The standard Wi-fi router or modem is perhaps one of the most central pieces of tech in any regular home nowadays. But, as much needed as they are for wrangling all of your computers and devices, sometimes they just aren’t enough. Either due to increased management needs or just increased device usage, Wireless Access Points are usually the next step upgrade, and are the essential devices to set up a more robust and secure network.
One important thing to remember, however, is that wireless access points do not provide internet connectivity on their own. They need to be connected to a hub that provides it, either a router, a modem or something more direct, in order to be set up for online use.
While any sufficiently branded wireless access point is enough to suit the needs we mentioned earlier, there are still a few criteria that open users to a variety of different model options that will balance your budget. Will you be connecting newer devices? What kind of modem or router will it connect to? Is security a very important concern? Is it for business, for home or some other purpose? Some extra features might also be critical to your choice, and as such we have picked the top 5 wireless access points that you can use for any type of network of local connection.
1.) Engenius EAP1300 5.0 out of 5.0 stars
If you need a balanced entry level WAP that is not too cheap and still provides premium quality performance, then the EnGenius EAP1300 is that right starting point.
Unlike other WAPs on this list, the Engenius EAP1300 only supports the newer 802.11ac standard. This isn’t actually a problem since clustered WAPs or routers with older networking standards will still work with it, but do remember that there might be certain bandwidth-related performance issues.
But if you have a network with newer devices on it, then the EnGenius EAP1300 will work perfectly as intended. Dual-band 2.4/5Ghz, MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input multiple output) Wi-Fi technology, and other signal optimization features that build further on its robust performance. In addition, this model is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing on the list. Installation can be practically done anywhere without it sticking out too much in the open.
- Features the latest in networking technology in a neat package.
- Great design, easy to install anywhere.
- Strong, stable signal with very little interference, if ever.
- Not recommended to cluster with older WAPs (for existing networks).
2.) Ubiquiti Unifi Ap-AC Lite 4.5 out of 5.0 stars
Of course, what would a wireless access point list be without mentioning at least one Unifi model. We have chosen the Lite version for this list due to its overall balance in function, design, reliability and price.
First, the Unifi Ap-AC Lite supports all types of wireless network standards (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), so newer or older devices can connect with ease. It is also 2×2 MIMO 2.4 or 5 Ghz setting, which means it can be quite slower than the Pro version, if you plan using its data transfer specs to the edge. It’s sleek, round design is fairly attractive, at the very least it can sufficiently blend in with any modern themed indoor environment without standing out too much.
As always, be informed that Unifi WAPs are not the average, one-button setup WAP, so users need a good time to learn and research its optimal use. If setup properly, however, then this is perhaps one of the best WAPs on this list in terms of sheer practicality and bang for your buck.
- Very reliable and secure in terms of setup and installation.
- Scalable network management.
- Most balanced specs within its own price range.
- Not for starting network setup users.
- Lite version, so somewhat limited in specs compared to higher-end counterparts.
3.) D-Link DAP1650 3.5 out of 5.0 stars
The D-Link DAP1650 technically functions more as a range extender, however, it also gets a spot on this list as a wireless access point. While all the other entries focus solely on wireless connectivity, this particular model focuses on connecting wired devices, routing them on a single access point as it connects to your main router or modem.
As a WAP, it is dual-band, and is compatible with 802.11 n/g/b/a standards. Due to its main design as range extender, it offers superb signal quality, comparably similar to that as some of the more professional brands like Unifi.
Probably most striking of all, it’s sleek, black cylindrical design, which all the ethernet connections behind makes for a rather neat and clean look as a remote wired access point.
- Multi-purpose WAP.
- Sleek and cool cylindrical design.
- Balance price and specs.
- Might be susceptible to sudden connection loss if it reaches connection limit.
4.) Linksys Business LAPAC1200 4.0 out of 5.0 stars
The LAPAC1200 is the youngest member of its LAPAC series family. Because of this, it also has the fewest specifications, but this is largely offset by its very great introductory price.
While the LAPAC2600 boasts its next-generation MU-MIMO Wi-Fi technology, the LAPAC1200 is happy enough to provide the standard dual-band 2.4/5 Ghz support, as well as connectivity for 802.11ac and 802.11n standards. the rounded, hexagonal design is always a welcome, minimalistic visual that is set to compatible with any indoor environment, albeit not as discreet as it is generally advertised for.
Please take note that while this is the most affordable of the LAPAC series, it is actually one of the pricier models for our balanced list.
- Settings can be switched and flipped on the fly, no resetting required.
- Clustering multiple APs is easier to set up.
- Industry level performance, good for small businesses.
- Has some reported issues with connected iOS devices.
- Handover features can sometimes be clunky.
5.) TP-Link Wireless TL-WA801ND 4.0 out of 5.0 stars
Don’t be fooled by its typical tabletop antenna design, because the TL-WA801ND (N300 2T2R) can just be as reliable as any modern WAP. Despite being rather aged for its model type, when it comes to ease of setup, solid performance reliability, and price range, this WAP perhaps one of the most popular.
