Consumer Reports: It’s now easier & cheaper to fix your Wi-Fi dead zones at home

When it comes to getting online in your own home, it’s annoying to have to deal with a Wi-Fi dead zone. The good news: the fix is easier and cheaper.

Chris Patterson and his family spent years struggling with their Wi-Fi.

“The router for our house is on one side of the house, while most of the time we’re on the other side of the house. It was kind of getting hard to use the Wi-Fi without being in the living room,” he said.

But that all changed when Patterson got a mesh network.

“It changed the Wi-Fi completely,” he said. “All of a sudden now it worked everywhere in the house.”

What’s the magic of a mesh router? Consumer Reports says it’s actually pretty simple: Mesh networks use several routers together to spread the Wi-Fi signal throughout your home and around obstacles.

“Some common items include a fish tank, a big metal refrigerator, the pipes in your home. These can all sort of block the Wi-Fi signal and prevent you from getting a decent connection,” said Consumer Reports Tech Editor Nicholas De Leon.

Consumer Reports tests routers for what matters most: how fast they send a Wi-Fi signal from several distances and data privacy and security.

The mesh networks Linksys AX3200 E8452 (Wi-Fi 6; two-pack, $200) and TP-Link Deco W6000 AX3000 (Wi-Fi 6; two-pack, $150) aced all of Consumer Reports’ distance tests. They can be set up using an app and have automatic firmware updates to help protect you and your data online.

They both support Wi-Fi 6. But even a mesh network that uses the older Wi-Fi 5 may feel like an upgrade from your old router. And it’ll save you some money.

“Everything is backward compatible. So, if you buy a brand new iPhone today, which has the latest Wi-Fi chip in there, it’s gonna work fine with the Wi-Fi 5 router,” De Leon explained.

Like the Google Nest Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 5; three-pack, $180). Consumer Reports’ experts say it’s great for small or medium-sized houses. It also has automatic firmware updates and can be set up using an app.

It’s what Chris has in his home. And now he says there’s no going back.

Want to spend even less money? Consumer Reports says a Wi-Fi extender can be useful in some situations, especially if you’re dealing with only one pesky dead spot in your home. Those can cost $50 or less.

For more on how to pick the best affordable router for your space, watch Consumer Reports’ easy-to-follow buying guide.