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    • My poor wireless router at home can't provide reliable Wi-Fi coverage for every room and almost none at the back yard. So I'm trying to figure out what to get to boost my Wi-Fi signal. I think 3 or 4 access points should provide enough coverage.

      After doing a bit of research, there seem to be three main options:

      1. Wi-Fi Extender - Requires plugging into a wired LAN, which I only have 1, but can run a wire if needed. About $100 for three extenders.

      2. Wi-Fi Repeater - Plug and Play in any outlet without cables, but provides half the bandwidth since it uses the same frequency. About $60 for three repeaters.

      3. Wi-Fi Mesh System - Google makes one, and it looks like it is a combination of both, but also plug and play. Three packs for $239.

      I want an easy setup, excellent coverage, and no IT degree for maintenance. Is that too much too ask? Any suggestions?

    • My parents got a Google Mesh system on Black Friday last year and it was super easy to set up. You do it via a phone app and after it's all setup you have access to information about who's connected to the network and I think you can even do speed tests and stuff. I can't really give any input on other mesh systems, but the Google system is pretty nice. My parents immediately saw improvement in how long it took to connect and overall throughput.

      A mesh system is the easiest way to go, and may even give you better performance. Extenders will technically give you a separate network for each one, if I'm not mistaken - even if you use the same SSID for each of them. Each one needs to be configured separately. You may run into some issues with switching over to the nearest wireless access point if you're still getting a connection with another. You may also need to make sure your access points are all on separate channels to prevent interference.

      A mesh system will take care of all that business for you, since you'll have one central management system.

    • What you want is either a mesh or a second access point.

      If you're going to run a wire anyway, an access point is a better choice than an extender. But a mesh is better than either.

      Here is what PCmag says about mesh systems

    • Those are all good possible solutions but what's your current router? I'm wondering because if it's not a great one like my ISP's then a new router might be enough and a lot simpler. And if it's not enough they might have other solutions for extenders/repeaters which are more plug and play.

      I was going to give you mine as an option but it's no longer on sale and up to 200 dollars :-X so that's a bit much. You should be able to get a really nice one for 110-140

    • I'm not using ISP's router and instead bought my own Motorola SURFboard SB6121 about four years ago. It has served me well, but I think the issue is with the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station that can't reach far enough. Every once in a while, I have dropouts and slow connection, and the solution is to restart (unplug, wait, and plug in again) Apple Airport Base Station.

      Maybe a wireless mesh network is an overkill in my case, and getting a more robust and modern router will solve my range problem? 

      For example, this NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 supposedly covers up to 3500 sq ft. But at $220 it is close enough to the price of 3 Google Mesh points, each covering 1,500 square feet (4,500 sq ft of coverage for three).

    • Thank you for that link to the PCMagazine!

      They did great coverage of available mesh systems with their reviews and recommendations. After reading it, I think Google Mesh is probably the best choice from the bunch, considering that it is easy to set up, extend later with additional access points, and doesn't cost a fortune.

      I'm still wondering if Wi-Fi mesh or a new and more powerful Wi-Fi router is best? 🤔

    • Thank you for helping me learn something new today: beamforming and 802.11ac standard!

      From that article:

      Beamforming is a standardized part of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. However, not all 802.11ac devices have to support beamforming. Just because you have an 802.11ac device doesn’t mean it supports beamforming. But, if a device does support beamforming, it does so in a standardized way.

      This may be a branded feature on some routers. For example, D-Link calls it “Advanced AC SmartBeam.” But it’s still compatible with other 802.11ac devices that implement beamforming, even if they call it something else.

      This graphic from the article also summed up nicely the benefits of beamforming Wi-Fi over traditional Wi-Fi:

    • I have a Nighthawk, albeit about 2 years old. I live in two-story town-home with garage and I have no problems with reception. In fact, I am usually connecting to wifi on my phone about 30 yards before I pull into my garage. I mostly watch tv downstairs via streaming with no problems.

      Cox is my ISP and my I have pretty good download speeds. But, I did go into their store a few weeks back because I wanted faster upload speeds and the CSR was pretty tech savvy and he said that I should probably upgrade my modem in December/January as there is a new modem standard getting deployed as well later this year.

    • In fact, I am usually connecting to wifi on my phone about 30 yards before I pull into my garage.

      That actually brings up a point I hadn't thought of before. Most routers now should have settings to change the signal output intensity and lots of them default to less than 100%. If your coverage is close but not quite enough, try digging around in the settings to see if you can bump it up. You may not even need anything new.

