Mesh Networks vs WiFi Range Extenders – What’s the Difference? Pros and Cons!

You might have experienced challenges connecting to your WiFi signal while at a particular spot in your house or building. At times you cannot connect at all. And while your device manages to connect, you can barely experience any traffic. Take, for example, the router is placed in the living room and want to surf at the comfort of your bed, high chance is that you won’t be able to connect at all due to range limitation and interference.

With an increase in distance for transmission, comes the destruction of signal strength usually know as attenuation. This problem is common in both wired and wireless networks. This effect happens naturally but can be amplified by interference from electromagnetic waves or just other radio signals. Physical barriers are a common source of interference as well especially concrete walls. Frequency interference may arise from household appliances such as other wireless devices, microwaves, Wifi phones, and even neighbor’s Wifi network. At times motor spinning inside the fridge can cause interference with the Wifi signal. Basically, frequency signals at the same spectrum as that of your Wifi can cause interference and subsequent signal loss.

To combat range limitation and interference, the answer would be to use stronger signals. That being said, we will take a look at Mesh networks and Wifi Range Extenders for you to make an informed decision for your slow connections.

What’s the Difference Between Mesh Networks and WiFi Range Extenders?

A Mesh Network is a Wifi network setup consisting of a number of nodes spread throughout the premise. These nodes act as routers except they have a predefined connection logic that enables them to communicate with one another to propagate the Wifi signal. This creates a region with optimum signal coverage.

On the hand, WiFi Range Extender is simply a device that is added to your existing network to amplify low out of range Wifi signals and is then rebroadcasted to cover a wider area. Thus an extra network is added to the existing one.

What’s a Mesh Network and Why You Should Get Yourself a Mesh WiFi?

Mesh Network is one of the most effective ways of providing a solution for problems associated with distance and dead points. As defined in one of our articles, a Mesh network Setup transmits data over a long distance by dividing the area into a series of smaller intervals. Intermediate nodes are then placed between the intervals. These nodes have advanced logic that allows nodes to work hand in hand in the transmission of data from one point to another. Not only does the individual nodes transmit data to their counterparts, but also transmit data to client devices. Basically, nodes can communicate with each other as well as to user devices.

This topology results in a wider signal coverage while significantly maintaining the strength of the signal. When one node fails, the rest of the nodes can still function effectively by switching to an alternative intermediate node. Each node performs routing functionality based on its knowledge of the network by use of IP addresses. Nodes are preprogrammed to give them instructions on how to communicate with each other. Since data may require to traverse through various nodes to reach the desired point, the network has the ability to determine the shortest and most effective route to take in a process called dynamic routing.

In Mesh Networks, only one node is required to be substantially connected to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and the signal will then be shared to the nearest node. Consequently reaching every available node. This setup can span a small office building to even a whole city while still providing strong signals. A Mesh Network is seen as one signal despite having many nodes transmitting. This means that as you move between different nodes, switching from a signal belonging to a particular node to another is done automatically.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Mesh WiFi System?

Pros

  • Switching between signals is done automatically. No need to do it manually when out of range or when moving.
  • Signal strength is significantly maintained even when transmitting over a large area.
  • Can span over very large distances if required
  • The network continues to operate even when one node fails.
  • This setup provides a more stable and reliable connection.
  • A Mesh Network is easy to set up and configure. Many manufacturers have enhanced this convenience by developing a mobile app that allows the user to do the configurations remotely.
  • Intelligent features such as dynamic routing.
  • It is not limited to one protocol or technology.

Cons

  • Expensive to set up.
  • Performance degrades when there is too much motility of nodes. At times communication will break.
  • Requires more devices across the premise, in this case, the nodes.
  • Opting to this solution means replacing your existing router.
  • This solution may not be necessary for a small scale implementation such as a home.

Top Mesh Network Systems You Can Buy Online

Now that we have taken a look at Mesh Network pros and cons, we have compiled a brief list of recommended solutions out there in case you decide to get yourself one.

Note: This is only a brief list. Check our best mesh WiFi guide for a comprehensive list and review of the top products.

