As we’re all spending lots of time at home, we’re bound to notice when our Wi-Fi is not doing its job. With your television, computer, phone, and tablet all using your home Wi-Fi, the network can start to fail you. What do you do to fix that? We will tell you all about it in the battle of the access point vs the extender.
What Is an Access Point?
A wireless access point, or simply an access point, is a piece of hardware that enables Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. In other words, an access point can create a wireless network. The device is most often used in offices or other large buildings.
The way it works is quite simple. The access point connects to a wired router through an Ethernet cable and projects Wi-Fi in the chosen area. If you want to extend your Wi-Fi connection to another room but don’t have a router there, you can install an access point and connect it to the router through an Ethernet cable.
The device can handle over 60 connections at the same time. Installing multiple access points throughout the whole building allows you to maintain a Wi-Fi connection with no disruptions.
What Is a Range Extender?
As you spend more time at home, you might begin to realize that your Wi-Fi connection is excellent in some places and poor in others. With a heavy load of Netflix, work documents, and gaming, you might not get a strong Wi-Fi signal in all corners of your house.
That’s where a range extender, otherwise known as a wireless repeater, can come in handy. The device takes the signal from your existing Wi-Fi router and creates a second network that you can connect to. The network is rebroadcasted in a different wireless channel.
The problem with range extenders is location. The extender needs to get sufficient signal strength from your Wi-Fi in order to rebroadcast it elsewhere. If it doesn’t get it, it just won’t work.
Differences Between an Access Point and a Range Extender
Access points and range extenders are quite different, though they fall in the same category of devices. Both can boost your Wi-Fi network. Well, kind of. Here are some differences between an access point and a range extender.
- Access points are used for larger spaces, like offices. Range extenders, on the other hand, are meant for smaller spaces. If you’re looking to expand your Wi-Fi network at home, opt for a range extender.
- An access point allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. In other words, it serves as a central hub for Wi-Fi devices. Range extenders work in a way that extends the coverage area of your existing Wi-Fi network.
- An access point has the power to increase the network coverage in its designated area by 100%. A range extender is less effective, offering only about a 50% network coverage increase.
- Range extenders are a more cost-efficient option for individuals.
Difference Between a Repeater and an Extender
What’s the difference between a Wi-Fi repeater and Wi-Fi extender? The terms are often used interchangeably, as the two devices have the same purpose – to extend your Wi-Fi network coverage. However, the ways they go about doing that are quite different. Here are some main differences between the two.
- A repeater connects to an existing network and simply rebroadcasts it, thus increasing the Wi-Fi network coverage area in your home.
- An extender connects to your Wi-Fi network using a wire and shares the network in another area of your home.
- Repeaters are usually a more budget-friendly option than extenders.
- Repeaters are easier to set up and use, though extenders are not difficult to work with either.
Advantages of an Access Point
If you decide to invest in an access point to support your network, there are several advantages to it that you should know about. Here are some of them:
- An access point can support hundreds of users at a time. Imagine hundreds of users in a large office trying to connect to a single network. With an access point in place, they will have no problem doing that.
- An access point can cover distances of hundreds of meters. Its coverage is larger than that of an average wireless router.
- An access point is more flexible than an average wireless router when it comes to networking. It can support different wireless devices and networking patterns. That makes it great for busy locations like offices.
Disadvantages of an Access Point
However, installing an access point is not the correct solution for all situations. In fact, access points have their own disadvantages. Here are some things you should pay attention to before investing in an access point for your space:
- If your enterprise needs a large number of access points, the overall cost can get quite high. Many companies choose to forego this option because of cutting costs, and settle for a less efficient connection at a lower price.
- An access point is a package deal that comes with other parts. In other words, you cannot use an access point on its own. It needs to be complemented with other equipment, like an Ethernet hub.
- Wireless networks are generally not as fast and stable as cable networks.
