It’s an unadventurous design, but this mesh outshines most budget options while remaining reasonably affordable
- Good performance and coverage
- Neat NFC and band-splitting features
- Plenty of Ethernet ports
- Fiddly mobile app
- Comparatively basic feature set
Times change, though. Honor has now been spun off into an independent business and Huawei’s latest home networking solution is an imposing tri-band mesh system with high-end hardware and a price that’s more than triple the cost of the old Router 3. Can the Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 win our affections like its affordable forebear did?
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: What you need to know
The Mesh 7 is a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system. You get two units in the box and they’re not sold singly, so if you want to expand your network you’ll have to go up in pairs. The mesh itself is a tri-band arrangement, with one 5GHz radio running at up to 1.2Gbits/sec and a second supporting speeds of 4.8Gbits/sec over 160MHz channels while 2.4GHz radio runs at 574Mbits/sec.
At the rear of each unit sit four Ethernet sockets and, unusually, there’s a tap-to-connect NFC tag on the top as well as a WPS button at the front. Huawei claims up to 128 devices can connect at once, with a coverage of up to 600 square metres.
Needless to say, there’s full backward compatibility, so the Mesh 7 will work just fine with older Wi-Fi 5 devices. The latest Wi-Fi 6E-compatible devices can connect too, although they won’t get the performance benefit of operating in the less congested 6GHz band.
READ NEXT: The best wireless routers you can buy
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: Price and competition
You can pay a lot less than £270 for a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system. A pack of three D-Link M15 Eagle Pro AI AX1500 mesh units will cost you just £163, while the Netgear Orbi RBK352 and the TP-Link Deco X50 systems can be had for £210 and £230 respectively. Huawei also offers its own low-cost alternative – the Wi-Fi Mesh 3, priced at just £200 for three stations.
Those are all dual-band systems, however. They tend to be slower than a tri-band mesh because the same 5GHz radio has to handle both device connections and the backhaul traffic between the mesh boxes.
If you’re seeking the best download speeds, you’ll want to look at pricier options, such as the Linksys Atlas Pro 6, or the TP-Link Deco X90. Those are both quite a lot more expensive than the Mesh 7, however, at £380 and £440. Another option is the Plume HomePass, which works out at £420 for the Wi-Fi 6-enabled edition, including a one year subscription to Plume’s online services.
Amid these various contenders, the Mesh 7 seems to have the middle ground to itself as far as price is concerned – and as we’ll see below, the same can be said for its performance.
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: Physical design
The Wi-Fi Mesh 7 units have a rather plain design, with a white casing and a grey base. They’re by no means small: they stand 221mm tall, with an oblong footprint extending to 76 x 150mm – but they should fit comfortably onto a shelf or worktop.
You might not want to situate them too high up, mind you, as two key features are located on the top. One is a small status LED, which glows red if there’s a problem or blue if there isn’t; the other is the aforementioned NFC tag, which lets you connect compatible Android devices by tapping them to the top of either mesh unit. You can also connect WPS-compatible devices by pushing the “H” button at the front; Huawei refers to this as a “HiLink” connection, but it’ll work with any WPS client.
At the rear, four Ethernet sockets are arranged in a tight grid. They all run at gigabit speeds, and they’re all auto-sensing, so you can plug whichever one you like into your internet connection and use the rest for wired clients. It would have been nice to see a few 2.5GbE ports but we can’t complain about the total number of sockets, which very few meshes can match.
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: Setup and software features
Huawei encourages you to use its AI Life mobile app to set up and manage the Mesh 7, and I found this quick and easy to do. After that though, I didn’t love using the app. It’s designed as a central gateway to the company’s whole range of routers and smart home appliances, so even if the Mesh 7 is the only Huawei product you own, you have to log into it from within the app each time you open it. And once you do, the controls and options are laid out in a rather haphazard way, with lots of subpages and submenus to navigate.
On the plus side, the app does include a novel heat mapping feature, which lets you plan out an approximate floorplan of your home and track signal strength to find the best location for your mesh nodes (or devices).
You can also choose to ditch the app and manage the Mesh 7 from a traditional browser portal instead. This is much more clearly laid out, making it easy to check and tweak Wi-Fi settings, browse connected devices and configure advanced features. There aren’t many of these, but you get a basic firewall that promises to repel online attacks, and a simple time-limiting function for kids’ devices.
There’s also a website filtering feature (only available in the web interface) but it’s not much use as you have to manually enter the URLs you want to block. There’s nothing to compare with the smart security and content-filtering services offered by the likes of Plume and TP-Link – although not everyone wants to pay the additional annual fee for those anyway.
One unusual feature is the option to make all three radio bands visible as separate networks, so you can choose to connect clients to the 4.8Gbits/sec network, rather than reserving it for backhaul traffic. Aside from a potential speed boost, this gives you the possibility of segregating Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices across different 5GHz radios, ensuring older devices can’t bog down performance for newer ones. Note, however, that the second 5GHz radio only supports DFS channels, so some devices might not be able to see it.
In all, the Mesh 7 software is simple but serviceable, with an accessible web interface and a few nice ideas.
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: Performance
If you’ve read our Wi-Fi reviews before, you’ll know exactly how I tested the performance of the Huawei Mesh 7. First, I connected the primary node to the internet connection in my study, and ran an Ethernet cable to an Asustor Drivestor 4 Pro NAS appliance. The second unit was placed at the far end of the adjoining bedroom.
I then connected my test laptop – equipped with an Intel AX210 network card – to the mesh and carried it to various parts of my home, measuring average speeds to copy files to and from the NAS over the wireless network.
Here are the results, along with comparable figures for a range of mesh systems at lower and higher price points:
Predictably, the Mesh 7 can’t keep up with the most expensive Wi-Fi systems. Even so, it provided strong wireless coverage in every area of my home, at speeds that persuasively outpace most cheaper meshes.
The Mesh 7’s only real rival in its class is the TP-Link Deco X50, which provides similar overall speeds and an extra mesh unit for £40 less – not to mention TP-Link’s optional HomeShield service. However, the Huawei system delivered much more even download speeds across my various test locations, suggesting it’s a safer bet for homes of differing sizes and layouts.
Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 review: Should you buy it?
The Wi-Fi Mesh 7 might be a new departure for Huawei, but it’s hardly a disruptive product. Aside from the noteworthy NFC and band-splitting options, it’s really only interesting for the particular balance of price and performance it offers.
And, to be clear, that won’t be the right balance for everyone. If you’re just interested in everyday web browsing and video streaming, you won’t notice the difference in performance between this and a cheaper system. Conversely, home workers wanting to move large files around their internal network at the highest possible speed have a good reason to pay the extra for the Linksys Atlas Pro 6 (£380) or TP-Link Deco X90 (£440).
If you’re somewhere between those camps, though, the Huawei Wi-Fi Mesh 7 deserves serious consideration. It’s not a brilliant bargain like the Router 3 was, but for uncomplicated Wi-Fi that’s a step up from the speeds and consistency of a budget mesh, it’s a fine choice at a fair price.