Connectivity has now become an important part of our homes and our lives. Every day we are adding more and more devices which require wifi access. Our laptops, smartphones, and televisions are now just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connected devices. As a result, our entire homes need to have wifi coverage.
While a lot of the most recently released wireless routers will provide reliable coverage to most of the rooms of a medium-sized home, if you have multiple floors or a larger home, you may need another solution. You could take a look at a range extender, but usually, you’ll only get half the bandwidth you get from your primary router.
You can always look to use an access point since they offer more bandwidth than typical range extenders, but you’ll have to have a wired connection to your primary router. Unfortunately, with access points, you usually have to create and new SSID for each point. This means you have to log into additional SSIDs as you move throughout your home.
Sound overly complicated? You’re not alone. Instead, consider a mesh wifi system.
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What is a Mesh System?
A mesh wifi system is explicitly designed to provide thorough coverage to your entire home. They are considered a hybrid by some as they are made up of several components. You have the main router – which connects to your modem – along with a handful of modules you put throughout your home.
Every piece is part of the same network and has the same SSID and password. Mesh wifi systems talk to one another and to the router, with each node providing a hop point for the other nodes in the mesh system. This allows the modules furthest from the router to provide strong wifi since its talking to other nodes.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a wifi mesh system is, and how it behaves, let’s take a look at two wifi systems available on the market today: The Asus Lyra and the Netgear Orbi.
The Lyra home mesh wifi system is the first of its kind for Asus, as the company dips its toe into the mesh network market. Comprised of three pieces, the Lyra system provides solid throughput and an easy to control parental management option. It comes with a lifetime of virus and malware protection and covers homes of up to 6,000 square feet.
Simple and Easy to Use
Asus’ wifi mesh system comes with three round, white nodes. The primary node will be the router for your main connection, while the other two behave as satellites to provide wifi throughout your home. If the need arises, you can add up to two more nodes for more coverage.
The nodes are discreet as they check in at 1.5” tall and just 5.5” across in diameter. On top of the nodes is an LED light that brings to your attention when specific events occur. During bootup, you’ll see a white LED, and if there’s a connection error, it’ll light up red and orange. If everything is as it should be, the node will give off a cyan color.
Each node has a power jack and two Gigabit LAN ports; however the primary node that connects to your home router will be used as a WAN port. If you ever need to reset the system, there’s a button on the bottom of the nodes. You’ll also find a pairing button on the side for use during system setup.
The Lyra wifi mesh system supports three radio bands. You have your typical 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands which the devices in your home will use. An additional 5GHz system is used for backhaul. It’s a dedicated band used to allow the nodes to communicate with one another, without disrupting your network bandwidth.
One node can provide coverage of up to 2,000 square feet and is capable of enough throughput that you won’t notice a difference in speeds as you move throughout your home. The Asus Lyra system also offers a feature they call automated band steering. With automated band steering, the system finds the least crowded band on your system, and directs the device to it, which allows for a better performing network.
You can control the Asus Lyra wifi system via a smartphone app, which you can download for both Android and iOS. There’s also a web console if you’re more comfortable controlling the system from a laptop. The app Home screen reveals a network map which shows each node along with the number of devices currently attached to each.
If you want even more granular control, you can tap on the Connected Devices icon, which will show you each device along with its current network usage. If you choose to, you can block or restrict internet access to specific devices as well as see any security alerts or malicious sites that have been visited.
The three bar icon in the top left corner of the Home screen will reveal more menu options. You’ll see Guest Access, Family Members, Traffic Manager, and Settings. Guest Access allows you to set up a guest network so that when you have visitors, you don’t have to give them your wifi information.
The Family Members section lets you set up a profile for each member of our family and assign them certain permissions. When you set up a profile, there’s a checkbox you can select if the person you’re setting up is under the age of 18. Then, you can choose which devices the person uses, so that restrictions apply to all clients.
Traffic Manager is helpful for handling bandwidth priority for devices and includes additional settings for File Transferring, VoIP, Media Streaming, and Gaming. In the Settings menu, you can edit information like the SSID, password, and DNS settings. You can also set up port forwarding rules and update firmware for your system if it needs it.
The thinking behind wifi mesh systems is that they are easy to setup and install. Asus’ Lyra system is no different. Once you’ve downloaded the mobile app, you simply follow the instructions to connect the Lyra to your home router. You’ll be prompted to create a username and password, select a location for the primary node (i.e., Living Room, Bedroom, Office), and then make your WAN connection to the router.
After the connection has been established, you’ll give the network a name and password. When the LED begins glowing cyan, you’ll know that the network is up and running. Then you can use the smartphone app or the web console to go back through and add additional nodes as needed. Repeat the process for additional nodes. Before you know it, you’ll have a wifi mesh network of your own!
The Lyra wifi mesh system will give you reliable performance with your network, aided by its use of automatic band steering. This optimization provides the system with the ability to choose the best radio band for the ideal performance. It’s not the fastest wifi system on available on the market, but you won’t notice a significant drop or loss of signal or speed.
When you choose the Asus Lyra home wifi mesh system to provide wireless coverage for your home, you’re getting an easy to set up system that provides a lifetime of protection against viruses and malware. Not only is it easy to install, but it’s also simple to configure guest settings, family profiles, and parental controls.
