Mesh networking systems are incredibly helpful at ridding homes of wi-fi dead spots but with so many to choose from today, it can be difficult to tell which is right for you. We put four popular systems to the test to find out which is best.
D LINK COVR 2202
The Covr-2202 is D-Link’s true mesh networking system—their earlier Covr3902 was more of a traditional router and range extender setup—using a daisy-chain topology. This makes it more flexible to deploy around the house as compared to a one with a more rigid star topology. For ease of setup, nodes are paired at the factory and a label that reads “Covr Point A” tells you the primary router you should connect to your modem. For now, up to four nodes can be added to the network, but D-Link aims to increase that to ten in the future.
The nodes come in small little towers and have a pleasant design. They are mostly white with a ring of rose gold near the bottom. At the bottom of each node are two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a button for Wi-Fi Protected Setup.
Positioning nodes is crucial since you need to be close enough to the primary node to ensure the two can establish a good connection. The Covr logo on each node lights up for this purpose. A solid white light indicates a strong connection, whereas a blinking white light tells you that you should move the two nodes closer together.
The Covr-2202 utilizes a tri-band design consisting of a single 2.4GHz network and two 5GHz networks.
The advantage over dual-band systems is that it can dedicate the additional 5GHz network to backhaul communications for better overall performance. In our tests, the Covr-2202 was the fastest router by a considerable margin.
Its main advantage over its rivals was its excellent range. Most routers’ speeds start to tumble at 10 meters, but the Covr-2202 still maintained very impressive speeds at this range.
The Covr-2202 is not without its failings and that has to do with its clunky user interface and lack of customizable features for more advanced users. Its companion app is pretty basic, though you do get some extra options going through the web browser route.
AT A GLANCE
SPEED RATING AC2200
FREQUENCY BANDS 2.4GHz + 2 x 5GHz
PORTS 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
PRICE $379 (two-pack)
NETGEAR ORBI RBK20
Following the success of their AC3000class Orbi mesh networking system, Netgear decided to release a simpler and more affordable version with a lower AC2200 speed rating. Netgear offers their mesh networking systems in a variety of bundles and the one that we are testing specifically is the RBK20, which comes with an Orbi router and an additional node, or, as Netgear calls it, satellite. Essentially, the AC2200 Orbi is a more compact version of the larger AC3000. It is a small tower decked entirely in white with a ring of light at the top that functions as a status indicator.
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