Your computer, like every device that connects to the internet, has an IP (Internet Protocol) address. It’s a series of numbers interspersed with decimal points (for example, “220.127.116.11”), and acts like a home address that identifies where other devices can find your computer.
Related Article Module: ‘What is my IP?’: Here’s what an IP address does, and how to find yours
Here’s everything to know about changing both your local and public IP addresses.
How to change your public IP address
No matter what kind of computer you have – Windows or Mac – it’s pretty easy to change your public IP address.
Your public IP address is usually set by your internet service provider (ISP), and you can’t choose it yourself. However, you can “coax” it to change in any of several different ways:
Change your network or location: Your public IP address will change based on where and how you connect to the internet. If you have a phone with LTE, for example, turning off Wi-Fi so it uses that LTE signal will compel it to use a different IP address. You can also connect to a different Wi-Fi network.
Reboot your internet modem: When you reboot the modem (turn it off, wait two to three minutes, then turn it back on) it’ll refresh all the IP addresses on the network.
Connect with a VPN: A VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides your public IP address, and connects you to a server in a different location with a different IP address. When you use a VPN, you don’t get to choose the IP address directly, but you can usually choose what geographic region you want to appear to come from, which will determine what IP addresses the VPN software will use to identify you.
If all else fails, contact your ISP and ask them to change your IP address. They might not be able to do it, but there’s no harm in asking.
How to change your local IP address in Windows
1. Click the Start button and then click “Settings.”
2. Click “Network & Internet.”
3. In the navigation pane on the left, click “Wi-Fi” and then click the name of your Wi-Fi network. If you’re connected with an Ethernet cable, select “Ethernet.”
4. On the details page for your Wi-Fi network, scroll down to the IP settings section and click “Edit.” With Ethernet, click “Properties.”
5. Finally, in the Edit IP settings dialog box, click “Automatic (DHCP)” and choose “Manual.” Then turn on IPv4 by swiping the button to the right and enter the details of the new IP address. Click “Save.”
How to change your local IP address on a Mac
1. In the Apple menu, click “System Preferences.”
2. Click “Network.”
3. In the pane on the left, select the network you’re connected to, and then click “Advanced” at the bottom right of the window.
4. Click the “TCP/IP” tab at the top.
5. In the Configure using IPv4 section, click “Using DHCP” and then choose “Manually.”
6. Finally, enter the details of the new IP address. Click “OK.”
How to change the local IP address on a mobile device
Like any internet-connected device, your phone has its own IP address. If you have a compelling reason to, you can change your IP address for your phone as well.
Mesh Wi-Fi networks, also known as mesh routers or mesh systems, are a hot trend in home Wi-Fi.
The best mesh networks deliver range and reliability beyond what a Wi-Fi router can match.
Mesh Wi-Fi networks are expensive, but they offer simple set up compared to routers and extenders.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems, which are also called mesh routers or mesh networks, promise superior range and reliability compared to Wi-Fi routers. They’re perfect for covering large homes and fixing persistent Wi-Fi dead spots.
They also appeal to owners who want a simple, app-based setup process. This makes a mesh system easier to configure than a network of Wi-Fi routers, access points, and extenders. Router brands know many people find networking confusing and are building mesh networks with simplicity in mind.
Unfortunately, mesh Wi-Fi systems are expensive. Most are sold at prices that are equal to, or above, the most extravagant Wi-Fi routers on store shelves. Prices are coming down, however, and basic mesh Wi-Fi systems are now available for prices that equal mid-range Wi-Fi routers. If this continues, mesh systems will likely replace Wi-Fi routers as the default choice for most homes.
Here are the best mesh Wi-Fi network systems you can buy:
Netgear’s Orbi AX6000 is fast, reliable, and boasts massive range; it’s perfect for large homes and demanding users.
The Netgear Orbi AX6000 supports Wi-Fi 6 and has two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands to reduce network interference and improve reliability. This has led to great results in reviews, most of which place the Orbi AX6000 in the top tier of wireless performance. The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 is the only competitor we recommend that can match its speed.
