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Mesh Wi-Fi systems are growing in popularity all around the world, but is it good for gaming and will give you an advantage over the competition, or leave you stuck at the bottom of the leaderboard?
Mesh Wi-Fi is not considered to be good for online gaming. As the Wi-Fi signal jumps from one node to another, the workload and latency both increase. A wired ethernet connection or a Wi-Fi router with advanced features like quality of service that has been optimized for gaming are better options.
In fact, it can result in a pretty horrible experience for avid gamers. If you are a more casual gamer, however, that doesn’t rely heavily on a network connection, it may be just fine. Gaming, particularly at a competitive level, requires good bandwidth and most importantly, low and predictable latency.
How Does Mesh Wi-Fi Work?
To get a better understanding of how Mesh Wi-Fi can impact your gaming experience, it is worth taking a closer at how it actually works.
Mesh Wi-Fi works by placing a main, central router somewhere in your home that connects directly to your modem.
A series of other devices known as satellite modules, or nodes, are also placed around your home to provide full Wi-Fi coverage.
Unlike a traditional router, all of the devices involved in making Mesh Wi-Fi work share the same SSID (Service Set Identifier) and password to connect.
Now you be asking: How is Mesh Wi-Fi different from a basic Wi-Fi extender? It essentially does the same thing, doesn’t it?
True, it does perform the same job to simply expand the Wi-Fi coverage within your home, but Mesh Wi-Fi is known to be much easier to set up and doesn’t require some of the quirks and hassle that can come with range extenders.
With Mesh Wi-Fi, it is as easy as plugging in each device and following a few simple steps within the accompanying app; you’ll have full coverage in no time.
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Why Is Mesh Wi-Fi Bad for Gaming?
1. Internet Speeds Are Not Consistent
The main reason that Mesh Wi-Fi is bad for gaming is that the Internet speeds you receive will not be maintained across your entire home.
The wireless signal emitted will degrade as it gets further and further from the point of origin, which in this case is the main router.
Mesh Wi-Fi works by emitting a signal from the router, with the other nodes having to pick up the signal and then amplify it as they rebroadcast it.
The further you find yourself from the origin of the signal, the poorer the signal will be and the amount of latency you experience will increase.
2. Lacks Advanced Features
As Mesh Wi-Fi is designed and marketed towards your average consumer that simply wants an Internet connection across their entire home, it often lacks some of the more advanced features that gamers may look for in a router.
This could include running both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, changing the DHCP scope or adding custom DNS.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are designed to be incredibly simple to set up and manage, so gamers may miss out on optimizing their network for the best possible gaming experience.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems aren’t cheap.
If you require multiple nodes, you could easily look at having to spend several hundreds of dollars in order to provide coverage for your entire home.
If gaming is your number one priority, you are likely to be able to find a router designed specifically with gamers in mind, and a Wi-Fi extender if you need one, for less than a Mesh Wi-Fi system that isn’t optimal for gamers anyway.
What Are the Better Alternatives to Mesh Wi-FI for Gaming?
As you now know, Mesh Wi-Fi isn’t considered to be the best option for competitive gamers that want to optimize everything to get the best possible advantage, so what should be used instead?
The preferred alternative that pretty much all gamers will look to is to get their gaming PC or console hooked up to their network using a physical ethernet cable.
Ethernet generally provides the best performance out of the all the connection types and is certainly considered to be better in terms of the connection itself.
Unlike Wi-Fi, you don’t have potentially varying signal strength and even complete drop outs; not exactly what you want whilst you are in the midst of battle online!
The challenge some people face is being able to run an ethernet cable from their PC or console to their router, which could be positioned on the other side of the home.
For those that don’t want to have to trail a cable across the floor, an alternative to ethernet that a lot of people have seen success with is actually powerline networking.
It seem may not seem too different to regular Wi-Fi at first glance, but those that have tried it have said that it performs much better than Wi-Fi, with them receiving a more stable connection and lower ping response times.
If you’re not familiar with how powerline networking works, it makes use of the electrical wiring already found within your walls to provide a network connection.
A typical powerline network involves having two powerline adapters, although more can be added later if needed. One is connected to the router using an ethernet cable and plugged in to an available power outlet.
The other is then plugged in wherever you need it in your home.
Most, if not all, powerline adapters will have an ethernet port built into it, so the second adapter could be placed next to your PC or console and then connected up using an ethernet cable.
Although this isn’t a direct replica of connecting directly to your router with a cable, it is a good alternative and can be better than having to rely on Wi-Fi.
I did some testing with my own powerline adapters to see how well they performed compared to both ethernet and Wi-Fi, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
A direct ethernet connection will almost always be the best option for gamers trying to optimize their connection, but powerline networking can make a fantastic next best alternative.
What Is Mesh Wi-Fi Good For?
If Mesh Wi-Fi is not the best choice for competitive gamers, what is it good for?
If gaming isn’t your number one priority, there are several reasons as to why a Mesh Wi-Fi system may be an excellent choice for you and your home.
1. Better Overall Coverage
One of the main reasons to consider implementing a Mesh Wi-Fi system is for overall better Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home.
Unlike with a traditional router, you don’t have to rely on the router being placed somewhere and then struggling to broadcast the signal to each corner of the building.
The Mesh Wi-Fi nodes work together to provide better coverage, wherever you may be in your home.
2. A Single Network
Unlike traditional routers with range extenders where you end up with separate network connections and having to hop across different access points, Mesh Wi-Fi maintains a single SSID and network connection regardless of where you are situated in your home.
Mesh Wi-Fi is intelligent enough to connect you automatically to the best mode for the most optimal connectivity and performance.
3. More Robust
In a Mesh Wi-Fi network, there is no main access point and therefore no single point of failure.
Yes, you will still need the main router to have a broadband connection and be working in order for you to access the Internet, but should there be an issue with a single node, the network will continue to remain active.
All of the nodes in a Mesh Wi-Fi setup are alike, so should you encounter a problem with one, it can simply be replaced with another without the entire network coming crashing down.
This is similar to how a faulty drive can be replaced in a NAS without affecting access to the data stored on the other functioning drives.
4. Ease of Setup
The fact that Mesh Wi-Fi networks are incredibly easy to set up is one of the main reasons for their recent spike in popularity.
For those that aren’t particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of home networks and just want something that is easy to set up, simple to manage and just works to provide an Internet connection, Mesh Wi-Fi can be considered an excellent solution.
5. Easily Expandable
Mesh Wi-Fi systems can be as large or small as you wish; the size of your home will likely be the main driving factor for the overall size of your network.
Each node is its own single module within the whole network and has no dependency on the other nodes, so it can easily be added or removed as necessary.
The fact that there is very little setup needed in adding additional nodes is also helpful.
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Mesh Wi-Fi is considered to be a great solution for an average consumer due to its ability to provide excellent coverage across an entire home whilst being incredibly easy to set up, manage and expand if needed.
For gamers, however, there are better options out there that should be considered, like connecting your PC or console directly to your router using an ethernet cable, or even using powerline adapters.
If you are a casual gamer that tends to play offline and doesn’t require the best network connectivity possible, Mesh Wi-Fi will do you just fine.
For you competitive gamers out there that need a fast and stable connection and will do whatever it takes to win, you want to be looking elsewhere at an alternative home network solution.
Mesh Wi-Fi simply hasn’t been designed with gamers in mind.
If you do have to use Wi-Fi, you can find routers that have specifically designed for competitive gamers that come with advanced features to optimize your experience, often for a cheaper price.