The 8 Best Home Wi-Fi Systems
8. Luma Whole Home
- automatic network updates
- built-in security system
- tends to slow down connection
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
7. Portal PCW-110-COM
- great for areas with many neighbors
- works with all wifi devices
- software is very basic
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
6. Securifi Almond 3
- all units have touchscreens
- home alert system with siren
- often requires reboots
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
5. Amplifi Long-Range
- includes a quick-start guide
- router has a touchscreen display
- mesh points are awkward shape
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
3. Eero System
- eliminates dead zones
- can enable parental controls
- negates the need for range extenders
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
2. Netgear Orbi
- quick and easy setup
- attractive addition to any home
- helpful customer service
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
1. Google Wifi
- compatible with most major services
- uses app for setup and management
- each point covers 1500 square feet
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
The Dark Side Of Cable Internet
I’m going to reveal something to you now that may shock your system. Your cable company does not care about providing you with the best possible hardware. It isn’t in their best interest for your internet speeds to be blazingly fast, or for its coverage to extend to every corner of your home. After all, their ability to sell you on a faster, more comprehensive package a year down the line hinges, at least in part, on your current unhappiness.
So, what can we do to fight back? Well, some people think we should take up arms against the likes of Verizon and meet fire with fire until we either have a fast, free internet for all or die trying. That sounds like a pretty bad idea to me. A more effective, and almost equally subversive move is to cut them out of your hardware picture.
The modem your cable company gives you when you sign up usually has a Wi-Fi router built into its body. That way, there’s only one thing to set up, and fewer wires clogging up your living room. The problem, however, is threefold.
Firstly, the modem isn’t fast enough. There’s a good chance that your internet service supports a high number of downstream and upstream channels. More channels result in faster, more reliable connections. That cable company modem likely has four to eight downstream channels, when industry numbers in third party units average 16.
Secondly, the router isn’t strong enough. Wi-Fi signals from cable company routers are notoriously weak. I haven’t had one let me go more than 20 feet from its shelf without beginning to significantly loose connection quality.
Thirdly, the whole thing is a rental. Check that contract again. You’re probably paying anywhere from $8-10 per month for that weak, slow unit. That’s an average annual cost of about $108.
Ideally, you’ll upgrade both your router and modem, and you’ll se a marked improvement in speed and coverage. Unfortunately, the improvement in coverage may have very real physical limitations that aren’t completely the fault of your cable company’s frugality. Physical barriers like support walls, tiling, and outdoor areas, as well as vertical limitations among your house’s floors can all stretch your signal too thin.
Range extenders are a decent way to help improve your signal, but they tend to be expensive, hard to configure, and limited in their own strength. A home Wi-Fi system, on the other hand, replaces your router with something much stronger. Many also provide you with additional extension hubs to create a webbing of total coverage that the industry calls mesh Wi-Fi.
How To Spin Your Wi-Fi Web
Better Wi-Fi coverage starts with a better router. That’s the basic unit in each and every system on our list. Some systems will sell you this single, more powerful router on its own. This an ideal choice for the studio apartment dweller who wants the additional advantages of a Wi-Fi system, but may not need the extended coverage area.
More commonly, you’ll see at least two pieces sold as a home Wi-Fi system. These systems not only replace your existing router with something more powerful, they also let you determine where and how your signal extends.
Let’s imagine that the cable line coming into your home is located by the front of your house on the first floor. Your bedroom, however, is at the back of the house on the second floor. You just refinished the attic and converted it into your home office, with your desk about as far away from that cable line as possible.
With a home Wi-Fi system, you can place the router unit next to your modem, just as you normally would. From there, you can strategically place satellite units throughout the house. The signal coming from your router can piggyback off each unit, progressing a strong feed throughout the house. You’ll definitely want to place a hub near that bedroom and attic office to ensure a strong signal, as well as another hub somewhere in between those points and the base router. This will endure the strongest signal passage.
Just how many hubs you need will depend greatly on the size of your space and any barriers to a wireless signal you know to exist. A single-floor ranch-style home may only need the router unit and a single satellite, whereas a three-story McMansion would require significantly more hubs.
Additional Benefits Of A Home Wi-Fi System
You may reasonably ask yourself why you can’t just achieve the same results by strategically placing Wi-Fi extenders throughout your home. It’s a good question.
The biggest problem with merely investing in a range extender is that the signal it receives in the first place is the same weak juice your cable company saddled you with when you signed up. Even if the signal itself were to reach farther, it would slow down too much along the way.
The best home Wi-Fi systems have more to offer their customers, as well. Many have intuitive and interactive smartphone apps. These let you see your signal strength in action, and can help you identify the best places to install your satellite hubs.
Furthermore, these smartphone apps let you add parental controls, and schedule or enact intentional service interruptions. Nothing will get your kids out of their rooms and seated at the dinner table faster than the knowledge that, as soon as they finish their vegetables, Mom’ll turn the Wi-Fi back on.
Another benefit of these systems that is perhaps not talked about enough, is their aesthetic. Go take a look at that cable company router again. It’s absolutely hideous, the unfortunate brainchild of a lonesome submarine designer and a very bored H.R. Giger. Home Wi-Fi systems, on the other hand, are smaller, more elegant, and less obtrusive. They’re designed to fit into the décor of the modern household. To that end, many also integrate readily with home automation systems and the ever-growing internet of things.