With all of the technology consumers use in their homes every single day—and with consumers expected to be toting around 13 connected devices by 2021—having a solid in-home network is critical to the performance of those devices. Granted, in a high-end, luxury home, networking likely won’t be an issue as integrators connect as many devices as possible over hardwire, the wireless network still plays a critical role.
What’s interesting, then, is recent data from Parks Associates that showed what a massive opportunity the industry has when it comes to pushing the latest in in-home WiFi technology. While roughly 70 percent of U.S. broadband households have a home network router, according to Parks, only 11 percent are using a whole-home WiFi mesh-networking product. Further, only 22 percent are using any kind of WiFi network extender to improve coverage throughout their home.
“Mesh network systems, also referred to as ‘whole-home Wi-Fi’ by makers and retailers, are designed to maximize Wi-Fi coverage and performance in the home. They can replace the home Wi-Fi routers and network extenders that are commonly provided by broadband providers today,” Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst at Parks Associates, said in a statement. “With WiFi the dominant method of connection in the home, having a strong signal is necessary for proper function of the multiple connected CE and smart home products consumers are buying. There is still plenty of room to grow for mesh networking products.”
The problem with adoption in the in-home WiFi space boils down to a lack of education on these products for consumers. To most, having a WiFi router is thought to be enough. Why spend several hundred dollars to upgrade something that’s doing OK for their needs?
Though manufacturers of these products have been able to vastly improve the WiFi experience for consumers, they’re downright lagging when it comes to telling their story in the best way possible—another hurdle when it comes to adoption. The pitch today is simple: WiFi routers, particularly mesh systems, provide seamless coverage that’s faster, more secure, and more efficient. And, better yet, they actually look good while doing all of that.
When conjuring up a mental image of a router, most consumers today would likely think of some ugly black box with a bunch of antennas sticking up and wires galore coming out of the back. It’s something they’d rather hide in the basement or under a table stand, keeping it out of sight. Manufacturers have greatly improved the design of these routers, turning them into something that blends in on a bookshelf or side table. And beyond looking good or blending in, the fact that the product can now live out in the open means that, instead of having to push its signal out of the basement, it can provide better wider, better coverage throughout the consumer’s home.
Here’s a look at some of the best-designed WiFi routers—mesh or otherwise—available right now.
Google’s sleek, cylindrical WiFi system looks like a slightly beefed up version of their Home Mini speaker and looks like any other smart speaker you might plug into the wall. A simple two-pack can cover anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, which is enough for most medium-sized homes.
While still a little techy looking with its LED lighting around the top, Netgear’s Orbi routers stand out for their slim design. Netgear even has an Orbi product that combines the router into an Alexa-enabled smart speaker, really encouraging the consumer to put this thing out on a table somewhere in the home.
Another upright router, Linksys differentiates their Velop mesh WiFi product with its rectangular design. Available in black or white, the tri-band two-pack Velop system can cover up to 3,300 square feet.
The combination of the tiny eero Pro router and a single eero Beacon plug-and-play extender can cover up to 2,500 square feet with reliable WiFi. While it’s a fine looking product in its own right, eero takes a minimalist approach with both solutions in order to keep the gear out of the way.
Security, strong and reliable WiFi, and a badass design that makes it look like a piece of art. That’s what consumers would be getting with Norton’s Core router. And with Norton’s background in security and data protection, the safety features are seemingly endless with Core.
Simplicity is what you get with Engenius. The mesh router itself is a simple cylindrical design. Setup through the Engenius app is as simple as plugging the router in and following their three-step installation, and you’re good to go.