This buyer’s guide is the only thing you’ll need to choose the best wireless access point for your house or office. We’ll explain what a wireless access point is, how it works, how to properly configure Wi-Fi access points, and what to look for when shopping for one. The Top 6 Best Wireless Access Points are reviewed to aid you in your selection.
- What is a wireless access point and how it works?
- AP Technologies
- Advantages / Disadvantages of Wireless AP
- Product Functionalities
- Wireless Access Point Types/Features
- What to Look For When Shopping
- Top 6 Best Wireless Access Points
- How to Configure a Wireless Access Point
A wireless access point (AP) helps resolve issues related to slow, dropped, or non-existent Wi-Fi connections. It directly connects your Wi-Fi-enabled device(s) to a network. A wireless access point may be part of a wireless router or it can be a standalone unit that is connected to a router by high-speed Ethernet.
An access point expands the range of, and user connections to, an existing wireless network. It wirelessly connects devices to the LAN (local area network) through a high-speed Ethernet cable. The access point receives wired Ethernet data which is converted into a wireless signal that is sent onto wireless devices. Full Duplex Ethernet connections allow data to simultaneously flow in Receive and Transmit directions.
A wireless router generally provides sufficient WiFi coverage throughout an “average” sized house. A router used in conjunction with your access point extends the wireless signal’s range/coverage. This router-access point combination helps eliminate “dead zone” areas that have sporadic, weak, or no signal and/or coverage.
A wireless access point is not the same as a wireless router. It does not have a firewall or the ability to protect your LAN from Internet threats.
MESH Technology – can connect home devices, businesses, or entire cities! Mesh technology provides a seamless Internet connection over wireless (mesh network) connection nodes. Devices or workstations (nodes) that are directly connected to each other exhibit full mesh topology. Partial mesh topology occurs when some nodes are directly connected to each other while others are only connected to those with which they exchange the most data.
MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) Antenna Technology – helps reduce the obstructive effects of scattered signals that increase errors and decrease wireless Internet and other digital communications’ data speed. Negative multipath wave transmission may be minimized by situating two (or more) antennas and several signal transmissions (one per antenna) at the both the source and end.
PoE (Power over Ethernet) – is efficient low-power long cabling technology that can transmit up to 100 meters. PoE minimizes electrical hazard risks due to its low power.
A basic advantage of wireless access points is their ability to allow you to connect to the network without the need for cables. They can be installed wherever there is an Ethernet cable. They:
- allow you/your devices greater mobility,
- increase signal range and coverage, reducing dead zones, and
- allow homes and businesses to scale their network supported connections.
The downside is the reduced security. Access points do not have firewall utilities. Your bandwidth may also decrease as you add more connections and devices.
Wireless Smart products (i.e.: “Alexa” and “Google Home” virtual assistants) connect to an access point that enables voice/Internet interaction via your WiFi network. Control of your home security, thermostat, lighting, and other features is instantly at your command.
Access point products may be for indoor or outdoor mounting and use. They also ensure communication software product compatibility, speed, and reliability. Dual band access point products may offer small businesses simplified cluster management and expansion.
Single Band / Dual Band / Tri Band
The (single, dual, or tri) wireless band frequency is how your data is transmitted. Commonly used band frequencies are 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz.
A standard single access point/router uses a 2.4 Ghz band. It can accommodate an estimated max of 30 different devices within an approximated 103 meter area. However, single band is increasingly vulnerable to interferences from Bluetooth devices, cell phones, WiFi hotspots and other electronics. Single band is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Dual band uses both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands. The 5 Ghz allows faster and more consistent connections. Separate networks (i.e.: gaming and video) effectively operate simultaneously without interference.
Wireless tri-band uses one 2.4 Ghz band and two 5 Ghz bands, which means less interference, more bandwidth, more device support, and the ability to dedicate certain devices to a particular band. For now, it is the future standard.
