form of plug-and-play
Node news is good news
If you have a large home and a lot of
devices using Wi-Fi, mesh is the mode of
choice, say the pros.
“The wireless signal from a single
Wi-Fi router fades every time it passes
through a wall, especially at long distances,
resulting in slower speeds,” explains David
Henry, a Costco member and senior vice
president for Netgear, makers of the Orbi
line of mesh products. “Instead, mesh uses
multiple wireless access points [nodes]
placed around the home to fill it with a
strong Wi-Fi signal.”
Costco member Glenn Fleishman, a
Seattle-based tech reviewer for Macworld
and PCWorld, says conventional home
HOME ELEC TRONICS
Costco features the Netgear Orbi tri-band
Wi-Fi system in the warehouses and online
at Costco.com. (Item #1113503)
Wi-Fi networking relies on a “
hub-and-spoke” model, where the router is the hub
and other routers or Wi-Fi extenders are
spokes. Setup can be complicated.
“Mesh networks end this by requiring
effectively no configuration,” says
Fleishman. You simply plug in the nodes
and they self-configure and find each
other, he notes. Most importantly, mesh
networking provides superior coverage and
faster internet speeds, “which allows multiple high-definition streams to work on
the same home network without hiccups.”
David Rewalt got so fed up with Wi-Fi
hiccups in his ;,;;;-square-foot home in
Great Falls, Virginia, that he installed a
three-node mesh kit last summer. Now his
family is able to enjoy network speeds up to
;;; megabytes per second (read: very,
very fast) throughout the house.
“With my wife and I working from
home and making phone calls and client
demonstrations over the internet, we need
the performance this kind of system pro-
vides,” says Rewalt, a Costco member.
“Plus, the kids can now stream and down-
load super fast.”
If you’ve got a home larger than ;, ;;;
feet—especially one with thick floors and
walls built with lathe and plaster, brick or
stone—or live in a congested area like a
city apartment, you’re a good candidate
for mesh. It can also help get internet to
garages. “And the faster the broadband
speed you pay for, the more likely you’ll
benefit from mesh,” says Henry.
Setup is simple
Jim Salter, an independent system
administrator in Columbia, South Carolina,
and contributor to Wirecutter, says a mesh
kit can either replace your existing router
entirely or you can keep your router and just
turn off its Wi-Fi functionality.
“If you’re not using a router, you connect your mesh system to your DSL or
cable modem and reboot,” says Salter, who
notes that proper node placement is
important for the best performance. “Put
the main node where the internet comes
into your house and a second node close to
the center of your home.” C
Erik J. Martin is a Chicago area writer.
Mesh is fast,
but is it secure?
HOME Wi-Fi networks have come under increased attack by clever hackers. Which begs
the question: How vulnerable are mesh networks in the home?
“They’re as safe as any other consumer
network gear,” says IT expert Jim Salter.
Most systems require you to set up a new
mesh Wi-Fi network with login credentials.
Experts recommend creating a long, unique
password that includes uppercase, lowercase,
numeric and special characters, or a three- to
four-word pass phrase that isn’t obvious.—EJM
Mesh networks curb
dreaded dead zones