If you want to expand your Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home, your best bet is to either add a Wi-Fi extender to your home network or invest in a mesh system. We’ll go over the pros and cons of both so you can decide which is best for you.
What is a Wi-Fi extender?
A Wi-Fi extender is a type of wireless device used to expand the range of your Wi-Fi network by rebroadcasting your Wi-Fi signal from your router throughout your home. It connects to your router through Wi-Fi, then creates a secondary network in your home using the signal from your original network.
Wi-Fi extenders are simple to set up and easy to use – the important part is finding the best area in your home to place the Wi-Fi extender. Your best bet is to identify the areas of your home where your Wi-Fi signal is weaker, like a dead zone, and place your Wi-Fi extender in that area to improve your Wi-Fi signal.
How do Wi-Fi extenders work?
A Wi-Fi extender connects to your existing home network and rebroadcasts that Wi-Fi signal throughout your home in the areas your existing router cannot reach. Most extenders do this by creating a secondary network within your home to which you’ll need to connect when you enter the dead zone within the area the extender is broadcasting.
Wi-Fi extenders are a single access point, so location is key when setting up your extender. It needs to be close enough to your router to rebroadcast the signal but also close enough to the dead zone in your home so that the signal will reach there as well.
Pros and cons of Wi-Fi extenders
Easy to set up: Wi-Fi extenders have a very easy installation process. Just plug it in and you’re good to go.
Budget-friendly: Wi-Fi extenders are quite affordable on their own and don’t involve any extra equipment or installation processes.
Simple solution: Wi-Fi extenders are individual devices that are easy to add to your home network
Separate network: You’ll have to connect to your Wi-Fi extender’s secondary network when you’re in a dead zone.
Performance: A Wi-Fi extender does not reduce your internet speeds from your ISP, but it will likely operate at reduced bandwidth.
Not ideal for larger homes: Since Wi-Fi extenders just extend your existing Wi-Fi signal, they work best for smaller homes with smaller distance between the extender and router.
What is a mesh network?
A mesh network is a Wi-Fi network built of multiple access points (think mini routers) designed to cover your entire home or business with Wi-Fi coverage. Instead of a singular router that broadcasts your Wi-Fi from one location, mesh systems broadcast your Wi-Fi signal from multiple locations throughout your home. This results in far better Wi-Fi coverage than single-router networks.
How does a mesh network work?
Like a normal network, you’ll have a main mesh device that connects to your modem. This is acting as a main router within your home network. This device is supplemented by other mesh devices placed throughout your home that act as additional Wi-Fi access points.
The main mesh device connected to your modem shares its internet connection with the other mesh devices throughout your home, and those mesh devices do the same to those nearby, depending on how many mesh devices you choose to have. When you’re within your home, your device will automatically connect to the closest mesh device.
Pros and cons of mesh networks
Fantastic coverage: Mesh networks are specifically designed to improve Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home and are not hindered by walls or other obstructions.
Speed: Mesh systems can support high-speed internet plans and since they have multiple access points, offer less latency and signal dropping.
Customization: Mesh systems are highly customizable. You can choose to add more mesh devices to your network if you decide you need more coverage.
Expensive: Mesh systems are far more expensive than Wi-Fi extenders and you’ll need to pay for any additional mesh device you decide to add to your network.
Complexity: Since mesh systems involve multiple access points, troubleshooting network issues could prove more difficult.
Wi-Fi extender vs. mesh network: Which one should you use?
If you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to minor Wi-Fi coverage issues, a Wi-Fi extender can be a great addition to your home network. Just remember that it will operate on a reduced bandwidth, so don’t expect blazing-fast speeds. You’ll also need to switch to a secondary network when using an extender, which can be problematic for some.
Overall, a mesh network provides better coverage, speed and reliability than Wi-Fi extenders, but they are significantly more expensive – it all depends on your needs. If you want to upgrade your home network with a focus on coverage, then go with a mesh network. If you want to keep your current network and boost your coverage, then a Wi-Fi extender is a safe bet.
If these options don’t work, check for other internet providers at your address and switch to a plan better fit for your home.
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Written by:Camryn Smith
Camryn Smith is an Associate Writer with Allconnect.com. She specializes in writing about the broadband industry and helping consumers navigate complex internet service purchasing decisions…. Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content