Should I get a Wi-Fi extender or use mesh Wi-Fi?

Are there spots in your house where your Wi-Fi just seems to slow down or drop out completely? Using a Wi-Fi extender or a mesh Wi-Fi system can help fix the problem, but which is better?

A thoroughly 21st century problem, there’s nothing more annoying these days than a slow Wi-Fi signal in your house causing your web browser to crawl or your favourite TV shows to buffer.

And just like the mobile phone that doesn’t seem to work in your bedroom, parts of your house are prone to becoming internet ‘dead zones’. But you don’t have to put up with patchy service – there are technological solutions.

Two of the easiest options to obtain and setup are a Wi-Fi extender or what’s known as a mesh Wi-Fi system. Both have their pros and cons, so which one is best suited to your place?

First of all, you need to know how the Wi-Fi signal moves around your house.

Why do I have Wi-Fi dead zones?

Wi-Fi wirelessly transfers data between compatible devices using radio frequency (RF) waves. Your Wi-Fi router transmits RF waves through your house, where they pass through walls and other solid materials to get to your device – most of the time.

Each time these RF waves encounter a physical object such as a wall, small amounts of energy from the signal are absorbed, and the signal is weakened.

Dead zones inside a house are most commonly in spots where there are many different obstacles in between your Wi-Fi router and the room where your target device is.

Both Wi-Fi extenders and mesh Wi-Fi systems can help with this problem, but are better suited to different scenarios.

Wi-Fi extenders

A Wi-Fi extender, also sometimes known as a Wi-Fi repeater or range extender, is a relatively low-cost device designed to amplify the existing Wi-Fi signal from your router to extend its coverage area, essentially providing a second broadcast point for the signal.

It works by receiving the Wi-Fi signal from the main router through your houses internal wiring and then rebroadcasting it, boosting the signal strength and expanding coverage to areas that are out of reach from the router alone.

Setting up Wi-Fi extender is usually a pretty simple plug-and-play process. They are particularly suitable for smaller homes and apartments.

There are some disadvantages to Wi-Fi extenders, however. Since extenders merely rebroadcast the original signal, there can be a degradation in connection speed, especially if the extender is placed too far from the router.

And by re-broadcasting the original signal, a Wi-Fi extender actually creates a second connection that you’ll have to switch to as you move through the house.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems

A mesh Wi-Fi system is a little more complex, but can be the perfect solution for larger homes experiencing connectivity issues.

A mesh Wi-Fi setup involves a different style of router, one that consists of multiple ‘nodes’, or units that operate in unison. One node will act as the base station and will connect to the internet, and the others will act as ‘satellites’ broadcasting the signal.

Where a mesh Wi-Fi system differs from a simple extender is that the satellite nodes are not re-broadcasting a separate, original signal, but merely extending the range of the first signal. What this means is that you won’t have to switch networks moving through the house and it should act like one seamless network instead.

The result is usually a stronger signal than even an extender can provide, but again there some downsides.

First of all is the cost. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are usually around three to four times more expensive than a Wi-Fi extender, depending on where you buy it from.

A mesh system is also a bit more complex to setup than a Wi-Fi extender, usually requiring software or a phone app at the very least. They are not extremely difficult to setup, but may be beyond the capabilities of people with zero technical knowledge.

Both a Wi-Fi extender and mesh Wi-Fi system both perform a similar function – but at a different standard and price point.

If you live in an apartment or if cost is a factor, then a Wi-Fi extender should be enough for your needs, but if you live in a large house or value the best experience above all, a mesh Wi-Fi system may be what you’re after.

How’s the Wi-Fi signal in your house? Could it do with a boost? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Guide to buying antivirus software

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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