What is the difference between a Wi-Fi range extender and a Mesh Network?

February 2nd, 2022
wifi mesh vs extender

Fluctuating Wi-Fi signals are never fun to deal with and it can be frustrating when your router is unable to provide proper coverage to all parts of your home. In a time when a lot of people are working or studying from home, slow internet isn’t something you cannot afford to experience.

One way to improve the Wi-Fi signal strength in your home is to install either a Wi-Fi range extender or a Wi-Fi mesh system.

What is a Wi-Fi extender or booster?

A Wi-Fi extender is a simple device that boosts your Wi-Fi signal by connecting to your home Wi-Fi network and then rebroadcasting it on another Wi-Fi network. For example, you may have your Wi-Fi router installed downstairs in your house and then use a Wi-Fi extender to improve the Wi-Fi signal in the upstairs area of your house.

One of the disadvantages of a Wi-Fi extender is that it will create a separate Wi-Fi network so in the example above you will have a separate network for downstairs and upstairs which means that you will need to connect to a different network when you move between levels.

What is a Wi-Fi Mesh Network?

Mesh Wi-Fi uses multiple devices or nodes placed around your home to create one large seamless Wi-Fi network. The nodes usually talk to each other and optimise the way they broadcast their signal to give you the highest quality of Wi-Fi in your house.

One Mesh Wi-Fi device usually plugs into the ethernet port of your router and broadcasts the new mesh Wi-Fi to the other nodes. Depending on how large your house is you may need 2 or 3 nodes in total.

Continuing the example I used above, you may place one node downstairs and one upstairs and you will get one continuous Wi-Fi network in your house.

Wi-Fi extender vs Wi-Fi Mesh – Which one should I choose?

The advantages and disadvantages of Wi-Fi extenders and Mesh are summarised below:

Wi-Fi extenders

AdvantagesDisadvantages
AffordableCreates different wifi networks in your house
Simple solutionCan be difficult to configure
 Can’t be extended further

Wi-Fi Mesh

AdvantagesDisadvantages
One large Wifi network for your homeMore expensive than extenders
Automatically optimises and connects you to the closest nodeAdds more devices near your router
It still works even if one node fails 
Nodes can be moved 
More nodes can be added to increase Wi-Fi coverage 
Easy to setup 
Can add features to your Wi-Fi like child locks etc 

My personal experience

I have used both Wi-Fi extenders and Mesh Wi-Fi in the past and have found that mesh systems are more reliable and provide a more robust wireless connection than extenders do.

At the start of Covid when I was forced to work from home, I had to relocate my computer desk and found that there was Wi-Fi dead spot right where I was trying to work. I quickly became frustrated with dropouts and slow video conferencing and purchased a Mesh Wi-Fi system. I live in a small 2 story townhouse and 2 mesh devices was enough to boost my Wi-Fi signal to all corners of my house. It totally fixed my Wi-Fi issues and turned out to be a great purchase and worth every cent.

Conclusion

Understanding the differences between a Wi-Fi range extender and a mesh system can help you decide on the best system for your house. Both can perform well in certain situations.

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