WiFi extenders vs mesh networks [pros and cons]
Looking to upgrade your home WiFi network, but not sure how to choose from the plethora of WiFi signal strength boosting options out there? We understand and have therefore created a Part 2 to our blog on the WiFi boosters. Today in Part 2, we take it a step further by comparing WiFi extenders (a type of WiFi booster) to mesh networks (a home WiFi system). What are the pros and cons of each option and which one does your home WiFi network need?
WiFi extenders and mesh networks: What's the difference?
WiFi extenders rebroadcast your WiFi signal
A WiFi extender is a type of WiFi booster, which is a device that rebroadcasts your WiFi signal to another area of your home, thus extending your WiFi signal range. These devices can connect to your existing router— via Ethernet or WiFi— and create a separate network for your wireless devices to use for the stronger WiFi signal.
- Ability to select a better channel: If the WiFi extender has two radios, one radio can be used to connect with the Root, the other radio can be configured on a channel different from that of Root— avoiding interfering channels.
- Effectively eliminates WiFi dead zones and offers fast Internet speeds
- One of the less expensive network upgrade options
- Requires that you manually switch your device over to the new network
- May experience compatibility issues with certain routers
- Not ideal for large homes with many floors
- Difficult to configure, and if there a multiple, they need to be configured individually
Mesh networks amplify your WiFi signal
A mesh network is a home WiFi system, typically including several routers that are spread out throughout your home, acting as individual nodes. Each node communicates with one another to amplify your home's WiFi signal and to extend its WiFi coverage. This multi-node setup replaces your existing wireless network.
- Creates a single, big WiFi network for all your devices to connect to
- Easy to configure (usually remotely via a mobile app) and all changes can be applied to all nodes within the network in real-time
- Self-organizes when a node is removed so as to not interrupt the network's performance
- Offers redundancy that allows for a 100% stable connection and no downtime due to node failure
- One of the more expensive network upgrade options
- Requires the use of multiple devices throughout your home
- Replaces your existing network, making your existing router unnecessary
- Can become excessive and costly for smaller homes where such a large-scale solution isn't needed
Why would I choose a WiFi extender over a mesh network, and vice versa?
Now that you know the pros and cons of each option, let's discuss how you can choose the right one for your home. When deciding between the two options, its important to note that both have the same goal: To extend your WiFi coverage, thus eliminating your home's WiFi dead zones.
To choose the right option for your home, consider the following three points:
- The location(s) where your home has a weak WiFi signal— If you have a smaller home where you sometimes run into trouble with the WiFi dropping in certain rooms, adding a WiFi extender to your network may be enough to do the trick. However, if you find that the WiFi signal is simply not reaching various parts of your house at all since it is larger in size, upgrading to a mesh network will likely be the better option.
- The usability of the new device(s)— There's no denying that mesh networks are simpler to install and manage long-term. Additionally, the nodes in a mesh network all operate as one single network, meaning you won't have to worry about switching to certain SSIDs throughout your home. WiFi extenders do require more upfront time to configure and setup, but aren't replacing your existing network so you can keep your existing router.
- The price you are willing to pay for a network upgrade—This last point may very well be the deciding factor. On average, mesh networks can cost as much as $300, whereas a good WiFi extender can cost as little as $50. The reason for this discrepancy is the simple fact that WiFi extenders are simply an add-on to your existing network setup whereas mesh networks are an entirely new network setup that require multiple new devices to be placed around your home.
Amazon search for "WiFi extender" yields 955 results on Cyber Monday 2018.
Before you decide whether to purchase a WiFi extender or mesh network system, you can try improving our WiFi signal on your own. For example, try moving your router to a more central location in your home, changing your router's WiFi channel to a less congested channel, and if your router is dual-band, you can try switching the WiFi frequency bands to which your devices are connecting. Of course, if you try these alternative solutions and still experience WiFi signal strength problems, we hope this blog helps you take the next step!
This blog is part of our WiFi 101 Series, which also includes:
- WiFi channels explained
- WiFi signal strength: how it works and how it can be improved
- WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders: What's the difference?
- How do I interpret my WiFi speed test results?
- WiFi frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
- WiFi channels explained: What is WiFi channel width?