Should you invest in a mesh network or range extender for your home Wi-Fi network?

Determine how much area you need to cover
Determine how much area you need to cover (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you have a large house with a lot of modern devices, a mesh network like the one you can get with Google WiFi is something to seriously consider. If you're in an apartment or smaller home and you only need to boost your Wi-Fi a small distance, then an extender like the cheaper TP-Link is probably your better bet.

The comparison

A range extender can boost the signal of your router by extending the entire network. This means that the extender is broadcasting all the data, even the data for devices that are not in the extenders range, reducing the available bandwidth for those devices inside the extenders range.

While range extenders have been around a long time, mesh networks are a relatively new product in the consumer market. A mesh network, in contrast to an extender, uses adaptive software to use the parts of your network that are the clearest. This means you get a clear, strong signal in any part of your home and each mesh node only relays information from devices on its network. Using something like Google Wifi is far more efficient and gives you a better overall experience, especially when you have more space to cover.

Google WiFi also comes with added features like a mobile app for managing the devices on your network. It even has parental controls to allow you to monitor your child's internet usage and, if necessary, disconnect them from the network.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google WiFiTP-Link extender
Band2.4GHZ, 5GHZ2.4GHZ, 5GHZ
Lan port
WiFi typeIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/acIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

For our money, you should definitely invest in a mesh network if you can. They are a little pricier than range extenders, but when you have phones, computers, Alexa, tablets, gaming consoles, smart light bulbs, plug sockets, and even refrigerators, all on your wireless network, you really must have a reliable system in place.

That being said if you're in a smaller home or apartment all of that expense might not be needed. If you're only having issues with the low signal at the edges of your living space, then a well-placed range extender will probably be enough for you.

James Bricknell

James built his first PC when he was 13 and has never looked back. He can be found on Windows Central, usually in the corner where all the 3D printers are, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.