For some time, I have been considering upgrading my home WiFi network to a mesh system.
My existing network was powered by an aging Apple Airport Time Capsule (essentially an Apple Airport Extreme with a hard drive for network backup storage) as the main router with five Airport Express devices used as satellites to extend network reach. Where reasonably convenient, I wired the Airport Expresses to the Time Capsule via Ethernet cable runs. This functioned similarly to a mesh system (single network name or SSID).
Apple discontinued its Airport routers in April 2018 and began selling Linksys’ Velop and later Netgear’s Orbi mesh systems. Apple has always valued the user experience in setting up and using its products (and yes there is something of an Apple “tax” to be paid for that though the reality is said “tax” isn’t terribly different from what one pays Samsung or Google for their higher end products). As with many technologies whose use we now take for granted, Apple by no means invented WiFi but a case can easily be made Apple popularized WiFi with the release of the first iBook in 1999.
Choice of Mesh System
Recently, I’d noted a terrific YMMV deal on a Linksys Velop system at Walmart via Slickdeals. Unfortunately, none of the Walmarts local to me had the deal, so the search continued.
Keeping an eye on Slickdeals, two options soon caught my eye. One was a now expired deal on an eero system. The other was a still ongoing deal for the TP-Link Deco M9. The tri-band eero system was $299, the Deco M9 system remains $220 at Costco. While reading through the comments on the eero system, I stumbled upon the fact, Amazon was for a time significantly discounting a Netgear Orbi system (the RBK23-100NAS) from $250 down to $180. I opted for the Orbi system.
Setup via Netgear’s Orbi mobile app (available for both Android and iOS) was straightforward and one need not be a networking wizard to get things up and running. The Orbi app like many other mesh systems does its best to hide networking complexity and, therefore, those familiar with networking may find it lacking in configuration options. The good news is unlike some other mesh systems; the Orbi also has a web based configuration option, so if one wishes to get their networking geek on (or just needs advanced configuration options) that’s quite possible.
The RBK23-100NAS system I purchased is a three piece (one router two satellites) system that supposedly covers a 6000 square foot home. I have nowhere near 6000 square feet, however, ended up using the router and both satellites to cover my 2000 square foot condo. I do have walls with metal rather than wooden studs.
I’ve been using the Orbi system for a few days now. The WiFi coverage is both robust and stable. It works well with all connected devices including most pertinently multiple Republic phones and an Extend Home ATA.
I’m happy with the choice made and believe an Orbi system can be a good choice for other Republic members as well. In reaching my purchase decision, I also believe an eero system or the TP-Link Deco M9 to be worthy of consideration. I believe fellow Ambassador @louisdi is using and happy with a Linksys Velop system.
I did look at Google’s mesh WiFi system but decided against it and other dual band systems in favor of a tri-band system. Tri-band systems utilize a second 5 GHz WiFi connection between the router and satellites for backhaul (the connection between the router and satellites themselves), thereby dedicating another 5 GHz channel and a 2.4 GHz channel to connected devices. Dual band systems such as Google’s WiFi use a single WiFi connection for backhaul and connected devices on 5 GHz. Whether dual-band or tri-band, the slower 2.4 GHz channel is dedicated to connected devices only.
In my case, the Time Capsule is being repurposed via an Ethernet connection to the Orbi system for continued use as a network backup device and as a switch to connect wired devices (a couple of printers, an Obi 1062 IP Phone and Republic’s Extend Home ATA). Additionally, two Airport Express units remain connected to the Orbi network as wireless access points for streaming music to speakers otherwise incapable of that.