Advantages of a Range Extender
Though range extenders are often marketed as an alternative to access points, the two are actually quite different. Here are some advantages of range extenders:
- Range extenders are meant for individuals rather than large corporations. As a result, they form a significantly more cost-efficient option. If you’re on a budget, we recommend you opt for a range extender.
- Range extenders offer a very easy setup. You won’t need to spend a long time on the installation. Most feature a plug-and-play functionality, meaning you just need to plug it in. A range extender is also easy to work with.
- A range extender offers great coverage and strengthens your Wi-Fi signal. Though it’s not as strong as an access point, it will still be a significant improvement for your home.
Disadvantages of a Range Extender
Wireless range extenders are great for homes and other small spaces, but they are not intended for commercial use. Therefore, it is not recommended to use them in large spaces, like offices. Here are some drawbacks of range extenders:
- As it is less effective than an access point, a range extender only offers an about 50% increase in the network coverage area, as opposed to 100% provided by an access point.
- With a range extender, you can expect more wireless interference provided by other networks.
- Using a range extender opens you up to attacks. While the original network should be secure, the new network the range extender creates has no guarantee of security. That may result in a cyber attack.
PoE stands for Power over Ethernet. PoE technology is used for devices that tend to be mounted high up or away from power sockets, like wireless repeaters and security cameras. PoE technology removes the need to install new power sockets or run additional cables to reach the device that needs to be powered. Instead, the power is run through Ethernet.
PoE technology is not suitable for all devices on the market. In fact, it can be quite dangerous if not used correctly. The technology requires careful installation for the best result.
A PoE switch allows you to power devices through an Ethernet cable. IP cameras, video phones, TVs, and laptops can all be powered by a PoE switch. Some devices use lower voltage, while others require higher voltage.
Access Point vs Extender – The Verdict
If you are looking for a device that will improve your home wireless network, we recommend you reach for a range extender. An access point, on the other hand, is a suitable solution for an office.
I have a tp-link AC2600 MU-MIMO WI-FI Range extender,
If I plug this in via ethernet to my ISP router to use as AP will it turn off my ISP routers WI-FI. What I’m trying to do is connect another extender which is at the back of a very long garden to this tp-link as my ISP router is at the front of the house. (tp-link in a conservatory)
(Front of house)
Distance roughly 20-25ft
Tp-link via ethernat
Distance roughly 30-40ft
Netgear WiFi extender
Needs connecting to tp-link without compromising ISP router WI-FI
I appreciate your attempt to explain this, but you skipped the heart of the matter: What makes one thing an access point and another thing an extender? You talk about pros and cons, but you never say what is/are the essential intrinsic difference(s) that make one device an extender and another device an access point, and that is what I need to know. I have a $39 device from Netgear which is a mesh wi-fi extender, with a switch on the side that says “access point” for one position and “extender” for the other. I am using it in access-point mode and this picks up the wi-fi signal from the router and rebroadcasts it under the same network name and password, just stronger. That’s great. It also has an ethernet socket on it. Is this an input or an output? Or perhaps both? Or perhaps either, depending on the position of that switch? Where I have it plugged in, it is inches away from an ethernet port. Could it get its signal from the router by ethernet instead of by wi-fi and perhaps be faster and better? The instructions don’t say. What does moving that switch do? The instructions don’t say. But if I knew the essential distinguishing functional difference between the two words, the characteristic of a device that makes it fit one definition and not the other and vice versa, perhaps I could figure it out. I presume you know what characteristics make a devicce fall under one rubric or the other; it would be good to share that with the reader before delving into the finer points you discuss.
If you were to connect it to that Ethernet port and flip the switch to AP then you would be getting 100% of the signal (through the Ethernet) to the AP. As you have it connected right now you are only transferring the signal that it is receiving, which depending on its location could be well below 100%. I would search Netgear for the manual for that device because you would want to configure it so the SSID names are the same on AP as the main router.