CNET’s review of the Orbi AX6000 found it delivered speeds of more than 500 megabytes per second, even at a range of 75 feet from the primary router. It spreads the speed reliably enough to cover large homes, and you can extend the range by 2,500 square feet if you purchase additional nodes.
The Orbi AX6000 uses an app-based interface that most owners will find approachable. It’s Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible, so some features can be controlled by voice command through a smart speaker or smartphone.
However, the Netgear Orbi AX6000 is the most expensive mesh network we recommend. Fortunately, you get what you pay for.
The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for performance
Arris is among the less well-known brands in home networking, but its mesh network systems are strong contenders giving Netgear, Linksys, and Asus stiff competition.
The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 is its mainstream tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, and its performance can match even Netgear’s Orbi AX6000. Reviews indicate the gap between the two seems small enough that they’re basically equals. However, the Arris is often sold for much less. This makes it an excellent value.
While its performance is impressive, the system lacks configuration options. Arris uses an app-based setup, which works well but lacks the advanced options that some owners might expect. This includes advanced parental controls.
The system lacks a wired backhaul, which allows an optional wired connection between nodes for maximum performance. Most homes don’t need this feature, but most competitors have it, and it can be useful in homes already wired for Ethernet.
The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 will work best in homes that don’t need advanced features but do want fast Wi-Fi speeds at a reasonable price.
The TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 is affordable compared to most other mesh systems, costing less than some of TP’s pricey wireless routers.
This system’s Wi-Fi 6 performance is generally the lowest of any on this list and offers no significant advantage over the Nest Wifi, which doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6. TP-Link’s Deco X60 is the most affordable system on this list, though, so mediocre performance isn’t a surprise. It doesn’t offer a lot of ports, and there’s no USB.
One notable perk is the Deco X60’s configuration options. TP-Link’s app supports features like dynamic DNS and port forwarding, features that aren’t found on some more expensive systems. This is good news for owners who need an affordable mesh router that still plays nice with a home media or file server. You’ll have more control over how devices communicate on your network, which, in the case of home servers, is sometimes needed for them to function properly.
The TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 is not an impressive mesh system, but it’s affordable and good enough for homes that aren’t demanding. Those looking for a basic but functional mesh network can pick this system up for less than many wireless routers.
The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for smart homes
One of the easiest mesh systems to set up and use, theNest Wifi is a great choice, despite limited capabilities.
Google’s Nest Wifi is among the least capable mesh Wi-Fi systems on this list. It doesn’t even support Wi-Fi 6. Why is it on this list? Ease of use is a key reason.
Most mesh Wi-Fi systems are easy to set up and use, but Nest Wifi is on a different level. Setting up Nest Wifi is fast and easy. Once finished, you can easily control the network settings through a smartphone app that looks similar to other Google apps.
Nest Wifi also has a unique feature. Each router or node doubles as a Google Assistant-compatible smart speaker. This is a bonus for buyers who don’t have smart speakers throughout their homes. You can play music, listen to podcasts, and interact with Google Assistant, just as you would on an Android smartphone.
Wired connectivity is extremely limited, even on the router. There are no Gigabit Ethernet ports on the nodes, and USB is also absent.
Though it doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 (the newest and fastest Wi-Fi standard), Nest Wifi delivers solid performance for its price. Most reviews find the Nest Wifi outperforms similarly inexpensive Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems and can come close to Wi-Fi 6 systems. This is not the performance pick, but it’s good enough for many homes.
Google Nest Wifi is great for smaller homes and for shoppers who care more about ease of use and smart-home connectivity than maximum wireless speeds.
The best Wi-Fi 6 mesh network system for smart homes
The Amazon Eero Pro 6 has a built-in Zigbee radio, making it attractive for smart-home enthusiasts with lots of connected devices.
Amazon’s Eero Pro 6 is the most expensive and feature-packed option from the brand, and it’s aimed at smart home enthusiasts.
