Wi-Fi extenders vs Smart Wi-Fi pods: What’s the difference?

21 April 2023


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It has become the quandary of today’s digital age in any household – how to maintain a strong and reliable Wi-Fi connection when your internet appears to be struggling to spread its wings, particularly in larger properties. Thankfully, the world of Wi-Fi technology has evolved, bringing us unique solutions to help us overcome this issue. Wi-Fi extenders and mesh systems are two popular solutions that can help boost your network coverage. You may have heard of both, but you may be wondering which one is right for you.

In this guide, we explore what they are and how they work, analyse the key differences between the two, while we review their advantages and limitations. So let’s dive in.

What are Wi-Fi extenders and how do they work?

Just as its name implies, a Wi-Fi extender, also known as a range extender, is a device designed to boost the signal of a wireless network. The Wi-Fi extender receives the existing wireless signal from your router, amplifies it and retransmits it to areas that the original signal cannot reach. This is done by using two wireless radios, one to receive the signal and the other to transmit the boosted signal. Then, Wi-Fi devices which are within the range of the extender can connect to it and communicate with the router as if they were directly connected to it. A Wi-Fi extender is usually placed in a location where the wireless signal from the router is still strong enough to receive, yet the signal strength is weaker and so coverage is spotty.

Some of the main features of Wi-Fi extenders include:

  • Frequency band: Wi-Fi extenders are available in different frequency bands, including 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The former tend to have a longer range but slower speeds, while the latter have a shorter range but faster speeds. In addition, some extenders are dual-band, which means that they operate on two frequency bands, offering better performance, particularly in areas with a lot of Wi-Fi traffic.
  • Range: this varies, with some models featuring a range of up to 30 metres, while others up to 300 metres.
  • Compatibility: one thing you need to keep in mind is that not all extenders are compatible with your router or the devices you would like to connect to your network.
  • Antennas: some extenders have external antennas that can be adjusted to improve the signal strength and range.
  • Additional Features: certain models offer additional features, such as Ethernet ports, which can be handy if you need a wired connection for a device that isn’t Wi-Fi compatible. Others may come with parental controls or guest networking capabilities, which can be helpful for managing access.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Wi-Fi extenders?

Wi-Fi extenders are a popular and cost-effective solution for extending the range and coverage area of a wireless network. What’s more, they are easy to install. Yet, they do have some limitations, such as reduced internet speeds and increased network latency. Seeing that Wi-Fi extenders have to transmit data back and forth between the router and the devices on your network, they can reduce your network’s speed. In addition, Wi-Fi extenders can only extend the range of your network so far, while their effectiveness will depend on the layout of your home and the materials used in its construction. And if you have multiple Wi-Fi extenders in your home, they can interfere with each other and cause connectivity issues.

Young people sitting on the sofa with devices

What is Wi-Fi mesh and how does it work?

A mesh Wi-Fi system consists of a central router unit and one or more satellite units. The router connects to your modem and acts as the primary access point for your network, while the satellite units, also known as nodes, mesh pods or mesh beacons, are typically placed throughout your property and work together to create a seamless, wireless network that provides comprehensive coverage throughout your home or office no matter its size. Each pod or beacon contains its own radio, which helps it communicate with others in the network, ensuring that all devices receive a strong and stable Wi-Fi signal. This means that as you move from room to room, your device will automatically connect to the nearest beacon.

Some features of Wi-Fi mesh beacons are:

  • Choice of beacons: our Smart Wi-Fi is offered as a Starter Kit, which includes a Nokia modem with integrated beacon and an additional beacon and is the perfect fit for most apartments and one-storey homes. If your home is larger, such as a two-storey house or farmhouse, you can add a third pod or more depending on your needs. And even better, you can opt to add or remove pods whenever you feel is necessary.
  • Speed and adaptability: featuring intelligent handover technology, the beacons constantly adapt to maintain a consistent signal and fast seeds so that you can stream video and other data-sensitive apps without interruption.
  • Compatibility: Smart Wi-Fi works with your existing router so you won’t have to worry about changing the one you already have.
  • App control: thanks to its dedicated app, you can monitor and manage your network’s health in the palm of your hand, while the app also features parental controls, which enable you to see who is using the internet and implement access schedules so that you’ll know what the kids are up to.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Wi-Fi mesh?

Wi-Fi mesh pods or beacons have become increasingly popular in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why when considering the many advantages they offer over traditional extenders. In fact, one of the main benefits of mesh systems is the increased coverage they provide throughout your entire home or office, including areas where traditional routers and range extenders may have difficulty reaching. At the same time, they are great at handling multiple devices simultaneously, which means that you can connect as many devices as you wish to the network without experiencing a lag or slowdown. And with the ability to automatically optimise bandwidth usage by directing traffic to the best available signal, a mesh network can improve your overall network performance.

Some cons you may want to keep in mind include the fact that mesh networks may offer limited configuration options compared to traditional routers, while some options may not be compatible with all devices.

Why is Smart Wi-Fi better at defeating Wi-Fi dead spots?

While both mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi extenders are designed to enhance and extend wireless connectivity in your home, they differ in several key ways. Wi-Fi extenders work well in smaller areas, however, mesh systems offer better performance, broader coverage and more seamless roaming throughout your home, making it the clear winner. Below are some more reasons (and examples) as to why the Smart Wi-Fi beacons may be the better option for you.

One network

Like many 15-year-olds, Jeremy has most of his conversations on his phone and like any self-respected teen, he doesn’t want his parents snooping at who he’s talking to. This is why whenever mum or dad comes into the room mid-video call, he does his best to go to the opposite side of the apartment as fast as possible. The apartment has a modem at one end and a Wi-Fi extender at the other. He should have no issue going from one end to the other on his call, right?

Well, about halfway down the corridor, the video gets cut because there’s no signal. This embarrassing moment was caused because the extender is acting on it’s own without working with the modem, so if you try to keep your connection going when you move between the two, you’re going to get cut off.

Unlike a Wi-Fi extender, the Smart Wi-Fi beacons work together so that when you move from one area of the house to another, the system will automatically shift your connection to a beacon nearer to you without you even realising, offering you a seamless experience.

One strength

It certainly sounds like a lovely idea – a romantic movie out on the roof terrace with a glass of wine. Amy certainly thought so and had everything set up just right, up until she tried to connect to her streaming service and had to sit and watch the little loading ring go round and round and round.

Amy thought she’d be all sorted with a series of Wi-Fi extenders, leading like a path from the modem downstairs to the roof upstairs. What she didn’t realise was that one of her flatmates was enjoying an online game, while the other was downloading practically every cat video on the internet. And Amy was left staring at a blank screen.

With 2 or 3 Smart Wi-Fi beacons plugged in, Amy would have had a strong connection and she would have watched her movie up on the roof with no lag, just as she would if she was sitting next to the modem.

One easy setup

Over the span of a long and prosperous life, Miriam has seen phones go from rotary dials to miniature computers, TVs from 10-inch screens to cinema-like screens fit to fill your entire living room wall and she’s been told you can now get an oven you can preheat before you even get home.

Now she’s sat in her living room, while her son does a quick run around the house plugging in her newly delivered Smart Wi-Fi beacons. Miriam is not tech-savvy, but she can tell how easy it is to set these up. In fact, her son keeps on mentioning how much of a breeze this is and how he didn’t have to configure anything or even access the router settings. What’s more, thanks to Smart Wi-Fi’s dedicated app, her son can monitor and manage the network’s health right in the palm of his hand.

Discover all about our Smart Wi-Fi Nokia beacons. Looking to set up Wi-Fi in your home? Look no further. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to set up the perfect home network.