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Wireless AP vs Range Extender: Which Wi-Fi Solution Is Better?

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Posted on September 8, 2020
September 20, 2020
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If you are searching for solutions to extend the wireless network, you may encounter several hardware devices that offer the function, among which wireless access points (AP) or range extenders are on the list. There are many vendors in the market advertising configuring extenders into wireless AP and the two devices can be used interchangeably, which can confuse customers.

Differences Between Wireless AP and Range Extender

Though both wireless AP and range extenders boost Wi-Fi signals, each device has its features.

The following comparison table will help you better understand the differences between the wireless AP and range extender.

Wireless AP Range Extender
Definition A networking hardware device that receives data by wired network and sends or receives wireless traffic to or from nearby wireless clients. A device that picks up signals from a wireless router and retransmits the signals to clients.
Function Forming wireless local area LANs and acting as a central transmitter and receiver of wireless radio signals. A bridge between router and Wi-Fi device that is outside the range of the Wi-Fi router.
Network Type It creates a wireless network. It replicates an existing network.
Network Quality Network quality is not affected. Network quality deteriorates by 50%.
Cost Expensive. Cost-effective.
Supported Area Large business and large offices. Home or small business.

Wireless AP vs Range Extender: How to Choose?

The answer to which Wi-Fi solution is better can be subjective. Whether wireless access points or range extenders are better all depends on what you want to accomplish. Evaluate the two Wi-Fi solutions by comparing their advantages and disadvantages, you may get some insights.

Wireless AP Solution

For enterprise business, it's common to connect desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets to the wireless Wi-Fi network, and access points offer great flexibility to extend the number of devices that most businesses need. Except for that, wireless AP solutions also provide the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • Wireless AP enables dozens or hundreds of users access at a time. For the campus enterprise network environment, it’s convenient for users to roam from room to room without enduring the torture of network interruption.

  • Wireless AP supports improved wireless network performance than a range extender and the wireless signal will not be affected as the number of deployed AP adds.

  • Users are able to deploy wireless AP at any location where there is an Ethernet cable. Wireless access points can be compatible with PoE standards and be connected to PoE switches via a single Ethernet cable for both data and power, which eliminates the need for additional power lines or outlets.

  • Additional access points features such as Access Control List (ACL) can identify guess access to improve security and easily manage users within the wireless network.

Disadvantages

  • Wireless APs need to be hardwired into a router or switch by a network cable.

  • In case that power is not accessible, a PoE network switch or PoE injector is often needed to power them. For some applications where PoE devices are not deployed yet, it is necessary to replace the previous non-PoE devices to PoE devices.

Range Extender Solution

A range extender extends the reach of an existing Wi-Fi network. Compared with the wireless AP solution, range extender Wi-Fi solution offers the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • The range extender is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to expand wireless network coverage and range. It is easier to set up and configure range extenders than deploying a wireless network with APs.

Disadvantages

  • Though extenders are easy to configure, the Wi-Fi speed can be halved of the received signal from the main router.

  • The precise location where extenders are placed is important because too far from routers can cause loss of internet connectivity.

  • Range extender introduces more interference into Wi-Fi networks because it should use the same frequency and channel to communicate with the primary router.

Overall, the range extender is ideal for the applications where few Wi-Fi devices are connected to it. As for high-density network applications requiring high-quality Wi-Fi signals, wireless AP is the overwhelming choice. That's to say, if you need a cost-effective method to extend wireless network range in your home, range extenders will do just fine; but if you live in a large-sized home and you are discontent with the current network speed your router can supply, or you are deploying Wi-Fi network for campuses or enterprises, it is worth to upgrade to a latest standard wireless AP.