There is a strong argument for selecting a mesh router over a traditional router, even in cases where you are using a single access point. But if you’re buying with the intention of splitting a mesh pack, you should shop carefully.
Why split a mesh pack?
Although mesh networks are almost always sold in multiple packages because, you know, multiple access points are a pretty key element of setting up a mesh network, you don’t really need multiple access points for your router to work.
The mesh system may not be mesh if there is only one access point in play, but the hardware in a single mesh node is powerful enough on its own to serve a small home.
Plus, using a mesh platform, even if you’re only using one node, gives you access to all the enhanced features built into modern mesh platforms, like easy app-centric management, enhanced parental controls, automatic updates, and more. other great features. Have network management services. And on top of all that, unlike a traditional router, you can instantly extend with your own extenders at any point in the future.
However, if you don’t need two or three mesh nodes to cover your space, there’s no point in buying a three-pack and over-saturating your small apartment or letting the units collect dust. Split the pack (and split the cost too!) with a friend.
If that sounds good, you’ll be happy to know that it’s easy to set up a single mesh node as your primary router instead of a traditional router, so you’re unlikely to run into difficulties there.
But where you may run into trouble is in the initial purchase experience where you buy the single node or look for a bundle to split up and share with friends or family. This is what you need to keep in mind.
How to choose a single mesh router (or split a packet)
While there are certainly a wide variety of mesh products on the market, and you can easily make divisions between mesh networks with dual or triple bands, those with dedicated backhauls and those with shared backhauls, and other distinctions, for the purpose of buying a single mesh router or splitting a larger package, there is one key consideration.
Mesh platforms come in two flavors (and product offerings within a company’s larger platform can be a mix of these two flavors). Router and extender designs and position-independent designs.
In the router and extender design, one of the units is intended to be the router and be physically connected to the modem and other physical network infrastructure. The other units in the package aren’t designed to be plugged directly into anything (and can’t be because they lack Ethernet ports).
In the position agnostic design, each unit is interchangeable with every other unit. They all have the same Ethernet ports, power supplies, etc. In fact, the only thing that determines which one ends up being the actual router is which one you designate as the gateway during the setup process.
Whether you intend to purchase a single mesh unit to use as a stand-alone router or a bundle to share with friends or family, it is essential that you carefully read the product description and documentation.
Also, don’t assume that because some company products work like this, they all do. For example, the original generation of Google Wifi features an agnostic design where all disks in the kit are the same. You can use them together, you can split them up and put each drive in a different house, it doesn’t matter.
However, the update to the line, Google Nest Wifi, seen above, is not agnostic. There’s a discrete base unit with Ethernet ports, the Nest Wifi router, and then Nest Wifi add-ons that don’t have Ethernet ports and can’t function as a router.
You will find the same with the eero platform and the different product generations of it. The original eero was agnostic and each unit was hot swappable with two Ethernet ports per unit. Updated models vary in design.
The eero 6 three-pack is one router with Ethernet and two extenders without Ethernet. The eero Pro 6 tri-pack and the eero Pro 6E tri-pack are position independent and each unit has Ethernet.
With that in mind, if you’re buying a single unit for yourself, always buy the router unit, not the extender units. You can always buy an eero 6 router unit and then buy an eero 6 extender unit later, but you can’t do the other way around.
eero 6 Pro 3-pack
Use them all for yourself or divide them among your friends. Each mesh node in this 3-pack can function as a router or extender.
And if your goal is to split the cost among friends and family, buying a pack of three and then giving each person a single mesh node to use in their home, you’ll want to buy a pack with agnostic units like the eero 6 Pro, the TP-Link Deco X20 or any other model where each unit has Ethernet connectivity and can be configured as a router/gateway device.
While you should always check the fine print, as a general rule, product listing wording is a giveaway. When a product listing refers to mesh nodes as a cohesive group, such as “mesh router 3-pack”, “3 routers”, or “3-pack”, the individual units are often interchangeable.
If the list refers to the nodes as “1 router + 2 extenders” or some variation of what you see in the screenshot above, then the units are not interchangeable and you will not be able to split them.
Be especially mindful of prices, as that can mislead you. At first glance, it might seem like a better value to buy the 1 router + 2 extenders for $199, rather than the “3 routers” bundle for $249, but if your intention is to split them with friends, you’re out. lucky if you go with the router + extender option.
Of course, if you take into account all these tips, you will not have problems. Whether you buy a single node for yourself or keep two nodes and give one to a friend, it’s easy to get access to the mesh platform features you want and set up a simple home network that can grow with your needs. .