Wi-Fi Extender vs Access Point: Is a WAP or a Range Extender Best for You?

Distinguishing between Wi-Fi extenders and wireless access points (WAPs) will make your choice easier if you are unsure which network device is the best fit for you. Networking devices can be confusing to most people, even those with a basic understanding of how networks work. Many of them are very similar, after all, and unless you dig deeper, many seem very similar in purpose.

Fortunately, although both of these devices are intended to cover areas beyond the reach of the main router, there are clear differences between a wifi extender (also called range extenders) and a wireless access point. Before going into details, let’s define each device first.

A range extender, as the name suggests, extends the range of your routerthe signal. It does this by duplicating it and then rebroadcasting it, effectively extending your network coverage to dead spots in your space. Often – but not always – a Wi-Fi extender creates a new network name to do this.

An access point, on the other hand, extends the signal range of your router by creating its own wireless local area network (WLAN). This not only allows it to extend its coverage, but also to offer a robust network in its coverage area.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the details to help you better understand these devices.

Wi-Fi Extenders vs Access Points: Cost

  • Both network devices are at a very similar price range
  • Budget extenders and access points cost less than $100/£100
  • Expensive options can cost upwards of $300/£300

Wi-Fi repeaters and access points have a similar cost. Simply put, there are Wi-FI extenders and hotspots that cost under $100/£100, and there are options over $300/£300 as well. Price wouldn’t be a factor in your decision to go with one over the other anyway, as these two types of devices are aimed at different network issues.

If you have your mind set on a Wi-Fi extender, you can enjoy Wi-Fi 6 connectivity with the affordable price. TP-Link RE605X WiFi 6 or more advanced features like seamless roaming with a more expensive option like the Netgear Nighthawk X6S.

If you’ve opted for an access point, on the other hand, you’ll find a great budget one with the TP-Link TL-WA1201, which comes with MU-MIMO technology. Meanwhile, the Zyxel Nebula WiFi 6 is a more robust premium option that supports six simultaneous streams, four of which exceed 5 GHz.

Winner: Tie

Wi-Fi extenders vs access points: configuration

  • Wi-Fi extenders connect wirelessly to your router
  • Access points require an Ethernet connection

A big difference that separates a range extender from an access point is how they connect to the main router. A Wi-Fi repeater connects wirelessly to your existing router to extend its range. Setting one up is easy, especially since most come with an app that walks you through the process. You just have to make sure you find a strategic spot to make sure it completely covers that dead spot.

Meanwhile, an access point usually uses a wired connection. It connects to a router via an Ethernet cable (or switch) for a stronger signal and then transmits it wirelessly within its coverage area. This means you need to strategize its location so that the Ethernet cable can reach both the router and the access point while running neatly along your walls, and so that, at the same time, you can maximize its cover. Depending on your setup, you may even need to run this cable through the ceiling.

However, once you’ve taken care of the cable and its location, setting up the access point itself is usually easy. Some of them take less than 10 minutes of your time to get up and running.

Winner: Wi-Fi Extensions

Wi-Fi Extenders vs Access Points: Performance

  • Wi-Fi extension degrades network quality
  • An access point acts as a central transmitter

A Wi-Fi repeater acts as a bridge between your router and devices that are out of range, simply rebroadcasting your router’s signal beyond its range. An access point not only acts as a bridge; it takes the signal from your router via an Ethernet connection, creates its own wireless local area network (WLAN) and acts as a central transmitter in its coverage area.

This allows an access point to provide faster and more robust network performance than a range extender. Wi-Fi repeaters may have evolved from their humble beginnings, but many of them still only provide a percentage of the quality of that network. However, access points tend to offer the same performance as the main router.

Additionally, even the best Wi-Fi extenders are limited to the number of devices they can support, typically up to 20 simultaneous connections. Hotspots aren’t as limited, with many supporting up to 60 devices at the same time.

Winner: Access Points

Wi-Fi Extenders vs Access Points: Which is Right for You?

While it is true that an access point is a much more reliable and solid solution for covering dead spots and areas without coverage in your home or office, it will not always be the best solution. Especially since there’s a bit more physical setup involved, it might not be worth it if you’re only trying to cover a small space or low-traffic area.

In such situations, a range extender should serve you well – although if you live in a large house or have a medium-sized office space, you may want to consider the benefits of Wi-Fi extenders vs mesh routersbecause it might be time to upgrade to a mesh router instead.

If you have a larger area that is not in range of your network and it is a high traffic area meaning it serves more than 20 devices at any given time, like a hotel lobby or the reception area of ​​an office building – it is best to invest in a wireless access point.

About Ferdinand Caldwell

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