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Gadget of the Week

Give your Wi-Fi wings

A new mesh router system from Asus gets to the corners other Wi-Fi can’t reach, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

What is it?

Ever go to the corner of your house and lose Wi-Fi connectivity? It can become a real pain, especially when streaming content and the device switches to mobile data without one realising it. Or when mobile data is your only option in your own home, despite having fibre or similar broadband coming in. 

Mesh networking is the answer to this frustration. The technology enables two or more Wi-Fi routers to connect to each other, vastly extending the range of connectivity. In a nutshell, it’s a must-have for larger houses.

It is not the same as using range extenders, which take a Wi-Fi signal further but lose around half the signal speed with each extension. This is largely because range extenders use a different channel to the original network, to avoid interference, while mesh networks are able to use the same channel due to more advanced technology. 

However, not all mesh networks are created equally. Each system uses its own proprietary technology – and its own differentiation. Huawei is best-known in this category, with its mesh networks almost an industry standard. Back in 2020, Afrihost started supplying the Huawei WS5200 Mesh solution, with the capacity to connect up to 64 different devices simultaneously. The Huawei app that goes with the solution is highly intelligent, recognising components of the network and assisting with connectivity setup.

Now, Asus has jumped into the technology lead, but at a cost.

It has released the Zen WiFi AX6600 mesh router, a serious solution comprising two Wi-Fi base stations. They connect to each other wirelessly and, as with any other router, you plug it into a fibre box’s WAN port and you’re good to go.

Asus takes the set-up a step further, though. The Asus Router app for iOS and Android allow a user to configure extensive settings, like which devices can and can’t connect, where the Wi-Fi base stations are, and adding additional nodes to the mesh network.

A feature many will find the most interesting is the parental controls built into the app – and the controls for managing what type are straightforward. One need only indicates the age group of a child in the app, and the router limits or filters content accordingly.

In my book, Tech Savvy Parenting (co-authored with Nikki Bush), I highlighted the need for Internet restrictions for young children, to protect them from the inappropriate content that can be exposed to kids. This feature makes it extremely easy to stay on top of online activity without invading a child’s privacy, and without having to figure out stand-alone parental control apps.

The performance of the mesh router is exceptional – the best I’ve ever seen in this category. It extended the reach of our broadband to the furthest corner of the building, eliminating a blind spot that previously was only reached by mobile data.

One of the key reasons it outperforms previous Mesh solution is because it features Wi-Fi 6, which improves speed, reliability, and security – which all translates to an overall better Internet experience.

Asus says the dual pack of routers covers a range of 510 square metres, and this claim checks out. It even works in multi-storey set-ups, which removes the headaches of upstairs-downstairs connectivity.

What does it cost?

Why should you care?

Large homes no longer need to have spotty Wi-Fi connections with this mesh network. The parental control features also provide peace of mind when children are connecting to the Internet on their own.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Seriously expensive.
  • Older computers and devices don’t work with the newer Wi-Fi standard.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Wi-Fi 6 support to ensure strong coverage and high speeds.
  • Easy to set up with QR codes.
  • Parental controls built into the router to restrict content for children.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee. 

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