On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Marion called in to our voicemail hotline with a question about routers. Specifically, she wants to know which router would be best for managing IoT devices in a smart home. Marion has a range of products from several brands and platforms including Amazon, Arlo, Google, Ikea Philips Hue, and Wyze, to name a few. She’s currently considering the new Eero 6 and TP-Link Archer AX50 routers.
Rather than recommend a specific router, we’re making some key recommendations to consider before purchasing one that will best meet the needs of a smart home.
First, we think a mesh router system is the way to go for most people. These systems expand network coverage far beyond a standalone, traditional router such as the TP-Link model Marion is considering. In her case, a mesh system can blanket her 3,500 square foot townhouse with fast wireless coverage.
There are several great mesh router systems from D-Link, Eero, Google, Linksys, and Netgear to choose from. Some of these include advanced features such as network intrusion monitoring or IoT device protection, so you’ll want to review which systems offer what services such as these. Note too that some routers offer these features as part of a subscription package, so if you can’t get the features you want for free, see what a subscription adds and determine if it’s worth the cost.
Since WiFi 6 is the new standard in wireless networking, we don’t see any reason to get a router system that doesn’t support it today. While there are few client devices that can currently take advantage of the speed and coverage improvements offered by WiFi6, there are some. The new iPhone 12 lineup is one example and I’ve seen newer laptops also include WiFi6 radios.
That should help cut out some of the mesh network choices because some, such as Google Nest Wi-Fi still use the 802.11ac standard, which is WiFi 5. The Asus ZenWifi AX, Eero 6, Netgear Orbi 6 mesh routers are all examples of WiFi 6 compliant products.
Lastly, we recommend reading reviews on the app experience of any routers you’re considering. After all, what good is a speedy and secure router if it’s too difficult to set up, configure, or use with its corresponding mobile app? This is especially important if you have dozens of smart devices on your network to manage.
While it might not work for everyone, Stacey recommends the Netgear Orbi lineup although they are expensive. Plume is also worth considering because of the additional services for smart device protection; you’ll need to pay a subscription fee for the more advanced features.
And I’m currently testing the new Eero 6 mesh networking gear. My early take is that they’re easy to set up, offer a solid app experience, and, with the Eero+ subscription, definitely offer device protection on your network.
One last option to consider is to buy a basic mesh network system and complement it with a Firewalla. I reviewed both the Firewalla Blue and Firewalla Gold products and they offer the most detailed look and control over your smart home network. There’s no subscription fee but you’ll pay between $100 and $500 for these devices, depending on the model.
To hear Marion’s question in full, as well as our discussion, tune in to the IoT Podcast below.