It’s an issue that we’ve all encountered on our WiFi journey: poor coverage in certain areas of our home, or even dreaded “dead spots” where no signal can be found.
Even if you have a relatively small space to cover with your wireless network, standard routers simply aren’t up to the task, whether it’s a structural barrier in your home or the presence of other electronics and appliances with competing signals.
But regardless of why your coverage issues persist, you need a solution.
How can you finally achieve the full range of WiFi coverage you need in your home without worrying about performance problems or dead zones ever again?
In this article, we’re talking about the two most popular ways to improve and extend your WiFi coverage – mesh router systems and WiFi extenders.
Each technology aims to accomplish similar goals but uses slightly different mechanisms and processes to get there. Is there a definitive winner between the two, or is this once again a matter of weighing pros and cons for your specific needs?
Let’s jump right into our exploration of mesh router systems and WiFi extenders to see which one comes out on top.
Forget signal speed and bandwidth for a second – what matters most to everyday WiFi users is coverage!
The ability to visit any corner of your home, front to back and top to bottom, without worrying about lost signals or choppy performance.
That just isn’t the case for many WiFi users, which is why they seek out solutions like mesh router systems and WiFi extenders.
Let’s start by mapping out some definitions and functions for these technologies before we compare them side by side and declare a winner.
A mesh router system is best understood as a “blanket” solution to maximize WiFi coverage in a home, office, or another environment.
This mesh blanket is achieved by setting up one “base” router that broadcasts a strong WiFi signal, then arranging additional satellite units or “nodes” in areas that may not be reached sufficiently by a standalone router.
Mesh router systems are highly configurable and come with many different feature sets, just as you’d find when browsing standard routers on the market.
However, compared to standard routers, mesh routers have several distinct advantages that go beyond just improved coverage.
Better device management, additional security features, and other key performance metrics are some of the benefits of mesh WiFi systems. We’ll explore more of these benefits later in our direct comparisons.
A WiFi extender is a niche technology that serves quite a different function from a standard router or a mesh WiFi system.
Rather than functioning as its own network or a gateway to the internet, a WiFi extender is best defined as an extra component added to an existing network to extend or amplify a signal. Without a network already in place, the extender is rendered useless.
Again, the goal here is to achieve a larger area of signal coverage, but the scenario is slightly different than a mesh network, which is more of a complete overhaul to a WiFi system from the ground up.
A WiFi extender has several advantages that can’t be denied, and we’ll cover them in full as we compare the most important points moving forward.
Before we get to our head-to-head matchup between mesh routers and WiFi extenders, you may be wondering where technologies like boosters and repeaters come into play.
You’ve probably seen these terms before – how do they factor into our conversation?
Admittedly, these niche terms can be confusing because manufacturers often use them interchangeably to describe products with unique features and limitations.
However, it’s more common to see “WiFi booster” as an umbrella term to mean all technologies that either repeat, rebroadcast, amplify, or extend the signal of an existing network. The details of individual products vary widely from there.
For example, a WiFi repeater is a device that creates a brand-new second network that aims to match the quality and performance of the first network.
On the other hand, an extender does not create a new network when implemented but simply rebroadcasts the signal while retaining the signal strength and quality throughout.
Again, every manufacturer does things differently when labeling their booster products, so always do your research and compare individual products directly before reaching a choice.
We’ve learned that WiFi extenders come in many shapes and sizes, with varying functionality as well. Terms can get fuzzy, but we understand the basic principles of these devices.
But what are the real-deal pros and cons of WiFi extenders, and how can you determine whether they are the right solution to expand your WiFi coverage at home?
Keep reading to find out.
It’s hard to argue that WiFi extenders, repeaters, and boosters of all types are remarkably easy to install and quickly fix the coverage problems you face with your network.
Most often, WiFi extenders are literally plug-and-play hardware devices installed directly into an electrical outlet on your wall and syncing with your existing network in a matter of seconds.
The clear advantage here is that you can install several WiFi extenders in just a few minutes because they tend to come in packs of two or three, depending on your coverage requirements.
Furthermore, once extenders are in place, you likely won’t need to reinstall or maneuver them around the house once the job is done.
In terms of complexity and effort, WiFi extenders are pretty simple to implement and utilize right out of the box, which is an advantage we can’t overlook.
Browse around the web for repeaters, extenders, or any kind of WiFi booster to see that these technologies are very affordable for the quality of service you get.
Most indoor range extenders can be found for around $40, although prices for brand-new WiFi 6 extenders may be closer to $100 for some brands.
Bear in mind that outdoor range extenders are usually over the $150 mark, depending on the construction and capabilities. No matter what you buy, always look at the complete feature sets and ensure you’re getting your money’s worth!
All in all, however, range extenders are quite an economical addition to an existing network, especially if you don’t want to start from square one and make a big investment all at once.
Range extenders certainly have their appeal but come with several notable downsides as well.
First of all, extenders are highly specialized and must be chosen for a specific type of network based on the manufacturer, frequency, and other factors.
Given the huge variety of extenders on the market, it’s easy to be misled and end up with the wrong component – any tech fan can relate to that feeling of frustration!
You also might run into some convenience and quality-of-life problems with WiFi extenders, even among the latest, most advanced products.
For instance, many extenders require you to manually switch between the main network and the rebroadcasted network (often with a similar name) when you enter new territory in your home.
Having to jump back and forth between networks may not be a big obstacle for you, but that’s an instant dealbreaker for some folks.
Finally, WiFi extenders simply don’t match the strength and speed of the main router when it comes to measuring performance.
These metrics have improved dramatically in the past few years, but there is still a lot left to be desired by modern extenders. Keep this in mind if blazing-fast web speeds are important to you.
There’s a time and place for WiFi extenders, that’s for sure.
But we’ve found that mesh routers are superior for coverage, performance, and a sustainable WiFi network that will last for years into the future. Here’s why.
While a few well-placed extenders can prolong the life of your current WiFi setup, there comes a time when a total overhaul is necessary to get the performance and user experience you need.
A mesh network may be an upfront investment, but the speed, coverage, and quality of life upgrades are well worth the price.
Besides, the peace of mind knowing that “it just works” can’t be overlooked.
WiFi is moving fast, whether it’s the new WPA3 security protocol or WiFi 6 upgrades direct from the WiFi Alliance.
Extenders can fill in the gaps for a functional network in the short term, but to fully future-proof your WiFi system, mesh routers, and nodes are the only way to go.
Extenders may help you expand the reach of certain signals here and there, but you’re compromising network visibility and potentially introducing security issues as well.
These days, you want to maximize your visibility and control over your network, whether it’s with machine learning threat detection or parental controls.
Mesh routers give you that top-down perspective and put the power back in your hands at a network level.
The Internet of Things and smart home technology has already arrived. Are you ready to harness that power with a high-traffic WiFi network?
Mesh router systems are unmatched in terms of device management capabilities and ensure you maintain peak performance, even when the whole family is online.
Now that mesh router systems are widely available at great prices, there’s no reason to rely on standard routers and extenders any longer.
Say goodbye to those plug-in extenders and make the leap to mesh – you won’t look back.
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With over 20 years of experience in networking technology and security, the Gryphon co-founders led the team that invented the revolutionary MiFi mobile hotspot technology. As much as we appreciate the benefits and convenience of being connected, we also deeply understand the associated threats.
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