Wifi is an invention that has allowed us to connect to our home networks with incredible ease and convenience. However, sometimes your wifi signal just won't stretch far enough to be accessed throughout your house.
Top 3 Picks: Best Wireless Access Points
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If this is a problem you can relate to, then firstly, congratulations on having a huge house! Secondly, let us tell you about a way to solve this problem using a wireless access point (often abbreviated as WAP).
What Is A Wireless Access Point (Hotspot)?
A wireless access point (also known as a Hotspot) has two uses. These are firstly to add wifi capabilities to a router or non-wifi device (a printer or a games console for example) that doesn’t already have wifi and secondly, to provide extra network coverage to an area.
Of course, the fact that most routers nowadays come with a built in wifi access point means that the most common use for a WAP is to extend your network coverage.
A WAP does this either by connecting to your router using an Ethernet cable, or by using a wireless signal. It should be mentioned though that for the best user experience it is generally better if the access point relays the signal from an Ethernet cable.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A WAP?
The biggest advantage of a wireless access point is that it can provide wireless access for a wired network.
If you already have a wifi network, however, the main advantage is that a WAP can ensure that you have the best possible signal throughout your house or office. If you live in a large house you may often find that you struggle to get a consistent wifi signal in certain rooms.
Setting up a WAP in or near these rooms will drastically increase the effectiveness of the wifi in these areas. You can connect devices to the WAP with cables or usually with wifi.
One useful point is that you can set up multiple WAPs (using cable to extend) , which means that even if you struggle with your signal in a number of places, you can add wireless access points to each area.
As well as this, wifi access points can be fairly cost effective and depending on which one you buy are often pretty easy to set up.
What Features Should You Look Out For?
There are a few key features you should look for when choosing a WAP for your home network. Perhaps the most important things to look out for are:
The Wireless Standard
The wireless standard you choose will likely depend on the rest of your network. It is most likely that the WAP you buy will offer either the 802.11n (or older .11g) or the 802.11ac wireless standard.
Of the two, 802.11ac wireless is the most recent and as such offers the fastest speeds. However, before splashing out on the extra money required to buy an 802.11ac router you should check the rest of your network also offers these speeds.
While choosing a wireless standard above the one your network uses won’t negatively affect the speeds available, it will be a bit of a waste of money as 802.11n WAPs are generally cheaper.
But at the same time, it's good to think of the future. There's a lot of Wireless AC devices around now, and it's only a matter of time before all are AC. Not that you have to use AC, but you might as well use the potential if it's there...
The security of your network is one of the most important things you can invest in. This is because should an outsider be able to gain access to your network they would be able to do anything from use your network for free to access all the data you send across your network.
As such you should look to see if your wireless access point has features such as WPA and WPA2, and MAC filtering.
This relates to how your access point connects to the rest of your network. While they mostly allow you to connect via Ethernet (devices to the WAP that is), some will also allow you to connect wirelessly and repeat the existing wireless signal (repeating is not an ideal solution). More on these options below...
How Do I Connect A Wireless Access Point To My Router?
There are three main ways you can connect your access point to your router. These are by using an Ethernet cable, bridging and also by repeating your router's wireless signal. It should be noted that for the best possible user experience, you should connect via an Ethernet cable where possible.
Connecting via Wired Bridging
Wired bridging uses Ethernet cables to connect your WAP to your main router.
Devices can connect to the WAP via wifi, and/or cables most of the time.?
To set up:
1: Log into your WAP and disable DHCP (if enabled).
2: Give your WAP an IP address within the range of your existing home network subnet (it may have already been given a relevant IP address from your main router’s DHCP).
3: If manually setting up, set the wireless channel on the router and the WAP so that they don’t overlap and cause network problems. For example on the 2.4GHz network, you could assign the source router to channel 1 and the WAP to channel 6.
4: Now you just need to connect the router and the WAP together via an Ethernet cable using the LAN ports on the routers.
5: On your WAP you may need to configure a route to the source router and beyond. An example would be 0.0.0.0 (anything) 192.168.1.1 (the IP of your router – gateway to the Internet).
Connecting via Wireless Bridging
Wireless bridging uses wifi to connect the WAP to the main router.
Devices connect only by Ethernet to the WAP. However, some WAPs can also use wifi for clients AND to wireless bridge, but the WAPs (and main router) must at least have Dual Band functionality?. Check with the manufacturer of any product you are researching if you need wifi for bridging and for clients.
To set up a wireless bridge:
1: Similar to wired bridging, first you must disable DHCP on the WAP (if enabled).
2: Give your WAP an IP address within your network’s existing subnet, but not clashing with another device (it may have already been given a relevant IP address from your main router’s DHCP however).
