A single computer connecting to the Internet in your house, forever under threat of being disconnected by a single phone call, always a little too slow to just fully fulfill your fantasies; a scary memory, but one of a long-gone past era.
Today, the modern world is run on routers, allowing multiple devices to connect to the Internet with ease, simplicity, and security.
Better yet, a relatively new solution to home networking seeks to resolve the snafus involved with the high-speed world of Wi-Fi, allowing for full and unhindered connectivity in every square inch of your home or office.
That solution is, of course, Mesh Wi-Fi, something which promises to outdo even the best Wi-Fi routers out there.
This article will not only explain how “traditional” routers work, but what makes a Wi-Fi mesh network so desirable, and who comes out on top in a Wi-Fi Mesh Network VS. Router debate.
How Routers Work: A Quick Primer
Most of us might know that the World Wide Web allows us to connect to the Internet via our respective ISPs (Internet Service Provider).
A modem connects to the ISP, demodulates the signal and takes it to a router, enabling it with access to the Internet, for which it then manages and maintains a local area network (or even a WAN) to allow any number of devices to quickly and easily connect to the Internet.
Routers also allow for firewall security, Ethernet switching, creating network access points and collision and broadcast domains to reduce blockage and clutter in network traffic, as well as many other settings which can be tinkered with by a user who knows what they’re doing, making for distinctions between budget routers and routers best geared for gaming, for example.
Essentially, the router takes the network traffic from the modem and sends and receives it (or routes it) through Wi-Fi signals via 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, automatically choosing the ideal channel for these (naturally, the one with the least interference) out of 14 for the 2.4GHz band and 20 for the 5GHz one. (Manually changing these bands might help with speeds in some cases, but like we said in the last paragraph, only for a seasoned user that knows what they’re doing.)
Newer models of routers use Wi-Fi 6, which is a step up for the 802.11.ac standard known as Wi-Fi 5, which has recently been updated to accommodate a fourth incoming/outgoing stream – which, unfortunately, is still only for some sort of professional or gamer, since the average person needing Wi-Fi on their smartphones will find that their phone can mostly only support up to a maximum of 2×2 incoming/outgoing streams.
Wi-Fi Mesh vs. Router: What’s Better?
With our understanding of Wi-Fi routers, let us now understand what a Wi-Fi mesh is in the context of a mesh Wi-Fi vs. Router comparison.
Something you might have noticed – even without the help of our article – is that a Wi-Fi router, strong and sturdy as it is, acts like any other old-age antenna, tower, or maybe even an actual person standing in a corner and speaking: your reception of the signals gets weaker the more you move away from the source!
Wi-Fi mesh networks relieve you of the pressure of having to stay sitting in one spot where “the Internet is good” or even having to stand up on a couch so that your WhatsApp call doesn’t drop (as well as a seemingly infinite number of other combinations of scenarios).
They achieve this primarily by a carefully constructed mesh network that is carefully optimized to not only make sure the Internet is received with uniform speeds and availability throughout a place but also to utilize the relative merits of both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the former being able to penetrate objects and walls, but the latter being able to penetrate distances better, meaning its faster and less congested.
Wi-Fi mesh networking is already better than using extenders with your Wi-Fi router since the signal emanating from an extender is a replication of an original already-weak signal. Mesh Wi-Fi network kits utilize identical units, with one playing the role of the router which routes traffic to the other nodes which are wirelessly connected; hence a mesh of coverage is created through the use of a blanket of multiple units.
Wi-Fi mesh networks trump routers in the department of seamless connectivity in more ways than one, with the appropriate bands being decided by the kit as well, as well as fast routing between the nodes, meaning no worries on the user-end for where the connection’s coming from.
However, a final word of caution: these mesh networks are still considered pretty high-end, meaning that they’re long-term investments, and you might be tempted to throw it all away each time there’s an upgrade requiring you to spend more money!