The advent of wi-fi has both solved age-old problems and brought with it some of its own.
Here’s one you might recognize: you paid for the best Wi-Fi router and most appropriate Wi-Fi plan, carefully weighing your options. You set it up in a good part of the house.
However, you slowly notice signs that something’s amiss.
You find that Netflix always lags when you’re binge-watching at night. The music starts buffering when you’re playing your shower playlist. You haven’t sent a good Snap in a week because the place with the best lighting is the one with the worst signals.
A Fix for Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength
Modern problems, of course, require modern solutions.
To remedy limited and restricted Wi-Fi coverage in your home or place of work, both mesh network devices (such as Google Wifi) and Wi-Fi repeaters or wireless extenders can be used. They work a little different but provide similar functionality.
However, what side should you pick in the mesh network VS Wi-Fi extender debate? This is what we’re here to help you out with.
We’ll weigh the pros and cons, and help you decide what’s more appropriate for your needs.
Wi-Fi Extender VS Mesh Network: How Do They Work?
Wi-Fi extender (or range extender) is often compared to a mesh network, either way, both help you be as mobile as Wi-Fi intended man to be instead of having to stay stuck to one place in one room with the most signals.
A Wi-Fi range extender works by first receiving an existing Wi-Fi signal (from a router) and then amplifying and transmitting it ‘forward’. The boosted signal is re-broadcasted to a different area of your choosing that might otherwise have had low signal reception.
Mesh networks, on the other hand, directly connect different devices on a network with each other, forgoing the use of a router or switch at the center. The signal ‘hops’ from each device to the next, using each one as a node to hitch themselves a ride to wherever they’re needed.
As previously mentioned, both can be used to populate your house with freshly-caught Wi-Fi signals for each and any number of devices.
However, the differences – in cost, usage, complexity, distance, and signal strength – are slightly too significant to consider them interchangeable.
Mesh Networks VS Extender
In these days, everything is digital. The smallest family can have at least two smartphones, a laptop, a smart TV, tablets, Alexa, gaming systems and consoles, Netflix, or maybe even smart bulbs, smart refrigerators, and smart plug sockets.
In such a situation, the higher-paying option might be the more cost-effective one, given the massive uptick in benefit for the small rise in price.
More reliability is key here.
As such, even the best Wi-Fi extender can have issues with ‘gaps’ and blind spots, especially when the access point responsible for the original signal faces issues, or goes down.
In contrast, mesh networks do not rely on anything central or singular to do what they do, meaning there’s no possibility of a missing link in the system. On average, three simple nodes can cover nearly 5000 square feet.
Extenders VS Mesh
If you’re living in a small space, such as in an apartment, and only face low signals in a specific area, a single Wi-Fi extender can be placed strategically to fix the problem for much cheaper than a mesh network would do it.
The price difference is nothing to be scoffed at, either – in many cases, the difference is nearly upwards of 300 dollars.
Wi-Fi range extenders are also easier to set up. They’re usually touch-and-go, with a single press of a button being all you need to do. The extender does the complicated programming itself.
To expand on the programming point, the very point of both mesh networks and Wi-Fi extenders are simplicity. Otherwise, technically-minded people might throw out suggestions such as utilizing a Multimedia over Coax (MoCA) Wireless Network Extender, some knowledge of Ethernet (and having an Ethernet port) and then connecting a standard AP.
Or you could make things simple and get something like either the D-Link DAP-1650 or TP-Link AC1750.
Deciding Between the Extender and the Mesh
Since both range extenders and mesh networks are life-simplifying technologies. As such, the only way to decide between what to purchase might be to be aware of the possible downsides you can bear.
The Cons: Wi-Fi Extender
Two problems: gaps, and speed loss.
Since Wi-Fi range extenders work by retransmitting a signal, they might not always boost them satisfactorily. This leads to a loss in speed.
It’s also the same signal that’s being sent down the line, meaning each next device can get it at a loss and add more strain to the network with more devices. Mesh networks, on the other hand, essentially generate their own signals.
As previously discussed, Wi-Fi extenders do not add to a network’s resilience like a mesh network does. Mesh networks are also more resilient than any standard hub network.
The Cons: Mesh Network
Right off the bat, let’s not consider the cost a ‘con’ or a downside, owing to the increased connectivity and better reliability.
However, mesh networks do not scale as well as a setup of Wi-Fi extenders. More devices can simply be added to the latter, meaning it’s a cheap solution for large distances.
Mesh networks are also slightly more complicated, requiring some time, work, and routine maintenance, especially with adding new devices to the whole network.
Mesh networks are fast, and, with something such as Google WiFi, easier than ever before to get up and going and scale with time (even though we just said they’re traditionally difficult – this is something that is actively being improved in the industry).
They’re also small, more reliable, make for a luxurious and comfortable experience instead of a technical conundrum, as well as ensuring easier connectivity for all devices.
Wi-Fi extenders, on the other hand, are much cheaper, super-easy to set up, and can be added to an already up-and-running system.
Our opinion? Think of mesh network as a long-term investment for the future, for bigger and better things, and Wi-Fi extenders as a quick fix for a small-area or short-term problem.