  1. NETGEAR Orbi

By employing tri-band technology, this gear is able to maintain internet speed even after more devices join in. It comes with an in-built firewall that projects client devices from data leakage and malware. Has an outstanding 5000 square feet of signal coverage. For a thorough look at this solution, check out our previous article.

  1. GOOGLE WIFI SYSTEM

This genius solution comes with an app that allows you to set it up in a few clicks. The app has a family control feature that lets you pause Wifi connectivity on kid’s devices. A set consisting of three nodes can make coverage of 4500 square feet with individual node making coverage of 1500 square feet. Check a detailed description of our previous article. We have also made an in-depth review of Google Wifi alternative.

  1. LINKSYS VELOP

This solution provides a fast and seamless connection for a large 3-5 bedrooms house whether multi story or not. Uses dual-band connectivity to enhance its speeds. With Linksys, you can connect to any ISP with your modem. Has a network coverage of up to 4500 square feet. Has extra options of having the set alongside a switch or a wall mount. We have made a detailed assessment of the product in our previous article.

  1. TP-LINK Deco

This gear allows 100+ devices to connect to the network without any device having to refresh the connection. TP-Link Deco can cover an area of about 5500 square feet making it ideal for large homes. The set up comes with an app as well allowing you to configure easily. Device prioritization and connection pausing is also possible. Read more about this awesome device in our previous article.

What is a WiFi Range Extender and How Does it Work?

A Wifi Range Extender is a great solution for delivering Wifi signals to the areas where your router cannot. The technology used is similar to the one implemented in radio communication particularly in repeaters. It is actually sometimes known as a wireless repeater. Basically, Range Extender takes the low signals from your router, it is then stepped up and rebroadcasted to client devices that cannot be reached by the router itself.

While capturing signals from the router to the client devices, it also receives data from the various client devices that are out of range and relays it to the router. It is prudent to place the Wifi Range Extender at a strategic spot such that it can reach both the router and the intended client devices. With the Range Extender, you can easily double the area covered by your Wifi signal while still maintaining a relatively decent connection that would otherwise not be better without the extender.

It is essential to note that the signal that will be rebroadcasted from the Range Extender will not be as powerful as the one being relayed from the router. Once a Range Extender is installed, another network is introduced. This means the signal relayed by the range extender is not the same as that relayed by the router. That being said, one has to manually switch between the two networks when one is out of range. Any range extender can be integrated with any router despite the manufacturer although at times issues with software conflict may arise. So it would be advisable to buy a router and range extender form the same manufacturer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a WiFi Range Extender

Pros

  • Can connect to your existing router despite the manufacturer.
  • Increases signal coverage by about two times.
  • Offers a relatively fast connection compared to when using a router only.
  • It is a low-cost option.
  • When placed strategically, it eliminates regions that cannot be reached.

Cons

  • It is troublesome to install and configure.
  • Would not be a good solution for a large scale implementation.
  • Creates and another network besides the parent network.
  • Will require you to perform manual switching between networks even when you are connected to the weaker network.  

 

Top WiFi Range Extenders You Can Buy Online

Let’s look at a few recommendations out there for Wifi Range Extenders.

  1. NETGEAR Wi-Fi Range Extender EX3700

This Wifi range extender allows you to connect to any router and get rid of the so-called ‘dead zones’. For security, Netgear supports WPA/WPA2 and WAP security protocols. This range extender uses dual band technology to enhance speeds of up to 750Mbps. Comes with the analyzer app that helps you figure out an optimal location.

  1. TP-LINK N300 WiFi Range Extender

This is another product from TP-Link that is ideal for a small scale implementation. This is an inexpensive and effective way to get rid of dead zones in a medium sized house. Can connect to any router or wireless access point. Provides fast and reliable connections of up to 300Mbps.

Conclusion

It is evident that Mesh WiFi Networks results in a wide and stronger signal coverage compared to Wifi Range Extenders. Although there comes a time where Range Extenders may become applicable. Make sure you assess scenarios such as distance, load or a likely number of client devices and cost. You may procure a hefty Mesh network of which you will not put into good use.

 

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