Written by Margot

Routers vs multi-room WiFi: what are the differences?

Multi-room WiFi's promise is that you can be online without issues anywhere in your home. With your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and smart TV. Not just you, but everyone in the house. Simultaneously. What's the difference between a router and multi-room WiFi, you're wondering? I found out for you and made an overview of the most important differences.

In short

Network router Multi-room WiFi
Do you want a strong WiFi network in your entire house? No Yes
Don't want to run network cables in your house? No Yes
Want to set up the Internet without knowing a lot about networks? No Yes
Want to set up a separate guest network? Yes Yes
Want to prioritize games using Quality of Service? Yes Yes

WiFi everywhere in your house?

Range on 1 floor

Range up to the second floor

A router's WiFi signal generally doesn't reach past the second floor of your house. You can extend the signal with an access point or powerline adapter. Because the WiFi signal of your router downstairs reaches far, it stays visible for your laptop or tablet for a long time. That means you stay connected to the weak signal. You'll only switch when the old signal is completely gone. That's something you'll notice when walking around your house while making a video call for instance.

Multi-room WiFi

Strong WiFi network in your whole house

Multi-room WiFi consists of a base station and multiple satellites. You put them in different spots throughout your house. You won't have to run long network cables, since the devices share a strong WiFi connection. The router and satellite divide the internet traffic. As a result, multi-room WiFi lets you switch networks before losing the signal.

Quick install?

Installation with manual

"You can install this router in just 3 steps." - No one, ever

Installing a router generally requires a lot of patience. As well as knowledge about network ports, frequency bands, and bandwidth. Many routers include an app that will help you set it up, but even that will include copying strange passwords.

Done in 3 steps

I installed Orbi, Netgear's multi-room WiFi solution in 3 steps. I would let my grandmother install this device; it's that easy. Because the devices were already linked in the factory, you don't have to match complicated passwords or press a WPS button. Connect the network cable from your modem to the router, put the satellite in a central place in your house and connect to a strong WiFi network.

Technological marvel

Quality of Service

Use the Quality of Service (QoS) settings on both routers and multi-room WiFi systems to indicate which devices or games are more important. Like a traffic cop, your router will give priority to these streams. That way, your gaming brother or roommate can use up all bandwidth, making your favorite series buffer. However, if you manage the router's settings, you can make it be the other way around.

Seamless roaming

The router and satellite will divide the internet traffic among each other, without you noticing anything. This seamless switching – also called seamless roaming – is possible because the routers communicate with each other about data traffic via a third WiFi band. It's like a breakdown lane for WiFi, that always connects to the strongest signal. Thanks to this technology, your favorite Netflix series won't have to buffer because you're also FaceTiming.

The best WiFi solution for you

Do you have a relatively small apartment or house? Would you like to manage QoS settings yourself and create a guest network? Choose a dual-band router. Have a medium-size to large home and want WiFi throughout your home – without technical hassle? In that case, multi-room WiFi is the best solution for you. This solution is more expensive than your garden-variety router, but it means you'll solve all your WiFi issues at once. The impressive range of both the base station and the satellite mean that you no longer need a WiFi repeater, powerline adapter, or access point.


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