A Nest WiFi mesh node sitting on a side table in a home.

Mesh networks are an more and more fashionable resolution to the Wi-Fi calls for of contemporary houses. You is perhaps curious for those who can combine and match totally different {hardware} gadgets— both totally different fashions from the identical producer and even gadgets from totally different producers. Right here’s what it is advisable know.

Why Combine and Match?

Why even take into account mixing and matching? Possibly you discovered sale, a good friend is upgrading and prepared to hand-me-down some community gear to you, otherwise you simply wish to prolong protection a bit and want to purchase some cheaper {hardware} to get the job accomplished. Or, maybe, your older system has some software program options, like easy-to-use parental controls, you don’t wish to lose.

No matter motivated you to think about the undertaking, let’s dig into when mixing and matching mesh community {hardware} works, when it doesn’t, and the tradeoffs you’ll make alongside the way in which.

Identical Producer Mixing Is Often Fairly Clean

A network map, showing different TP-Link Deco units working together.

In relation to mixing and matching {hardware} produced by the identical producer, you’re usually fairly secure, though it’s value double-checking the high quality print on the producer’s web site earlier than making any purchases.

All eero hardware is totally backward-compatible, for instance, as is Google Nest WiFi gear. The favored Deco lineup from TP-Link can also be backward appropriate.

When mixing and matching {hardware} from the identical producer there are some things to remember to make the expertise a lot smoother.

First, double-check if there are any particular downsides to mixing and matching {hardware} by checking the help documentation to your producer of alternative.

Though it’s more and more much less of a difficulty generally you’ll run right into a state of affairs the place protecting older {hardware} as a part of the setup results in among the options on the newer gear getting downgraded or turned off solely for compatibility causes. If that’s the case, it is perhaps value retiring the older gear and upgrading to all new mesh nodes.

Second, make sure you replace all of the firmware throughout all of the gadgets in your new setup together with the router node and all of the mesh nodes. Issues are always evolving and also you don’t wish to take care of compatibility issues or poor node-to-node communication due to outdated firmware. With up to date firmware, you’ll be able to typically keep away from that feature-downgrade downside we simply talked about.

Third, at all times observe the producer’s configuration suggestions the place out there or, if no particular pointers are offered, construction your community with the most recent mesh nodes functioning because the router and in essentially the most used areas of the house with the older nodes on the peripheral and within the lesser-used areas.

eero Pro 6 (3-Pack)

Enhance and develop your protection worry-free. All eero models are backward appropriate.

For instance, you probably have an older eero system and also you buy a new bundle, use the newer eero nodes as the primary router and within the core space of your home, after which transfer the older eero nodes to the perimeters to supply protection within the yard, the storage, or different much less vital areas. This ensures the most recent {hardware} is doing the majority of the heavy lifting and the older {hardware} is choosing up the slack on the edges.

So long as the producer helps inter-model and inter-generation compatibility, for those who observe these pointers you’ll have a very easy expertise including extra mesh nodes to your house community.

Mixing Producers Is a Large Headache

You’ll be able to combine {hardware} from totally different producers collectively however it’s a big problem and comes with important penalties when it comes to ease of use and options.

In case you wouldn’t describe your self as an beginner community administrator, you’re in all probability not going to benefit from the expertise a lot and we’d suggest you skip it and persist with {hardware} from the identical producer.

Why is it a problem? Wi-Fi as a normal could be very effectively hashed out however that doesn’t translate to interoperability between mesh nodes from totally different producers. They could all be utilizing the identical Wi-Fi requirements, broadly, however how they implement mesh communication inside the closed system of a given producer’s mesh community ecosystem shouldn’t be interoperable.

Again in 2018, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the group answerable for the Wi-Fi customary, announced a new companion standard called EasyMesh. In idea, EasyMesh will make mixing and matching mesh nodes from totally different producers easy. In observe, as of this writing in mid-2022 it’s been 5 years for the reason that announcement and only a few producers have adopted EasyMesh in any significant manner as a result of they’ve practically zero incentive to take action.

A diagram of a home using an EasyMesh Wi-Fi system.
The EasyMesh thought is nice, however we’re nonetheless ready for widespread adoption. Wi-Fi Alliance

Between the totally different mesh requirements and the practically non-existent EasyMesh help, if you wish to combine and match {hardware} you’ll be able to’t simply hook up some Google Nest WiFi nodes to your present eero system, or throw some cheap TP-Hyperlink Deco models on someplace to spice up protection.

At finest, if the producer in query supported it, you can flip the brand new mesh nodes into simply dumb entry factors, tethered via an Ethernet backhaul again to the present mesh router.

Why may you’re taking that strategy? Let’s say you want particular options on the unique mesh router platform—corresponding to sturdy parental controls or a specific bedtime lockout characteristic—that aren’t out there on the newer system. You would preserve the mesh node in place to function the router (and preserve offering the parental controls, or such, that you just want) whereas utilizing the newer mesh nodes as entry factors to deal with the Wi-Fi.

However, once more, it tends to get a bit messy and complex. You’ll have to be sure to’re not working the newer mesh system as a separate community with its personal router and DHCP project to keep away from a double-NAT—a common issue when you “stack” routers—and different points. Relying on the capabilities of the older system it’s possible you’ll or could not completely lose mesh performance by switching it over to only entry level mode.

Except you will have a really urgent want to combine the methods collectively, we actually can’t suggest it. At that time, you’re higher off just upgrading your router.

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