Almost everyone is conversant with wireless routers because they are the traditional Wi-Fi solutions for home connectivity. Some come as routers only, meaning they need an external modem to provide a link to your ISP. Others come as router/modem combos (also known as gateways) from your internet provider. But mesh routers are relatively new and introduced a new multiple-node architecture. We will compare long range router vs. mesh systems below to determine which is better for your home. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- What is a Long Range Router?
- Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: What is a Mesh Wi-Fi System?
- Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: Wi-Fi Coverage
- Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: Wi-Fi Speed
- Ethernet Support
- Setting Up
- Number of Connected Devices
What is a Long Range Router?
Routers are wireless devices that connect to an internet provider, usually via fiber optic cable, modem, or ethernet cable, then broadcast a wireless signal to create a Wi-Fi network.
Traditional routers had less powerful antennas that gave them a shorter range. But modern routers have high-gain antennas that create a strong signal to cover larger spaces. This signal can penetrate through walls to create a reliable connection throughout the home.
A modern Wi-Fi router with four antennas
However, there’s still the limitation of using a single device, which cannot be enough if you have a large home with multiple stories. Some people use Wi-Fi range extenders, but these create a slow connection. Mesh Wi-Fi systems came to solve this problem.
Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: What is a Mesh Wi-Fi System?
A mesh Wi-Fi system contains three nodes at minimum. The primary node connects to the internet provider via the modem, while the secondary nodes connect to the primary one via a wired connection or Wi-Fi.
Even wireless network distribution in a home for IoT
This architecture creates a single Wi-Fi network with the same network name and appears to come from one device.
We will compare the two wireless networks in seven categories to determine the winner.
Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: Wi-Fi Coverage
A weak Wi-Fi signal is not something you would want for your home. Both long-range and mesh routers provide strong wireless connections but in different ways.
Long-range routers feature high-gain antennas that create a powerful network signal from a single point. Think of it like having a large hall or auditorium with one powerful speaker in the middle. The sound will become weaker and weaker the more you move away from the speaker to the corners.
A Wi-Fi router connected to an ISP via an ethernet cable
A router operates the same way. The Wi-Fi signal will become weaker the more you move away from it. So you must install it at a central place in your home. And walls make it worse because they weaken the signal. So a long-range router might not cover the entire house if it is massive. But the networking equipment is sufficient if you live in a two or three-bedroom apartment.
On the other hand, a mesh network uses multiple nodes to cover large spaces. Using the same example above, picture having a hall, auditorium, or even your home with several small speakers distributed evenly. Not only would you get balanced sound quality throughout, but it would sound better.
So a mesh network provides better wireless coverage whether you have a large or small home.
The architecture gets its name from the node connections to one another, which creates a mesh. Each secondary mesh node communicates with its closest neighbor to relay the signal back to the primary router that connects to the ISP.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 1, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 0
Long Range Router vs. Mesh Systems: Wi-Fi Speed
We will assume the speeds offered by the ISP are the same when comparing the two technologies. You can carry out speed tests to check the bandwidth at your disposal.
If you evaluate Wi-Fi speeds based on benchmark scores and supported specs, then routers will win this category. However, internet speeds depend on other factors, such as the distance between your device and the node/router. The longer the signal has to travel, the more it attenuates.
So you will get faster speeds closer to the router and slower speeds in certain spots. You might even have dead zones where the Wi-Fi signal cannot reach.
A web application checking the internet speed using a speed test
Mesh systems address this issue. Since the network has multiple nodes, you can rearrange them for better coverage or install additional nodes to eliminate dead zones. So the Wi-Fi signal won’t have to travel far no matter the room or location around the home.
Both standalone routers and mesh units use the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, which ensures faster speeds and better range. But consider connecting mesh nodes using ethernet cables, not Wi-Fi, to get the fastest speeds.
A Wi-Fi mesh network might not give the fastest upload/download speeds in speed tests, but they eliminate the primary cause of speed problems.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 2: Long Range Wi-Fi Router 0
Wired device connections will always be faster and more stable than wireless network connections. So running ethernet cables from the router to your TV or gaming console is necessary if you are a streamer or gamer.
A gaming console
Regular routers offer better support for ethernet connections because they usually have four or more internet ports. So you can connect your TV, PC, console, printer, and other wired devices to a single router.
However, mesh routers lack multiple ethernet ports. Even the primary nodes that connect to the internet can have only two. And one is for the internet connection to the cable modem, while the other is for connecting to the other nodes to form the mesh system.
A basic router with four free ethernet ports
It is possible to increase ethernet ports in a Wi-Fi mesh network using a switch, but this will cost more money. So the router wins.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 2, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 1
Cost is a significant factor, as well. A standalone router will set you back around $100 or less, but some high-end tri-band routers can go up to $300. If you have cable internet, your ISP can provide a modem/router combo for free or at an affordable monthly rental price.
Cheap wireless routers
On the other hand, a set of two or three nodes can set you back anywhere from $150 to $350, the difference being premium features and Wi-Fi speeds. But remember, you might need more than three nodes if your house has multiple rooms and square feet. So the cost can increase exponentially.
For tiny homes, you might not even need a long-range Wi-Fi router; a standard router could be enough. And you can get it for as low as $50 or less.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 2, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 2
Modern standalone routers and mesh units have control apps or browser interfaces for managing the device. The app is usually faster and simpler to use. But the web interface gives access to complex administrative functions. Although the quality of the control interfaces might vary depending on the manufacturer, they are generally the same. So it’s a tie.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 3, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 3
Long-range units are easy to set up because they come as single routers. And newer models come with a set-up guide app to help you through the process.
Mesh systems are not challenging to set up either. But they require more work because you have to install and wire multiple nodes.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 3, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 4
Number of Connected Devices
In this technological, data-driven era, most homes have IoT devices, plus regular smart devices. So the network can have multiple connected devices and users.
This heavy network traffic can strain your current router, affecting its effectiveness and reliability. So you might notice issues like internet connection problems and dropped signals when you exhaust all the router’s available bandwidth.
A smart home with different things connected to the internet
The situation couldn’t be more different with mesh systems. Since the nodes operate like router units, they expand the available bandwidth to connect all your smart home devices. And if the mesh has a third wireless band, the better.
Also, some mesh systems feature a backhaul 5GHz band that comes in two forms.
- One visible 5GHz band to connect nodes and devices
- A hidden 5GHz band for interconnecting the nodes
The first option allows more device connections, while the second increases the bandwidth between the nodes.
Conclusion: Wi-Fi Mesh 4, Long Range Wi-Fi Router 4
As you can see, long-range routers and mesh networking kits have advantages and drawbacks in equal measure, so we have a tie. You can never go wrong with mesh networking kits because they will ensure all the rooms in your home have fast, reliable Wi-Fi. But the nodes are expensive, and you might not need them. So consider the factors above and pick the best one that suits your needs. That’s it for this article. Let us know what you think about these wireless devices and how they compare in the comment section below, and we’ll be in touch. Cheers!