Mesh networks are nothing new in home networking, but a new Starlink accessory allows customers to easily implement a mesh network without 3rd party hardware or IT knowledge. The new accessory, called Starlink Mesh Nodes, is now available for Starlink customers with the rectangular dish. In this article, we will explain what mesh networks are, go over the details on the new Starlink Mesh Nodes, and also offer 3rd party alternatives to consider.
What is a mesh network?
A mesh network is a system of wireless access points (mesh nodes) that can all communicate with each other, and with the main internet router. It’s referred to as a mesh network because of the interconnectivity between all nodes, and the blanket coverage that can provide. Basically, installing a mesh network in your home expands your Wifi signal in a more uniform and reliable way. Most mesh networks can be installed wirelessly, meaning a physical ethernet cable back to a switch is not necessary. Simply plug in the power to the mesh node. There are wired mesh networks as well, but in this article we’ll be talking about wireless.
Mesh networks allow you to have a single wireless network that covers your entire house. If you have a smaller area, it isn’t as big of a concern. But if you have a 3000 sq ft home with three floors, getting uniform Wifi coverage can be a challenge. Wifi signals don’t navigate walls, floors, or even large furniture very well. Mesh networks change that, allowing you to solve your Wifi issues by installing mesh nodes for complete coverage over multiple rooms and floors. When using the mesh network and moving around your house, the signal is automatically transferred from mesh node to mesh node, and then back to the main router without interruption. It’s like having one super Wifi router for your entire house.
Starlink Mesh Node
You may be thinking, if mesh networks are nothing new, why is Starlink coming out with their own hardware? The main reason for the Starlink Mesh Nodes is the ease of installation and implementation. With 3rd party hardware, a certain level of networking and IT knowledge is required. Most people don’t want to read through a lengthy manual or spend 4 hours setting up their network. The official Starlink Mesh Nodes are virtually plug and play.
Starlink originally launched a limited beta testing program of their mesh nodes back in April 2022. They officially launched in June 2022. Mesh networking has remained a hot topic over at the Reddit Starlink subreddit, and this new accessory could reduce the confusion and complexity of installing one for the average person.
How much does the Starlink Mesh Node cost?
Starlink Mesh Node’s cost $130 each.
Customers can buy them from the Starlink.com shop.
Round dish compatbility
Unfortunately, the Starlink Mesh Nodes are not compatible with the original, round dish. If you own a round dish, you will need to purchase a 3rd party mesh system. We put together a list of recommended products toward the end of the article.
How to set up a Starlink Mesh Node
If you’re wondering how complex it is going to be to set up a Starlink Mesh Node, here is the step by step guide:
- Find a place where you want to install a mesh node, then plug it in to AC power
- The Starlink app on your phone will prompt you to pair the newly detected node, tap Pair
- After about 30 seconds, the pairing is complete, and the mesh node is now ready to use
That’s it! You’ll automatically connect to the mesh node with the best signal from any wireless device you are using. If you want to check on the status of your mesh nodes, open the Starlink app and tap on Network. You’ll see your main router, and then any paired mesh nodes below.
Can you use an ethernet adapter with them?
Yes! The Starlink Mesh Nodes come with a place to plug in the Starlink ethernet adapter. Now you’ll be able to install a mesh node near your desktop PC and have a wired ethernet connection, just like if you were plugged into the main router. This feature is useful if you are forced to install your main router in an inconvenient location. It’s also useful for allowing more ethernet connectivity for stationary devices, freeing up Wifi traffic.
How many devices can connect to the Starlink router?
The Starlink router and mesh nodes can connect to up to 128 devices at one time.
Drawbacks with the Starlink Mesh Nodes
The Starlink Mesh Nodes are easy to install, but with that comes some major drawbacks compared to 3rd party mesh network hardware. Many software features that are common with mesh networks are not available. For example, you cannot rename devices on the network. You can’t view usage statistics for the devices. And you also cannot configure bandwidth limitations or traffic priority for devices. These are features commonly found in other 3rd party mesh network hardware. It is possible that Starlink will deploy some of these features in future firmware updates.
Another drawback of the official Starlink mesh product is the lack of Wifi 6 support. They run Wifi 5 (802.11ac) which is not the newest standard that is supported on many 3rd party mesh systems.
The final drawback to using the Starlink Mesh Nodes vs a 3rd party mesh system is the fact that they only support dual radio bands. The mesh nodes have a 2.4 GHz channel and a 5 GHz channel, and not a dedicated third 5 GHz band for node to node communication. Tri-band is superior to dual band in a lot of ways, and many of the cheaper 3rd party alternatives have it.
Alternative mesh network products
At $130 each, the Starlink Mesh Nodes are rather expensive compared to equivalent 3rd party offerings. For a fraction of the price per node, customers can buy popular dual band mesh network products from retailers like Amazon. If you own the first generation round dish, you’ll be forced to use 3rd party mesh options, as the original Starlink dish is not supported with Starlink Mesh Nodes. For those two reasons, we’ve decided to round up a few product recommendations from Amazon, as alternatives to buying the official Starlink mesh system.
If you have the rectangular dish, you’ll need the Starlink Ethernet Adapter in order to plug in these mesh nodes.
Note: This article may contain affiliate links for the products mentioned
TP-Link Deco AXE5400 Tri-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System
The TP-Link Deco AXE5400 Tri-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System is our highest performing recommendation. It features tri band radios and Wifi 6E, two big performance advantages over the Starlink Mesh Nodes. You’ll get two nodes, which is enough to cover up to 5,500 sq ft. Add on nodes are available if you need to further expand the system.
Setup is simple thanks to the Deco app, available on Android and iOS. As another plus compared to the Starlink product, you’ll get extra security settings, traffic prioritization, and device management all from the app.
All that said, this is the most expensive mesh system on our list. If you don’t need top of the line performance, consider one of the two more budget friendly options below.
Amazon eero 6 Mesh WiFi System
The Amazon eero 6 Mesh WiFi System is the best value mesh system on our list. It is much cheaper than the Starlink Mesh Nodes, with enhanced configuration settings and features. Like the TP-Link product, you get 3 nodes to provide whole home Wifi coverage. This mesh system is dual band, but the eero 6 supports Wifi 6 which is an advantage over the Starlink product.
Setup is similar to the TP-Link and Starlink mesh networks, where everything is done via the eero app. Like the TP-Link system, Amazon eero has a lot more software features than the Starlink Mesh Nodes, such as traffic prioritization and statistics.
NETGEAR Orbi Tri-band Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
The NETGEAR Orbi Tri-band Whole Home Mesh WiFi System is another great option for a whole home mesh Wifi system. You get a router + mesh extender that can cover up to 5,000 sq ft. The Orbi system features tri-band radios for maximum Wifi speed and performance, one major advantage over the Starlink mesh system.
Like the other options on this list, setup is done through the convenient app. The app gives you complete control over the configuration. Set up parental controls, guest Wifi access, and more. These extra features are one reason that we like 3rd party mesh systems over the Starlink solution.
The Starlink Mesh Nodes are a game changer for Starlink customers hoping to implement a mesh network without the complexity of many 3rd party options. For $130, you’ll get enhanced Wifi coverage and the potential for an extra ethernet port. Many customers will appreciate the consistent styling and aesthetics of the mesh nodes, which look almost identical to the Starlink router.
Let us know what you think. Are you interested in purchasing one or more for your home? Do you plan to purchase the Starlink product or 3rd party?