Mesh Wi-Fi Routers


Setting up perfect Wi-Fi has historically been a challenge in many New York City apartments. In larger apartments, and especially pre-war apartments, the signal levels drop off precipitously in the rooms far from the router. For this reason, I always recommend in-the-wall ethernet for new construction or a gut renovation. In the cases where ethernet isn’t an option, I’ve used several Wi-Fi solutions in the past. There were Wi-Fi extension solutions, such as using an Airport Express with an Airport Extreme base. Companies like Netgear make extenders for non-Apple Wi-Fi routers. I’ve also used powerline adapters, in combination with multiple Wi-Fi access points. All of these solutions require experimentation. Some solutions provide acceptable Wi-Fi speeds and others don’t. Every apartment is a unique case.

The good news is that there is a new game-changing technology called mesh routing. These systems are usually sold in a three-pack of nodes. Each node can intelligently communicate with other nodes. Data is dynamically routed through the most optimal path, creating a web of fast Wi-Fi that blankets the apartment. These systems use the latest Wi-Fi improvements, such as multiple radios and 802.11ac. The mesh systems are easy to set up and generally have much better coverage than the older extension technologies.

For one of my clients, I set up the Netgear Orbi system. The Orbi is different than most mesh routers in that the satellite nodes only communicate to the base node, in a hub and spoke configuration. I.e., the satellites don’t communicate with each other. This wasn’t an issue for my client, as his apartment layout lent itself well to the two-node configuration. The Orbi is typically sold in two-packs, consisting of the base and a satellite. Each node in an Orbi system is very powerful. So much so, that the RBK50 model can cover a 5000 square foot home. The Orbi made a huge difference for my client, who is now getting extremely fast Wi-Fi in every corner of his apartment.

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