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Before the advent of wireless networks, setting up a private network of computers in a home, school, or business usually necessitated crisscrossing many cables through ceilings and walls for complete coverage of all network-enabled devices in a house, school building, or office block.
With the development of the wireless AP technology, far fewer cables are needed, with most of the network-enabled devices been connected wirelessly. The AP is central to this setup, and it works thus: a wired Ethernet connection carries Internet connectivity to the AP, the AP then delivers wireless connections to other devices using radio-frequency links. Thus, in this setup, private network are able to connect to the single wired Ethernet connection entering the AP.
Recent AP models are developed to support a standard that permits exchange of data using radio frequencies. The IEEE stipulates the standards and frequencies used by these AP models. The standards used by most APs are the IEEE 802.11 standards.
In an elaborate guise, one wired network could be attached several APs which in turn provide wireless connectivity to a LAN. This setup is typically used in corporate establishments to power the office LAN. For automatic management of this multi-AP setup, a WLAN controller is employed to automatically adjust the RF power, authentication, channels, and security.
In a more complex setup, two or more controllers may be paired together to create a wireless mobility group that permits inter-controller roaming. Furthermore, these controllers may be joined to a mobility domain for continuous clients’ access across regional or large office locations. Because of the automatic functionality of the controllers (as there are automatic re-association and re-authentication), such setups usually mean substantial savings in overhead for administrators, and time for clients.
Home application of APs has skyrocketed in recent years. In most homes, connecting multiple devices to one network usually requires only one access point. However, the gadget that serves the purpose of the AP is a wireless router. A wireless router is a hybrid device that incorporates an AP, and a router. Often, an Ethernet switch is baked in, maybe a broadband modem as well when it comes to the modem router combo. There may also be mini-devices tucked in for extended functionality.
In similitude to the corporate use of multiple APs, two or more homes with their own APs within reach of each other may have their APs connected in a mesh to set up a wireless community network. Although, this set up does not eliminate the need of a wired network, it does create an intra-city communication network with the advantage of increased flexibility over a single AP setup.
In a public setting, perhaps the most widely used application of APs is in creating a hotspot. A hotspot allows wireless devices to connect to the Internet at any time without regard for the particular network that they are using. It has grown considerably in large cities where they are now common.
Often, a combination of establishments, like libraries, coffeehouses, and sometimes privately owned open access points; create a hotspot that permits clients to maintain continuous connection to the Internet while stationary or moving around the local of these establishments. Sometimes, several hotspots may be connected together to create a collection called a lily pad network.
One less-used application of an AP is as a network arbitrator. As a network arbitrator, an AP can negotiate with wireless clients that are close enough to transmit. This application is not widely used because most IEEE 802.11 networks currently installed are not equipped with this functionality.
Important Buying Considerations
A wireless access point (WAP) no doubt is important for a wide range of applications: However, the question is how do you know what to look out for when purchasing one? Before, we list out our recommended best wireless access point, let us discuss the key aspects of a WAP that deserves due consideration before handing out your money.
Wired connections have an advantage over wireless connections; if you can get a wire that is long enough you can get a connection. It is not that straightforward for wireless APs, the farther a device/client is from the source of transmission (the AP), the lesser the strength of the radio-frequency received.
A WAP worth buying is one that has terrific wireless coverage. As a benchmark, most enterprise WAPs can provide decent coverage for a space with a size of between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet. A Wi-Fi range extender can also be used with similar results.
For residential Wi-Fi networks, the range will depend on the WAP or router, antenna sensitivity, and the specific 802.11 protocol (currently there are the b, g, n, and ac protocols) used.
This can also be referred to as the speed of network throughput. This features measures the rate at which data is exchanged. It may be measured in megabits per second (Mbps), kilobits per second (Kbps), or bits per second (bps). In examining the speed, note that Mbps > Kbps > bps. For comparable units of measurement: the higher the value, the better the speed.
Only after accessing the first two features, should you make comparison of the price. Usually, you get what you pay for, so do not expect top speeds on a cheap device. However, you should match the quality of the WAP, with the price and see if you could get a better deal before making a purchase.
Occasionally, a wireless access point may incorporate other features that are interesting on paper, but may not match your expectations in real use. For this reason, you should ensure that the important aspects of range, speed, and price matches your need before looking making a purchase decision based on the extra features added.