Internal / External Antennas
The efficacy of your access point signal depends on the type of antenna and your device’s power output. Internal antennas are better-suited for indoor installations. Most external antennas are built for commercial, industrial, taxing environments.
Access points come equipped with built-in antennas or RF (radio frequency) ports that allow you to connect external antennas that widen and improve your coverage.
Directional antennas are recommended for point-to-point communications. External Omnidirectional antennas provide wider (360 deg.) indoor/outdoor point-to-multi-point wireless signal coverage (Indoor: access points, Smart devices; Outdoor: cell towers, campuses). They are centrally-located external antennas that provide connectivity for home or business WiFi devices.
The IEEE Standard is the inter-access point protocol that supports wireless access point communications (roaming) between access points. The IEEE standard amendment modifies the IEEE 802.11 physical (PHY) and medium access control (MAC) layers to ensure power efficiency of at least one type of 20 Gps max. throughput operation is maintained/improved.
Controller-Based v. Stand-Alone Access Points
Stand-alone access points are good cost effective solutions for small operations/business. Authentication is similar to controller-based access points, but stand-alone WEP encryption is weaker. Bandwidth and load balancing cannot be effectively controlled. They may be adapted to larger operations with the addition of centralized control wireless LAN management software.
Controller-based access points are more expensive than stand-alone access points, but they provide centralized management, upgraded WPA2 encryption, configuration, and policy setting, and firmware updates. Bandwidth and load balancing can be controlled.
Multiple Services (SSID)
A Service Set Identifier (SSID) can be used by multiple broadcasting access points. Multiple SSIDs can also be used by one access point. A device’s SSID connection signal passes to the network switch and onto a VLAN network that has specific security standards for accepting guest devices. There is a saturation point. Too many services flooding the WiFi can slow the system, however.
Access point features to look for include mobility, certification standard, and individual WiFi elements such as the number and type of antennas (location, rotation, etc.), band(s), PoE, MIMO technology, etc.
The access point’s range is determined by its real time wireless coverage, transmission rate, and connected devices. Scale depends on:
- physical obstacles, and environmental factors,
- network interfaces, traffic, and conditions, and
- client margins such as connectivity, location, frequency bands, MIMO and protocol (i.e.: 802.11K and 802.11V) support.
The existing WiFi range may be extended. Repeaters that are wirelessly connected to WiFi routers increase the radio signal. The signal may also be reflected around a target area.
In general, the maximum speed indicated on your product’s box is only an estimate and does not consider your particular external factors such as location, physical obstructions, number of devices simultaneously connected, environmental conditions, etc.
Do not expect maximum speed while attaining maximum range. The speed of your WiFi devices depends on how far from your wireless access point they are. The further the range, the slower your WiFi speed tends to be. This may be important as you set up your hot spot. Similarly, your access point speed decreases the further it is from the router.
Encryption is the best wireless security access points have. Access points do not have firewall features but current updated access points come with built-in encryption. First generation stand-alone access points have WEP encryption that can easily be penetrated. Updated (2nd & 3rd gen) WPA and WPA2 encryption and strong password are more secure. RADIUS hot spot authentication is supported by some access points.
Here, we’ll review the best six wireless access points currently available for purchase, cover their differentiating features, and give our personal recommendations. Prepare to spend around 100 dollars for the best devices. However, if you’re on a budget, don’t worry we have an option for you too. Read on to find out which one of those APs will work for you.
Ubiquiti Networks Unifi 802.11ac Dual-Radio PRO Access Point
The versatile Ubiquiti AC Pro is an improved industrial, indoor/outdoor, simultaneous dual band access point. It offers unlimited, single- controller, scalable WiFi enterprise management. It has two 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports and provides speeds up to 450Mbps and 1300Mbps on 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. Band-steering pushes users toward a faster 5Ghz channel that is free of interference. The UniFi AC Pro AP supports up to four separate SSID/networks.
The Ubiquiti AC Pro features 3x3 MIMO technology in 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radio bands. It has 3x 3dBi, omnidirectional antenna and offers auto-sensing 802.3af PoE / 802.3at PoE+ compatibility that accommodates third-party enterprise data pass-through switches. It meets 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi standards and consumes 9W maximum power.