The Eero Pro 6 has a built-in Zigbee radio. Zigbee is a wireless standard designed specifically for smart-home devices. While not a mainstream name, Zigbee is popular in the world of smart home devices and is used by brands like Philips Hue, Yale, Honeywell, and Bosch, among many others. The Eero Pro 6 is also Alexa compatible, so you can control router functions through Alexa voice commands.
All this sits on top of a solid, app-driven interface that makes setup and configuration easy. Although it shares the advanced configuration limitations of many mesh systems, the Eero Pro 6 rivals Google’s Nest Wifi for ease of use.
The system’s Wi-Fi 6 performance is fine but can’t compete with the fastest mesh networks available. The main reason you’d want to choose the Eero over the Nest Wifi is if you have a more spacious home, as it covers a larger range.
Though the Eero Pro 6 works well and has good smart home support, it comes at a high price. A single Eero Pro 6 router is nearly as expensive as Google’s Nest Wifi two-pack, and pricing swiftly increases from there. Despite this, the overall feature set and performance offered by the Eero Pro 6 is not impressive compared to systems like the Asus ZenWifi XT8 AX6600 or Linksys Velop AX4200.
Still, the Eero Pro 6 can make sense for those who are as interested in smart-home support as Wi-Fi performance. The included Zigbee radio provides broad compatibility that will fit well with many smart-home devices.
The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for large homes
The Linksys Velop AX4200 is another great tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 mesh Wi-Fi system. It provides strong coverage and good Wi-Fi performance that’s suitable for the largest homes.
Linksys cheats the competition by including three nodes in a bundle that matches the price of competitors that have just two units. Any of these can be the primary or child nodes. Because it has more nodes, the Linksys Velop AX4200 can more easily cover large spaces and handle pesky Wi-Fi dead spots.
Each Velop node is massive and has an excellent array of wired connectivity, with a variety of ports. The size is a downside it shares with the Netgear Orbi system, and the Velop’s extra node means you’ll have even more hardware taking up shelf space.
The Linksys Velop is easy to set up and configure, but it shares the configuration limitations of the Nest Wifi and Arris Surfboard Max AX6600. A mobile app is the only way to control your mesh network, and it doesn’t offer the advanced network options found on a typical wireless router.
Still, the Linksys Velop AX4200 is a great pick if you have a large home or persistent Wi-Fi issues in more than one area of your home. The Velop AX4200’s inclusion of an extra node at a reasonable price is a huge perk over the competition.
Do you need a mesh Wi-Fi system?
Mesh Wi-Fi systems promise improved reliability, performance, and range, all of which sound attractive.
The core difference between a mesh network and a traditional Wi-Fi network is the use of multiple nodes or satellites, which are the extra devices you place around your home, away from the main router. A proprietary solution controls communication between these extra devices. This lets all the nodes appear as one network and lets owners easily extend the network by purchasing more access points.
This is useful, though only if you need to have your network extended or have a troublesome Wi-Fi dead spot. A mesh network isn’t required to cover most homes under 2,000 square feet or larger homes that don’t have persistent dead spots.
Owners enjoyed the first mesh networks because they were easier to set up and use than routers, which have a bad reputation for confusing and disorganized interfaces. Router manufactures have caught on, however. Most wireless routers now offer fast setup and useful smartphone apps that are similar to those used with mesh networks.
Mesh networking products often make extravagant claims about their range or reliability. You can find products on Amazon that claim to cover homes of 5,000 square feet with three devices for just $150. Take these claims with a grain of salt.
The fastest, most effective mesh networks have multiple bands and use large units with large antennas, adding to the cost. Shoppers who just want a reliable Wi-Fi network at a low price will be better served by a standard wireless router. Mesh Wi-Fi systems remain a premium option that’s more of a luxury than a necessity, though pricing on the most basic systems can now match a mid-range Wi-Fi router.
When is a Wi-Fi router better?
