Wireless Access Point VS Router

By | June 28, 2020

Wireless Access Point VS Router
Wireless access points (AP) and routers are often thought of as the same thing.

A wireless access point is similar to a router but there are some differences

What is a Wireless Access Point?
AP (Access Point) have evolved over the years to mean something different than they did in the early years of WiFi.

Before routers became standard with built-in WiFi often an AP was added to a network for wireless devices to be able to connect.

This means they give wireless network ability to any device that only has a hard-wired connection.

This was done by plugging in an Ethernet cable and the AP would then communicate with WiFi devices and giving them network access.

For example, a printer that has no built-in wireless can have a access point added which will give it wireless ability.

Now that most any router has built-in WiFi and plays many roles including being an AP, many dont use dedicated AP as they have in the past.

What is a Router?
Most anyone who has a internet connection has a router. A router is a network device that can transfer data wirelessly or wired.

A router often has an access point built in, but a stand alone access point cant be a router.

Routers forward data packets to the desired device and control LAN (local Area Networks) or WAN (Wide Area Networks) networks.

An access point can be compared to a modem. While a modem can get online it is limited in its functionality on managing multiple devices or controlling an entire network with many devices.

Routers on the other hand can manage a entire home or small business giving network capability to many computers and devices simultaneously.

So Why Do People Buy Access Points?
Routers are common place in any network today but often there are weak WiFi signals or dead spots in any network.

An access point can be added in locations that have bad wireless network ability and give good coverage through out a home or business.



10 thoughts on “Wireless Access Point VS Router

  1. Deborah Penrose

    We built an ouside wifi antenna using an old dish. (We live in a very rural area…. no cable). My question is this. Do I run the coax into the house and use a USB converter plugged into my PC that has a wireless adapter then buy a router to make the whole house wifi capable?

  2. Janya

    I am vacationing in a home that only has Ethernet connection . I will be taking a travel router. Which mode would be better to use AP or Router, if I want internet to connect to several phones?

  3. Mark Conger

    Some readers may be asking why not just add a wireless router in the dead spots instead of the “lesser” capable wireless access point. There are actually a few reasons to not add another router. But the two most significant in my view are 1.) issues with many DHCP servers on the same network and 2.) most networks are already behind a NAT network and adding another NAT router behind that creates a nested NAT which can cause issues with certain internet services. It can also make problematic IP connectivity between the NAT and the nested NAT.

    So, adding a wireless access point is the way to go. It does not create a separate NAT but allows the router on the network to dole out IP addresses and maintain IP security rules and the firewall.

    Hope that helps someone who might be wondering why it is NOT a good idea to put a router behind a router unless you have a very specific need to do so.

    1. DannyLam Ong

      Access point now is more expensive that wireless router. Lots of them can be NAT disable. So for budgeting, add another wireless router as AP still makes more sense (another reason is most ppl have there old routers when they upgrade)

    2. Loviss

      Thanks mark, this is what i actually wanted to find out. Kudos for the forward thinking

    3. Dimitrios Topouzidis

      If you have a really crappy wireless broadband modem-router (adsl) with 16mb ram, and a very good and expensive wireless router/access point with 256mb ram for better and faster packet delivery on multiple connections (which is not a broadband modem), should I also use my great wireless router as an access point? Is there a way to disable the routing functionality of a modem-router and send all the routing job to an external wireless router/access point?

  4. Braydon

    Additionally, finding a relaible wireless router that can handle a lot of traffic is still very hard/nearly impossible.
    This is why configuring an enterprie router, with the addition of one or many wireless access points, is still the desirable route for heavy usage/lots of devices.

    1. Benjamin ODonnell

      That was the exact answer I was looking for when I googled the question! Thank you


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