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Asus unveiled not one but two app-enabled home mesh Wi-Fi systems today at CES 2017: the premium HiveSpot and less-expensive HiveDot.
Like all home mesh systems, both new products are modular, consisting of three identical hardware units. You use one to connect to an internet source, like a broadband modem, and it will work as the main router. After that you can use the other units as wireless extenders to quickly and seamlessly extend the Wi-Fi network, allowing Wi-Fi clients to automatically switch between them without interruption.
According to Asus, the HiveSpot is a tri-band AC2134 Wi-Fi system, meaning each of the hardware units is a tri-band router that includes two 5GHz bands (each has a top speed of up to 867 megabit per second) and one 2.4GHz band (up to 400 Mbps). What's special about this system is that one of the 5GHz bands is used only for back-haul -- the job of wirelessly connecting the hardware units of the system together. In other words, the main router uses this band to send its Wi-Fi signal to the satellite units, which in turn dedicate one 5GHz frequency just for the job of receiving that signal. After that the satellite units use the other 5GHz band and the 2.4GHz band to rebroadcast signal to clients.
This means that even when the units in the system are connected together wirelessly, there will be minimal or no signal loss, which normallly happens when an extender uses the same band to both receive and rebroadcast the signal. With this feature, the HiveSpot joins a small group of Wi-Fi systems, including the Netgear Orbi and the recently announced Linksys Velop, that function without signal loss. In fact, the HiveSpot has identical hardware specs to the Velop.
The HiveSpot goes one step further than both the Orbi and the Velop however, by offering Ai Protection at no extra cost. This is a built-in network security suite powered by Trend Micro that detects and blocks online security threats. Basically the entire home network powered by the HiveSpot system is protected in real-time against online malware and cyber threats.
Ai Protection has been available in other Asus high-end routers, like the RT-AC5300 or the RT-AC88U and works well in my experience. It can stop the threats from coming into the network, preventing devices within the network from reaching out to malicious sites and isolating an infected device to prevent further infection.
There are other vendors that offer this protection at the router level, such as Symantec with its recently announced Norton Core, but Asus is the only vendor so far that does it for free.
When it becomes available during the second quarter of 2017, the HiveSpot will cost $400 for three units, which converts to about £325 or AU$550. That's $100 less than the Linksys Velop and the same as the Netgear Orbi, which only includes two hardware units.
But $400 can still be a big chunk of change. This is why Asus also offers the HiveDot, which is almost exactly the same as the HiveSpot minus the third dedicated back-haul band. This means it will incur signal loss (exactly like the case of the Google Wifi or the Eero,) and means that clients connected to a satellite unit will have just half of the real-world speed as those connected to the router unit. The HiveDot also doesn't include Asus' Ai Protection, either. In return for these sacrifices, it costs just $300 for three units, $200 cheaper than the Eero.
Both the HiveSpot and the HiveDot mesh systems will be available in the second quarter of this year. Make sure you check back then for their full reviews.