Looking to fill in some wireless gaps or extend the range of your current network? You are in the right place!
When I was shopping for my latest access point, it was hard to find quality information that was actually helpful... That's why I created this guide on the best wireless access points of 2018.
I've compiled the information I found and the products I compared when making my decision (spoiler: I use the Ubiquiti Access Point) and put them all in this guide to make it a little easier for you to find the right choice for your home or office. Take a look around and find the one that is right for your budget!
This device was created for the users that require the utmost performance on their wireless networks, both outdoors and indoors. The Unifi comes equipped with a waterproof design and 3 internal antennae in order to create wireless networks with the widest possible coverage. It has 2 ethernet ports, which allow it to interface with 2 other devices. It has POE support in order to fulfill its energy requirements and is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/AC devices. To top if off the Unifi comes with everything you need to mount it anywhere and is very easy to setup and use.
We mentioned this one on another article about wireless routers. The thing with the Almond is that it’s a 4 in 1 product, which means that it can be used as a modem router, wireless router, wireless extender, and an access point. As the latter, this device has a single WAN port, which can be used to provide wide network coverage to a given area. However, its single port only allows it to be used as a standalone access point rather than a unifying controller, so this device is best suited for domestic networks. The touchscreen included in the device allows the user to monitor and configure several settings as well as to block unwanted devices from connecting. The main feature of this device is its ease of use, as well as simplicity of setup; more than 95% of buyers reportedly manage to set it up in less than 3 minutes.
The N300 by Amake shines for its simplicity and effectiveness as an access point. It uses IEEE 802.11n technology to receive the wireless coverage from another network and amplify it across a wide area. The device also comes with a single LAN port in order to grant internet access to another device, such as a desktop computer, via ethernet cable. The portability of this access point makes it ideal for trips and other places where internet coverage is mostly weak, such as a hotel room or a place with public internet. All it takes for this access point to work is an electrical outlet and a quick run through the setup software.
The N300 by TP-Link is equipped with dual antennae in order to provide reliable wireless network across the whole area of coverage. It uses 802.11n technology which allows it to create networks with up to 300Mbps of bandwidth. It has a single ethernet port so, just like the Almond, this device is better suited for creating household networks. The N300 is equipped with a passive POE injector, which allows the device to receive the power necessary for its functioning through the ethernet cable. Initial setup is easily achieved by connecting it to a computer. Afterward, the access point requires no cables in order to work.
Besides sporting an attractive aesthetic design, the AC1200 features dual-band connectivity to provide a stable network with reduced interference, thanks to its internal antenna. It uses 802.11ac technology to provide high-speed wireless internet access to all connected devices. It has 4 ethernet ports on its rear panel, which allows it to be used as a controller of the whole network as well as to unify all the other access points into a single, more manageable entity. Despite its wide range of modern features, this access point is also compatible with other 802.11a/b/g/n devices.
Up until today, we’ve been talking about the best wireless routers for a wide variety of purposes and, while these devices are definitely awesome for creating networks in your home, or small to medium sized office, they can definitely feel lacking when trying to provide internet access for a big office or workplace. This is where Wireless Access Points shine brightest. These devices were created to act as a moderator in an environment where there are multiple wireless and wired networks.
In essence, a wireless access point (WAP) is a network device which is used to connect wireless communications systems (such as wireless routers), in order to create a single wireless network to which other devices can easily connect to. They are devices that function as middlemen between a computer and a network (either local or internet), in order to facilitate the connection between both parties without the need of unsightly cables or wires running throughout the building. Furthermore, in direct contrast to wireless routers, the objective of WAPs is to allow multiple users to connect to the network, without having their bandwidth limited by hardware constraints.
Before the advent of WAPs, the creation of a network (be it at home, in the workplace, or at a local school, for example) often required laying down multiple instances of wires and cables throughout the building’s roofs and walls in order to grant network access to all the compatible devices within the premises. With WAPs users could connect any device to the network with little to no cables required. A WAP usually takes both wired and wireless internet connections and unifies them into a single network which can be transmitted wirelessly throughout the building without the range and bandwidth limitations present in most wireless routers. To put matters into perspective, a good wireless router could provide 10 to 15 meters (depending on the model, type, and quality of the router in question) of wireless coverage without the signal losing strength, whereas the cheapest WAPs with the most outdated technology could provide network coverage from as little as 30 meters to more than a hundred meters of range.
