Question Access Point vs Extender & Best one for Triband Netgear Router

Mar 31, 2019
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Hi, I have several questions that I need help with. I have a Nighthawk TRI-Band R7900 router purchased at Costco June 2016.
We have cat5 wiring throughout our house. So most everything that normally would using Wi-Fi like Roku's are all hooked up with Ethernet. Our house is a two story and the router is upstairs in the office. We have CenturyLink high speed 80 DSL. Most everything runs fine on Wi-Fi since it is only our IPhones and IPads that we are usually using for wireless. We also have a garage door opener on the 2.4 band.
When I occasionally use Face Time in the downstairs family room I get a message that the signal is weak. Other than that it has been fine. Last month we purchased a Ring Video Doorbell 2. I called their customer support and had them walk me through the installation. They said the our Wi-Fi connection was weak but it worked. I notice there is a lag time between when the doorbell is rung and when we hear it go off.
So, I did research and decided to buy a Wi-Fi range extender. Since I had a tri-band Netgear router I wanted to keep it all the same brand hoping to make it more compatible. I had seen that I could make it an access point or a range extender. I was not sure what was the best way to hook it up.
So I decided to call Netgear. I figured they would know which one. The first time I called Netgear for their recommendation the support person recommended to me to purchase an AC1900 Nighthawk Mesh Extender. She said I would want to set it up as an access point not as an extender. I told her we had a tri-band router. I also liked the idea that it I could use one password and Wi-Fi name and wouldn't have to keep choosing which connection I was using. My router was already set to the smart connect so that it would choose the best one for the device on its own.
I got it yesterday and called Netgear support and had the agent walk me through the installation. He set it up as an access point. It took a good bit of time because apparently it didn't like the password I used and wouldn't let it install until I shortened it. Also, he couldn't get it to install without having to name the access point differently that the router one we had set up. After I got off the phone with the Netgear support person, I was looking at the box the extender came in and noticed it is a Dual band mesh extender not a Tri-band . I called back to Netgear and the person I spoke with said it would be better to get a Tri-band and I could send it back and buy the Tri-band. She also said I would not want to hook it up as an access point that I should have had it installed as an extender. I am so confused.
I started researching online again and now I really don't know what is best and nobody seems to agree. I called Best Buy, and a couple of network computer stores in town today. Again, everyone says something different.
I read that if you set it up as an extender, you lose about 50% bandwidth. It is just pushing the signal. I read if you set it up as an access point with the Ethernet cord you don't lose anything. But the two different support people I spoke with at Netgear said two opposite things.
I called Ring today and had them walk me through changing the connection to the access point that was
downstairs. It said I now have a solid connection. But now I have two different SSID Wi-Fi Names and
passwords.
So...I need to know what the right/best answer to these questions are:
  1. Should I purchase the Tri-band Extender to match the Tri-band Router I have?
  2. Should I set it up as an extender or an access point?
  3. Is it better or worse to have it set up with two different SSID names and passwords?
  4. If I keep the dual band extender will I lose the third channel on my tri-band route?
 
The first problem you have is the tri-band router you have upstairs is using all the radio bandwidth available. It uses 40 of 60mhz on 2.4g and 160 of 180 on the 5g. There is no room for a second device without interfering. This of course ignores your neighbors interfering.

Having the 3 radio bands does not work well unless you manually balance your clients between them. The fancy software on the router does a poor job and when it comes down to it the end device actually controls what it connects to not the router.

Part of the reason for the confusion is the newer mesh devices work differently. The older repeaters use the same wifi radio to talk to the main router and the end device. This is the key thing that causes the 50% reduction but it tends to be far more then 50%. The newer mesh work with the theory of back haul where it uses 2 different radios. To make this even more confusing not all mesh systems work this way.n You still have 2 radio transmissions that can be interfered and take errors in either design.

In any case it is always best to use ethernet to run back to the main router. This way the traffic between the wifi radio and router is dedicated instead of shared. The AP method will always be better and what is used by enterprise customers. If mesh was such a good technology you would see large enterprise customers using it. It is not a new concept and if it was so great it would have occurred in the enterprise market first and then the consumer market. It is very telling that it is pretty much only sold to end consumers.

You really want the very minimum number of wifi radios in your house that get the job done. It is a trade off signal strength to interference with the other radios. Remember when you are using a tri band router you are using all the available bandwidth so putting in any other device is guaranteed to conflict. The way this used to work is radios only used 20mhz of bandwidth and you could fit lots more. It get higher speed the manufactures started using mulitple blocks.

Using the same or different SSID is personal preference. I prefer different so I know what I am connected to. This is the same reason I make the SSID different on a tri band router so I know what radio I am talking to. You would use the same SSID if you did not want to deal with what connects where and hope the device pick best.

The concept of roaming between the radios is pretty broken. The end device is in primary control and will not change unless the signal level get unusable....or if the router would force a drop which is what some of the mesh things do. It takes some time to make the switch and many times it will still connect to a source other than the optimum one. There is not a lot of need for actual roaming. Who actually walks around their house watching netflix on their phone/computer. For most people it is not too hard to manually change the radio it is connected to if their performance is poor.
 

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