The evolution in technology has made our lives digital that is highly dependent on the internet. We need internet access all the time because without it most of our gadgets and devices are rendered useless. While a Wi-Fi router is a key in setting up a connection, sometimes it is not enough. You would need either the best wireless access points (WAPs), range extenders, or repeaters to optimize internet connection and increase its range.
WAPs are ideal to increase the Wi-Fi range in large office spaces and colleges. Let us tell you more about them.
Wireless Access Points – What Are These & How Do They Work?
Wireless Access Point or WAP is a networking device used to increase the coverage of Wi-Fi. The device essentially connects with the existing router via cable and provides Wi-Fi signals to any dead spots in the area. WAP acts as a central networking hub and can support hundreds of users simultaneously.
Furthermore, WAPs are more versatile than routers in terms of compatibility with networking patterns. You can essentially connect even those wireless devices with WAP that are not compatible with wireless routers. Wireless access points are ideal for large offices to ensure the availability of Wi-Fi all over the place.
It is common to confuse WAPs with range extenders but their applications are very different from each other. While range extenders improve the existing range of signals, WAP creates a new hub altogether. Hence, WAP can be used to provide signals even in areas that are practically dead spots.
4 Top Wireless Access Points Reviews
1. Ubiquiti Unifi AP-AC Long Range – Single AP To Cover Entirety Of Small Offices & Home Businesses
UAP-AC is a long-range, business-grade access point that offers simultaneous dual-band frequencies. The AP is operated via a UniFi 3.0 application that is compatible with all major PC’s operating systems. All the necessary accessories to mount the AP are included in the package.
With simultaneous dual-band operations, the device is capable of delivering theoretical speed above 1300Mbps. It also uses the latest wireless standard to ensure premium performance and long-range to deliver it to large distances. Usually, the APs without long-range come at the expense of signal strength but with this, you would experience any of it. It essentially offers a sweet spot when it comes to signal gain.
The AP also offers a PoE injector that connects it to a non-PoE Lan switch port. In simple terms, its PoE injector takes the power from a LAN cable instead of an AC source. Hence, you would not have to install it near the AC source or install a new power source just for the access point.
- Simultaneous dual-band operation
- Intuitive yet simple application
- Very long-range
- Latest Wi-Fi standard
- Bit expensive
2. Ubiquiti Unifi AP-AC Lite – Access Point That Optimizes Internet Smartly
Unifi AP-AC is a dual-band access point ideal for offices, schools, and home businesses. While the AP supports both bands only can be used at a time. However, the device automatically switches between the frequencies to deliver optimal performances. At 2.4 GHz, it can deliver speeds up to 300Mbps while 5 GHz offers 867mbps. Hence, even when it is running at lower-band the speeds are good enough for all sorts of operations.
The AP offers both the latest and dated Wi-Fi standards to ensure compatibility with all devices. Signal strength remains consistent throughout the working range of 122 meters. Users can know internet status via LED light and if there is a problem it can be managed remotely via a dedicated application. Additionally, there is even a reset button at the back which can be used to restore default settings.
The good thing is that its performance is not impacted by the number of connected devices. With its ability to switch between bands, it ensures the channels are not congested and deliver excellent performance all the time.
- Smartly switches between frequency bands
- Remote controls via applications
- Decent range
- Does not allow simultaneous dual-band usage
3. TRENDnet Wireless N300 – Optimizes The Internet Without Breaking The Bank
TRENDnet targets small businesses that do not involve heavy-duty internet operations with their N300 access point. It is an inexpensive single-band AP that offers only 2.4Ghz radiofrequency. While the said band may not be ideal for heavy-duty operation, it is good enough to cause internet surfing and transmission of emails.
Furthermore, it supports a variety of wireless standards which means almost all devices would be compatible with it. Parental control, a rare feature in this price bracket, is also available. In fact, office owners can restrict certain entertainment websites to improve the productivity of employees.
MIMO technology is icing on the cake. Again, not a feature usually available at this price point. It uses multiple transmitters to ensure rapid data transfer and increases signal-capturing power by combining multiple streams from different directions using the antennas.
- Parental controls
- MIMO technology
- Supports multiple standards
- Not suitable for heavy-duty internet operations
4. NetGear Wireless Desktop Access Point – Provides Premium Security & Increases Productivity
NetGear’s access point is packed with features that can increase the productivity of the workplace. It is targeted at small offices and businesses to maximize internet reach in every corner of the place. The design of the AP is intuitive and features four LED lights to display the status of ethernet, 2.4 GHz, 5GHz, and power.
Setting it up involves no hassles. It features a straightforward interface that eliminates the need for professional help. That said, it cannot be configured remotely owing to the lack of mobile apps. A little inconvenient? Sure. But it is not like one has to configure it on a daily basis.
The stand-out feature is its ability to create four sub-networks with different SSIDs. The cherry on top? Users can even assign either 2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz, or both bands to each of these networks. It can be great in office spaces where the nature of work varies in different regions.
