If you have experienced annoying internet buffering in some corners of your house, you’ve debated setting up a mesh network vs. access points.
Mesh networks and access points are viable solutions to more coverage and strong WiFi in expansive buildings.
However, the key difference is in the technology. Mesh systems use one primary router that connects wirelessly to a node or nodes.
Access points are wired devices that connect to the router and provide internet from their point of placement.
It might be tricky to understand the major difference between these two systems. And that’s why we’re here.
What is a Mesh Network vs. Access Points
If you live in a large house with thick walls, you understand the frustration of barely getting any coverage in some rooms.
You might have the best ISP speeds, but the WiFi signal becomes weak in rooms further from the main router.
To improve the coverage, you set up a mesh network. A Mesh Wi-Fi network comprises a router, a primary node and a ‘satellite’ node or nodes.
The primary node gets direct wireless coverage from the router. And then, it broadcasts the WiFi signal with similar strength to the other nodes.
Here’s the kicker.
Each node creates a wireless communication channel with each other, making it simpler to exchange data packets.
They use the best path so that you can receive uninterrupted WiFi signals in each section of the house.
The other option is setting up an access point.
WiFi access point on a ceiling
An access point is a device, like a router, connected using an Ethernet cable to a main router. That device becomes a literal access location that has its network.
The access point shares an SSID with the main network or router.
Unlike a mesh network, you must establish the access point with a wired connection. Access points are usually a preferred alternative to WiFi range extenders. Unlike a range extender, you will not lose half the signal strength with an access point.
Advantages Of A Mesh Network Vs. Access Points
- The primary advantage of a Mesh WiFi network is total coverage in a large home.
For example, an Eero mesh WiFi system can cover up to 6000 square feet with just three devices set up in various rooms. Other mesh systems can cover about 7500 square feet. To that end, each room has the same WiFi strength and signal consistency for every device in the network.
- Current mesh Wi-Fi systems are designed to support WiFi6, a fast WiFi generation that ensures faster data transmission. Each node in a mesh network can be a dual or tri-band. That means each node can transmit data in 2.4GHz or 5 GHz frequency. Most of them transmit both frequencies. Your devices connect to the fastest and most available band.
- You can expand a mesh system to cover more devices. Most nodes are usually compatible with the main node. Therefore, you only need to add a node in each area with a weak signal.
- There’s also the matter of device independence. In a mesh network, one node can fail. When that happens, the rest of the nodes will keep working without experiencing deteriorated service. The other nodes will communicate with each other until you troubleshoot and fix the faulty node.
- Finally, a mesh Wi-Fi system is easy to set up. As soon as you set up the primary node on your smartphone app, follow the prompt and placement guidelines on the recommended locations to set up the nodes.
Since all mesh devices in the pack are compatible, you are less likely to have setup issues.
Additionally, the app lets you configure the mesh network, run tests, and configure security options.
Why Should You Use Access Points vs. Mesh Networks?
Access point for Ethernet wired connection
- Access points are scalable if you set them up to operate wirelessly. That means you can cover a large area.
- Would you like to monitor who is on your network? Access points are your best bet to measure your network performance in real time while monitoring users and their devices.
- An access point provides you with faster speeds than a mesh network. The wired connection is a better option for you if you prioritize speed. Also, it’s a better option for a backhaul.
- Finally, you might spend significantly less with an access point system than with a mesh network. The cost of an access point is only one device plus the installation fee. You can cut on the installation fee if you have the DIY know-how. Alternatively, you can use an older router if it’s functional.
Differences Between Access Networks And Mesh Networks
- Unlike a mesh network, access points tend to be more secure. Each node in a mesh system is a vulnerability point if there is a breach in the network. Also, if one node is compromised, it could give access to the main router or network and make it difficult to locate the breach’s origin.
Since you can monitor and limit devices from the access point’s panel, it’s easy to identify a fault and limit the amount of devices and users.
- Mesh networks and access points are prone to interference from surrounding wireless devices. The net result is slow speeds and lagging connection. However, mesh networks perform better against interference by automatically choosing between 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies.
On the other hand, you can reduce interference vulnerability in access systems by placing them in areas with minimal congestion.
- Access points are not as scalable as mesh networks. Expanding a mesh network only means adding more nodes in more areas. However, you may need to increase access points to cover a similar expansive area. Not only do you have to consider additional equipment and installation fees, but you also must consider configuring individual access points.
Can You Use a Mesh Router As An Access Point?
WiFi 6 router
You can use a mesh router as an access point.
However, check the firmware version of the mesh router. It’ll work if there is an option to switch between access point and router mode.
You might have to connect the mesh router to the main router via the Ethernet cable. However, you will lose the self-correction benefit of a mesh network.
Making your mesh router an access point might also render your DHCP server and firewall unusable. If you leave them enabled, they might cause problems with the primary router.
Follow this guide to set up a mesh router as an access point.
- Hold the mesh router’s power button for about 3 seconds. It should reset the router.
- Insert one end of the Ethernet cable in the mesh router’s LAN port and the other in the main router. It should connect you to the network.
- Connect a device (preferably a computer) to the network. We recommend through an Ethernet cable. It’s faster.
- Go to the browser on the device and enter the mesh router’s URL. Enter the IP address. (The IP address is likely at the back of the mesh router.)
- Put in the mesh router’s login details and access the web interface. Use the default login details.
- Go to Settings and change operation mode to access point mode.
- Save the changes.
- Put in the SSID name and password of the new network. We recommend using the same SSID as the main router.
- The mesh router will reboot.
Congratulations, your mesh router is now an access point.
Should You Add An Access Point Or Upgrade To A Mesh Routing System?
Adding an access point is a better choice if:
- You are a small business wanting to maintain a secure network.
- You need more speed that you can achieve through a wired access point.
- You don’t need to cover a huge area, but you need to keep the speed and consistency of the main network.
- You need a simple solution to expand your network without getting a new system at a higher cost.
However, consider upgrading to a mesh network if:
- You have a huge house with various devices but too many dead zones.
- You want an easily scalable system that you can set up in minutes.
- You want a system that doesn’t need professional installation.
Are Nodes Mesh Network Access Points?
Mesh network nodes are not mesh network access points. An access point enables you to connect devices FROM that device.
Unlike an access point, a mesh node only redistributes the WiFi signal from the mesh’s main router.
However, you can set up various nodes in various rooms in a large house.
Mesh networks and access points are effective solutions to maintain WiFi signal strength over expansive areas.
While they may have slight differences, they are the best solutions to a practical problem.