Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router Systems of 2023
Looking for the fastest mesh router on the list? Look no further — it’s the Asus Rog Rapture GT6, a Wi-Fi 6 mesh gaming router that costs $600 for a two-pack. In our controlled speed tests on a gigabit network, the GT6 finished with an overall average download speed across all distances of 809Mbps, along with an equally impressive average upload speed of 785Mbps. Nothing else we’ve tested has delivered speeds as fast as that, not even fancy Wi-Fi 6E systems that cost even more.
The key factor setting this mesh router apart (aside from the admittedly gamer-centric design) is the fact that it supports recently opened UNII-4 spectra at 5.9GHz, which basically means that it can tap into some additional bandwidth on the 5GHz band in order to move your Wi-Fi traffic through a total of three full-width 160MHz channels. As a result, you’ll experience faster speeds that do a better job of holding up at range.
Beyond that, the GT6 features an excellent suite of features that won’t cost you an additional subscription fee, including VPN access, a quality of service engine for prioritizing specific types of web traffic over others, an optional Instant Guard app that can pipe your web traffic back through your home network like a VPN whenever you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, a mobile gaming boost mode, parental controls, threat scans and more. And yes, that dot matrix-style ROG logo on the front of each device is fully configurable to shine in any color you like. The system also features multi-gig Ethernet WAN ports on each device that are capable of accepting incoming wired speeds as high as 2.5Gbps, which makes it a very good pick for a multi-gig internet plan.
The GT6 isn’t cheap, and its ostentatious design (available in your choice of black or white) isn’t for everyone. Still, it’s a justifiable splurge if you’re just looking for elite Wi-Fi performance at home, and a no-brainer upgrade pick if you ever catch the system on sale.
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Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 6Speed Rating AX3000Range Up to 1,500 sq. ft.Wireless Networking Security WPA2, WPA3Bands Dual-Band (2.4 and 5GHz)
Eero was an early pioneer of the mesh networking approach, and in 2019, it got scooped up by Amazon. Then, in 2020, we got two new versions of the Eero mesh router: the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6, both of which add in support for — you guessed it — Wi-Fi 6.
I liked the Eero Pro 6 as an upgrade pick, but the standard Eero 6 wasn’t quite strong enough for me to recommend it. Flash forward to 2022, and the release of the Eero 6 Plus. With a list price of $299 for a three-pack, it offers the same strong pitch as the Eero 6 — a relatively affordable and easy-to-use three-piece Wi-Fi 6 mesh setup, complete with a built-in Zigbee radio for connecting things like lights and locks with your network. Best of all, with a faster AX3000 design (up from AX1800 with the Eero 6) and support for full-width, 160MHz channels (up from 80MHz), the performance is significantly improved.
In my at-home tests, the Eero 6 Plus returned average download speeds that were in the top 10 of the 30 or so mesh routers I’ve reviewed here — and none of the systems that outperformed it offer as good a value. Its upload speeds were strong as well, and it works great with previous-gen, Wi-Fi 5 client devices, too — that’s important, because gadgets like those still comprise the majority of Wi-Fi devices in our homes. With three mesh devices for $299 and range of up to 4,500 square feet, it’s an excellent pick for large homes, where that additional extender will come in handy.
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Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 5Speed Rating AC2200Range Up to 2,200 sq. ft.Wireless Networking Security WPA3Bands Dual-Band (2.4 and 5GHz)
Several years ago, Google Wifi became a breakout hit thanks to its easy setup and its ability to spread a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection throughout your home for all of your connected devices. Then, there was Nest Wifi, a second-gen follow-up that adds in faster internet speeds and a better-looking design, plus Google Assistant smart speakers built into each satellite extender. It was an immediate standout in our tests, and our top-recommended mesh router prior to the arrival of Wi-Fi 6.
Nest Wifi debuted at $269 for a two-pack with the main router and one range-extending satellite, but now there’s a new, third-gen follow-up called Nest Wifi Pro that adds in support for Wi-Fi 6E. That system failed to wow us, though — and in the meantime, the second-gen Nest Wifi is still a solid mesh router that frequently costs a lot less than before.
On average, the Nest Wifi notched the fastest top speeds that I saw in my tests from any Wi-Fi 5 mesh router (and faster speeds than some of the Wi-Fi 6 systems I’ve tested, too). It also aced our mesh tests, never once dropping my connection as I moved about my home running speed tests. I never caught it routing my connection through the extender when connecting directly to the router was faster, either, which is a common pitfall for mesh connections.