The Ubiquiti AC Pro AP is weatherproof for indoor or outdoor wireless network installation. It works with hardware that complies with IEEE 802.3af PoE or 802.3at PoE+ standards. A 1-yr. limited warranty is included.
Ubiquiti Networks Dual-Radio PRO: Check the current price
Ubiquiti Unifi Ap-AC Lite - Wireless Access Point - 802.11 B/A/G/n/AC
Ubiquiti Networks’ AC Lite is an ultra-compact, reduced footprint, indoor, industrial access point design. It offers unlimited, single- controller, scalable WiFi enterprise management. It has one 10/100/1000 Ethernet port and provides dual band speeds up to 300Mbps and 867Mbps on 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. It optimizes radio frequency (RF). Band-steering pushes users toward a faster 5Ghz channel that is free of interference. The UniFi AC Lite AP supports four separate SSID/networks.
The Ubiquiti AC Lite access point features Wi-Fi 802.11AC technology. It has 2 dual band antennas, 3dBi each. This AP offers WEP, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise (WPA/WPA2, TKIP/AES security. It meets 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi standards, is CE, FCC, IC certified, and consumes 6.5W maximum power.
The Ubiquiti AC Lite AP is a smaller-sized, cost effective, high performance solution for indoor wireless network installation. It optimizes RF and Ethernet Gigabit speeds. A 1-yr. limited warranty is included.
Ubiquiti Unifi Ap-AC Lite: Check the current price
TP-Link Wireless N300 2T2R Access Point
The scalable TP-LINK N300 access point is designed to expand your wireless home, business, or commercial (café, hotel or airport) Internet experience. It has one 10/100/1000 PoE-supported Ethernet port. It also offers 5x the range and 15x the dynamic speed of wireless g (11g up to 54Mbps) and 11n and 11b (up to 300Mbps and 11Mbps respectively) on a 2.4GHz frequency. The TP-LINK N300 AP supports Multi-SSID, Client, Repeater (WDS / Universal), and Point-to-Point/Point to Multi-Point (AP+ Bridge) mode networks.
TP-LINK N300 access points feature DQPSK, DBPSK, OFDM, CCK, and 16-QAM/64-QAM technologies. It meets IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, and IEEE 802.11b wireless access points. It has 2x 4dBi, detachable omnidirectional antenna suitable for stronger upgrades.
The TP-LINK N300 AP is designed to connect numerous Ethernet-enabled devices for VoIP, gaming, and video streaming. A 1-yr. limited warranty is included.
TP-LINK N300: Check the current price
TP-Link AC1750 Wireless Wi-Fi Access Point
The affordable TP-LINK AC1750 access point is an easy Ethernet 802.3at installation designed to work with MS Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, or 10. It has one Gigabit PoE-supported Ethernet RJ-45 port. It provides dual band data rate speeds up to 300Mbps and 867Mbps on 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. Auto band-steering moves users to a faster, wider-band 5Ghz channel that is free of interference. It optimizes RF and guest authentication for business-level applications.
The TP-LINK AC1750 access point features 802.11AC 3x3 MIMO Wi-Fi technology. It has 6 omnidirectional antennas, 4dBi each. It is 802.3at PoE+ switch, 3 external 12VDC/1.5A, or 6-57V 0.4A compliant. MU-MEMO capability must be supported by MU-MIMO-supported devices. Seamless roaming must be supported by 802.11K and 802.11V protocol-supported access point and device(s).
The TP-LINK AC1750 AP offers enterprise class chipsets that support longer range and run times, performance, and scalability. A limited lifetime warranty, 24/7 tech support, and TP-Link Auranet Controller software that allows you to monitor/manage EAPs from a single location are included. It has a CA Proposition 65 warning.
