Not All Mesh is Created Equal

03 Oct 2019

We’ve made some bold claims about our new ARRIS SURFboard mAX™ Wi-Fi® systems. Namely, that they’re the best you can buy.

What makes them the best? The short answer is unmatched speed, range, and capacity. We’ve posted the results of a real-world test, below, so you can see how much better.

But the more comprehensive answer lies in the way that mesh works and how we use Wi-Fi…

More Devices in More Places

We’re adding more connected devices to our homes in more places. That’s testing the limits of older routers, and in some cases, exceeding them.

A great example is that high-definition (HD) doorbell camera that you bought last month. You installed it on the outside of your house, essentially the very edge of your Wi-Fi network, and now you’re asking your router to stream HD video from it—a feature that was impressive on your living room TV just a few years ago.

Simply put, more high-bandwidth devices are incredibly challenging for your router, especially when they’re spread throughout (or even beyond) the house.

The solution used to be network extenders. Adapters. Repeaters. Whatever you want to call them. They’d broaden the range of your network. The problem was that they were hard to set up, didn’t always work, and would give you a bigger network at the expense of slower speeds.

Then came mesh.

Mesh: The Case for More Bands

Mesh networking took the headache out of covering your whole home in Wi-Fi, including rooms your router couldn’t reach. Compared to network extenders, it’s simple, more powerful, and easier to manage.

Mesh uses multiple routers to create a single, smart, and seamless network. The mesh network can automatically give your device the best path to the internet.

The thing about mesh is that the network’s efficiency and intelligence has to do with the ability of the routers to talk to one another and work as a single system.

We tested all the other leading mesh systems in the market and found that what you get may be great coverage, but serious compromises on speed and capacity. If you’re lucky enough to have Gigabit internet service to your home, you certainly aren’t getting Gigabit speeds throughout your whole home with most products. Probably not even right next to your main router!

The reason? Even now, most mesh systems are dual-band or compromise on the wireless link between the routers (also known as the backhaul). A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so shortcuts here can mean your entire broadband experience is much slower than advertised.

Even with MU-MIMO and beamforming, dual-band mesh systems slow things down, since 50% of the signal is used up by the mesh system trying to power the communication link between its routers.

Which is why our system is purely tri-band mesh.

Tri-Band: The Wireless Backhaul

Our tri-band design has another 5Ghz 4x4 Wi-Fi 6 band, which, in addition to the original 2.4 and 5Ghz ones, connects the two routers with a multi-Gigabit backhaul link. That third band serves as a dedicated line of communication that can be even faster than wired Ethernet. This means the allowing the remaining 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands are used solely for connecting to the devices in your home.

It frees up congestion and increases capacity, making everything faster. In the same comparison testing, our SURFboard mAX enjoyed 2.45x the speeds, on average, throughout the home when compared with a very well-known competitor.

True Wi-Fi 6 and Tri-Band

The latest Wi-Fi standard is Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). It’s the fastest and most advanced Wi-Fi technology yet.

Wi-Fi 6 can provide up to 400% better range and much faster speeds than Wi-Fi 5… And in order to support this powerful new technology, our design must be up to the task. So we include powerful networking processors that can handle the traffic smoothly. This means all of your existing Wi-Fi devices will enjoy the improved performance, not just Wi-Fi 6 devices.

That’s why our SURFboard mAX tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems perform so well. We use mesh with a multi-Gig backhaul. We use tri-band Wi-Fi 6. And we use powerful radios on every single band. We did not compromise to deliver the most powerful Wi-Fi 6 mesh solution available today.

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the test results in the graphics below:

 

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