Make no mistake, the lack of Wi-Fi 6 support means that the second-gen Nest Wifi is a somewhat dated system at this point, but it does include support for modern features like WPA3 security, device grouping and prioritization, and 4×4 MU-MIMO connections that offer faster aggregate speeds for devices like the MacBook Pro that can use multiple Wi-Fi antennas at once. It’s also fully backward-compatible with previous-gen Google Wifi setups, which is a smart touch. All of it is easy to set up, easy to use and easy to rely on. Among dual-band mesh routers, I’d much rather have a top-of-the-line Wi-Fi 5 system than an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 system, and even among new competition, the Nest Wifi mesh router fits that bill.
Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 5Speed Rating AC1200Range Up to 4,500 sq. ft. (with two satellites)Wireless Networking Security WPA2Bands Dual-Band (2.4 and 5GHz)
The AC1200 version of Netgear Orbi is a smaller, simpler version of the popular mesh system. It doesn’t offer blazing-fast speeds, but the performance is consistent, and it costs a whole lot less than other, fancier Orbi builds.
Netgear brought the cost down by sticking with Wi-Fi 5, ditching the built-in Alexa speaker that comes with the Orbi Voice and skipping the tri-band approach and the dedicated 5GHz backhaul band that other Orbi systems use to connect each device in the mesh. I wonder if Netgear missed an opportunity by not branding this system as “Orbi Lite.”
It all makes for a less robust mesh system than other Orbi setups, but I hardly noticed in my tests. Among the Wi-Fi 5 systems I’ve tested, the dual-band Netgear Orbi actually notched the fastest top speeds at close range, it kept up with the Nest and Eero in our real-world speed tests and it offered excellent signal strength in the large-sized CNET Smart Home.
Netgear’s app isn’t as clean or intuitive as Nest’s or Eero’s, and the network didn’t seem quite as steady as those two as it steered me from band to band in my tests, but those are quibbles at this price. If you just want something affordable — perhaps to tide you over until you’re ready to make the upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E — then the most budget-friendly Netgear Orbi definitely deserves your consideration.
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CNET editors pick the products and services we write about based on editorial merit. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read more about how we test mesh routers.
Here’s how we speed test mesh routers
Router manufacturers make big claims about top speeds, many of which can be misleading or at least confusing when you’re shopping for a new one. That’s why we put every router we review through our own, independent speed tests in a real-world test environment. For much of the past few years of working from home, that test environment has been my house, but here in 2023, we’ve been working to relocate those tests to our test lab, where we can do more to control for variables in the environment.
Specifically, we’ve set up a five-room, 1,300-square-foot test space for home networking tests, with incoming gigabit internet speeds (940Mbps downloads, 880Mbps uploads). It’s not as big as the multibedroom, multistory homes where mesh routers really shine, but it’s still enough space to see separation between the top mesh systems on the market.
That said, if you’re starting to use devices at home that support Wi-Fi 6E, then the Eero Pro 6E might be worth the extra expense, as it adds in access to the 6GHz band to deliver faster speeds to devices like those. I re-ran my speed tests on a Wi-Fi 6E test device capable of connecting over 6GHz and the only Wi-Fi 6E system that returned faster speeds than the Eero Pro 6E was the AXE11000 version of the Netgear Orbi, which costs a whopping $1,500 for a three-pack. From a performance standpoint, it’s our top-tested Wi-Fi 6E system — but the Eero Pro 6E is right behind it and costs less than half as much at $699 for a three-pack or less. Just note that the system that finished in first place in these tests was, again, the Asus Rog Rapture GT6, which isn’t a Wi-Fi 6E router at all, but rather, a super speedy Wi-Fi 6 router.
Meanwhile on the Wi-Fi 6E front, I was less impressed with the speeds I saw from the Motorola Q14 and from the Nest Wifi Pro, both to my Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E test devices. Both were workable systems that did the job in my tests — but with 6GHz speeds that fell short of Eero and Netgear, neither system offers a noticeable speed upgrade over the competition, and that makes them harder to recommend. Still, give Nest Wifi Pro some credit for stable speeds, strong smart home chops, and decent value at $400 for a three-pack.