Modern Wi-Fi routers still have a definitive edge in network control and customization. Most mesh routers use an app-based setup process. A few, like Netgear’s Orbi, include a web-based interface for advanced customization. Most don’t.
That can be a problem if you need or want in-depth control for settings like the router firewall, port forwarding, and static IP addresses. Most homes don’t need these features, but they are useful for gamers and those who manage a home server.
Can you mix mesh network devices?
Unlike Wi-Fi itself, which is a standard developed by an organization called the Wi-Fi Alliance, mesh Wi-Fi systems are not standardized. The specifics on how they work vary significantly between brands or even between products from the same brand.
You can’t mix mesh network devices between brands. Many mesh Wi-Fi products are designed as a complete package and don’t work with different systems from the same company. In most cases, you can extend your mesh network only by purchasing more devices of the same model that you own.
Router companies are working to fix this by expanding compatibility between products, with some success. Still, it’s best to assume you won’t be able to mix and match until brands prove that compatibility between their own devices won’t be phased out after a few years.
Tri-band vs. dual-band
A Wi-Fi band is a specific frequency range of radio waves used by wireless networks. Today, Wi-Fi typically will use the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Most routers are advertised as dual-band, which means they broadcast in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
You’ve likely noticed this already. Most Wi-Fi routers that exist today will create two different networks by default: one for the 2.4GHz band and one for the 5GHz band. In most cases, the 5GHz band has a “5G” added to the network name. This, by the way, has nothing to do with 5G networks used by mobile data networks, but the similarity in the names remains a source of confusion.
A tri-band mesh network adds a third band that, in most cases, is another 5GHz band operating at a slightly different frequency from the first. This reduces interference between bands, providing both better performance and improved range.
Dual-band is fine for a basic mesh network. The engineers designing routers are clever and can use various tricks to help routers and wireless access points communicate in a dual-band arrangement. Still, a tri-band mesh network is always technically superior to a dual-band mesh network.
What else we considered
Asus ZenWiFi XT8 AX6600: There’s a lot to like about the Asus ZenWiFi, especially its price compared to the Netgear Orbi. However, we had difficulty finding it in stock.
Netgear Nighthawk MK63: Netgear’s Nighthawk MK63 is an affordable, dual-band, Wi-Fi 6 system. It’s a good deal if you can find a bundle with three units. Otherwise, the two-unit system has a less impressive range that doesn’t measure up to some of the others on this list.
What we’re looking forward to
The release of Wi-Fi 6 means router manufacturers are in the middle of updating their product lines, but most mesh Wi-Fi systems have updated to the new standard.
The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced an evolution of the Wi-Fi 6 standard, Wi-Fi 6E, in 2020. Wi-Fi 6E adds a 6GHz wireless channel alongside the 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels already supported.
At CES 2021, Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, and Asus, and Arris showed mesh Wi-Fi systems that support Wi-Fi 6E. Upcoming options include the following:
You’ll have to wait until the second half of 2021 to buy any of these systems, and other brands will likely announce additional Wi-Fi 6E systems between now and the holiday shopping season.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems that support Wi-Fi 6E will likely have a performance edge over current models, but you don’t have to wait if you’re ready to buy. Today’s Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems are extremely quick and have excellent range. Wi-Fi 6E will be an evolution, not a revolution.
TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is an affordable router, but its performance makes it a reliable pick for the best router.
Your router’s speed and reliability will affect the speed of every Wi-Fi device in your home.
Today’s best routers support the Wi-Fi 6 standard, which is now available at affordable prices.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
The humble router is an often-overlooked device that’s key to unlocking great performance from computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices that rely on a fast Internet connection. Buying the best router you can afford will ensure your home network’s performance doesn’t become a bottleneck.
Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless networking standard, helps affordable routers achieve speeds that used to be reserved for the most luxurious models. Mesh networking has improved Wi-Fi reliability in homes with spotty WiFi signals, as well, though it’s not necessary in every home.
