Mesh networks and access points are two methods for extending Wi-Fi coverage in a building or large area. A mesh network is composed of nodes that are all connected to one another, creating an interconnected topology. On the other hand, an access point acts as a hub that links devices to a wired network via Ethernet cables.
Mesh networks use multiple nodes to create an uninterrupted wireless network, while access points provide localized coverage with wireless coverage. Mesh networks offer greater flexibility, scalability, and self-healing, while access points are best suited for large organizations with high user counts.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so, ultimately, it comes down to what your specific requirements require. Let’s break down mesh networks and access points in detail to give you the full picture.
Mesh Network vs. Access Point: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Mesh Network||Access Point|
|Definition||A network of nodes that wirelessly communicate with each other to provide seamless coverage over a large area||A device that connects to a wired network and broadcasts a wireless signal for Wi-Fi coverage in an area|
|Network Coverage||Provides better coverage over a larger area||Provides coverage in a specific area only|
|Performance||Offers consistent performance across all nodes in the network||Performance may differ depending on the number of devices connected and their distance from the access point|
|Network Management||Centralized management of your network through a single app or web interface||Requires individual configuration and management of each access point|
|Scalability||Easily scalable by adding more nodes to the network||Limited scalability, requires the installation of additional access points|
|Cost||Can be expensive due to the need for multiple nodes||Generally more affordable than mesh networks|
|Installation||Easy to install and set up||Requires some technical knowledge and configuration|
- Eliminates WiFi dead zones and buffering
- Patented tri-band technology maintains speed
- NETGEAR Armor protection
- NETGEAR Smart Parental Controls
Mesh Network vs. Access Point: What’s the Difference?
Mesh networks and access points are two primary wireless network types. Both provide greater coverage and connectivity compared to a single router network, but there are some key differences between them. Let’s get into them below.
A mesh network is a topology connecting various devices directly to one another without needing a central router. Each node in this setup acts as its own node and communicates with each other to relay data. This topology makes the mesh network more resilient and fault-tolerant since data can still be relayed through other nodes if one node fails. Mesh networks may scale quickly as additional nodes are added for improved coverage areas.
An access point (AP) is a device that connects wireless devices to a wired network through its local area network (WLAN). Usually connected to an electrical router, this AP bridges wireless devices and the router.
- WiFi 4/WiFi 5/WiFi 6/WiFi 6E (2.4/5/6 GHz bands)
- 10.2 Gbps aggregate throughput rate
- (1) 2.5GbE RJ45 port (PoE In)
- Powered with PoE+ (PoE adapter optional)
Mesh networks offer superior network coverage than access points because each node acts as a signal relay point, providing more comprehensive coverage. With additional nodes added to the mesh network, coverage area expands exponentially, eliminating the need for multiple access points in large homes or buildings where signal strength may be weak or nonexistent in certain places. Mesh networks prove especially useful in large homes or buildings where signal strength may be weak or nonexistent in certain places.
Access points, on the other hand, are designed to provide coverage in specific areas. Multiple access points may be needed in order to adequately cover a large area. When an access point’s signal strength is exceeded beyond its coverage area, slower internet speeds or dropped connections occur.
Mesh networks are self-managing and require minimal user interaction. Nodes automatically connect and optimize the network for optimal signal strength and coverage, meaning the setup of mesh networks can be done quickly and effortlessly without extensive technical know-how.
Access points require more management than mesh networks do. Each access point must be manually configured and optimized to provide optimal coverage and signal strength. This can be a time-consuming process that may necessitate some technical expertise to set up and maintain the access points.
Mesh networks may experience slower internet speeds due to the signal relaying process. Data sent between nodes takes longer to reach its destination, leading to slower downloads overall. Furthermore, the performance of the mesh network may be affected by the distance between nodes and how many nodes are connected to it.
Access points provide faster internet speeds due to their direct connections to a wired network. The data transmission process is more direct, leading to quicker downloads. However, the performance of an access point may be affected by how many devices are connected and the distance between it and each device.