TP-LINK AC1750: Check the current price
Securifi Almond - (3 Minute Setup) Touchscreen WiFi Wireless Router/Range Extender/Access Point
The multi-purpose Securifi Almond functions as a universal access point, WiFi wireless touchscreen router, wireless bridge, or existing range extender. It boasts an easy “3 Minute” toruchscreen setup without the need for computer or CD. It has 2 LAN ports and 1 WAN port, and provides a single-band data rate speed up to 300Mbps. A unique factory-set SSID and password provides router (anti- Google's Location Tracking) security.
The Securifi Almond Touchscreen requires a 5V., 1amp power supply. It has no DSL modem built in. It features firewall, port forwarding, DMZ, and UPnP and MIMO Wi-Fi technology and 802.11bgn wireless compatibility. It has 2 external antennas. It supports voice-activated management including blocking, parental controls, and network notifications.
The universal, easy to set up and use Securifi Almond is compatible with existing routers, PC/Macs, Apple and Android smart devices, Xbox, and Amazon Alexa. A 1-yr. limited warranty and 24/7 tech support are included.
Securifi: Check the current price
NETGEAR AC1200 Dual Band Wireless Access Point
The fast and reliable NETGEAR AC1200 (WAC 104) is a “no frills” wireless WiFi access point that is well-suited for small businesses. It has four Gigabit Ethernet ports to extend/expand wired networks. The 802.11ac dual band WiFi reaches data rate speeds up to 300Mbps and 867Mbps on 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively.
The NETGEAR AC1200 (WAC 104) access point features easy set up, configuration, and one-touch WPS (WiFi Protected System) connectivity technology in WDS Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint wireless bridge modes. It has 2 external, farreaching antennas that are factory-tuned at 3dBi each. It is compatible with AC, IPV6, and N150, N300, and N600 devices.
The fast, low-maintenance, cost-effective NETGEAR AC1200 (WAC 104) has wide coverage and security, which makes it well-suited for cafes and coffee shops, dental offices, and other small business. A 3-yr. NETGEAR hardware warranty and lifetime (chat) tech support are included.
NETGEAR: Check the current price
Comparative chart of Wireless Access Points
Ubiquiti Networks Dual-Radio PRO
|Connectivity: USB |
Max. Power Consumption: 9W
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: 1.27Gbps (Dual band aggregate)
Antenna: 3x 3dBi, Omnidirectional
Ubiquiti Ap-AC Lite
|Connectivity: Wireless |
Max. Power Consumption: 6.5W
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: 1.3Gbps (Dual band aggregate)
Antenna: 2x 3dBi Omnidirectional
|Connectivity: Wireless |
Max. Power Consumption: Not listed
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: Up to 300Mbps
Antenna: 2x 4dBi Detachable Omnidirectional
|Connectivity: Wireless |
Max. Power Consumption: 12.7W
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: Up to 1.75 Gbps (Dual band aggregate)
Antenna: 6x 4dBi Internal Omnidirectional
|Connectivity: WiFi Wired |
Max. Power Consumption: Not listed
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: 300 Mbps
Antenna: 2 External
|Connectivity: WiFi, Ethernet |
Max. Power Consumption: 8.1W
WiFi Speed/Data Transfer: Up to 1.2 Gbps (Dual band aggregate)
Antenna: 2x 3dBi (External)
Use your wireless access point configuration settings to switch it (or your router) to repeater mode so the range of your wireless home or business network signal is increased.
1. Connect your Ethernet cable to your computer’s, laptop’s, etc. networking port.
2. Connect the other end of the Ethernet cable to one of the access point’s LAN ports.
3. Open your Web browser and type in the IP address of the access point. “Enter” to open the configuration page.
4. On the configuration page you’ll see configuration options that relate to the wireless access point’s functions. Click the "Wireless" tab. Click the "Repeater" tab on the "Mode" menu.
5. You may “Enable/Disable” your wireless access point functions or modify your other settings:
• “SSID” (Service Set Identifier) identifies the network. Access points have common defaults. Changing the default SSID only protects from first-grade hackers. Leave the default SSID at and apply better security measures.