There are several offerings in the market, but the top WAPs among the lot should have an impressive list of features, long range that matches your need, high speed for intended use, and a good price point. In the chart below, we unveil 10 wireless access points that do well in matching the qualities of an ideal WAP. For the best wireless access points 2015, move on past the table to the next section.
1. OM2P-HS 802.11gn Access Point Router Review
Open Mesh has released a few AP models in the past that were average models with no spark of brilliance. The OM2P HS model is an exciting departure from this norm.
The first eye-catching improvement is the support of 802.3 af PoE, that offers double the power on previous models. Furthermore, the signal from the AP router is steady and strong across long ranges making it ideal for small, medium, and large spaces alike.
Even more impressive is that the OM2P-HS 802.11gn AP Router sports a long list of enterprise-level features in a package that has an unbelievably affordable price tag attached. Robust management of the AP is possible using a cloud-based management system for quick setup and configuration.
- Open Mesh CloudTrax (a cloud-based management system)
- Dual PoE support that permits the use of either a standard 802.3 af PoE or a passive 12-24 volt PoE
- Double the power at 200 mW (23 dBm) from 100 mW (20dBm) on previous models
- An average of 5 to 8 dBi above what standard enterprise-level access points provide
- Support for internal antennas and dual amplifiers
These features ensure that the device is easy to setup, and that a robust Wi-Fi network can be configured for continuous use. Additionally, the extra power, dual PoE support, increased dBi levels, and future-proof internals, ensure that this access point router can be used efficiently at home and at a business location including hotels, shopping malls, campgrounds, et cetera.
Conclusively, the top-grade performance and features of the OM2P HS model is available at a mouth-watering price tag, making it the best bargain on this review list.
Salient Selling Points
- Reliable connectivity
- Easy to setup
- Extended functionality
- Affordable price tag
2. Ubiquiti NanoStation Loco M5 Review
Ubiquiti Networks latest flagship is the NanoStation M5. A top-grade WAP device, it features a comprehensive system with an amazing weatherproof outdoor radio studded with a 25-dBi antenna. Equipped with this high-gain antenna, the NanoStation M5 is a top contender for an AP with the longest range in all directions.
Another noteworthy feature of the NanoStation M5 is its PoE (Power over Ethernet) module that gives network cables the capacity to carry both communication signals and power, thereby leading to a massive reduction in the number of cords needed for a setup.
NanoBridge is another high-powered innovative feature that permits robust connectivity as it can be attached to a pole or tower using a pair of U-bolts.
The setup of the NanoStation Loco M5 is as easy as it gets. It begins with the installation of the AirOS software that is part of the product package received after purchase. Configuration is just as easy many thanks to the user-friendly interface. Routine and subsequent management of the device is expansive as users are able to troubleshoot connectivity issues, perform network maintenance, and test the radio.
With steady network throughput of 10 Mbps at a distance of 1,200 feet, the M5 has one of the top ranges amongst premium wireless access points. Speeds are steady even at long distances.
The NanoStation M5 is also able to pinpoint the best available frequencies using a 5 GHz AirView Spectrum Analyzer, and then presenting the information visually to users. This enables users to use the most stable and strongest signal strength available at any point in time.
In all, the Ubiquiti NanoStation Loco M5 outshines other WAPs in providing signals with top strength and consistency at long distances. With a bonus of quick setup and extensive controls, this is a premium access point to get you stable super-speed connections.
Salient Selling Points
- Weatherproof connectivity
- Impressive connection speeds
- Terrific range
3. T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile Hotspot Review
Wireless access points are often setup in fixed installations. However, a new class of AP’s is making waves—AP’s that could be used on the go. These access points are compact and can be tagged along easily. Usually, these mobile WAPs are available from mobile phone carriers providing affordable solutions for wireless connectivity issues.
The T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile Hotspot is a dual-purpose device that functions as a wireless access point and as a mobile hotspot using the T-Mobile network. It permits quick creation of a portable broadband hub providing connectivity for several Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
The Sonic 4G also features a microSD card slot capable of reading cards of up to 32 GB of expandable memory for extensive storage and quick sharing of files.
Aiding in configuration and management is a LED display that provides valuable information including, network type in use, number of connected devices, level of connectivity, battery level, number of unread messages, and signal strength.
Robust connectivity is possible with this WAP, as it is able to permit up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to the Internet concurrently.
Salient Selling Points
- Compact and mobile
- Extended functionality
- Support for multiple concurrent connections