Unfortunately, the Lyra system does not offer the ability to separate the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, forcing you to rely on its automated system of directing traffic. It does, however, provide a solid performance without loss of signal strength or speed. If you’re looking for an easy to install and use wifi mesh system, the Asus Lyra is a good option.
Netgear’s entrance into the home wifi system market is marked with its Orbi High-Performance mesh system. Like many wifi systems, Orbi includes a router and one or more satellites. With Netgear’s system, you’ll enjoy impressive performance speeds and plenty of control options within the system. It’s larger than other wifi systems on the market today, but it offers enough features that it makes up for its size.
Features and Design
The Orbi system itself comes with one satellite and one router, which are identical in appearance. Both are wrapped in a white enclosure, which resembles a smushed cylinder. It measures 8.8” tall by 6.7” wide and 3.1” deep. These measurements are significantly larger than its Asus counterparts and don’t offer the same sleek look as the Lyra either.
Orbi’s two-piece starter kit will cover nearly 4,000 square feet, and if you don’t want the additional satellite, the router alone will cover 2,000 square feet. For those homes that need more than 4,000 square feet of coverage, additional satellites can be purchased and added to the system. These additional satellites will add up to 2,000 square feet of coverage.
Your primary router houses six internal antennas which can deliver throughput speeds of up to 1,266Mbps. The system is tri-band, with the third band being a backhaul channel purely dedicated to letting the system communicate, much in the way the Asus Lyra system does.
On top of the router and the node is an LED light that displays a color depending on what is currently occurring with the system. The ring is white when the system is booting up. If you are losing internet connectivity, the ring will blink an amber color, and if you see no color at all, everything is working as expected. On the back of the router, you’ll find three Gigabit LAN ports, a USB 2.0 port, a WAN port, and Reset, Sync, and Power buttons.
The node itself has a light ring around the top of it that blinks white while the system is booting up and then will turn solid blue when everything is good. If the system loses its connection, the LED will turn magenta, and signal strength and speed are fair, it will light up amber. With the lights on top of the components, you can quickly see if something is wrong, or if your wifi system is running smoothly.
Like the Asus Lyra, Orbi offers both Android and iOS mobile applications, along with a web console through which to configure and control the wifi system. The controls are easy to use, and unlike other wifi systems, offers the advanced settings you typically see in a traditional router. On the Home page, you notice menu options such as Advanced and Basic settings, along with information for Parental Controls, Attached Devices, Internet, and Wireless.
In this section, you can access and view Dynamic or Static IP information, MAC Address information, or DNS settings. You can also change your SSID and network password, as well as see which devices are connected, along with their IP addresses. If you need to create a guest network, you can set it up in this section of the app or web console.
If you need even more control over your system, you can dig into the Advanced tab. It will take you into the Advanced Security menu. In this section, you can configure Parental Controls, which lets you block and restrict websites and users as needed. You can also set up an option that will send you an email whenever someone tries to access a restricted or blocked site.
Also under the Advanced tab are Advanced Wireless settings. In this menu, you can adjust the transmit power, configure the router to behave as an access point, and dig into settings like VPN servicing, Port Forwarding, and Static Routing.
Lastly, the Advanced tab let you control and view your Traffic Meter. This section lets you see internet traffic stats, and also allows you to place caps on upload and download traffic. When the threshold is met, you can have it shut down access to all clients, or just certain, select ones. You can also use the Advanced tab to control IPv6 tunneling and update the firmware for the router.
The Orbit system itself is simple and straightforward to install. Plug the router into your modem, power it up, head to the mobile app or provided URL for setup, and follow the instructions. Once the router is all set, you’ll then be prompted to add additional satellites. If you have none to add, you can skip that step and add them at a later time.
Next, you’ll set up your SSID and password, as well as set up some security questions. At this time, if firmware updates are needed, they’ll occur, and then you’re ready to go.
When you’re ready to install your satellite, just place it about 30 feet from your primary Orbi router, plug it in and wait until the two sync up. It usually takes around two minutes. You’ll see the LED light cycle through the appropriate colors until it lands on solid blue, which means everything is good.
Like other systems, the Netgear Orbi uses automatic band steering, which doesn’t let you control whether devices connect to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band. However, thanks to the dedicated backhaul band, you don’t see signal strength loss or speed diminishing when you’re using devices to surf the web, watch videos, or game online.
The Netgear Orbi wifi system is a simple and friendly option to other solutions that provide wifi coverage to your home. The router and the satellite provide great coverage and performance throughout your home, and the system offers a great deal of features and settings. Whether you’re a novice or an advanced user, you’re sure to find the Netgear Orbi wifi system a good fit for you.
The Asus Lyra and Netgear Orbi wifi systems have many features in common; however they have their fair share of differences as well. Here’s a comparison chart to give you a good look at how the two systems stack up against one another.
As you can see, the Asus Lyra and Netgear Orbi wifi systems have much in common. Your choice between the two may come down to how much coverage you need, or how deeply you want or need to dig into the advanced router settings. Both are great systems and will provide your home with the blanket wireless access you need throughout your home.
Whether you decide to go with the Asus Lyra or the Netgear Orbi, you can be sure that you’re making a solid decision. Either wifi system will give you great signal strength and performance, provide plenty of features, and give you the peace of mind in knowing that no matter where you are in your home, you’ll have great wifi coverage.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!