3: In the wireless settings you may need to select the following (oftentimes a lot of these options are carried out automatically once the Wireless Mode is confirmed):
- Wireless Mode - Client Bridge – you will need to MAC address of the other device or router. You can find this within the menu of the other device or router (sometimes is is also printed on the box).
- Network Mode – AP Client Mode (or something similar).
- Network Name - Identical to the Primary SSID.
- Network Config - Bridged.
- For the Security Mode, choose the same one as the one used by the source router.
If you have the option, try to use the same SSID Pre-Shared Keys as the source router. Otherwise seamless roaming could be problematic.
Connecting via Wireless Repeater
Please note that some WAPs connect to a router (or another WAP) as a repeater, rather than a bridge. Repeaters can also be known as 'Range Extenders'.
The bad news is that a repeater will suffer from network performance due to the technology it uses. This can impact the source router wifi speed as well, so be careful going down this route!
The good news is that wireless devices can connect to the WAP as well as wired devices.
To set up, usually configuring the Wireless Mode to 'Repeater' will do the trick. Again, check with the manufacturer for more details.
The Repeater should have the same security settings as the main router.
Using A Second Router As An Access Point
While it is possible to buy a dedicated wifi access point, it is also possible to use a second router as an access point. This is especially useful when you consider that it is fairly common for people to have old wireless routers lying around the house. This is a nice money-saving method!
To set up, you should generally follow the instructions within the 'Connecting with Wired Bridging' section above. Configure the second router as referenced against ‘WAP’ in this section. Always check with the manufacturers of the router(s) to confirm to correct setup.
As with WAPs your second router can be used (sorry if we are 'repeating' ourselves - pun intended! ) as:
A Repeater - This allows you to connect to your main router over wifi and repeat its signal, therefore extending the network. As it is repeating the source signal, the channel settings and SSID settings must be exactly the same as the source router’s settings.
Remember, as we previously mentioned, that wifi performance is degraded somewhat with this mode.
A Bridge - Like a repeater you connect to the original source over wifi. However, the signal is extended using new channel settings over the new area. As such, to work as a range extender your router must be dual-band.
You can also connect the source router with your new router using Ethernet cables and set your new router up as an access point like that. Much like a wired bridge.
Best Wireless Access Points For Your Home
1. Netgear Dual Band 802.11ac WAC120-100NAS Wireless Access Point
- 802.11ac standard for faster data transfers. Perfect for streaming HD content or making file transfers on your network.
- Dual-band to reduce congestion and maximize your network’s efficiency.
- Very simple user interface means even a novice should have few problems setting it up.
This is a great device with a lot of high end functions for a decent price. Perfect for someone who wants a really fast way to extend their wireless network.
2. Linksys WAP300N IEEE 802.11n 300 Mbps Wireless Access Point
- Dual band router to allow you to reduce congestion on your network.
- Add new devices to your network with a simple push of a button. This is a safe and easy way to add new devices.
- 802.11n standard not as fast as 802.11ac but will still be enough for most usage.
- Wireless bridge mode only works with another Linksys WAP300N.
This is a simple way to extend your network. It uses the older wireless standard N so may not be as fast as some of the others WAPs on the list. However, if you don’t mind your file transfers being a little slower this AP is more than ok.
3. Ubiquiti Networks Enterprise AP Unifi - UAP(US)
- Very stylish design and it also comes with wall/ceiling brackets. It will fit seamlessly into your home.
- Excellent range provides cover to as much of your home or office as possible. Also has adjustable power options so you can control your range.
- Can extend your network’s range via Ethernet (can extend wifi with another Ubiquiti AP only).
- Professional grade product means the product could be difficult to set up for people who aren’t familiar with the technology.
Great product for tech savvy people who need a ton of options when it comes to setting up their access points. Lack of 802.11ac a bit of a downer, however.
4. D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Access Point
- Dual band to reduce congestion on your network.
- Wireless AC for high speed wifi connectivity.
- Can extend the network wirelessly or through a wired connection.
This is a good all round access point with plenty of features, as well as the latest wireless AC standard.
5. TP-Link RE580D AC1900 Desktop Dual-Band Wifi Range Extender
- Three external antennas for increased range.
- 802.11ac wireless for super fast file transfers and network streaming. Also has dual-band features.
- Cannot bridge networks via Ethernet
If you want to extend the range of your network wirelessly, then this could be the access point for you. It also has great range and fast transfer speeds.
All said, the best wireless access point for you will come down to what you need from your network.
If you want the best speeds possible you should make sure you buy a WAP that uses the 802.11ac wireless standard as this is the latest and fastest standard.
When it comes down to it, the offerings from Netgear & D-Link both have plenty of features that you could want from a wireless access point. Including AC wireless standards, dual band functionality and good security settings.
Hopefully you have enjoyed our article on the best wireless access points for your home. If so please share it or comment below!