If you’re not looking to blanket a large home with Wi-Fi, you may not have even considered going for a mesh platform. Here’s why we think you should.
Why use a single mesh router?
You may never have thought of using a single mesh router on its own without the rest of the nodes that come in the package, but we assure you that not only can you do it, but there are benefits to doing so.
Since most people consider buying a mesh network specifically because they want multiple access points and wall-to-wall coverage for their home, however, it really begs the question: why would you want to use a single mesh node on its own? same?
First, let’s start with the premise that you have a relatively small area to cover and you don’t have an environment with 100+ demanding Wi-Fi devices. After all, you don’t need three mesh nodes for wall-to-wall coverage in a studio. Modern mesh network nodes are powerful enough to cover an apartment or small house on their own.
With small spaces in mind, because it’s too much to ask for robust Wi-Fi coverage in a sprawling 3,000 square foot ranch with a single mesh node, let’s see why you’d consider purchasing a single mesh router over a traditional stand-alone router.
Mesh Platforms Have Polished Software
One of the big selling points of consumer mesh platforms, aside from the coverage that mesh networks provide, is ease of use.
Mesh platforms from eero, Nest, TP-Link and the like are incredibly easy to install and configure. Plus, many of the features people want, like easy parental controls, data usage monitoring, and more, are very accessible in clean, easy-to-navigate menus. Some platforms even support additional features through subscription models like ad filtering, activity reporting, built-in VPNs, etc., like eero Secure.
Also, the experience is very app-centric. While power users and network nerds may like a computer-based experience where you sit at your PC and fiddle with your router, there’s a lot to be said for the ease of managing your network from a phone app. polished smart.
All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t standalone traditional routers on the market with polished interfaces and even mobile apps, but if you poke around, you’ll notice that a lot of the companies with products like that also sell mesh networks. Clearly, the push for user-friendly mesh platforms has informed design across product lines.
Mesh platforms have automatic updates
In addition to the polished software, there is a hidden feature that is more common on mesh platforms than traditional routers. Most mesh rigs feature fire-and-forget settings.
Even if you completely forget to pay attention to your home network, they will receive automatic updates, security patches and optimizations in the background without you lifting a finger.
Again, this feature isn’t unique to mesh routers, but they’ve certainly perfected the auto-updates model for busy people.
You like the mesh platform hardware features
It is rare, almost unheard of, for traditional standalone routers to have smart home hubs or protocols built in.
Mesh platforms, however, have been positioned to be an all-in-one solution to the demands of the growing smart home market.
Amazon’s newer eero units, for example, aren’t just Wi-Fi hotspots, they also include a Zigbee smart home hub, as well as support for Thread so they can function as Thread edge routers. Similarly, while Google Nest WiFi doesn’t support Zigbee, it does support Thread.
That may not be something on your mind right now, but when the Matter smart home standard arrives, all compatible eero units and Nest WiFi will automatically update to serve as Matter hubs.
When you look at it from that perspective, picking up a single eero “disk” for a small apartment or house suddenly seems like a really solid deal. In fact, at the time of this writing, in August 2022, you can pick up a single refurbished eero 6 unit for $60.
It’s a phenomenal deal, really. You won’t find a Wi-Fi 6 router with a built-in, future-proof Zigbee hub with Matter support at that price. Even buying it new for $90, it’s still a solid value.
A mesh router expands easily
The beauty of buying a mesh router to act as your Wi-Fi router, rather than buying a traditional stand-alone model, is that the mesh router, by its very nature, is designed to work seamlessly with mesh extenders. .
If you buy a traditional router with the same coverage power and find you want more coverage or run into dead spots at the edge of your home, you’re now stuck in a less than ideal situation.
Either you have to replace the Wi-Fi router entirely, or you have to sell the situation with a third-party Wi-Fi extender. Even with proper setup and placement, third-party Wi-Fi extenders can’t compete with your own mesh system.
But if your router is a mesh router, then it is already the foundation of a mesh network. You can simply add perfectly compatible and optimized mesh nodes from the same company. Let’s say you bought that refurbished eero unit we mentioned earlier, and then you realize it would be great to add just one more mesh node to complete the coverage in your home.
No problem, you can add another eero unit and immediately and automatically enjoy optimized coverage with all the benefits of a mesh network. The same if you have a Google Nest Wi-Fi network, a TP-Link Deco network, or any other mesh network. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre third party extender, you can simply add a node of your own to your existing network.
Better yet, while you can’t mix and match mesh networking hardware between manufacturers, you can mix and match mesh hardware from all the major manufacturers within their product lines. Different generations of eero, TP-link and Google Nest mesh hardware work with each other. Buy an old pack of extenders, buy a new pack of extenders, it doesn’t matter if you’re buying within the same product line.
You can split a multi pack and share
In addition to the benefits of using a single mesh node as a stand-alone router in a smaller home, you can share the benefits (and save money) by buying a multi-pack and splitting it up.
Let’s say you only need a single node, or maybe two, for your home. Most mesh systems are sold in packs of three. So you can split the cost with a friend or install the extra nodes at the homes of relatives you help with tech support and such. Why put your grandma in a junky old router when you can put a new eero or Nest Wi-Fi unit in its place?
On top of that, in many cases, you can manage multiple households with the same app. So if you frequently find yourself troubleshooting for a family member, why not use the same app you’re using for your home network to easily manage your network too?
Just make sure, if you’re buying a split pack, that you’re buying a pack where each mesh node in the kit can function interchangeably as the router. Some mesh systems have a base station that has all the Ethernet ports and then satellites that don’t and therefore can’t connect directly to a modem.
But whether you’re buying a bundle to split or just buying a single mesh node to use as a standalone router in the home, there are clearly many benefits to skipping the traditional router and setting up a single-node mesh network.