WPA3 encryption seals the deal for us as it provides an additional layer of security that offices need. Thanks to it, the network can be left password-free without making it vulnerable to cyber-attacks from outside.
- WPA3 security
- 4 sub-networks
- LED lights to display different functions
- Straightforward setup
- No remote access
Buyer’s Guide For Best Wireless Access Points
While browsing for WAPs you would come across terminologies that go over the heads of even the tech-savvy individuals. Gimmick rides from brands also do not help. You need to have a basic understanding of some features and knowledge of their impact on performance to make a better decision. These features are as follows:
802.11ac & 802.11ax Support
802.11ac & 802.11ax are the two latest wireless communication standards that most users would want to see in their routers and WAPs. But their availability in networking devices increases the price and not all users need it anyway. Hence, it is not wise to make an expensive purchase when you are not going to use the features that are costing extra bucks.
Undoubtedly, these standards offer the fastest speed and have really cool tricks up in their sleeves. But they only work when the conditions are absolutely perfect. These conditions include:
- Room for 802.11ac’s super wide channels
- Devices compatible with 802.11ac
- Devices should be within a 20-30 feet radius of the access point.
If the conditions are met, the said wireless standards would perform exceptionally but in case otherwise, it is better to opt for a cheaper 802.11n network. 802.11n devices work better than improperly designed 802.11ax. And they also cost significantly less.
Dual-Band support is a non-negotiable and must-have feature for WAPs and Wi-Fi routers. Such devices transmit data over two frequencies the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz. These standards have their advantages and disadvantages but when used in combination they offer premium performance. While the 2.4GHz band can send strong signals to extended ranges, 5GHz provides super-fast data transfer speed.
That said, utilization of the two-band is dependent on connected devices and WAPs. Premium smartphones and laptops can switch between frequencies by analyzing factors like speed, distance, and traffic. Unfortunately, most budget and midrange products are not equipped with such features.
Some routers and WAPs are now equipped with powerful processors that can analyze the required bandwidth for connecting devices and distribute it accordingly. But again, procuring a router or WAP with such features will increase the cost. Hence, understanding the dynamics of the workplace is highly important to wisely make such decisions.
WAPs are generally used in offices, schools, and universities to provide internet access to all areas. In either case, it will create a public network that is prone to all sorts of digital threats. Hackers can access data and information from all the devices that are connected to a particular WAP. Thus, it is crucial to look out for the security of WAP and when it comes to it WPA3 is the best choice.
WPA3 is the latest generation of wireless network security that prevents users from all sorts of digital attacks. The security encrypts traffic even when the password is not used and prevents passive eavesdropping by the hackers. It means users can carry out even as sensitive tasks as bank transactions without making themselves vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
A WAP meant to be used outdoors should be weatherproof. It should be able to withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, rainfalls, and storms. Such WAPs do not have exposed orifices and ports have protective covering against waters. That said, there is a difference between weatherproof and waterproof. Most of the WAPs are weatherproof which means they can only withstand splashes not submerging into water.
Hence, despite the weatherproofing, you would have to place them where they are safe from water. Yes, rain splashes would not be a problem but rainwater should not directly pour at it.
Signal gain determines the distance a WAP is able to send a wireless signal. Generally, a WAP with higher signal gain provides a broader coverage but the strength of the signal is not consistent. With the low signal gain, you will get a consistent and strong signal but that will come at the expense of range.
Hence, the point is, you will have to choose between signal strength and the range. The choice should be dictated by the nature of activities that are carried out in the particular facility. Offices involved in the graphics and multimedia industry require high bandwidth hence the low signal gain. While those involved in mere sending and reception of documents can work best with high gain WAPs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Best Wireless Access Points
Wireless Access Point vs. Wireless Router, which one is better?
In essence, wireless routers are sufficient for homes and small offices but WAPs would be required to set up a large network in large offices, schools and colleges. Hence, the choice should be dictated by the area where you want to use either of these devices.
Which company makes the best wireless access points?
NetGear, Aruba, and Draytek are some of the companies that are producing the best wireless access points.
Which access point has the best range?
Wireless points that use the 802.11ac standard offer the highest ranges. Ubiquiti Unifi AP-AC is an example of a long-range WAP.
What is the best wireless access point?
Netgear’s desktop, TRENDnet N300, Unifi AP-AC lite, and Unifi AP-AC-LR are examples of some of the best wireless access points available on the market.
Single radio access point vs. dual-radio access point, which one is more advantageous?
Dual-radio access points transmit dual-band frequencies which make them less congested and consequently capable of delivering better performance than single radio access points.
Can I turn the router into a wireless access point?
Not all but some routers can be turned into wireless access points by tweaking some settings on the interface. Usually, the option is available in the operation modes of routers.
WAPs are cheap devices to improve internet range in a variety of spaces. While there are hundreds of these devices on the market, our pick is NetGear WAX214 as it offers simultaneous dual-band frequencies in addition to premium security. We hope the list of best wireless access points has helped in selecting the appropriate WAP or at least has narrowed down options.