Tenda Nova MW3 full review

Mesh networking has been one of the big tech bandwagons in the last couple of years, with manufacturers releasing mesh devices as fast as we can review them in recent months. The tech is certainly based on a sound idea, providing kits that contain two or three routers that can be linked together to provide wider, more reliable Wi-Fi coverage than you’d typically get from just a single router , even the latest 802.11ac models.

However, many of these mesh kits are quite expensive, and are often aimed at massive homes, rather than the more modest domiciles that most of us live in.

That was the case with Tenda’s Nova MW6 that we reviewed earlier this year, which was designed to cover homes up to 6000 square feet in size. To be fair, the MW6 was already one of the more affordable mesh kits that we’ve come across, costing £175 for a kit with three identical routers, but Tenda has gone even further with its new Nova MW3 model, producing the most affordable two-piece and three-piece mesh networking kits that we’ve seen so far.

Tenda Nova MW3: Price & Availabiltiy

You can buy a kit containing two Nova MW3 routers – or ‘nodes’ as the manual calls them – for just £69.99 from Amazon.

That two-piece kit is designed to cover an area of up to 200m2 (roughly 2100 square feet), which should be fine for most small and medium size homes. If you do need wider coverage for a larger home – or perhaps for a home spread across two or three floors – then there’s a three-piece kit that is suitable for areas up to 300m2 (3200 square feet) for a still very competitive price of just £99.99.

In the US, those prices are $89.99 for the 2-pack and $129.99 for the 3-pack.

Tenda tells us that the new lower prices are designed to compete with ‘older technology’, such as low-cost powerline adaptors that can extend your network connection to individual rooms via your mains electrical wiring.

Tenda Nova MW3:  Design & Features

The MW3 looks very much like the smaller brother/sister of the MW6, with a similar cubic design moulded out of pristine white plastic.

Tenda Nova MW3 review

The MW3 routers are slightly smaller – just 90mm on each side – and have softer, rounded edges that are easy on the eye if you want to sit the router on a shelf or window ledge.

But, as with the MW6, the build quality does seem a bit cheap and cheerful, with the lightweight plastic feeling fairly flimsy, so you should probably keep the MW3 out of reach of young hands that might mistake them for big Lego bricks.

The low cost inevitably means that the MW3 routers also have a fairly modest specification, providing dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with a maximum speed of 1200Mb/s (theoretically).

That’s modest compared to more expensive rivals, such as the Netgear Orbi or Linksys Velop, but should still be more than adequate for people who just want to browse the web and stream Stranger Things on Netflix.

Tenda Nova MW3 review

There’s not much in the way of extras, either. The MW3 can’t even stretch to Gigabit Ethernet, with just a pair of 10/100 Ethernet ports on each router/node. If you’re lucky enough to have fibre broadband running at gigabit speeds then you might benefit from a more expensive mesh system, but the MW3 is perfectly capable of handling the sluggish BT broadband available here in the rural wasteland known as ‘East London’.

You should also remember that – like most mesh devices – the MW3 doesn’t include a modem, so one of those Ethernet ports will be needed in order to connect the first router (the ‘primary node’) to your existing broadband modem or router. There’s no USB port for connecting and sharing a printer or USB hard drive either, although that’s an acceptable compromise given the extremely low price of the MW3.

App & usability

The MW3 might be inexpensive compared to rivals, but Tenda gets all the basics right. The Tenda Wifi app guides you through the installation process for the first router (the primary node), and then prompts you to change the default name and password for the new network in order to tighten up security.

Setting up other routers – secondary nodes – is even more straightforward, as you simply plug them into mains power and the app automatically detects them for you and connects them to the primary node.

The app also provides some useful options, such as the ability to create a guest network, or set up parental controls that restrict Internet access for certain devices at specific times.

Tenda Nova MW3 review

Tenda pays good attention to detail too, with options such as the ability to set a time-limit on your guest network – it can run all the time if required, or you can set it to shut down after four or eight hours. It even has a ‘bridge’ option, which allows devices – such as a NAS drive that I have connected to my old BT router – to be shared on the new MW3 network as well.

The only drawback here is that bridge mode disables some other features – including the guest network – but we’ve seen that limitation on more expensive mesh devices as well.

Performance

With its primary node connected to my old BT router, the MW3 network managed an average speed of around 360Mb/s when connecting to nearby devices in the same room. That’s slower than the 420Mb/s we recorded with the original MW6, but it’s great for general day-to-day internet use, and hard to fault at this price.

And, of course, mesh Wi-Fi systems aren’t only about speed, as their primary aim is to extend the reach and reliability of your wifi network. So the real test was to see how it coped in my back office – where the signal from the BT router is so erratic that I normally rely on a powerline adapter to provide an Ethernet connection for my office computer.

I was pleased to see that the MW3 managed to hit the same consistent speed of 100Mb/s in the office as the more expensive MW6. And, given that the MW3 network covers a wider area and more devices than my powerline adapters, it’s certainly a cost-effective alternative which delivers faster speeds at distance than you can usually expect from powerline tech.

Tenda Nova MW3: Specs

  • Mesh Wi-Fi networking kit
  • Available with either two or three routers (nodes)
  • Interfaces (per router): 2x 10/100 Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi: dual-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5.0GHz)
  • Dimensions (each router): 90x90x90mm, 0.2kg
  • Mesh Wi-Fi networking kit
  • Available with either two or three routers (nodes)
  • Interfaces (per router): 2x 10/100 Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi: dual-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5.0GHz)
  • Dimensions (each router): 90x90x90mm, 0.2kg