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Wi-Fi technology has improved greatly in recent years, but it’s not one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to businesses. Large office spaces with heavy traffic typically utilize Wi-Fi access points, while small offices with limited users are more likely to have Wi-Fi routers and range extenders. Let’s take a look at how their features compare to find the best Wi-Fi solution for you. Access point also known as wireless access point (WAP), range extender or AP that connects directly to a wired local area network mostly ethernet that allows a Wi-Fi device to connect to a wired network. In general cases it connects to a router either as single device or an integral component of the router called access point router. It basically spread the network for the connectivity of multiple wireless devices.

Wireless repeaters/extenders are a great quick-fix solution to a lot of smaller households with low WIFI usage/devices but, considering the loss of performance and potential speed drops and network loss, the Wireless Access Points are the go to if you have the ability to route cables and willing to spend a little more. With the Wireless Access Points being able to outperform the wireless repeaters in many ways, especially if you want to watch Netflix or use it for gaming, or even just watching your smart TV in the shed, due to the very minimal loss of performance and receiving maximum speed. Also, being able to have a single wireless name across the entire wireless range allows for a more clean and user friendly environment.

  • What is an Access Point?

An access point is a device that creates a wireless local area network, or WLAN, usually in an office or large building. An access point connects to a wired router, switch, or hub via an Ethernet cable, and projects a Wi-Fi signal to a designated area. For example, if you want to enable Wi-Fi access in your company's reception area but don’t have a router within range, you can install an access point near the front desk and run an Ethernet cable through the ceiling back to the server room.

  • What is a Range Extender?

As its name implies, a range extender lengthens the reach of an existing Wi-Fi network. Since range extenders connect wirelessly to Wi-Fi routers, they must be placed where the Wi-Fi router's signal is already strong, not in the location of the actual dead spot. For instance, if your router is in the basement of a two-story building, installing a range extenderon the ground floor (where coverage from the Wi-Fi router is still strong) will eliminate potential dead zones on the second floor.

  • What is a Wi-Fi repeater?

A Wi-Fi repeater, extender, or booster is a device that forwards wireless signals from the router to cover a larger area, such as multiple floors of a house. The repeater creates a new network based on signals from the originating network, and the clients that connect to the repeater are thus on a separate network. If you have more than one repeater, each repeater adds its own network.

A repeater does not have router or modem functionality, nor can it function as a standalone wireless access point; it relies on getting wireless signals from another access point that it can pass on (repeat). Wi-Fi repeaters comes in many models and configurations – we strongly discourage the use of repeaters because the vast majority of them are cumbersome to use, and because they use capacity (airtime) from the wireless router.

  • What Is a Mesh Network?

A mesh network is a wireless network made up of multiple access points that distribute wireless signals throughout the home and balance the traffic load between themselves. The user connects with a single SSID and password and the mesh network determines which access point will provide the best coverage for which clients at any given time. Most enterprise and other professional Wi-Fi solutions are based on mesh technology, but it is also becoming increasingly common in the home. Here at Eye Networks we sell Zyxel mesh solutions, other examples include Airties Wi-Fi, Eero, and Google Wi-Fi.

Mesh access points are not repeaters, and they usually do not contain router or modem functionality; they are dedicated and specialized wireless devices. A mesh network can be made up exclusively of such dedicated access points, or the router's built-in access point can be included as a node in the mesh network; this will vary between the different solutions.

The Difference between Wireless Access Points and Wireless Repeaters:
WiFi access points (WAPs), and extenders/repeaters (sometimes also known as boosters) are often confused. This is partly due to the fact that some devices can be placed in different modes allowing them to do several things, including extending/boosting a WiFi signal, as well as act as an Access Point depending on network requirements.

  • Wireless Access Points (WAP)

A Wireless Access Point device attaches to your router (or a switch) with an Ethernet cable, and transmits/receives its own signal via in-built radios. WiFi devices (clients) such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops etc. can connect up directly to it (as a hotspot), and depending on the size of the premises or area needing coverage several WAPs may be required, but can work simultaneously allowing a seamless wireless network (Single Wireless name – SSID). Clients can usually roam between each access point, for example inside an exhibition hall, as if they are connected to a single network, minimizing drop outs, non-connectivity and loss of performance. Wireless Access Points however, do have a disadvantage as these need to be hardwired into the router using a network cable (e.g. RJ45 Cat5 cable) and may need a Power over Ethernet (POE) Injector/switch to power them in cases where power isn’t easily accessible or, a power socket near the device to allow use of the supplied mains cable, which can be more expensive.

  • Range Extender/Repeater/Booster:

A repeater/extender is very similar to an access point but its job is to simply expand existing router signal coverage over a larger area by using a separate wireless name (SSID). Therefore, creating two networks i.e. Router wireless name (NETGEAR) and the extender Wireless name (NETGEAR_EXT). This is ok in certain situations, particularly for home users with few existing WiFi devices, and with no desire to route cabling around their home. The downside to a repeater/extender however, is the fact it has to talk in two directions, i.e. take the router signal, and then throw it out for client devices to pick up. This effectively halves any available signal at the client end, meaning you could see up to 50% loss of performance and speed. For example you may have a download speed of 20mbps next to your router but as you go to the extended signal room you may have only 10mbps, so each repeater/extender needs careful placement in order to maximise WiFi reception and speeds. Also placing your repeater/extender too far away from your router may cause it to lose signal intermittently, causing loss of network and/or internet connectivity. Unfortunately, the user does not see this as the repeater is still providing a wireless signal but without internet/network. Also, with the two wireless network names, it has been known for wireless devices to keep dropping out as it tries to select the best performing network.