21 April 2023
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.
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:
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.
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 or mesh pods, 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 mesh pod contains its own radio, which helps it communicate with the other mesh pods 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 pod.
Some features of Wi-Fi mesh pods are:
Wi-Fi mesh pods 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.
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 pods may be the better option for you.
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 pods work together so that when you move from one area of the house to another, the system will automatically shift your connection to a pod nearer to you without you even realising, offering you a seamless experience.
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 pods 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.
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 pods. 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.