2021 is a great year to buy a new router. The Wi-Fi 6 standard is now broadly supported by new devices, but it remains a fresh innovation. Today’s best Wi-Fi routers will be useful for at least five years.
TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is the gold standard in the router market. Affordable yet fast, the Archer AX50 challenges not only its inexpensive competition but also premium routers. You can spend a lot more on a router without seeing a significant boost in everyday performance.
The secret to this router’s success is a simple but fast Wi-Fi 6 implementation. The AX50 can’t claim the highest maximum bandwidth or the most Wi-Fi bands, but it consistently performs well in many situations.
It can handle real-world download and upload speeds of up to 800Gbps within one room from the router. Its performance will be slashed to half that a couple rooms over, but this remains more than adequate for most uses.
The AX50‘s range isn’t great for homes larger than 2,000 square feet unless it can be placed directly in the center of the house or apartment.
Still, this router is incredible value. It’s a great fit for a family of up to four people in a home or apartment smaller than 2,000 square feet.
The best mesh router
The Google Nest Wifi is a mesh network system that combines multiple wireless access points into a single wireless network. This happens seamlessly without additional management. Mesh networks are great for homes with Wi-Fi dead spots that a single router can’t fix and are superior to Wi-Fi extenders.
Ease-of-use is Nest Wifi’s key feature. Both setup and router control are handled through an intuitive smartphone app. Those who own other Nest devices, or frequently use Google Assistant, will find it instantly familiar.
It even supports Google Assistant. The access points serve double duty as Google Assistant smart speakers. This will be a killer feature for some buyers.
Nest Wifi is an entry-level mesh network with less impressive specifications than competitors. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6. It also offers just two Ethernet ports per access point, which can be a problem if you connect to multiple devices over Ethernet.
These flaws are forgiven by the price. The two-device bundle, which contains the Nest Wifi router and one wireless access point, is less expensive than many standalone routers. This makes Nest Wifi a great fit if you’ve found that a single router can’t provide acceptable Wi-Fi performance to your entire home.
The best budget router
The TP-Link Archer A7 was once the best value in routers. It’s an older model with good performance and range for the price. It doesn’t offer Wi-Fi 6, however, and was replaced by the Archer AX21 in 2020.
Why is this router still relevant? Because it’s ridiculously affordable. The Archer A7 is barely more expensive than a family dinner at Applebee’s. That makes it an attractive option for those who live in a home or apartment under 1,000 square feet.
As mentioned, this router does not support Wi-Fi 6. You can expect real-world performance between 350 megabytes per second and 50Mbps, depending on a device’s range from a router. That’s mediocre by modern standards, but it’s decent if your devices are close enough to the router to see the higher side of that range. This is all you need if your Internet service plan doesn’t include speeds above what the Archer A7 can provide.
Setup is easy, and the router’s range is good enough to cover most two-bedroom homes and apartments. The router itself is small but still offers the four Ethernet ports found on most routers, so it can handle several wired Ethernet devices.
The best router for value
TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 is among the most expensive routers available from the company, and its specifications receive an appropriate boost. The Archer AX6000’s maximum possible bandwidth is twice that of the AX50, and the AX6000 has a more robust antenna arrangement that can better handle multiple simultaneous devices.
There’s good news for wired Ethernet, too. The Archer AX6000 has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports. It also has a 2.5Gbps WAN port, an uncommon feature that can be useful if you have wired network devices, like network-attached storage, that support 2.5Gbps Ethernet. USB-A 3.0 and USB-C 3.0 ports round out the wired connectivity.
The Archer AX6000 is a large router, measuring about 10 inches on a side and two and half inches thick. It has a square, industrial look that can stick out in a room. This could annoy buyers who can’t easily hide the router.
Still, this router is perfect for those who want excellent range and performance without paying a premium.
The best premium router
The Asus RT-88AX is a nice upgrade for buyers who want excellent performance and enough range to handle larger homes, but don’t want to stretch their budget into the extreme realm of tri-band routers or premium mesh networks.
