Best Mesh Routers of 2019

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, bringing entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify to your laptop and other devices. It also gives you the ability to pay bills with the click of a mouse and keep a watchful eye on your property with a video doorbell.

But for many consumers, especially those in a large home or an old home with thicker walls, a router can also be a source of frustration—the conduit for those spotty WiFi blues. That's when a mesh router comes in handy.

“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 and one or two satellite units to spread WiFi around your home. It’s similar to a WiFi extender in that it spreads the WiFi signal farther than a single router. But, though WiFi extenders can lose as much as 50 percent of the maximum signal speed when going from the main unit to the satellite unit, mesh routers tend to lose only about 10 percent.

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“So, 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.”

Depending on how fast your home internet connection is, that speed decrease could be the difference between reliably streaming a 4K video on Netflix and settling for lower resolution. 

On the flip side, though mesh routers do a better job of spreading WiFi around large, challenging spaces (rooms with brick walls, alcoves, refrigerators), they tend to be more expensive than single-unit routers. You can easily spend $400 to $500 for a mesh router with two satellites. By contrast, our top-rated single-unit router sells for $200.

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've also incorporated privacy and security into our testing suite, noting, for example, whether the router allows you to set long, complex passwords and whether it automatically updates the onboard software, protecting you from cyber threats.

There are a total of 23 wireless routers currently in our ratings, and below we’ve highlighted some of the best mesh models we’ve seen. None of them yet support WiFi 6, which promises faster speeds and better support for homes with many connected devices, but we expect to see that change in the coming months. (If you’re interested in a WiFi 6 router, we have tested the Netgear Nighthawk AX8.)

Netgear Orbi

Currently the highest-scoring mesh router in our ratings, Netgear’s Orbi comes with three units to place around your home, blanketing an area as large as 5,000 square feet with WiFi, according to the manufacturer.

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