Preview of 20 Wi-Fi access points: Extend your home network

Introduction

All routers come with a built-in wireless connection nowadays so why would you still need a separate access point? They are still useful in certain situations and are still widely available. We tested 20 recent models.

We will examine the reasons why you could still have use for an access point. Which one is best for you depends on how you will use it. The one category we left out from this test is outdoor access points, in order to keep the test manageable.

We primarily focused on the wireless performance of these devices since it's their main raison d'etre. First let's find out why an access point could be the perfect solution for you.

Upgrading existing Wi-Fi

Just because virtually all routers have WiFi doesn't mean it's a strong enough signal. Older routers work according to the 802.11g standard and perhaps no longer provides the bandwidth you need. Even 802.11n routers don't always perform as well as you'd like. And if you own a single band (2.4 GHz) router, an access point can provide that 5 GHz band as well.

The primary reason for buying an access point today is to improve the coverage of your current network. Keep in mind that an access point has to be physically connected to your router via ethernet. If you don't mind running cables through your home it's a great way to extend the network, and you don't lose any bandwidth like with repeaters. They're also cheaper than powerline adapters with a built-in access point and tend to be more stable since you're not using your electrical wires.

TP-Link TL-WA801ND

Installation

Installing an access point can be challenging the first time as it doesn't give out IP addresses. You just see the router's IP address and won't be able to check the gateway and enter than into the browser. If you want to install the access point while it's connected, you have to check the router's dhcp chart to find out what the address is for the access point. Then you can log into it. If you can't be bothered with this, then you're likely forced to use fixed IP addresses.

You can read the full review of 20 wireless access points at Hardware.info.