This router offers eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, double the ports found on most routers. Although this isn’t unheard of in a premium router, the Asus RT-88AX is among the least expensive routers with this feature. It also has a USB-A 3.1 port. This router is a great pick for those who have many wired devices.
Despite these features, the Asus RT-88AX has a conventional, sleek router look. This contrasts with alternatives that have a more industrial design. The RT-88AX is a good choice if you can’t hide your router and don’t want it to stand out in a room.
The best gaming router
Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a top-tier Wi-Fi 6 router. It’s a tri-band router, which means it has two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands and one 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. You can choose to split the 5GHz band between devices, or reserve one of the bands for just a single device that you want to have maximum wireless performance and reliability.
This router is marketed to gamers, but its capabilities are a good fit for large families and large homes. Tom’s Hardware found it offers nearly 100 feet of range, and its performance held up well as range from the router increased. The Asus GT-AX11000 is a good fit for homes larger than 3,000 square feet.
The Asus GT-AX11000 has a robust interface with many options designed to provide better control over how devices access the network. Power users and enthusiasts will like this interface.
Wired connectivity is a weakness. This router has just four Gigabit Ethernet ports alongside a single 2.5Gbps LAN port. It also has two USB-A 3.1 ports. Although enough for many homes, its mediocre wired connectivity is odd given the otherwise extreme feature set.
This is also among the most expensive home routers sold today. Its performance, while exceptional, isn’t a great value compared to the TP-Link Archer AX6000. However, the Asus GT-AX11000 is a better fit for large homes packed with dozens of wireless devices.
The best mesh router for performance
The Netgear Orbi Pro AX6000 is a fast and reliable mesh network system for large homes. Like the Nest Wifi, this system uses multiple wireless access points to deliver more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity and get around obstacles that might otherwise block Wi-Fi signals.
Netgear’s system is far more capable, however. It supports Wi-Fi 6 and has a significantly more robust antenna arrangement. This system even provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports per router or access point, so you can attach plenty of wired devices.
The least expensive Orbi AX6000 WiFi Mesh System bundle includes one router and one access point, which should work for homes between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. You can add more access points for even greater range. The four-pack system, which has one router and three access points, should work for homes of up to 8,000 square feet.
Other Wi-Fi mesh networks can offer similar specifications, but reviewers currently lean towards the Orbi AX6000 as the best option. Forbes and Tom’s Hardware both named it the best Wi-Fi mesh router available.
Price is the only downside. This Netgear Orbi system is three times more expensive than Nest Wifi. Netgear does sell less expensive Orbi systems but, like Nest Wifi, they currently lack Wi-Fi 6 support,
The best value mesh router
Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 is a great mid-range mesh network that is suitable for most homes. It’s among the most affordable mesh options to support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard.
Wi-Fi 6 support leads to excellent performance. CNET and PCMag both named this router an editor’s choice thanks to its speed. The ZenWiFi AX6600 can deliver Wi-Fi speeds competitive with the more expensive Orbi AX6000 system in some scenarios. The Orbi pulls ahead at long range, but the ZenWiFi AX6000 is often neck-and-neck with the Orbi when connected to devices 30 feet away or closer.
That’s an acceptable compromise for homes and apartments that are smaller than 2,500 square feet. Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 system also provides smaller, more attractive satellites that will be easier to hide. The system’s router has three Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 2.5Gbps WAN port.
While not the most powerful mesh system, Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 hits a sweet spot of price and performance. It’s a great alternative to similarly priced routers which, although packed with more capable hardware, are often more difficult to manage.
Why you should buy a Wi-Fi 6 router
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest wireless standard. It’s backward compatible with previous standards but also offers a huge leap in performance.
The maximum theoretical speed of Wi-Fi 6 is 9.6 gigabits per second (Gbps), up from 3.5 Gbps with Wi-Fi 5. While most consumer Internet service plans can’t hit these speeds, they’re still useful for devices on your local network, such as network attached storage.
