WiFi is absolutely central to our lives but at the same time something many of us know very little about. That is OK as the terms router and repeater or WiFi range extender definitely are not exactly friendly and fun. But it is also a pity as this lack of knowledge means we are missing a great opportunity to boost WiFi performance in our homes.
In this article, we are going to explain what WiFi routers, WiFi range extenders, and the new category whole home WiFi systems are. Let you know the different ways they help boost WiFi signal. And enable you to make the right choice WiFi extender choice for your home.
Firstly, let’s look at the router or WiFi router. A router creates a local network for all your devices to connect to, either by cable or wirelessly over WiFi. When a device requests something from the Internet your router works with the modem to get the data and then makes sure the data gets sent to the right device. The router is fundamental. If you have the Internet at home then you have a router, often bundled from your ISP. But not all routers are created equal and we will get to that later.
The other two devices – WiFi range extender and Whole Home WiFi System – exist to solve the problem of providing a WiFi booster where the signal of your main router can’t reach.
The WiFi range extender or repeater captures the wireless signal from your main WiFi router and rebroadcasts it further. The home WiFi system, a new approach in consumer WiFi routers, uses mesh technology. With mesh, the devices work together as a team. Each one is able to make decisions about how data flows between your devices and the Internet.
So which one is a better WiFi extender?
To help answer this you need to understand the causes of poor WiFi reception. WiFi signal, unlike movie ghosts or pixel created simulation, can’t go through anything at instant speed. WiFi signal is affected by the following things: distance from the router, how busy airwaves are, objects in its path and also the materials in those objects – For example, walls and chicken wire.
As a quick aside – We are assuming here that your problem is not Internet speed from your ISP. If you have an internet connection of at least 10mbps, this bandwidth is sufficient to serve streaming video to four or five different devices.
A new router as WiFi Booster
WiFi routers are categorized by speed and standards, for example, AC 1700. AC is the latest standard which enables much faster speeds and works on the 5GHz band compared to N which works primarily on 2.4 GHz. Now 5GHz cannot travel further, in fact, 2.4 GHz allows data to travel further. The advantage of the 5GHz band is that it is able to transmit more megabits per second and it is less congested – – Microwave ovens, Bluetooth and a host of other radio waves use 2.4GHz. This means that at a given distance from the router, say 10 meters, the signal will be stronger than with the previous standard ‘n’. In other words, go check your router. If your present router is an older N or G router then a new AC one will definitely improve WiFi signal strength.
But, unfortunately, a new router may not solve all your problems. The reason is that while AC routers improve the reception at a certain distance, they don’t boost the WiFi signal significantly further and they don’t have any special technology to get the signal through walls. If you have a very big house or particularly thick walls the signal will continue to be weak and you need another form of WiFi booster.
WiFi Range extenders versus whole home WiFi systems
That is where WiFi range extenders and whole home WiFi systems come in. They have similarities in which they approach solving the problem of extending your WiFi. You place them strategically around the house with a clear line of sight to the areas with bad WiFi coverage. They then relay the WiFi signal from your main router into these areas avoiding the walls. But they use different technology to do so each with its advantages and disadvantages.
Communication for improved Signal Strength – WiFi range extenders are an effective solution but they are only able to capture WiFi signal and rebroadcast it, not communicate with the main router. Why is this a problem? Internet data goes through the air on channels or bands, but the number of these channels is limited and so is capacity. All the time different devices and WiFi networks are competing for that limited space making it very crowded. If we compare to driving in a busy city, good traffic information can help us get on less crowded roads, while if we don’t have that information we can get stuck in a jam.
With WiFi range extenders, your data has no eye in the sky to help. Whole Home WiFi devices use mesh and work together out of the box. This means they can communicate about the amount of data on various channels and can make decisions on the best channel or band to send it on. They can also learn over time about traffic patterns, why traffic may have slowed down and will optimize WiFi signal range for the future.
Set up – Whole Home WiFi devices recognize each other making set up quicker and smoother with no need to input setting. You can add them to an existing network with little setup and they all use the same network (SSID) rather than creating an additional network in your home like WiFi range extenders do.
Ease of management – Mesh WiFi devices are all on the same network so if you need to update network name, password, encryption or channel, you can do it once on the primary device and will automatically sync to the others. For range extenders, if you change the password on your router you will need to set up again.
Parental controls – Before children accessed the Internet from the family PC, but the modern home has a mix of tablets, smartphones, and notebooks all connected to the net. This new setup makes it more difficult to keep track of your children’s surfing habits. Mesh WiFi solves this by enabling you to install once on the network to cover all your devices. With range extenders, you would have to install on each one.
If you have a small house or apartment a router upgrade might be the best WiFi extender option. But if you need to extend your WiFi with additional devices, then a mesh, whole home wi-fi system, is the most powerful solution. Whole Home WiFi systems are easier to set up, provide better coverage, and can scale to suit increasing demands – Remember you can just buy one Whole Home WiFi device to start as your main router and add more devices later.
But there are still reasons you may want to go with one of the other options. For example, do you already have a newer AC router? Are you reasonably happy with your WiFi signal strength and just need to boost WiFi signal in one area of your house? Are you more technically minded and happy to spend time on setup? In which case, a range extender might be for you.
The good news is that Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be mysterious, the preserve of techies, or, most importantly, bad anymore. There is a WiFi signal booster solution that can end the buffering you have suffered in silence with up to now. For more information, and to ask specific questions about the right WiFi booster solution for you, please write your comments below or browse our website.
Almond Smart Routers
The award-winning Almond series of smart routers are WiFi routers with built-in smart hubs. With Almond routers, you can blanket your home with seamless WiFi and – with our easy-to-use app – view, block and schedule access for all the devices using your WiFi network.