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How we test wireless and mesh routers

The method we use to help you find the best wireless and mesh routers for your home network.

dual band wireless router
Last updated: 11 August 2020

Our expert testers put the latest wireless and mesh routers through rigorous testing to assess performance, ease of use and power consumption, so you'll know exactly what to expect.

Our in-depth testing of wireless and mesh routers means you can be confident you're making the right decision for your Wi-Fi needs. Here's how we do it.

How we choose what we test

We look for wireless routers and mesh router systems that are:

  • readily available
  • priced up to $800
  • dual-band wireless routers and tri-band wireless routers, all of which need to be NBN-ready and support the latest NBN gateways
  • wireless mesh systems that support Wi-Fi 5 and 6 standards with testing carried out with router and an additional 'node' unit to create a wireless mesh system.

How we test and score wireless routers

Performance 

Performance contributes 60% to the overall score. The following tests make up the the total performance score.

Short-distance test – 40%

In this test, we transfer our data from the network attached storage (NAS) to the client over a line-of-sight distance of four metres. It is considered a best-case scenario. The router resides in the lounge room where the NBN connection is fed, and the client sits four metres away.

Long-distance test – 30% 

In this test, we transfer data from the NAS to the client of a line-of-sight distance of 40m. The router and NAS are placed in the CHOICE lab area and the client laptop is placed approximately 40m away.

Wall penetration test – 30%

In this test, we transfer our data from the NAS to the client over a non-line-of-sight distance of approximately 4–5m, with two brick walls and one drywall as impediments to the signal. The router is placed in the lounge room where the NBN outlet resides, while the client is placed in the north-east corner of the main bedroom with the door closed.

Ease of use

Ease of use contributes 40% to the overall score. The following tests make up the the total ease of use score.

Set-up wizard – 60%

The tester assesses how easy it is to set up the router by following the instructions that are printed, or shown on the screen. This can include wizards and step-by-step guides. We note what settings can be changed during this set-up, such as Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords, as well as admin account name and password.

Wi-Fi encryption – 30% 

The tester notes if the wireless networks of the router are secured by default. We then assess how easy it is to change SSIDs and passwords.

Parental controls and scheduling – 10% 

We look for whether these features are present and in what form. For example, if a router features predefined filters according to age group, if it's very easy to implement, and whether the router supports keyword/URL filtering and time-based scheduling. We also check keyword/URL filters and how many entries are supported (eg, some have limited slots).

Power consumption

We measure idle consumption (20 hours) and active consumption (four hours).

How we test and score wireless mesh router kits

Performance 

Performance contributes 60% to the overall score. The following tests make up the the total performance score.

Short-distance test – 40%

In this test, we transfer our data from the NAS to the client over a line-of-sight distance of four metres. It is considered a best-case scenario. The main node of the mesh kit resides in the lounge room where the NBN connection is fed, and the client sits four metres away.

10m distance test – 60% 

In this test, we transfer our data from the NAS to the client over a non-line-of-sight distance of 10m. The main node resides in one room where the NBN connection is fed, and the client sits 10m away in another room with brick walls and windows as obstacles to the signal. 

A baseline test is conducted from the client to the main mesh kit's node, and then we switch on the extending node to note the difference in performance. The tester ensures the laptop is restarted and reconnected to the network after the mesh unit has been enabled to ensure that a connection is made to the extending node.

Extra performance tests are conducted in the office for wireless mesh kits when they are included in the routers project and will be included in all future tests of wireless mesh systems. They don't contribute to the overall score.

Ease of use 

Ease of use contributes 40% to the overall score. The following tests make up the the total ease of use score.

Initial set-up (40%): how easy is it to set up each mesh kit using the supplied instructions?

Extender node set-up (30%): what is the process for setting up each node and how easy is it?

Firmware update (20%): does this need to be done manually or is it automatic once you have set up the kit?

Changing settings (10%): how easy is it to access and change settings such as wireless network names?

Power consumption

We measure idle consumption only (24 hours). We repeat the process for the extending nodes, making sure that the main node is powered on, too, to establish the mesh network, and add the figures.

Our testing environment

Our environment for testing is now split between the tester's home and the CHOICE labs. Below is a technical breakdown of each testing environment, the equipment we use and how they affect our results.