Due to the ever increasing and growing industry of technology, there’s new hardware and equipment up on the market at all times. Ranging from devices, tablets and appliances to just about anything that can be categorized under computer equipment.
However, it’s also easy to get lost within the terminologies and purposes of each piece of hardware. A common question a lot of home users ask is; what’s the difference between a wireless router and an access point. To make it simple, a router can be a wireless AP but an AP can’t be a router.
Basically, an AP adds WiFi compatibility to a wired network and acts as a portal for devices to connect to a Local Area Network. Access points are essentially used to extend the range and coverage of an existing network or increasing the number of users that can connect to it. An Ethernet cable connect the AP to a router can turn the wired signal into wireless signals.
On the other hand, a router has two main functions which are primarily as connecting multiple devices such as phones, tablets and computers to form a local area network, and secondly to provide internet to all the connected devices. Most routers come with both wired and wireless compatibility.
Depending on your needs, you can purchase single, dual or tri band routers. Once a router is set up, and devices are connected to it, it will automatically form a LAN. But in order for this to happen, it must be connected to an ISP or modem that provides internet access.
Smaller business and houses usually only have a router to manage their network but to cover bigger areas, Access Points are required to increase coverage and host multiple users. Other features that routers have include firewall, password protection, guest networks and etc.
Good security ensures that the router and your devices are protected against external malicious threats.
The main differences lie in the purpose of each device, where routers act as a central hub to set up a local area network while access points are sub-devices under this network that provide other locations for devices to connect to or allow more devices to be connected to the network.
Routers mainly have more functions such as dispatching data, distributing bandwidth, establishing connectivity, and ensuring your data is protected. Whereas access points only provide access to an already established network.
Due to the mentioned functionalities of a wireless router, they also combine the functions of an AP, a firewall, and a way to manage your local network. Which one you need depends on what your needs are.
For example, if you have a small to medium house or a small office, then a router should be sufficient to handle all your devices. However, a bigger enterprise or firm may require access points in order to not only increase the coverage of your network but to also host several more devices on it.