IFA brings with it an army of cutting-edge home networking products, ranging from low-latency gaming routers to hybrid Mesh-based wireless extenders with smart assistant capabilities. So are any of these worth buying going into 2018?
TP-Link’s New 2018 Networking Products
TP-Link, renowned for its Archer line of routers, just announced a whopping seven new home networking products. Five of these make up the brand-new Deco line of mesh routers. The other two are the latest additions to its 802.11ax line of high-end gaming routers.
TP-Link Deco M9 Plus, P7, M5, M4, and M3
TP-Link’s Deco line of frisbee-shaped home routers includes five models. The highest end version is the Deco M9 Plus which offers tri-band (5GHz) wireless connectivity along with ZigBee smart home integration, TP-Link’s Mesh networking technology, IFTTT integration, TP-Link’s parental control system, and AC2200 speeds.
The Deco P7, on the other hand, comes with added Powerline capabilities, meaning it can shoot off an internet signal over your home’s electrical system—in addition to offering wireless extension capabilities. For those curious, Powerline generally works better than WiFi in newer homes. Although powerline devices generally require a more expensive adapter in order to function.
Archer AX11000, Archer AX6000
TP-Link’s latest two entries in its Archer line include the AX11000 and the AX6000—both high-end gaming-oriented routers. They don’t have a firm release date or pricing details yet, but the AX6000 may cost around €400, whereas the AX11000’s price could be €100 cheaper at €400.
Unlike the previous standard of wireless connectivity, 802.11ac (Wireless-AC), Wireless-AX products offer improved broadcast range, faster speeds, and overall 4x faster throughput.
On the downside, almost no consumer-oriented wireless devices can use the Wireless-AX standard. And while Wireless-AX is reverse compatible with Wireless-AC, Wireless-N, and other older standards, early adopters won’t get the speed and reliability advantages promised by the new standard until manufacturers start putting the wireless standard into devices. So when will your smart TV, smartphone, or set-top-box get Wireless-AC compatibility? It’s at least a year away or maybe two.
Netgear’s Latest Nighthawk and Orbi Product Releases
Netgear just announced three new home networking devices, which includes the Orbi Voice, Orbi Outdoor, and Netgear XR700.
Orbi Voice and Orbi Outdoor Wi-Fi Satellite
Using the Orbi standard, the Orbi Voice is a combination smart assistant and router using Netgear’s Orbi system. The smart assistant is Alexa, which means it also includes all of the integrations and plugins that are available to the Alexa platform. The Orbi Voice features four microphones for improved voice recognition and two speakers, for a total of 35-watts of sound power. We listened to the speakers at its maximum power and, for two speakers totaling 35-watts, these get really loud.
Like the Orbi Voice, the Orbi Outdoor Wi-Fi Satellite integrates into the same Orbit mesh network, except that it’s ruggedized and weatherized. Not only can it withstand extreme outdoor temperatures, it also handles inclement weather from snow to torrential storms.
In addition to its Orbi line, Netgear also introduced the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router. It features 6 Ethernet ports, as well as a 10Gig Fibre uplink, a first for a gaming router.
The XR700 can dramatically improve ping times with an extremely elegant solution: it uses a region filter to prevent connections to distant servers. The XR700 also throws in a baked-in VPN, meaning it automatically disguises your network traffic so it cannot be intercepted by malicious actors. The router runs an advanced management OS which makes enabling and controlling the features a breeze.
The XR700 may retail for around €400, give or take a few bucks.
Should You Upgrade Your Home Network Yet?
If you’ve been holding off on upgrading for a while, now could be a good time to grab the TP-Link Deco. If you have an existing Netgear Orbi mesh network and you’re in the Alexa ecosystem, the convergence of those is certainly welcome, as is a powerful outdoor mesh point.
Other than that, we’ve seen all manner of gimmicky home networking products and haven’t been blown away. MakeUseOf review’s editor, James Bruce, argued that most consumer routers are quite limited. I’m inclined to agree. While some of the products fulfill very specific market niches, unless you’re actively looking for (for example) a wireless router with Powerline capabilities, there is little reason to upgrade your home network.