More importantly, the measured real-world performance of Wi-Fi 6 routers blows away their predecessors. A 20 to 50 percent improvement is common. Wi-Fi 6 routers also have better range and see less reduction in performance when handling many devices, traits that are useful in any home.
This comes with an important catch. Both the router and the device connecting to it, such as your smartphone or laptop, must support Wi-Fi 6 to boost performance. If not, the connection will fall back to the Wi-Fi 5 standard (or an even older standard, if you’re connecting an ancient device).
Still, Wi-Fi 6 is the way forward. Most new smartphones, computers, and smart home devices introduced in 2021 will support Wi-Fi 6. It will be the expected standard for new devices by 2022.
A Wi-Fi 5 router or mesh network can work well, but only makes sense when pricing significantly beats alternatives with Wi-Fi 6 support. That’s why most routers and mesh networks on this list support Wi-Fi 6.
What is a mesh network, and should you buy one?
Mesh networking is the latest trend in wireless connectivity. Mesh networking devices, often sold in packages as mesh network routers, mesh access points, or mesh network systems, provide multiple wireless access points for your network.
Each access point can communicate with its partners to balance network load, which ultimately provides a more reliable home network. The use of multiple access points can also help deliver Wi-Fi coverage to hard-to-reach wireless dead spots, like a basement or a room on the far side of a concrete or brick wall.
This might sound complex, but simplicity is among mesh networking’s best features. Most companies that sell mesh networks provide attractive companion apps that are more approachable than a typical router’s user interface.
Mesh networks will make standalone routers obsolete in the future. Pricing is all that holds them back. Even the most affordable examples are priced to compete with premium routers. This makes sense; you’re getting multiple access points instead of one router. Still, high pricing will turn off many buyers.
While mesh networks are excellent, buyers should beware so-called mesh networking devices that are glorified Wi-Fi range extenders. They’re often sold as add-on devices instead of mesh network systems with multiple access points in a single package. The term “mesh network” doesn’t refer to any specific technical standard, so the marketing minds at router companies are slapping the term on anything that can extend a wireless network.
What we’re looking forward to testing
The release of Wi-Fi 6 means router manufacturers are in the middle of updating their product lines. Most manufacturers have updated their consumer routers to the new standard, but mesh network products and specialty routers are still in the middle of updates.
The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced a new standard, Wi-Fi 6E, in 2020. Wi-Fi 6E adds a 6GHz wireless channel to the options available, alongside the 5GHz and 2.4GHz already supported. This is helpful because congestion on existing bands is a constant issue. The 6GHz band should also provide better performance in ideal scenarios.
Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, Asus, and Arris announced Wi-Fi 6E routers or mesh systems at CES 2021. The Wi-Fi 6E options announced include:
Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 mesh router
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 router
Asus RT-AX68U router
Linksys Velop AXE8400 mesh router
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 router
TP-Link Archer A96 router
TP-Link Archer AX206 router
TP-Link Deco X96 mesh router
TP-Link Deco X76 Plus mesh router
Most of these options won’t be available until the second half of 2021. Though Wi-Fi 6E will improve performance in some situations, you shouldn’t hold off on purchasing a router because of this new standard.
It can be hard to imagine or remember the days before Wi-Fi, when you had to run Ethernet cables throughout the house to connect computers to the internet and carry files around on CDs and portable hard drives (affectionately known as “sneakernet”).
These days, we take Wi-Fi for granted – right up until it stops working and brings our modern connected household to a complete stop.
How to fix Wi-Fi problems
Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve common Wi-Fi problems.
Basic check: Is the Wi-Fi router running?
It’s not out of the question for the plug to have been accidentally pulled or the cat to have stepped on the power button. Make sure the Wi-Fi router’s lights are on.
Is the issue related to one device or all devices?
