Best Mesh WiFi Router Systems for $250 or Less
These budget-friendly models can improve your home WiFi network without straining your wallet, CR's testers say
Bratton McGregor was tired of dealing with crummy WiFi.
A small business owner who lives just outside Mobile, Ala., he merely wanted to stream Netflix and play the occasional video game on the family iPad. But it wasn’t until he upgraded to a mesh router that he was able to do so.
“Mesh has been a lifesaver for my entire house,” he says. “I would have spent the money on it years ago if I knew about it.”
Mesh uses several router units (often sold in packs of two or three) that wirelessly work together to spread WiFi deeper and more evenly through your home than a traditional single-unit router.
Netgear Orbi AC1200
This three-pack (one base station and two satellite units) performed well in our tests, offering speedy performance at a low price.
You’ll find smartphone app-based setup, a single built-in Ethernet port (useful for connecting a device such as a printer or game console), and automatic firmware updates, which protect you from hackers, malware, and other security vulnerabilities.
This model supports WiFi 5, which was superseded by WiFi 6 in 2020, but can still provide years of good service if you’re not the sort to fill your home with state-of-the-art gadgets designed to maximize the benefits of WiFi 6 technology.
Netgear Nighthawk AX1800
This three-pack performed well in all three throughput tests and supports many of the useful features you’d expect to see in a top-rated router, including an app-based setup, and automatic firmware updating.
It’s also compatible with the WiFi 6 standard, which may be useful as you add devices that fully take advantage of the new tech to your home network.
Eero, which is owned by Amazon, helped popularize the very idea of mesh networking. And while the manufacturer does make a more powerful Eero Pro version, this one is a fine choice for most consumers.
As you might expect, it offers fast performance, convenient smartphone app-based setup and management, automatic firmware updates, and two built-in Ethernet ports. The model adds WiFi 6 support, which the earlier Eero Home lacked.
Google currently makes two wireless routers: this model, known simply as Google WiFi, and a higher-end (and more expensive) model that carries the Nest branding. Both are good, but Google WiFi offers better value for the money.
The option we purchased is a three-pack, though Google also sells single units. That might be useful if you only want two or you wish to add more to expand the size of your network later on. The model scored well in our distance tests, and features smartphone-based setup and management and automatic firmware updates.
While there are two built-in Ethernet ports, there aren’t any built-in USB ports.