Does an Ethernet port on the WiFi Extender actually matter?

Does an Ethernet port on the WiFi Extender actually matter?

Introduction

WiFi extenders are devices that help extend the coverage of a wireless network. They are commonly used in situations where Ethernet cables are not desired or installing new ones is expensive, such as in retrofitting old houses. WiFi extenders receive the signal from the router and then push it forward to client devices that are either connected at a low data transfer rate or located far away from the router with no signal.

While WiFi extenders are often chosen for their aesthetic appeal of not having cables hanging down from the ceiling, the question arises: Does an Ethernet port on the WiFi extender actually matter? This article explores the various applications and considerations related to the Ethernet port on WiFi extenders.

The Ethernet Port on WiFi Extenders

When considering the need for an Ethernet port on a WiFi extender, it is important to understand its purpose. An Ethernet port allows for a wired connection between the WiFi extender and the router. However, if the intention is to use a cable connection, it may be more beneficial to use a proper access point instead of a WiFi extender.

There are certain applications where the Ethernet port on a WiFi extender can be useful. For example, it can be used to connect a client device directly via cable or to connect an Ethernet switch for multiple client devices. However, not all WiFi extenders are capable of handling such setups.

One common limitation of WiFi extenders is overheating, rather than being underpowered. This can affect their ability to support an Ethernet port. Additionally, some users may attempt to interlink WiFi with non-WiFi powerline adapters, adding to the complexity of the setup.

Considering these factors, it is worth exploring whether adding an Ethernet port to a WiFi extender is a practical and useful feature.

Gigabit Ethernet Ports and Budget-Friendly WiFi Extenders

When it comes to the Ethernet port on WiFi extenders, it is important to consider its capabilities. One might assume that the Ethernet port is Gigabit, but this is not always the case. Manufacturers sometimes skimp on features when building WiFi extenders, including the Ethernet port.

For example, the Rock Space AC1200 WiFi extender, which is similar to the Tenda A18, features a Fast Ethernet port with a maximum speed of 100Mbps. This is a common occurrence among budget-friendly WiFi extenders, particularly those that support WiFi 5 technology.

However, WiFi 6 extenders tend to be better equipped, and the Rock Space AX1800 WiFi extender, for instance, does come with a proper Gigabit Ethernet port. It is crucial to be aware of this difference, especially when considering WiFi 5 extenders.

Manufacturers may opt for Fast Ethernet ports on WiFi extenders due to the limited capabilities of the extenders themselves. If the extender can only offer a maximum speed of 100Mbps, there may be no need to include a port that supports higher throughput.

Use of Ethernet Port for Non-Demanding Devices

WiFi extenders are not always efficient in providing reliable internet access to devices that require high bandwidth, such as gaming or streaming devices. This is because WiFi extenders cut the available bandwidth in half due to the need for communication between the router, extender, and client devices.

Despite this limitation, WiFi extenders often include an Ethernet port, primarily for connecting non-demanding devices. For example, an old printer without a built-in WiFi adapter or a PC that does not require a significant amount of bandwidth can be connected via the Ethernet port on the WiFi extender.

However, it is essential to consider heat management when using the Ethernet port. WiFi extenders, especially small dedicated devices with built-in plugs, tend to run hot due to the compact design and proximity of components. This can lead to a shorter lifespan and potentially affect WiFi performance.

The Challenge of Heat Management

Heat management is a significant concern when using WiFi extenders, particularly when connecting demanding devices or using older or cheaper extenders. Access points (APs) designed for WiFi extension generally have better heat management capabilities compared to dedicated WiFi extenders.

WiFi extenders, especially smaller ones with built-in plugs, struggle to dissipate heat effectively. The internal power supply unit (PSU) placed near other components generates heat, resulting in constant high temperatures. This can lead to performance throttling, reducing the efficiency of the extender and potentially impacting WiFi performance.

It is advisable to limit the number of wireless client devices connected to a WiFi extender and ensure that demanding devices are connected via Ethernet cable to alleviate heat management issues.

Connecting Demanding Client Devices

While it is possible to connect demanding client devices to a WiFi extender, it is essential to choose more expensive and powerful devices. For example, a powerful WiFi extender such as the Rock Space AX1800, a converted modern AP, or an OpenWRT router may be suitable for connecting gaming PCs via Ethernet cable.

It is crucial to consider other factors that may affect the viability of a WiFi connection, such as interference. While a more powerful WiFi extender can achieve the necessary speed, it is important to be aware of potential limitations and the impact of the connection quality.

Using an Ethernet switch for additional client devices can also work, but it is important to recognize that the connection between the router and the WiFi extender may not be as reliable as a wired connection. Additionally, connecting multiple devices can strain the WiFi extender’s components and potentially lead to throttling.

The Role of Powerline Adapters

Powerline adapters offer an interesting approach to extending WiFi coverage. By using existing electrical circuits in the house, they provide an alternative to relying solely on WiFi connections. Powerline adapters can be connected next to the router and the WiFi extender, creating a powerline network for data transmission.

However, there are drawbacks to using powerline adapters. The effectiveness of powerline technology depends on the quality and age of the house’s electrical circuits. If the circuits are old or prone to interference, the speed performance of powerline adapters may be unstable.

Additionally, many powerline adapters include built-in WiFi capabilities, eliminating the need for a separate WiFi extender. Some even offer multiple Ethernet ports, further expanding the connectivity options.

Benefits of Connecting via Ethernet Cable

Connecting a WiFi extender to a router using an Ethernet cable offers several advantages over a wireless connection. By eliminating the reliance on WiFi, interference is minimized, and the available bandwidth is no longer halved. This creates a more stable and efficient connection between the router, extender, and client devices.

Furthermore, connecting via Ethernet cable effectively transforms the WiFi extender into an access point, providing a more robust and reliable solution for extending network coverage.

It is important to note that not all WiFi extenders support Ethernet backhaul, so it is advisable to check the specifications of the extender before making a purchase.

Conclusion

The presence of an Ethernet port on a WiFi extender can have practical applications, such as connecting non-demanding devices or establishing a wired connection for improved performance. However, it is crucial to consider the limitations and challenges associated with WiFi extenders, including heat management and the compatibility of the extender with demanding devices or powerline adapters.

Ultimately, the decision to use an Ethernet port on a WiFi extender depends on individual needs and circumstances. It is important to thoroughly research and choose a WiFi extender with the appropriate features and capabilities to ensure optimal network performance.