• “Allow broadcast SSID to associate?” Disable this for greater security. Disabling prevents the access point’s periodic SSID broadcast that invites wireless devices within range to join your network.
• Set your “Channel” so your access point and all wireless network computer(s) are on the same channel.
• “WEP - Mandatory or Disable” allows you to use wired equivalent privacy security protocol.
6. Click "Save Settings" to complete your access point’s wireless repeater configuration.
Is a wireless access point a router? Does it need to be connected to a router?
Wireless access points are not routers but may be incorporated into a wireless router. Others are standalone units connected via Ethernet to a router so other devices can access the connection.
Is a wireless access point secure?
No. It does not have firewall functions that protect your local network.
What is a wireless access point controller?
Controller-based access points are for larger operations. They provide centralized management, upgraded WPA2 encryption, configuration, and policy setting, firmware updates, and bandwidth and load balancing control.
Can these devices have the same SSID?
One SSID can be used by multiple broadcasting access points. Multiple SSIDs can also be used by one access point.
Can a wireless access point connect to a switch?
A device’s SSID access point connection signal passes to the network switch and onto a VLAN network that has specific security standards for accepting guest devices.
Why can't I connect to a wireless access point?
You need a router.
How to find wireless access point IP address?
Default IP addresses are listed on your access point’s box or sticker.
How to secure a wireless access point?
Encryption is the best wireless security access points have. WPA and WPA2 encryption and strong password are the most secure. RADIUS hot spot authentication is supported by some access points.
What is bridge mode?
Bridge mode allows you to connect multiple devices. Set up 2 WiFi routers: 1 as a router and 1 as a bridge (in bridge mode).
What is the best overall wireless access point?
From those reviewed: The scalable TP-LINK N300 access point is designed to expand your wireless home, business, or commercial (café, hotel or airport) Internet experience. It also offers 5x the range and 15x the dynamic speed of wireless g.
What is the best for home?
From those reviewed: The universal, easy to set up and use Securifi Almond is compatible with existing routers, PC/Macs, Apple and Android smart devices, Xbox, and Amazon Alexa.
What is the best for a business’ office?
From those reviewed: The NETGEAR AC1200 (WAC 104) is a “no frills”, cost-effective, fast, reliable, and low-maintenance wireless WiFi AP.
What is the best for 50 users? 500 users? 1000 users?
From those reviewed: Ubiquiti Networks’ AC Lite is an ultra-compact, reduced footprint, indoor, industrial AP design that offers unlimited, single- controller, scalable WiFi enterprise management.
What is the best for CCTV?
From those reviewed: The Ubiquiti AC Pro AP is weatherproof for indoor or outdoor wireless network installation and works with hardware that complies with IEEE 802.3af PoE or 802.3at PoE+ standards.
What is the best for school?
From those reviewed: The TP-LINK AC1750 AP offers enterprise class chipsets that support longer range and run times, performance, and scalability. It is an easy installation designed to work with MS Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, or 10. It has one Gigabit PoE-supported Ethernet RJ-45 port.
What is the best wireless access point for gaming?
From those reviewed: The TP-LINK N300 AP is designed to connect numerous Ethernet-enabled devices for VoIP, gaming, and video streaming.
What is the best for a hotel?
From those reviewed: The TP-LINK AC1750 AP offers enterprise class chipsets that support longer range and run times, performance, and scalability. Free TP-Link Auranet Controller software allows you to monitor/manage EAPs from a single location.
A wireless access point is designed to expand the range and user connections to existing wireless network. It wirelessly connects devices to local area network via a high-speed Ethernet connection. Its goal is to successfully resolve slow, dropped, or non-existent Wi-Fi connections.
Technological advancements are constantly being made to overcome obstructed signal effects and encryption and security. IEEE standard amendments modify access control to ensure power efficiency and improved operation. Other improvements include improvements in antennas for better coverage, wireless band frequencies, product compatibility, and connectivity.