types of equipment, advantages and disadvantages

The wireless networks and especially WiFi They are already an indispensable part of our digital lives, offering us access to the Internet and its many services. However, its performance within the home is not always optimal, having slowdowns, connection cuts, areas of the home that are left without coverage or simply increases in the delay of the packages that prevent us from playing online.

On other occasions we have discussed formulas to improve the performance of these WiFi networks for instance placing the router in the best possible location, O finding out where there is interference from neighbors, choosing the most suitable channel and the bandwidth of the same.

But if after doing all this we cannot significantly improve the power or coverage of our beloved WiFi, then we will probably have to opt for buy some additional equipment that allows us to obtain a quality wireless network at home.

What alternatives do we currently have? Well, there is a wide range of options on the market right now, although not all of them will serve us in any circumstance or have the same economic cost. For this reason, below we are going to review the most common alternatives that we can find in stores, their pros and cons and recommended use cases.

WiFi signal extenders

Wifi Amplifier

The easiest, fastest and cheapest way to improve wireless coverage inside the home is a WiFi signal extender or amplifier. These are small-sized equipment in general that we can connect directly to a socket and they are capable of amplify the signal of an existing WiFi network.

What they do is basically detect WiFi network signal that you already have in your home and amplify it so that it reaches further, thus expanding the coverage radius. The resulting network will usually have the same name or identifier than the original and the password will be copied automatically, serving the extender as a kind of two-way bridge between the old network and the new one generated by itself.

In some cases, in addition to expanding existing networks, the extenders also create their own totally independent WiFi network, with a different name and another password. This has the disadvantage that you will have to reconfigure your devices to connect, although if you are always going to have those devices connected to the extender, it is a lesser evil in exchange for better performance.

WIFI repeater

As we mentioned at the beginning, its main advantage is simplicity. Just plug in the adapter and little else. In most cases the configuration is done automatically, perhaps only having to change some parameters if we want, for example, a new password. In addition they are also relatively cheap equipment.

Its drawback is that these devices to start with do not usually have the latest features on the market or if they do they are not so cheap anymore. In addition, they do not know how to analyze the general state of home wireless networks and if we want a very wide coverage area we will have to resort to installing several of these teams that may not get along very well with each other, reducing the maximum speed offered.

In the event that we find a model with the latest in high-speed connections, this connection we will not be able to take full advantage of it if the home router is not very powerful, since we will be limited in a bottleneck to the maximum speed that the router’s wireless interface is capable of managing. For example, it will be of little use to buy an amplifier with high-speed WiFi 6 if the router whose signal it amplifies is only capable of working with WiFi 4.

WiFi Mesh network systems

The direct evolution of the “simple” WiFi extenders are the so-called Mesh or mesh WiFi systems, which may seem basically the same but they have big differences.

These are equipment with more complex designs and that they will offer us the best possible benefits today, with multiple nodes capable of communicating with each other to establish the most appropriate network parameters at all times.

They basically consist of a head node that it may or may not function as a router and that we must connect by Ethernet cable to the operator’s router. This main node will communicate wirelessly or by cable with the rest of the satellite nodes let the package come, creating a uniform WiFi network between all of them with the same parameters and passwords.

MESH

The advantage is that nodes can communicate with each other to indicate the state of the network, if there is interference in any of them, if there is saturation because we have many connected devices, etc. With this information, traffic is redirected to the least saturated nodes and the overall performance of the network is improved.

In addition, manufacturers are betting more and more on this equipment and incorporate the latest technologies, standards and functionalities, antivirus protection systems for all connected devices, as well as wired connection options that facilitate bring the Ethernet connection to the rooms starting from a WiFi link.

The main drawback? Well it is clearly the price. WiFi Mesh network systems are much more expensive than simple extenders, at least doubling or tripling the amount to pay if we want to get a set of two or three nodes.

PLC adapters with built-in WiFi

plc

Another option available in the market are PLC adapters with integrated WiFi. These are very simple systems to install that they use the home electricity grid already existing to carry the connection in a wired way to the different rooms.

They basically consist of a first PLC adapter usually without WiFi capabilities It connects to the operator’s router via Ethernet and different nodes or satellite adapters scattered around the rooms.

The main adapter sends the data signal through the housing electrical cables to the different rooms of the house. Once there, the WiFi-capable satellite PLC adapter picks up the data signal from the electrical outlet and set up a wireless access point to which our devices such as mobile phones, computers, etc. will be connected.

They are usually a very good option and offer excellent performance in relatively modern electrical installations, although they are not without problems and possible outage situations and speed fluctuations that can turn out to be a real headache.

Plc Wifi1366

Its main advantage is that they are very easy to install and configure. It is enough to plug them into a free socket and little else like pairing them in some models or adjusting some parameters through a mobile application. In addition, we also usually offer built-in Ethernet ports to connect wired equipment in the rooms.

Its disadvantage is that they are more expensive solutions than simple coverage amplifiers (although somewhat cheaper than Mesh systems if we opt for the basic versions). If we are looking for models with the latest in connectivity standards and that are even compatible with mesh networks, then the price goes up quickly.

Also, its actual performance it will depend on the state of the electrical network of the house, of the electrical appliances that we have plugged in and whether the two nodes are under the same electrical circuit in the light box. This can make, depending on each particular case, the performance is excellent or very poor, something that we will not know until we have bought and installed them at home.

Wireless access points

An option until a few years ago widely used for improve WiFi that came standard with the operator’s router were the wireless access points, with its different shapes, sizes and benefits.

Its name perfectly describes what its function is: create an internet access point through a wireless link directly wherever we install it. They are very common in large companies and even small businesses, although less common in medium-sized homes.

Access Point1366

The access point you necessarily need a router to work. It connects to it through an Ethernet cable that gives it the maximum possible speed of the local network so that it can later distribute it via WiFi to areas where the router does not reach.

Its main advantage is its ease of installation and configuration. It is enough to connect it to the router, to the electricity and perhaps configure some parameter such as password, network identifier and others in case we do not want to use the ones that come standard. After this and before turning off the WiFi network of the operator’s router, we will have our new WiFi working.

Its drawback is that, for the residential market, there is usually not much variety in stores and technical improvements such as new standards, WiFi 6, etc. They mainly reach professional or semi-professional models, which are usually much more expensive.

Additional routers

router

Finally, we always have the alternative of use a second router as an auxiliary system to extend the coverage of the WiFi network. At this point we can choose to use an old one that we already have at home to expand coverage configuring it as a repeater or directly by buying and configure a neutral router model new generation that provide us with the latest in connectivity.

Using an additional router has the advantage that in general it will be more powerful and with more features than the one we have as standard from the operator, but it will not always be the best possible solution.

For example, if we buy a neutral model of much better quality with a more powerful WiFi network but in the end we have to install it right next to the operator’s modem, it may be that in the rooms furthest from the house we continue to have coverage problems and we have spent on equipment that will not offer much improvement compared to what we already had.

And if what we do is use an old router as a signal extender or repeater placed in an intermediate place in the house, we will be saving ourselves from buying more equipment, but perhaps that old router that we already had as discarded because it is obsolete does not offer the best benefits, achieving an expanded network that will have good coverage but low speed.


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