Fixing computer problems like Wi-Fi connection issues often comes down to the process of elimination. That’s why technical support technicians often start by asking silly and obvious questions like “is the computer plugged in?” Once you know the Wi-Fi is running, check to see if the problem happens on just one device or on all of them. If you can’t connect on your laptop, for example, check your phone to see if you can see Wi-Fi signal strength bars.
Send a ping to Google
One other easy thing you can check for: is the connection problem related to your Wi-Fi network or to your internet service provider’s internet signal? Your Wi-Fi network might be fine, for example, but the ISP’s internet may be out. To find out, run a ping test using a computer.
1. On your PC, click the Start button search box and type “CMD,” then press Enter.
2. In the Command Prompt window, type “ping Google.com.”
3. Wait for the result.
If you see an error message, you might not have a working internet connection; continue troubleshooting in the next section. If you see a reply from Google, then you have a working internet connection and the problem lies elsewhere.
You can also log into your account for your internet service provider to check if there’s an outage in your area. With many providers, a banner will appear at the top of your account page notifying you of an outage, or you can search for an outage map on the site.
Troubleshooting no service at all
This is unfortunately one of the more common problems people run into – the internet simply doesn’t work at all. If none of the devices or computers on your Wi-Fi network can connect, reset both the internet router and Wi-Fi (this might be one device or two different ones). Unplug them, wait two minutes, and plug them back in. If your Wi-Fi doesn’t start working again, the problem might be with your internet service provider – call customer service and let them troubleshoot.
Resolving slow or spotty internet in certain rooms
If your Wi-Fi drops out in certain parts of the house on a regular basis, the problem is almost certainly a “dead zone” caused by a router that can’t reach everywhere. If possible, move the router to a more central location in the house. Alternatively, you can add a Wi-Fi extender to increase the range of your router.
Troubleshooting slow or spotty internet at certain times of day
If your connection problem isn’t related to where you are in the house but is an intermittent problem at certain times of the day, the issue is likely related to a lack of bandwidth; too many devices are connected to the Wi-Fi network and using too much data. If three people are streaming Netflix on different devices at the same time, for example, there’s your culprit. If possible, connect devices with an Ethernet cable so they aren’t using Wi-Fi, or better yet, take one or more bandwidth hogs offline entirely.
Is your connection slow because of the Wi-Fi network or the ISP?
If you have a connection that’s noticeably slow, it can also be helpful to figure out if your poor performance is being caused by a slow internet connection provided by your ISP or if the Wi-Fi network in your home is not working properly. You can do this by running an internet speed test. Run the test at speedtest.net in any browser (on a computer or mobile device). If the internet speed seems normal (at least 10Mbps, for example) the issue is related to your Wi-Fi network, not the internet. Read our detailed guide on how to check the strength of your Wi-Fi for more information.
How to resolve issues with your router
It can be challenging to know exactly what is causing a problem with your Wi-Fi connection, and the router itself has some settings and configurations that might be “breaking” your Wi-Fi network. If possible, check on and update your router’s firmware. Most modern routers work with a simple mobile app you can use to check on the firmware and install any available updates. This can resolve issues with your connection reliability and speed. In addition, you can probably use the app to change the channels your router is using to broadcast on its various bands. If your connection is slow or intermittent, changing the channels might significantly improve your Wi-Fi service. For more information, read our article on how to boost your internet connection.
What to do if one device has trouble connecting
Make sure the device’s software is up to date. And if your router is a dual-band or tri-band device, try connecting to one of the other Wi-Fi bands. There are any number of reasons why a laptop might connect more easily to one of the 5GHz radios rather than the other, for example.
What to do if your game console can’t connect to Wi-Fi
Occasionally, consoles like the Xbox and PS4 can run into trouble connecting to Wi-Fi. Consoles can be affected by the same kind of glitches that affect PCs and mobile devices, but they generally only need to go to one internet location, so troubleshooting can be easier. Open a site like Downdetector in a web browser on your computer or a mobile device and use it to see if the Playstation Network or Xbox Live is down. If so, just wait for the site to come back up. Otherwise, reboot both the router and the console and move them closer together, if possible.