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What is the Difference Between Wi-Fi Router and Wi-Fi Extender

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Internet devices and equipment are becoming increasingly complex as technology advances every day. This is why understanding the difference between a Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi extenders is so important, yet difficult. Here is a detailed guide that focuses solely on the major differences between the two devices and what purpose each has.

What a Wi-Fi Router Does

Once you have had an ISP install an internet connection in your home, you need a medium through which your devices and the internet connection can communicate. This medium, or the device that allows your smart mobiles and laptops to communicate to the internet, is called the router. As its name suggests, a router directs or gives a “route” to your data and all the traffic on the home internet network.

The multiple internet devices in your home, including your game consoles and smart TV, connect to the router wirelessly or through a wired connection. As a result, you can then transmit data from one point to another. This communication or data transfer between your devices and internet connection may not be possible without a router, and a modem only. All a modem does is bring or set up an internet connection in your home. It does not necessarily communicate with your devices, which is why a router becomes essential.

Many modem-router combo devices are preferable. This reduces the wire clutter, and you can have complete functionality from just one device. Brands like TP-Link, Motorola, and Netgear have an excellent variety of modem-router combos that you might want to check out.

Keep in mind that while routers are essential for your devices to connect to the internet network, a Wi-Fi extender is not as critical. The functionality of an extender is very different, and its whole purpose is something entirely different. The important thing to note is that while a router can work with or without an extender, it might not be the case with an extender. It cannot work without a router in place. Keep reading to understand what a Wi-Fi extender does and how it is different from a Wi-Fi router.

What a Wi-Fi Extender Does

Have you ever had trouble getting the same strength of internet signals in one part of your home, compared to the rest? Areas, where the internet signals are weak or non-existent, are called “dead zones”. This issue occurs when the router just cannot broadcast the internet signals to such a long distance. This is more common in large or double-story houses.

Areas like backyards, rooftops, or corner rooms often get little to no internet signals. This can be extremely inconvenient if you tend to use your internet devices in such spots of the house.

One plain and simple solution to this problem is to invest in a Wi-Fi extender. The word “extender” itself gives away a lot of information about what this device does. A Wi-Fi extender “extends” the internet signals broadcasted by your router to areas that the router cannot reach. It connects to your router wirelessly and is placed in a location far from the router. However, its ideal location is somewhere between the router and the hard-to-reach area. Once the router broadcasts internet signals, the extender catches and then re-broadcasts these signals, so they can reach the dead zones.

Keep in mind that when you install a Wi-Fi extender in your home internet network, it creates a separate network. After the installation of an extender, you must connect your devices manually to the network created by the extender. This is an entirely different access point or channel that your data traffic flows through.

An extender’s only job is to boost the signal strength and cover a much larger area than a router alone can. However, it is not responsible for increasing speed and bandwidth, or affecting the latency of the internet. You will still be only getting the internet speed and bandwidth that you have subscribed to.

Difference Between Wi-Fi Router and Wi-Fi Extender

Here are some important differences you need to know between a router and an extender.

A router:

  • directs the outgoing and incoming traffic on the internet network
  • Has multiple types including wired, wireless, mesh, mobile/portable
  • Has many important Wi-Fi controls such as guest networks and parental controls
  • Has to be in a central location of your home
  • Has to be connected to the modem

An extender:

  • increases the range of the internet signals broadcasted by a router
  • Does not have many Wi-Fi controls
  • Does not need to be connected to a modem
  • Can be installed anywhere in the house as long as it’s between the router and a dead spot

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Overview of the Best Wi-Fi Routers

Now that you know the difference between the two, you might want to invest in one or both of these devices. The two make a great duo, sometimes a robust router alien is also enough. Here is a quick look at some of the best routers and Wi-Fi extenders.

Gaming requires a high-speed internet connection that remains uninterrupted. And only a powerful router such as the TP-Link Archer AX11000 can provide that. The router comes with multiple Ethernet ports that allow you to establish a wired and stable internet connection between your gaming PC, laptop, or console and the router. The router also has a very unique appearance, with multiple external antennas and Wi-Fi 6 capability.

With 3 external antennas, getting an adequate signal range should not be difficult with this router. It features a simple design and functionality, and is ideal for small family homes with basic internet needs. It has 4 LAN ports, a built-in VPN feature, and dual-band Wi-Fi for minimal network congestion.

This advanced Wi-Fi 6 router by TP-Link is perfect to pair up with your gigabit internet plans. If you are subscribed to Mediacom Internet, this router will be set up smoothly with your home network. The router is equipped with impressive features such as an OpenVPN, dual-band Wi-Fi, Alexa compatibility, and much more.

Overview of the Best Wi-Fi Extenders

This dual-band Wi-Fi extender by Linksys is one of the best, most low-profile extenders you will find in the market. It is suitable for areas as large as 2,400 square feet. However, you can easily choose its other variants that are suitable for much smaller spaces also.

This is perhaps the most advanced and feature-rich Wi-Fi extender you can come across, thanks to its Wi-Fi 6 standard and 4-stream mesh mechanism. It is perfect for large spaces and high-speed internet plans such as those offered by Mediacom. The best thing is it has backward compatibility with devices that are Wi-Fi 5 or older.

Wi-Fi extenders are mostly needed by people who lie in large family homes. If that’s the case with you, select nothing but this D-link range extender that comes with robust 3 external antennas for enhanced performance. It has dual-band Wi-Fi and is equipped with an Ethernet port to offer a more reliable wired connection if need be.


While both these devices have very different functions from one another, they do work seamlessly in conjunction with one another. Almost every household has dead spots where internet signals are weak. Therefore, a Wi-Fi extender can be the perfect fix for such situations.

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