Mesh network systems are a great way to fix dead spots in your home. But how are they different from range extenders, and are they worth the extra cost?

Wi-Fi Range Extenders Merely Repeat a Signal

When you install a range extender, it communicates directly with your router and re-broadcasts its signal, often as its own, separate Wi-Fi network. That means you end up with two networks—like “SmithHouse” for upstairs and “SmithHouse_EXT” for downstairs—and your devices will often stay on one until it’s completely out of range. That means you’ll still have slow Wi-Fi at multiple points in your house unless you manually switch back and forth between networks as you move around, which is a huge hassle.

Repeating the entire Wi-Fi signal is also inefficient—that extender merely listens to every packet and rebroadcasts it. There’s no internal logic that sends packets to the right path.

The Best Wireless Range Extenders

You can buy a range extender from any manufacturer—it doesn’t have to be the same brand as your router. However, while this may seem nice, it causes more problems than it solves, since the differences in technology can create a bandwidth bottleneck.

More importantly, though, most range extenders cut your bandwidth in half, since wireless is half duplex. That means they can’t send and receive information at the same time, which can slow things down.

Lastly, managing these systems is often a pain. Most routers require you to go to a web page to alter settings or download updates, and if your extender is from a different brand, you’ll be dealing with two sets of software. In a lot of…