      But if you're getting bad reception due to walls that block the signals, like concrete foundation or....metal siding (I know that's not really a typical housing material in most places, but if you've ever gone into an Ikea or Costco and noticed you have really poor reception, that's a big part of the problem) or metal filing cabinets or other furniture that block the signal or something like that then your best option is a mesh system to get around the obstacles because you can place each access point in optimal positions around the house.

    • You’ve mentioned the new standard coming out soon for the modem and Wi-Fi, so I went digging to find what it was.

      From that article:

      Until recently, Wi-Fi generations were referred to by an arcane naming scheme that required you to understand whether 802.11n was faster than 802.11ac, and whether 802.11ac was faster than 802.11af, and whether any of those names were just made up nonsense. (Answer: sort of.)

      To fix that, the Wi-Fi Alliance decided to rename Wi-Fi generations with simple version numbers. So the current generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, turned into Wi-Fi 5. This new generation, previously called 802.11ax, is now Wi-Fi 6.

      You probably won’t hear the Wi-Fi 5 name used very much since it’s been around for five years and just got that name in October 2018. For Wi-Fi 6, you might see the 802.11ax name here and there, but companies largely seem to be on board with using the simplified naming scheme.

      I’ll start looking around for routers that are Wi-Fi 6 certified.

    • I think he was actually talking about DOCSIS 4.0. Modem standards (which control the communication between the modem and the cable provider) and wireless access point standards (802.11/Wi-Fi) are completely separate. Wi-Fi is used in your home network, but as soon as traffic hits the cable modem DOCSIS takes over. Generally upgrading to a newer Wi-Fi standard won't really help much unless you have devices that are capable of utilizing the new standard. And they don't have any bearing on upload/download speeds from your ISP.

    • Back in the 1980s, a modem was a modem.

      But the more technology advances, the harder it is to keep all the aspects of those things which work together to provide the digital experience distinct in one's mind. This is especially difficult for the less savvy due to the fact that some equipment bundles more than one technology into a single box. (Blinking Lights, anyone?) Added later: Although now that I think about it even those modems had blinking lights.

      Oddly enough, in my main activity in life, the subject of keeping different concepts distinct is equally challenging for the less studious.

    • Definitely. I didn't really start using PCs until the late 90's, but I remember dial-up. I had no idea how any of it worked, and I wasn't really that interested in learning. But recently I got Network+ certified and I'm working on A+ now (kind of a backwards order, but oh well) and before I started studying I was pretty much clueless, too. I have a much greater appreciation now for how the internet works. I had thought a router was always what we call it today. But like you said, in reality what we call a router now is actually a lot of different things. It's hard to keep it all straight if all you really want is for things to work without having to know much about it. And if that's what you want, that's all cool. Unfortunately advancing standards makes it confusing for people.

    • Back when I got started we had to be concerned with s registers and with Hayes AT commands. The software (and firmware) interfaces which exist today had not yet been developed.

      Today, I don't know 99% of what is going on in the transfer process.

      But one rule still works: "Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?"

      My mobile hotspot often needs me to disable and then reenable LTE. Tends to fix the problem most of the time.

    • Not sure why but the article failed to include what I think is one of the best options avaiable, Amplifi. With their Teleport app you can easily set up a VPN to your home network.

    • AmpliFi was not even on my radar. Thank you for suggesting it as an alternative. It looks like the AmpliFi Instant system: router + mesh point for $179 covers 4,000 sq ft. That is more then enough for my home. It also looks stylish:

      I'm coming back around the idea of a meshed system because I can extend it later with more mesh points.

      Not sure about needing a touchscreen display though. It is cool, but I'm hoping not to touch it all and have it just work. In fact, I would prefer less blinking lights at night if possible.

    • We use the Mesh HD system as we're covering 3 floors and a bit more space and have been very happy with it.. You can turn off the display, so that shouldn't be an issue. They have a pretty good app for managing the router with a lot of nice features for setting up and controlling groups for different devices that connect to it.

    • I'm still wondering if Wi-Fi mesh or a new and more powerful Wi-Fi router is best? 🤔

      Mesh network is probably your best bet if you're suffering from a weak signal. A more modern router won't solve your problem. WiFi routers are regulated by the FCC to keep it to its design: to use for local area networking, so they are bounded by specific specs, like frequency and transmission power. The short wavelength of a 2.4 / 5 Ghz WiFi signal is inherently limiting, so adding more nodes is far more effective.

      Also, your devices are half the problem. Even if you find some amazing router that boasts crazy range, it doesn't really help because your phone, computer, and IoT hardware can't transmit to the router at a higher power to match its range. They're limited by power constraints of batteries and poor antennas. Best to put mesh nodes close to your devices.