Some routers and homes just aren't built to provide Wi-Fi throughout the whole building. There are two main ways to fix this problem, but choosing the right method depends not only on the cost of the purchase but also the size of the building and whether you already have a decent router.
If there's already a network in place, devices called repeaters duplicate the signal, extending it beyond the base router's area of operation.
The other option is to install a mesh network, which provides separate router-like devices in different rooms to serve Wi-Fi all over the house.
Repeater vs Mesh NetworkNETGEAR AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender & Linksys Velop Tri-band Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System.NETGEAR & Linksys
A wireless range extender could be considered an in-place upgrade since all you have to do is attach the extender to your existing network to broaden the Wi-Fi signal and extend the range.
This approach is great if your house isn't very big, and it's inexpensive when compared to mesh Wi-Fi systems. Plus, you can still use your existing router.
However, there are some disadvantages to Wi-Fi repeaters. They aren't very easy to configure and they might not be as seamless to use throughout the house
A mesh network includes separate hubs placed around the house that communicate with each other to provide Wi-Fi within range of each of the hubs. Mesh devices are useful in that there are usually a few of them that are purchased at once, and so long as the hubs are close enough to each other to communicate, each of them can provide a full Wi-Fi signal in each room they're placed.
They're perfect for larger homes, simple to set up, and offer easy central management. Each hub acts more like a separate router rather than repeating the signal.
However, mesh networks tend to be much more expensive than repeaters and they require several devices around the house.
Determine Where the Wi-Fi Signal Drops
Gauging the size of the building is an important step in deciding which device to buy. If you can't get reliable Wi-Fi somewhere in your house, and moving the router isn't feasible, first decide where in the house the signal seems to always drop or isn't as strong as you'd like.Why Does My Wi-Fi Connection Keep Dropping?
If your only issue is that you get some Wi-Fi sometimes, but it often drops, then placing a repeater between that space and the router to give the signal a little push is probably all you need. In this case, there's no compelling reason to upgrade the entire Wi-Fi network with new mesh devices.
However, if you find that the signal is weak close to the router and there's still plenty of house left that needs Wi-Fi, then chances are slim that a repeater placed right there can forward the signal to the rest of the home unless your house is quite small.
For example, if your home has three floors and several bedrooms, and your downstairs router just isn't capable of penetrating the walls and other obstructions throughout the home, it might be easier to upgrade the network with a mesh system so that a room on all floors can have its own Wi-Fi "hub."
Which One Is Easier to Manage and Use?
Wi-Fi mesh networks are easier to set up since most come with a mobile app that provides a quick and simple way to get all the hubs working together. The hubs are already programmed to work with one another, so it's usually as simple as powering them on and setting up network settings like a password. Setup usually takes fewer than 15 minutes
After they're all ready to go, you can move through the house and automatically connect to whichever one provides the best signal since there's only one network that's used simultaneously by all the hubs.
Since most mesh networks use centralized management like this, they also make it easy to create guest networks, block devices from connecting to the internet, run internet speed tests, and related tasks.
Range extenders, on the other hand, are often confusing to set up. Since they can work with routers from a different manufacturer (i.e., you can use a Linksys extender with a TP-Link router), you have to manually configure the extender to connect with the main router. This process is usually much more time-consuming and complicated compared to a mesh network setup.
Also, since repeaters make you build a new network from the extender, you might have to manually switch to the extender's network when you're within range, which isn't always something you want to do when you're just walking through your house. This type of configuration, however, would be just fine for immobile devices like a wireless desktop computer.
Consider the Cost
There's a huge difference in price between a wireless extender and a mesh system Wi-Fi. In short, if you're not willing to spend very much money to expand your Wi-Fi network, you might be stuck with purchasing a repeater.
A good Wi-Fi extender might cost just $50 USD while a mesh Wi-Fi system can set you back as much as $300.
Since a repeater relies on an existing network that you already have to repeat the signal, it's the only thing that you need to buy, whereas a mesh network is its own entire system, replacing your existing network. You might, however, be able to purchase a mesh network with just two separate hubs to bring the price down.
Important Things to Remember
All things considered, aside from cost, a mesh network is very often the best way to go since it's almost guaranteed that a quality system can provide Wi-Fi for almost any sized home. However, it's also easy for a mesh system to be more than you need in a smaller home.
You might not need to buy a repeater or a mesh system if you can manage to just move the router to a better location. For example, if your router is hidden beneath a desk in your basement, chances are slim that it can reach outside to your garage; moving it to the main floor, or at least away from the desk obstruction, might be enough.
If that doesn't work, upgrading to a long-range router or replacing the router's antennas might be less expensive.The 9 Best Long-Range Routers of 2021
Another downside to mesh networks is that you have multiple devices positioned throughout your house. With a repeater setup, all you need is the router, which you already have, and the repeater. Mesh setups can have three or more hubs, which might be a lot of technology to have sitting around various places. That said, mesh network hubs are usually much more attractive and rarely if ever, have visible antennas.