A Nest Wifi router sitting on a rustic wood table.
Nest/Google

When you shop for a mesh network, they usually come in packs of two or three, with the option to buy extra nodes if you need them. Can you just use a single mesh network node by itself, though?

You might be surprised to find that you can, with ease even. Although they are usually sold as bundles—which certainly implies that the collection of mesh nodes you get in the box is intended to be used together—you don’t actually have to use all of them. In fact, you could simply plug in one of them and stop there or not purchase a bundle in the first place and pick up a single unit instead.

While both the marketing and very design of the product are centered around you using mesh nodes together, the base unit will always function independently as a stand-alone unit.

Sure, you need at least two nodes to make a mesh network, but as long as you have one node plugged into your modem, that single node will act exactly as if you had plugged in a traditional stand-alone router.

Because, after all, that’s what a mesh network system is: a node that functions as a router with all the associated functions like DHCP assignments, Quality of Service rules, and so on, and a set of additional nodes, linked by either a wireless or wired backhaul, that function as sophisticated and interlinked Wi-Fi extenders.

eero 6 Mesh Wi-Fi Router

A single mesh router brings mesh platform features to a small home on the cheap.

So for folks with small homes who want the features that many mesh network platforms offer—like polished smart apps, automatic updates, and easy-to-use parental controls—there’s no reason they can’t pick up, say, a single eero 6 or a Google Nest Wifi router to enjoy all those features.

And hey, better yet, should you find you need more coverage, or you move to a bigger home, you can skip buying a third-party Wi-Fi extender (and putting up with their shortcomings) and just buy another node for your mesh platform. That’s a much smoother upgrade path (with a healthy dose of future-proofing) than buying a similar price stand-alone router.

The Best Wi-Fi Routers of 2022

Best Wi-Fi Router Overall
Asus AX6000 (RT-AX88U)
Best Budget Router
TP-Link Archer AX3000 (AX50)
Best Cheap Router
TP-Link Archer A8
Best Gaming Router
Asus GT-AX11000 Tri-Band Router
Best Mesh Wi-Fi Router
ASUS ZenWiFi AX6600 (XT8) (2 Pack)
Best Budget Mesh Router
TP-Link Deco X20
Best Modem Router Combo
NETGEAR Nighthawk CAX80
Best VPN Router
Linksys WRT3200ACM
Beat Travel Router
TP-Link AC750
Best Wi-Fi 6E Router
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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