Setup for the TL-WA801ND typically intuitive, having recommended default setting that users can use for a quick, and easy setup. It supports 802.11b, 802.11b, and 802.11n wireless standards, and only has one band of 2.4 Ghz. Do note of this when considering to buy the product.
Despite its somewhat limited specs, it performs its designed duties superbly. Signal stays strong and crisp, with little to no deviations of data transfer speeds due to range and obstruction. As an added bonus, the TL-WA801ND is the most affordable model on our list, perfect for those trying to update a wireless access point for older devices.
- Very extensive signal range, with minimal effect on obstructions.
- Setup on any network scale or type is very easy.
- Very, very, affordable.
- Manually refreshing Wi-Fi settings to reconnect properly for the first time can be a hassle.
- No official firmware update for a long time (a beta firmware update is currently in the works).
Beginner’s Guide to Wireless Access Points
In simplest terms, wireless access points (WAPs), much like a LAN router, sets up local network connections between devices within a certain effective area. Unlike a LAN router or modem however, they are designed for the sole purpose of providing wireless connectivity. They are not built to hook up directly to the internet. So if you need to extend the range of a network, or require more devices than the connection limit of your router or modem, then a WAP installation is usually the first solution provided.
Clustering, or organizing multiple access points to provide an extended integrated network, is a common procedure made by establishments today. This is primarily to set up a wide-area network (WAN) that its optimized for data control and exchange among different levels of users. If you are a business that would require a considerably large computer or device network, then WAPs are also the first solution provided.
Benefits/Uses of Wireless Access Point
The primary benefit of using a WAP is extended accessibility. This can be divided into several more specific advantages, which are:
- More users – a WAP literally expands the maximum number of connected users in a single network.
- More different types of connections – WAPs generally provided easier access to different types of devices using various access modes.
- Extended range – WAPs also function as range extenders, opening a new hub at a distance away from the main router/modem.
- Seamless connectivity – enjoy a continuous network connection without bandwidth or device limitations.
What to look for?
On a comprehensive level, there are many different criteria that is needed to be considered when choosing the right WAP for a particular application or setting. Generally however, you can use these for basic ones, which are namely:
Determining the frequency band is important in determining the overall strength and stability of a connection. Ideally, you should look out for dual-band models which can accommodate 2.4 or 5 Ghz networks. Save for certain inherent signal permeability issues, having multiple frequency bands help eliminate interference problems posed by other nearby networks.
Network standard compatibility indirectly helps determine the types of devices that can connect to a certain WAP. The latest standard is 802.11ac, which should be the primary requirement for your basic WAP. However, the more network standards it supports, the older the types of devices can connect. At minimum, your WAP of choice should at least support 802.11ac and/or 802.11n.
Spatial streaming, in simplest terms, is the method by which a network hub or access point handles different signals and transmissions simultaneously. For our WAP of choice, a 3×3 spatial stream feature is the best, but 2×2 spatial stream would most likely be adequate enough.
How would the WAP be used? On smaller networks, a SOHO (small office/home office) type would be much cheaper, and still appropriate enough to setup. For bigger applications, however, investing more on an Enterprise type WAP should be the more efficient option.
What to Avoid?
Usage issues with WAPS can typically happen even if choosing a trusted brand. As such, it is more of a case to case issue. So with the exception of avoiding specifications that you don’t need, there are no direct points for avoiding specific WAPs. Do take note of these, however:
- Again, routers are NOT wireless access points!
- Range extenders are not wireless access point replacements.
- Never overspend on a single wireless access point. (e.g don’t buy an enterprise level WAP if business is small enough)
- Consider if you really need a WAP if to be used only for a few connections. (perhaps a classic range extender would be better for that one single device)
1.) How are wireless access points different from a regular range extender?
- Two things: bandwidth and connection limit. Unlike a wireless access point, range extenders typically do not extend the bandwidth or connection limit of your local area network.
2.) How far will my WAP extend the network range?
- This largely depends on the amount of obstruction present, as well as the band used. Typically though, WAPs can still provide a strong signal even a few rooms away.
3.) Why is my WAP of choice so expensive?
- That is most likely an enterprise level version. Swap it with something a bit lesser in scale.
4.) Can both 5 Ghz and 2.4 Ghz band settings be on simultaneously?
- Yes. But the WAP model needs to be “simultaneous dual-band” for it to be set.
5.) The network keeps going down and I have to constantly power cycle the WAP. What should I do?
- You probably got a faulty device. Check with your local dealer for a possible replacement.
Keeping the Hub
Wireless access points, when installed and deployed properly, can significantly expand your local network, make it more reliable, and make it far less susceptible to connection and stability issues. Remember, the more devices connected to a network, the better it is to invest in a wireless access point to improve each connected computer and/or device access experience.