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BT Mini Whole Home WiFi review: Simple, effective and cheap

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
75
inc VAT

You can pay a lot more for top performance, but this dinky mesh eradicates not-spots for an excellent price

Pros 
Eyebrow-raisingly affordable
A breeze to set up and manage
Small discs are easy to situate
Cons 
Slow by mesh standards
Won’t replace your existing router
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BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi system has been on our list of recommended mesh extenders since its debut back in 2017, thanks to its solid performance and very reasonable price.

Now, the telecoms giant has come out with an even cheaper option, shrinking down its distinctive discs and scaling back the internals. Although this means performance is slower, it still makes a great way to extend the reach of your home network on the cheap.

READ NEXT: The best mesh Wi-Fi routers to buy right now

BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi review: What you need to know

The Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi kit is an 802.11ac mesh system, just like the regular Whole Home kit. As with the original model – but unlike most other mesh platforms – it works as an extender for your existing router, rather than seeking to replace it.

As the name suggests, however, the Mini uses smaller discs that are easier to locate discreetly about your home and the hardware inside them has been cut down a little too. The full-sized units are rated for connection speeds of up to 800Mbits/sec on the legacy 2.4GHz band and 1,733MBits/sec over 5GHz connections, while the Mini claims only 300Mbits/sec and 866Mbits/sec respectively.

Those are still fair speeds, and the Mini claims 4x4 MIMO too. But, since this is only a dual-band platform, your devices won’t be able to make full use of the available wireless bandwidth, as the 5GHz channel also has to carry all the backhaul traffic between nodes.

BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi review: Price and competition

The BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi system currently costs only £75 for a three-node pack. That’s absurdly cheap for a bona fide mesh setup: hitherto, the only such system we’ve seen for under £100 has been the Tenda Nova MW3.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more, a twin-pack of BT’s regular Whole Home Wi-Fi discs can be had for £125. Elsewhere, the Netgear Orbi Dual-Band will set you back £132 for three units, while the Linksys Velop Dual-Band is on sale at £164.

For maximum performance over 802.11ac, you’ll need a tri-band mesh system, which pushes the price even higher. The cheapest model we’d recommend is the Netgear Orbi RBK20, now down to £180 for two stations; the best of the bunch include the full-fat Netgear Orbi RBK50, which comes in at £300, and the Asus ZenWiFi AC, which combines an extensive set of advanced features with top-tier performance for £285.

If you’re ready for the next generation of wireless, you could even step up to the 802.11ax-enabled Netgear Orbi RBK850, although around at £700 for two nodes, it’s safe to say that this is aimed at a different market to the Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi.

BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi review: Setup and features

The Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi units are of a simple circular design, measuring 12cm across. They stand upright on an integrated plastic foot that sticks out of the back and, when the unit’s powered on, a single LED glows through the faceplate in various colours to indicate activity or connection problems.

At the rear, there’s a power socket, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, a WPS button for connecting devices without having to enter a password and a pinhole for resetting the firmware. It’s a nicely functional design and, while the single Ethernet socket may seem restrictive, remember that this is solely a wireless extender system: you can connect additional wired clients directly to your existing router.

BT’s quick-start guide encourages you to set up the system via the free app for Android and iOS and this is pretty easy thanks to a QR code printed on the back of each node. Alternatively, you can open a web browser and log into the Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi system directly, using the preconfigured credentials inscribed on the back of each unit.

Either way, there’s very little to configure. Once the three units are plugged in, they automatically connect to each other and start broadcasting a wireless mesh that connects back to your main network. From the Wireless Settings page you can then change the SSID and WPA2 passphrase to whatever you desire (a set of blank stickers is thoughtfully provided for you to write these on and affix directly over the pre-printed information). You can also tweak the radio channels and disable WPS if you’re concerned about unauthorised visitors connecting to your home network, though sadly there’s no password-protected soft-button option.

Other features include an optional guest network, which grants internet access while keeping users isolated from your own clients and, while you can’t wholly split up the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands into separate networks, you can enable or disable band-steering on a per-device basis. You can manually pause the internet for all connected clients, too, although there are no proper parental controls: that sort of thing is left for your router to handle.

READ NEXT: The best mesh Wi-Fi routers to buy right now

BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi review: Performance

The original Whole Home Wi-Fi outperforms most dual-band competitors, largely because its ultrafast 1,733Mbits/sec 5GHz radio provides enough bandwidth to handle both client and backhaul traffic at decent speeds. As we’ve mentioned, however, the Mini’s transceiver is only half as fast and, while BT doesn’t publish the full internal specification, it’s a good bet that the antennae are smaller too.

To see how these changes affect performance, I tested the BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi in my usual way, by setting up the primary node in my living room, situating the other two nodes in adjacent rooms, and walking around with a Microsoft Surface Laptop measuring the average upload and download speed to a NAS appliance connected to the main router by Ethernet.

Here are the speeds I saw in various parts of the house, along with the speeds provided by a selection of other mesh systems for comparison:

Transfer speeds over 802.11ac (MB/sec)BT Mini Whole HomeTenda Nova MW3BT Whole HomeNetgear Orbi Dual-BandAsus ZenWiFi AC
Rear terrace upload52.915.710.721.1
Rear terrace download9.14.722.814.234.2
Bedroom upload2.5414.211.221.3
Bedroom download7.34.918.715.836.6
Bathroom upload6.7513.911.422.1
Bathroom download9.84.219.515.736.4

The results were hardly a big surprise: for the most part, the Mini performed at just under half the speed of the regular BT Whole Home system. That puts it decidedly towards the low end of the mesh market as a whole; I’ve included scores from Netgear’s dual-band Orbi and the tri-band Asus ZenWiFi system to illustrate what a premium 802.11ac mesh is capable of.

Even so, the Mini delivered a stable connection everywhere in my home, and proved convincingly faster than the Tenda Nova MW3. Indeed, its throughput was still good enough to allow me to sit in the bedroom and stream 4K videos from YouTube and Netflix without a glitch or stutter. If you’re focused on everyday internet duties you probably won’t ever notice the difference between this and a much more expensive mesh.

BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi review: Verdict

The Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi isn’t a replacement for an outdated router, nor a turbocharger for your home network. If you’re looking to fling huge data files around at maximum speed then this isn’t the extender for you.

If you’re merely seeking a localised signal boost, however, then the Mini could be just the ticket. The three-node configuration makes it more flexible than a regular wireless repeater, not to mention more manageable and expandable. And while it won’t win any awards for performance, it’s more than fast enough to extend email, web browsing, casual gaming and video streaming to the far reaches of your home.

If that’s all you’re looking for then there’s no need to spend more – the BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi kit will do the job at a fantastic price.