Written by Lawrence Ng
Getting a good network connection can be a constant struggle even in a small home. It’s especially challenging if your apartment has an awkward layout with thick walls.
Although my problem is more on the aesthetics side, I have heard from many friends having the same patchy wireless network connection issue, even though their routers are placed at less obscured areas than mine.
So my first-world problem is that I stay in a 5-room apartment and I’m adamant to have my router tucked away, hidden in my TV console. I was using a cheap ‘Xiaomi WiFi Repeater 2’ for the longest time without any issues until one fine day, it started to fail after a trip to China.
So like any frustrated cord-cutting smart home user, my quest to find the best WiFi mesh began. I went ahead to test out four of the most popular WiFi mesh systems for a period of two weeks each.
Asus Lyra Trio
This Asus Lyra Trio comes with choices of one, two or three devices in a pack. It connects using dual-band 2.4GHz or 5Ghz WiFi. One thing I realised while trying out the different meshes is that they have all made it simple to use; all the band and channel selection are done automatically. There is no way to manually key in your own setting. Not that most people will care but having the options to manually tweak your router will have slight improvements on your WiFi connectivity, especially in a crowded WiFi space.
One thing I really like about the Asus Lyra Trio is its compact design. It’s one of the few WiFi meshes that can fit into my slim TV console. But I do wish it came in black so that it can blend in together with all my other black devices.
Each Lyra Trio can be a standalone router by itself. You can hook it up directly to your modem and connect multiple wireless devices to it, and it comes with a LAN port to connect a device using a network cable.
The setup instructions in the Asus Lyra app were clear and simple, but it did miss out a very important piece of information. You’ll need to switch off your modem for at least two minutes if you are changing to a new router. Not sure if this is something unique to my modem but it is an important step to get your modem to provide an internet connection to your router. I found out about this through the hard way because other WiFi meshes did provide this information.
After weeks of testing, I realised there is a slight drop in the signal while on the move between router and access point. The signal can also be a little weak when I move into my bedroom toilet compared to the other meshes that we have tested. This could be due to the fact that this is an older Asus WiFi Mesh system that we are testing, which has only 3 antennas. The new Asus Home WiFi Mesh system has way more antennas.
The price for the Asus Lyra Trio is attractive. On Amazon SG, the 2-pack is selling at S$289 and oddly, the 3-pack is selling for just S$5 more at S$294. But for a small apartment, it does feel a little overkill to have three routers.
Similar to the Asus Lyra Trio, each Linksys Velop can function either as a standalone router or act as an access point, and each one comes with an additional LAN port to provide hardwire connection. Setting up was easy (The app tells you about 2-minute modem rule). The app is easy to use and has clear instructions.
Probably due to its larger body design which can fit more or bigger antennas, or being a tri-band router, it does provide a better, more stable and stronger connection (I have a strong signal even in the bedroom toilet). But did I mention it is big? It is about the size of a bottle of mineral water and it can’t really fit into my TV console when it’s standing upright. You also can’t lay it on its sides due to its curved design.
The price is steeper for this one. A 2-pack costs S$598 and 3-pack at S$716 on Amazon SG.
Google Nest WiFi
While setting up the Google Nest WiFi, I was lazy and use the same network cable from the previous setup. Guess what? I was surprised that it didn’t work because of the network cable. I suspect that it needed a different Category network cable. The most common network cable being Cat 6 which usually only allow up to 1Gbps, while Cat 7 typically goes up to 10Gbps. Whichever it is, it is still best to just use the network cable that is provided.
Unfortunately, the router and add-on point are different products. You must at least purchase a WiFi router at S$299 and depending on the amount of coverage you need, a separate WiFi point can be bought at S$199. Looking on the bright side, the overall cost could be less since you won’t have to pay for extra routers if you don’t need them.
Here is the best part and one thing that most smart home users like me will love. The WiFi point is also a Google Assistant-enabled speaker and comes with decent sound quality that’s comparable to Google Home and significantly better than the Nest Hub and Mini.
You can tap on the top to manually control its volume and you can also use it as a night light. I wish the router does the same so that I can have one less Google device on my already packed TV console.
The connection is strong, stable and fast. There are no drops in the signal even if you move between the router and an access point.
Setup will be done through the Google Home app and it’s definitely easy and simple. Its design is simplistic and stylish with a matte white finish and rounded edges. It’s not the most compact but it is small enough to fit into my TV console.
TP-Link Deco P9
The Deco P9 is the latest WiFi mesh from TP-Link and it is another big router that can’t fit into my TV console. I also can’t put it on its sides because of its curved design which also feels a little plasticky. Similar to the Asus and Linksys, each unit can be a standalone router. Setup was surprisingly intuitive with its easy to use and informative app.
Signal strength is decent and you can expect a slight drop in signal when moving from one device to another, but it also uses Powerline to connect! This is a game-changer because I can connect another unit right in my bedroom, beside my toilet, to get the best in-toilet streaming experience.
Even though TP-Link does not recommend powering the router through an extension, I have not had any issues doing that. The downside is that you can’t manually choose a powerline or wireless connection. It won’t even tell you how it is connected.
The 3-pack is selling at an attractive price of S$316 on Qoo10.
Which one should you get?
The latest by Google and TP link seems like the best buy for now, but we know that the other brands will be starting to ship their new mesh systems soon. Do let us know if you’d be keen on more mesh router reviews!