The 411 on mesh networks
Firstly a mesh network (sometimes referred to as meshnet) is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes connect directly, dynamically and without hierachy to as many other nodes as possible. This enables efficient data routing to/from devices. Not to be confused with mesh expanders, the system usually consists of a parent router and subsequent child router nodes to form the mesh. (The number varies depending on the space required to cover).
The benefits are decent - in New Zealand you can select from a range of systems that cater for most situations and budgets, with the average cost similar to a high level router. See PC Mag's top picks for 2021 here.
Even one device with a poor connection can bring the quality of the entire network down.
Mesh access points prevent those low wifi areas you may experience in larger or oddly laid out homes, no matter how good your router is. Mesh can offer better coverage and lower latency in a wider area, which will help your overall network performance.
And now, the pitfalls addressed:
Geared towards those with little or no technical experience, set up is surprisingly easy, when following the accompanying NZ installation process. Steer clear of any US facing instruction apps or websites that can send you down a rabbit hole of frustration with incorrect detail.
In New Zealand you can find a three pack mesh system for as low as $229 or as high as $2199, meaning cost doesn't necessarily need to be a barrier. Given a three pack will cover around 550 square meters, you can be well set up for the same price as you would spend on a single mid range router.
All mesh routers and nodes are equally equipped with industry standard levels of protection - WPA2 with AES security. Unlike extender systems, as a mesh network consists of multiple pieces of identical hardware, there is only one system to configure - making it an easy task to update or .add security software. Consequently, mesh Wi-Fi systems will usually automatically install security updates. This means security flaws will be patched across your house, requiring little to no action from you.
Mesh does mean more plug in devices to add to your environment. Requiring both shelf space and power point access can be a bit niggly to coordinate, especially if you like your surfaces clean. Luckily most systems are well designed and inconspicuous, often available in several colours, and are small enough to hide behind things.
With the shift towards flexible working spaces, reliable, robust internet at home is now a necessary, not just a nice to have. Mesh can be your solution.