WiFi: The Need for Speed

    Enter, stage left, mesh networking.

    Simply put, a mesh network allows us to connect so-called wireless nodes (or boxes) placed throughout a building to a main hub connected to a router or modem without using range extenders.

    The first mesh network devices we were fortunate enough to play with were from eero, and until now, they were the king of the mountain. But times are a’changing.

    The folks at Amped Wireless, D-Link and Linksys have entered the fray with their own mesh networking systems and, frankly, leave our old eero system in the dust.

    The Ally system from Amped Wireless ($179.99 [router only] and $299.99 [for a system including one wireless box]) covers the widest area of the trio.

    Boasting total coverage of up to 15,000 square feet, the Ally system, in theory, could cover a large building, but there’s a caveat. We discovered that the wireless boxes need to be “in sight” of each other to work effectively. This means the average user with a large building would have to use several wireless boxes to get the full effect.

    To prove this, we set up our system on one floor where the wireless box was in sight of the router and our WIFI speeds were phenomenal. BUT, when we moved the wireless box to another floor, it was almost non-existent.

    We would have needed at least one more wireless box to make it work efficiently, probably placed at the top of the stairs in the line of sight of the router and the box set up on the lower level.

    Unfortunately, the $299.99 system only includes one box.

    Other key features include:

    • AVG security to protect the network and devices from intruders
    • An Ethernet port to connect the wireless boxes to devices that don’t have wireless antennas
    • Smart parental controls allowing you to set up user profiles for everyone on the network
    • An Android or iOS mobile app that can be used to set up additional boxes for the network.

    The Linksys Velop system’s ($199.99 [for one], $399.99 [for two] and $499.99 [for three]) so-called “two-pack” covers up to 4,000 square feet without any tweaking or reconfiguring. Just attach one box to your router using and Ethernet cable and place the second within range anywhere in your house or building. A third wireless box will increase the range to 6.000 square feet.

    We used the two-pack with the same two-floor setup we used to test the Ally and were able to maintain great WiFi speeds throughout the house.

    Using a 200 megabit per second (mbps) cable service, we were greeted with WiFi speeds of up to 150 mbps in every room of our two-story abode without line-of-sight issues.

    We also had full control over the system using the Android or IOS app, which we used to set up the second wireless box and control access to the network.

    The downside? There are no USB ports and this system is the most expensive we tested.

    Other key features include:

    • Two Ethernet ports on each box
    • Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU=MIMO) wireless technology,
    • Bluetooth
    • One 2.5 ghz connection and two 5 ghz connections

    Last, but not least, we have the Covr wireless system from D-Link ($299.99).

    This is the only system we tested that comes with a wireless router (which is the hub) and one wireless box.

    We used the same two-floor setup to test the system, with the router connected to our modem and the wireless box on another floor of the house and were greeted with WiFi speeds of up to 130 mbps without worrying about line of sight.

    Although the WiFi speeds weren’t as impressive as the Velop system, Covr can deliver reliable WiFi speeds at up to 6,000 square feet without adding another wireless box.

    As with the other systems, Covr was extremely easy to set up. All we had to do was connect the router (hub) to our modem using an Ethernet cable and set up the wireless box using the Android/IOS app.

    Other key features include:

    • An Ethernet port on the wireless box
    • MU-MIMO wireless technology
    • A dual-band router with four Ethernet ports
    • USB ports on the wireless box and router

    Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman’s Jocgeek fan page or follow him on Twitter @jocgeek. You can also contact him via email or through his website. Beginning Feb. 6, you can hear Mike waxing on and off about tech trends on Tina on Tech.


    • Michael L. Berman has more than 40 years' experience writing and editing for The Hartford Courant, The Norwich (CT) Bulletin, The Journal of Commerce and The Middletown (CT) Press. Mike's Techtalk column was syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service from 1995 to 2000 and appeared as a computer and technology blog on www.shns.com until No. 19, 2013. You can also visit Mike's consumer technology website at www.jocgeek.com.

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