Similar to browsing for wireless routers, in order to choose an appropriate wireless access point for your needs, the user must take into consideration the factors that make up said device. Luckily, said aspects are widely similar to those of wireless routers, so if you’ve read our previous articles on the subject then you’ll find that this one is somewhat familiar.
When it comes wireless access points, these are the things you’ll need to consider in order to make the best choice:
This factor is similar to the wireless standards used by wireless routers. the IEEE Standard is used to refer to the types of technologies used by the device in order to provide its services. The standard is expressed in 802.11X format, where “X” is replaced by either b, g, n or AC. These letters on the end of the string of numbers are used to refer to the wireless standard used by the wireless access point. The older devices used the 802.11b standard, while the newer access points use the “AC” standard.
The type of IEEE standard used by the device also sheds considerable light on its general specifications. For instance, IEEE 802.11b could only handle up to 11 megabytes per second of bandwidth across the whole network, which isn’t a whole lot considering that the average American household today has around 10Mbps of speed with their data plan, with companies with large offices (the target demographics of most wireless access points) possessing faster data plans which can render the older access points obsolete. The next wireless standard after “b” is the 802.11g standard, which allowed up 54Mbps of bandwidth across the network. The “g” is followed by 802.11n, with a limit of 300Mbps of bandwidth for the network. And finally, the 802.11AC is the current standard, and the most recent devices in this generation grant overwhelming speeds of up to 5,200Mbps for the whole network. Suffice to say, this is as fast as wireless access points can get by today’s standards, at least until the new generation of 802.11ax access points arrive.
This aspect is akin to the single band or dual band capabilities of wireless routers, with the main difference being instead of transmitting on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, like wireless routers do, access points can dedicate their radios to work with certain standards. For instance, the user can set one access point to work with “b” and “g” compatible devices while dedicating the other point exclusively to interface with “n” and “AC” devices. These wireless access points are useful for interfacing with older devices while also granting internet access to the newer generation of equipment.
One of the most important aspects of the wireless access point is its ability to create reliable and stable networks. A component which plays an important part in this is the antenna. Consequently it’s important to examine the type of antennae used by the device and whether they can be replaced, removed, or if they’re internal and can’t be easily tampered with. Another important aspect about the antenna is whether its function is complemented with beamforming technology. Said technology allows the device to create stronger networks across a wider area compared to those created by devices without beamforming.
The letters up there stand for Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Out and is featured on most newer generations of wireless access points. Older access points possessed Single User MIMO, which meant that the device could only interface with one device at a time. The advent of MU-MIMO meant that newer access points could grant uninterrupted services to all connected devices at all times. The resulting network possesses better usability than those created by SU-MIMO access points.
There are some access points which operate independently of a controller; these can be used as standalone devices to provide wireless network coverage to any given area. There are others, however, which depend on a controller to unify and regulate their services.
Users that want to create a network for a small area and a limited amount of users could benefit from standalone access points. However, as the requirements for multiple users and area of coverage increase, so too do the number of access points necessary to create a reliable network across the whole area. In these cases, it’s better to acquire multiple access points, all of which pass through a controller device in order to facilitate the management of the network.
Some security services, such as Wireless Intrusion Prevention, which scans the network area for wireless devices that could pose a threat, can be performed by the wireless access points while also providing internet access (in the case of dual radio access points). Another feature common in wireless access points is Power Over Ethernet (POE), which allows the electrical power used by the access point to travel through the data cable.
There are other services designed to improve the experience the user with the access point. The two mentioned above are only a sample, so keep an eye out for said features when checking out your options available for purchase.
Choosing a good wireless access point for your household can be somewhat more confusing than a regular wireless router, especially because the features, despite being essentially similar, have different labels. Nevertheless, this guide has all the information you need to know in order to purchase the best wireless access points for your business, office, or home.
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