WiFi Range Extender vs. WiFi Mesh Network: Understand the Difference

Here’s the truth: most WiFi routers are incapable of covering a large area with a strong WiFi signal without creating plenty of dead zones.

If the idea of not being able to browse the web from your basement or front porch doesn’t sound acceptable to you, then you need to give your router some assistance, which is where WiFi range extenders and WiFi mesh networks come in.

TP-Link RE220

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Netgear EX6150

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Linksys RE7000

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Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

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TP-Link Deco M9 Plus

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Netgear Orbi WiFi 6

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What Is a WiFi Range Extender?

A WiFi range extender, also known as WiFi booster or WiFi repeater, is a relatively simple device that connects to your existing network and features two WiFi radios. One of the two radios listens to your router, and the other one rebroadcasts what the first one hears.

WiFi range extenders in practice:

  • Installation: For a WiFi extender to do its job, it needs to be installed in the right place. Ideally, you want a WiFi extender to sit near the edge of the imaginary sphere of coverage provided by your WiFi router. This way, the extender won’t have any issues communicating with the router, and you’ll be able to extend your network as far as possible. To find out where the ideal place for a WiFi range extender is, use a WiFi tool like NetSpot to perform a site survey.

  • Use: Once installed and activated, most extenders copy the SSID (name) of the original network and append “EXT” or the number 2 behind it to distinguish the new network from the original one. The new network may or may not have the same password as the original one, but it doesn’t really matter because WiFi devices still need to reconnect every time they move from the sphere of coverage of one network to the other one.

  • Performance: Because WiFi range extenders can’t send and receive information at the same time, don’t expend to max out your internet speed when connected to one. Signal latency will increase as well, potentially making online gaming and real-time voice or video conversations problematic.

  • Configuration: In most cases, you can leave your WiFi range extender on the default settings unless there’s a specific setting you want to change. If there is, most WiFi range extenders give you a handy smartphone app that you can use to access and modify all available settings with a few simple taps.

  • Price: One undisputable advantage of WiFi range extenders is their price. You can buy a capable extender for less than $50 and use it to cover a remote part of your house with a strong signal.

Best WiFi Extender

There are many manufacturers of WiFi range extenders to choose from, but their products do sometimes seem very similar. To help you select the best WiFi extender, here are three options that deliver a great value for money.
СHOICE #1
TP-Link RE220
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This capable WiFi extender from TP-Link boasts a modern design and compatibility with 802.11 b/g/n and 802.11ac WiFi devices. You can plug it directly into any standard wall outlet and set it up with a single press of the WPS button on your order.

The TP-Link RE220 can automatically detect the optimal installation location for the best WiFi coverage, so you don’t even need to perform a WiFi site survey, although we recommend you do it just to be sure.

СHOICE #2
Netgear EX6150
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Don’t let the rather mundane design of this Netgear WiFi extender fool you into thinking that it doesn’t have what it takes to reliably extend your existing WiFi. The Netgear EX6150 can boost the range of any WiFi network with AC dual-band WiFi and deliver up to 1200 Mbps.

It has two external antennas that you can position however you like, and its support for MU-MIMO technology allows it to stream to multiple devices at the same time.

СHOICE #3
Linksys RE7000
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The Linksys RE7000 is a useful little WiFi extender with a clean design due to its absence of external WiFi antennas. But just because it relies solely on internal antennas doesn’t mean that it can’t cover a large area.

In fact, it can extend the range of your wireless router up to 10,000 square feet, which wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for next-Gen AC with MU-MIMO.

What Is a Mesh WiFi System?

mesh WiFi system is a complete replacement for your current WiFi router, but you can also use it in tandem with it. A mesh WiFi system consists of multiple identical units positioned in different rooms and locations. These units together create a single WiFi network, allowing you to roam from room to room without having to reconnect.

Mesh WiFi in practice:

  • Installation: Despite their relatively complex nature, most mesh WiFi systems are surprisingly easy to install. The most difficult part is figuring out the best location for each individual unit, but that’s something a WiFi analyzer like NetSpot can help you with.

  • Use: Mesh WiFi systems are extremely easy to use because they broadcast a single WiFi network, making it possible for your devices to move freely from room to room without you ever having to connect to a different network.

  • Performance: As far as performance goes, you can’t beat a good mesh WiFi system. Some mesh WiFi systems these day are equipped with three different radios, broadcasting two 5 GHz networks and one 2.4 GHz network at the same time to achieve the highest data transfer speeds possible.

  • Configuration: Forget web-based admin control panels. Mesh WiFi systems are typically configured using a smartphone app, so the entire process is straightforward and ease enough even for those who have no previous experience with WiFi networks.

  • Price: Unfortunately, mesh WiFi systems tend to be very expensive, usually costing several hundred dollars.

Best Mesh WiFi System

Generally speaking, the best mesh WiFi systems occupy the high-end market, and their prices reflect this reality. The great thing about mesh WiFi systems is that you can always extend them by purchasing more satellite units, so you can start with the basic configuration and upgrade as necessary.
СHOICE #1
Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)
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The Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) is a state-of-the-art WiFi mesh system that features the latest WiFi technologies to give you the most stable and reliable connection possible.

It can deliver a total bandwidth of up to 6600 Mbps, and its setup consists of just three simple steps that can be performed using the ASUS Router app.

СHOICE #2
TP-Link Deco M9 Plus
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A single TP-Link Deco M9 Plus unit can cover up to 2,500 square feet, and you can use as many or as few units as you want.

The TP-Link Deco M9 Plus uses two different 5 GHz backhauls in addition to a 2.4 GHz backhaul, delivering impressive data transfer speeds even with multiple wireless devices connected at the same time.

СHOICE #3
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6
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Expensive but extremely capable — that’s one way to describe this Netgear mesh WiFi system. It supports the generation WiFi 6 technology, which introduces higher data transfer rates, increased capacity, and greater power efficiency, among other things.

Besides WiFi 6, the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 can also offer comprehensive anti-virus and data theft protection or an app-based setup process.

Conclusion

If money isn’t an issue, and you have a very large area that you want to cover with a reliable WiFi signal, go for a mesh WiFi system. It will eliminate all signal dead zones and let you enjoy the internet without slowdowns and lag.

A WiFi repeater is a convenient, budget-friendly solution for smaller homes, but you need to keep in mind that it won’t replace your router. Regardless of if you decide to go with a mesh WiFi system or a WiFi extender, you should always scan and analyze WiFi coverage at the site before and after the changes are made using a WiFi toolset like NetSpot.

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Read next in All about Wi-Fi Extenders, Boosters

If you want to get more information about Wi-Fi, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi Extenders, Boosters etc.

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