Best Mesh Routers of 2020

Mesh routers help spread WiFi throughout even the largest homes. Here are models with the best scores from our testing.

An illustration showing four mesh router units on different floors of a home.

Your wireless router is the gateway between your home and all the internet has to offer.

It brings widely used streaming services, such as Disney+, Netflix, and Spotify, to your devices, including your big-screen TV, smart speaker, and tablet. It also lets you pay bills with the click of a mouse and keep a watchful eye on your property with a video doorbell.

But for many people, especially those in a large home or one with concrete or thick brick walls, a router can also be a source of frustration. Who wants to deal with a crummy WiFi connection that causes movies to buffer, music to skip, and “Fortnite” to disconnect?

If those problems sound familiar, a mesh router may be a useful addition to your home.

“If you live in a multistory home—say, with two floors and a finished basement—I can almost guarantee that a single router is just not going to be enough to get adequate coverage,” says Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing for Consumer Reports. “That’s why manufacturers developed mesh routers.”

A mesh router uses a base station (which plugs into the modem that connects your home to the internet) and additional satellite units (typically one or two) that work together to spread WiFi everywhere you want it.

You might, for example, place the base station in the kitchen (or wherever else the cable bringing your internet connection is located) and the satellite units in a bedroom, study, or den—or wherever else you’re having trouble maintaining a steady WiFi connection.

The idea is similar to that of a WiFi extender in that it extends the range of your WiFi beyond what a stand-alone unit can do. But a WiFi extender can cost you as much as 50 percent of the maximum signal speed. By contrast, mesh routers tend to lose only about 10 percent, according to our tests.

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“If you have the main router plus two satellites and you’re starting at 100 megabits,” says Fisco, “you’re only down to about 80 megabits at that last satellite instead of 25,” as you would be with a WiFi extender.

Depending on how fast your internet connection is, that speed decrease could be the difference between, say, reliably streaming Netflix in 4K (also known as Ultra HD) and having to settle for a lower resolution like 1080p (Full HD), 720p (HD), or worse. 

The downside to mesh routers is that they tend to be expensive, though some prices are coming down. You can easily spend as much as $500 on a good mesh router system, but newer models are beginning to show up in the sub-$300 price range. Many of our top-rated single-unit routers sell for $200 or less.

Every year, Consumer Reports tests dozens of wireless routers. We measure how well they perform across a range of criteria, including how fast they transmit data at a variety of distances and how easy they are to set up.

We also incorporate privacy and security into our testing, noting, for example, whether the router allows you to set long, complex passwords and whether it automatically updates the onboard software, protecting you from online threats.

There are 11 mesh routers in our ratings (out of 39 routers in all); the best of them are highlighted below.

None of these mesh routers support the recently announced WiFi standard known as WiFi 6, which promises faster speeds and better support for handling many devices at the same time. That’s something we expect to change in the new year, but the standard will take time to roll out across devices such as smartphones and streaming devices.

We don’t think you have to wait to buy a new mesh router.

(The models featured here are the best mesh routers based on CR's latest testing. We will update this article and our ratings throughout 2020.)

Netgear Orbi

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