Mesh networks tend to be less secure than access points since each node is directly connected to the network. The entire system could be put at risk if one node is compromised. Furthermore, signal relaying makes it harder to pinpoint exactly where a security breach originated, making it harder to address and resolve.
Access points are more secure than mesh networks since they typically feature stronger security measures. Moreover, access points can be configured to limit the number of devices that connect to the network, further increasing security.
Mesh networks tend to be pricier than access points due to the additional hardware required for setup. Each node in a mesh network requires additional funds, and more nodes may be necessary in order to effectively cover larger areas.
Access points tend to be less costly than mesh networks since they require fewer components for setup. However, multiple access points may be needed in larger areas, which could increase the cost.
Mesh networks are highly scalable and can expand to cover larger areas or accommodate additional devices. Each node in a mesh network acts as a signal relay point, providing more comprehensive coverage as more nodes are added. As such, mesh networks make an ideal solution for businesses or homes needing an adaptable and scalable network setup.
Access points are less scalable than mesh networks due to their limited coverage area. Multiple access points may be needed to cover a larger area, which can be costly and time-consuming to set up.
Mesh networks may experience interference from other wireless devices in the vicinity. This can cause slower internet speeds or dropped connections. However, mesh networks have the capacity to minimize interference by selecting optimal channels and frequencies.
Access points may also experience interference from other wireless devices in the area. Generally, they are situated in less-congested areas like rooms or hallways, which helps minimize this challenge.
- Additional 1,600 sq. ft. of fast, reliable Wi-Fi coverage for your home.
- Two wireless bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) deliver combined speeds of up to 1,200 Mbps for faster wireless performance
- MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-In Multiple-Out)
- Beamforming technology sends a targeted Wi-Fi signal to individual devices for stronger connection
Mesh networks offer great versatility, as they can be configured to cover a wide area and support various devices. This makes them the ideal solution for businesses or homes that require an adaptable network with plenty of resources.
Access points are less flexible than mesh networks, as they are designed to cover a specific area. Moving or reconfiguring an access point to cover another region can be time-consuming and costly.
Mesh Network vs. Access Point: 9 Must-Know Facts
- Mesh networks utilize multiple nodes to form a single, seamless wireless network, while access points extend the reach of an existing wired network.
- Access points require a wired connection to the main router or network, while mesh networks can utilize both wired and wireless connections between nodes.
- Mesh networks offer greater adaptability than access points, as they can automatically reroute traffic for the strongest connection possible.
- Mesh networks can support more connected devices than access points due to their automatic traffic-balancing capabilities.
- Access points may require extra setup and management since each must be configured individually and integrated into the main network.
- Mesh networks are generally easier to set up and manage since all nodes are designed to work together seamlessly.
- Access points may experience interference or signal degradation if not placed correctly, while mesh networks are designed to work around obstacles and noise sources.
- Mesh networks tend to be more expensive than access points due to the additional nodes required and the more complex technology involved.
- Access points provide faster speeds than mesh networks since they’re directly connected to the main network and do not depend on other nodes for data relay.
Access Point vs. Mesh Network: Which Should You Use?
Mesh networks are ideal for larger spaces that need wider coverage but cannot be serviced by traditional routers or access points. They’re easy to set up and provide seamless roaming, making them perfect for households or businesses with multiple devices and users. Furthermore, mesh networks enable network expansion without worrying about range limitations.
On the other hand, access points are ideal for smaller areas that require high-speed internet connections for specific tasks like gaming or streaming. They are easily installed to extend your network range and boost signal strength. Moreover, access points offer complete control over their network settings and security.
It is essential to remember that, while mesh networks tend to be more costly, they offer greater convenience and flexibility, making them the better choice for most people. On the other hand, access points tend to be more cost-effective, with greater control and security capabilities.
The choice between mesh networks and access points depends on your individual requirements and budget. You must carefully assess all options available to you and factor in factors like coverage, speed, security, and convenience before making a final decision. It is essential to do your research and determine which option best suits your requirements and situation. Regardless of which option you opt for — mesh network or access points — make sure that you have a reliable, secure network that meets all of your specific requirements.