IT Support 101: Wifi mesh and repeater; the difference.
Updated: May 9
We all know Pizza hut right? Or Domino at least? Google it if you do not since time is of the essence here. And let's stop digressing. Mesh versus repeater is like a pizza hut express versus a pizza hut restaurant. Repeaters are not really thinking, they simply extend the range of the wireless service, much like a pizza hut express still gets you a pizza, but do not expect the full range of service. All a repeater does is simply 'listen and read' the wireless signal from your router and repeats it out again thereby extending the range of the wireless signal to a computer that would normally be out of range from the router. This model is the only option we use to have when we have enough money to buy a house that needs a range of extender aka wireless repeater. Yes, one has many names.
I bet you guys are trying your best to get this. But do not worry, we are morons and we speak really simple. Everyone is a genius compared to us. All we know is breathing and IT. A repeater has it's drawbacks. Firstly, setting up is really not simple. And there are many ways to set it up as well. For the simple ones, all you need to do is turn it on and it just repeats every signal it gets. Which is not really a smart thing to do. Ideally, you would set it to repeat the specific wireless signal, your own wireless router signal and not your neighbors. But this model is no different than the telephone game, of course, repeaters are way more reliable than people. What we are trying to say is that there is a delay, which we call latency. So latency affects response time, not speed. If you are connected directly to your wireless router and google something, it will be quick. And if you google something via your repeater, it will be quick too but it will take a few more milliseconds or even seconds to initiate the request. Why is that? If you are connected to your repeater, the signal has to go to the repeater which repeats the same signal to the wireless router. This is great, but not ideal. Although it is a much cheaper option than Wireless Mesh. So what is Wireless Mesh?
Just think of it as one large virtual wireless router. The main mesh router is directly connected to the internet and it expands its communication to the other mesh routers, virtually creating a giant cloud router. Yet all you see on your end is the name of your Wifi SSID and your signal strength at full. Most of these systems come with an app and make installation really simple and easy. But is it really different than a repeater? Is this not the same thing but at a much higher price? To put it simply, no. Repeaters are different because they do not process any real information, they simply relay the signal back and forth between the router and your device. A Mesh router, however, communicate with each other on a different channel. So the signals that flow between them can even have their own protocols and operate much more efficiently with each other. Some are even able to compartmentalize and delegate processes to each other. It acts as a hive, a large brain that operates throughout each router, determining which router needs traffic and which does not. Rather than blasting the signals throughout the house, it prevents connections from funneling and is able to focus on the router that needs the most connections.
So while you walk from your living room to the furthest edge of your house, you seamlessly see a full connection. But what is happening at the back end of the mesh is determining which router is closest to you, which router needs more traffic to serve your connections better and processing these signals and requests in the most efficient manner. With a repeater, the further you get from the signal, the higher the latency and everyone is competing for the bandwidth flowing out of one main router. This is not the case with a wireless mesh system.
Economics of Wifi mesh and repeater
So now it comes down to economics. Why the huge difference in price? A repeater is normally less than 50 percent the cost and in many cases much much less. But bear in mind that a repeater is an antenna and a repeater is in itself another router. Of course, that is not to say that mesh routers are cheap. Expect to pay four hundred dollars upwards with some models going for as much as a thousand and more. Not a very economical option to say the least for a residence however it is a great investment for a small business to have. So how can you save money then? All hope is not lost. In some cases, your current router could be a mesh router. You would have to do some research on this and check out the specification. If your router can mesh with the same router or even a cheaper router, that is truly the cost-effective solution to your problem. These routers are known as mesh compatible routers and there are not many of them around. Installation and set up for such routers require firmware updates and some very careful installation. If you have an IT team on standby, it would be a great option for you. Many will say a wireless mesh system is an overkill for a house. But do remember, sometimes you are hosting guests. And most houses struggle to keep up with all the smartphones using WhatsApp and googling away. Having a great wireless infrastructure in your house is a boasting point. We can count the numerous times when he has guests staying over, almost everyone complimented on the speed of our connection. The same thing applies to an office. Having a system that is more than enough is a good thing since it future proofs the system in away. Getting praises is a plus, but having an environment catering to guests is also a good thing in itself. In the case of a small business, a mesh router is a great product, you do not want to place the stress of so many connections on one router alone. One router is not designed to take on many connections and will end up needing a restart every once in a while should the load be too much for it to handle. And a mesh setup not only expands the traffic flow but the routers ability to regulate the flow of information. This greatly reduces the stress on the router and allows for a much more seamless flow of connection. And from the user end of things, a much smoother experience surfing the internet.
Brands of Wifi mesh and repeater
Let's tackle this too and look at repeaters for a start. Repeaters are a simple system, comparable to a torchlight in this day and age. Of course, anyone can make a torchlight but you get what we mean. And we like to simplify so we shall stick to one brand for repeater and mesh. For repeaters, you want TP-LINK plain and simple. They are really affordable and this brand controls its own supply chain. It is a brand that has come a long way from its initial days as a small player in the market. Their decent packaging is a good indicator of that. But do not be fooled by the low reputation people tend to give it, TP-Link is a great brand that is here to stay. Decent support and is coming up as one of those brands giving the bigger brands a run for their money. This is not a sponsored content, this is what we really consider a good brand. Support is good and the price is great. So if you are aiming for a repeater, just look for this brand and go for the cheapest model you find. Now is that good advice or is that great advice? For mesh systems the competition is stiff. personally we are a huge fan of Linksys, especially their Velop model. Linksys is one of the dominant brands on the market when it comes to all things router. In fact, they are quite specialized in this field. IT BLOCK is partnered with Cisco Meraki, but this is not a branded content. They have great support and the reviews for Linksys wireless mesh system have been a phenomenon. Not only by PC Magazines but from users themselves. In fact, most users are really satisfied with the product. It is pricey and it is an investment. These systems come with an app you can download onto your smartphone and some really simple instructions on how to install them. Or you can call us to do it for you. But we think you got this. You got this.
Placement of Wifi mesh and repeater
This applies to both repeaters and meshes wireless system. It is never a good idea to place them at the absolute edge of your home. What you are trying to do is to improve the range within your household and maybe even discourage people outside your house tapping into your wireless network. A simple way is to always place all the devices next to each other and move them slowly out. Use your mobile device at the edge of your home and look at the signal strength. Keep moving the routers out until your signal strength is at full. That is not the end. Use your phone to search and youtube away. Do a speed test and note down the speed. Do the same thing right next to your main router, is there a large difference in speed? If there is a difference, move the mesh routers out slightly further. A full signal does not mean a strong signal, it just means you at the lower range of what a full signal should be. Remember to place your routers high above the ground. We think the above eye level is usually best. On the wall or ceiling is very ideal as well.
Thank you for reading'Wifi mesh and repeater', we appreciate the support.