The Mouse Trap – WiFi Router vs. Mesh System

Janis Weber

At the center of all traditional Wi-Fi networks is the router, which serves as the key piece of equipment that broadcasts a wireless signal to all the devices you want to connect to. A router seamlessly routes internet traffic between a connected modem and Wi-Fi enabled gadgets like computers, tablets, or smartphones. Most people completely forget about their routers though, until their Wi-Fi signal goes down.

The main issue with traditional routers is that the reach of the Wi-Fi signals they send out is limited. Large buildings that require internet access on multiple floors often have areas with little or no service, usually referred to as dead zones, when the main network uses only a standard single-point router. Mesh routers can help eliminate dead zones. Instead of broadcasting Wi-Fi signals from a single point, mesh router systems feature multiple access points. One node links to the modem and acts as the router, while the other access points, often called satellites, capture the router’s signal and rebroadcast it.

Those who aren’t sure if they need a mesh system, or plan on moving into a larger home soon, don’t have to commit to a pack of two or three mesh units to benefit from the expandable coverage of mesh Wi-Fi. Many of the latest standalone routers can actually be set up as base stations for mesh coverage, which lets you expand your Wi-Fi further by adding more nodes from the same manufacturer down the line. This way you don’t have to get rid of your current equipment. However, I am not that fond of the extender to an existing router. You are better off buying a new mesh system and getting rid of your old router if your signal is not good enough. Some high-end traditional routers have similar features, but you’ll usually have to be connected to the local network from a desktop web interface to turn them on. Having your own private network is uncommon in most households.

One feature that distinguishes mesh-router systems from traditional routers is the easy network access they provide. Many mesh-router systems are totally automated, allowing for easy management through a mobile app, even when you’re not at home. Setting up a mesh system with a smartphone app is far easier than plugging directly into a router and configuring a device through a browser dashboard.

Many mesh-router apps let users quickly scan their speeds, cut off Wi-Fi access to certain networks, create guest networks, test the quality between the various connection points and even connect to smart home devices.

With traditional routers, devices known as range extenders are often used to repeat the signal so Wi-Fi can be accessed from long distances. However, even the best Wi-Fi extenders require you to create a separate network, with a separate name, for the range extender. This means you may have to switch Wi-Fi connections, sometimes manually, as you move around the house. A mesh-router system, on the other hand, doesn’t require constant reconnection, even as you move from room to room. You also won’t have to deal with as much lag, as the access points all broadcast the same signal, rather than having to route requests through multiple networks.

A good two-piece mesh-router kit will cost $200 or more, with add-on satellites costing $100 to $600 each. If you don’t regularly deal with Wi-Fi connectivity issues, or if you don’t have extensive internet demands, mesh routers might be excessive. A few Wi-Fi dead zones can easily be remedied by using a range extender (hard to set up), or by putting the existing router in a more central location or by upgrading to a better traditional router with a longer range.

Here are some of the best brands of mesh systems: Google Nest, Netgear Eero, Orbi, Linksys Atlas and the TP-Link Deco. The mesh router alone is good enough for a small apartment; one add-on satellite may be needed for more than one floor; two satellites may work best in over 3,000 square feet buildings or places with brick walls and multiple floors. You can always start basic and add on if you need to. People with flickering streaming tv signals can put a satellite right next to the tv.

Definition of The Day

CHROMEBOOKS are laptops that run Google’s Chrome operating system (OS). Chrome OS is built around the Chrome browser, which runs web-based apps like Gmail and Google Docs, as well as some apps from third-party vendors. Most Chromebooks can also run Android apps. These laptops are much less expensive than traditional laptops.

I Make House Calls (I am fully vaccinated and masked if requested)

I will come to your home or office and help you with almost any predicament including repairs, upgrades, and personal software tutoring. I can be your resident “Geek.” I have an endless amount of patience and knowledge with years of experience. Give me a text or call at 419-290-3570. FYI, I will be holding classes at the Sylvania Senior Center beginning in October. Check their website for details.

Janis Weber, B.A., owner of Ohio Computer Training & Support, is a professional computer adjunct instructor. E-mail any specific questions or comments to or contact her for assistance at 419-290-3570. Private tutoring and repairs are just a phone call, text, or email away. Classes begin at the Sylvania Senior Center in October. Check its website for details.

Leave a Reply