Whether it’s a smart TV or an AV receiver, a game console or a smart speaker: Hardly any device in the hi-fi spectrum today does without network functions. Whether you want to stream movies and series or listen to multi-room music throughout your home, a stable WLAN is the key.
Of course, it would be optimal to connect as many devices as possible directly to the router via LAN cable. But not every house or apartment offers a clean network and Ethernet connections in every room. Never mind: We’ll show you how to use WLAN, Mesh, Powerline and Co. you can provide stable Internet in all rooms.
How fast is my internet line?
For Streaming 4K content not only do you need a well-functioning network at home. The basic prerequisite is a sufficiently fast Internet connection. Most providers like Netflix or Apple recommend for your 4K streaming content at least a bandwidth of 25 Mbit per second. In most regions of Germany, this bandwidth is no longer a problem, at least on paper. This does not mean, however, that the bandwidth booked with the provider is actually achieved. In its 2020 annual report, the German Federal Network Agency found that the contracted bandwidth of the Internet connection is actually available to only 16.4% of users.
To make sure your ISP is delivering the performance it promises, you should first measure the usable bandwidth. It’s very easy to do on sites like breitbandmessung.en or speedtest.net . Ideally, you take the measurement on a computer that is connected to the router via Ethernet cable.
With a speed test you can easily check if the internet is spinning or your WLAN connection is unstable. | Image: HIFI.DE
Since there are usually many neighbors on the same line, they also influence your usable bandwidth. The same applies to the time of day. It’s not uncommon for available bandwidth to melt away in the evenings during prime time…
If everything is right with the Internet connection and it still comes up when streaming from Netflix and Co. over WLAN to dropouts? Then you should next check your WLAN reception check.
Measure WLAN performance
To do this, repeat the bandwidth test several times with a WLAN device, such as your smartphone or a laptop. Move through the apartment or. the house. Based on the results, you can easily estimate whether your WLAN reception needs an upgrade or not.
For larger apartments or houses, it can also be worthwhile to adjust the WLAN coverage to be measured more precisely. All you need is a smartphone. The Android app WiFi Heatmap makes it possible to measure and visualize WLAN reception within your own four walls.
Example of a WiFi heatmap. | Image: HIFI.DE
In this way, blind spots in reception can be identified and ideally eliminated. Especially when changing the setup and settings of the router, it is worthwhile to compare before and after.
Unfortunately, Apple fans are left out in the cold here, because Apple prevents such functionality on the iPhone through restrictions. Alternatively, a WLAN heat map can be created with a laptop. A solution for this is offered, for example, by the tool HeatMapper, which is free in its basic version. Mac users can check out the free version of NetSpot, for example.
Improve WLAN with existing hardware
Don’t want to invest in new hardware right away to improve your WLAN coverage? Often this is not even necessary: There are a number of tips and tricks to optimize the existing network.
A first step would be another Position of the router to try it out . If the antennas are covered by direct obstacles such as shelves or plants? Then it may be worthwhile to position the WLAN source differently. A new alignment of the antennas can also help to solve reception problems.
Adjusting router settings – such as the radio channels used – can help optimize a poor Wi-Fi network. | Image: HIFI.DE
Another approach to improving WLAN stability is to change the Channels . Each WLAN transmits on one of several possible channels. If this channel is already heavily used by neighboring networks – which can happen quickly, especially in apartment buildings with many parties – a channel change can help.
Log into the settings of your router and look for the corresponding options. With the Fritzbox, for example, you can find it at WLAN – radio channel – adjust radio channel . In general, automatic channel selection is the better option, but a manual change is at least worth considering.
WLAN standards: From 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 6
When buying WLAN routers, one had to deal for a long time with cryptic designations such as 802.11ac deal with. Behind this are the WLAN standards , which was developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (abbr IEEE ) can be set.
WLAN standards such as 802.11n or 802.11ac primarily determine the maximum possible data rate for the house. For example, AC routers allow maximum data rates of 1.300 Mbit (ca. 160 megabytes) per second in the 5 GHz band and 450 Mbit /s on the 2.4 GHz band. Corresponding devices are then usually marketed with the combined data rate, in the example thus as AC1750 .
Since 2018, with 802.11ax a new WLAN standard is ready. It offers a maximum data rate of 9608 Mbit/s even more scope for fast WLAN and bring further improvements with it. However, you will seldom come across this designation in stores. The consortium Wi-Fi-Alliance has instead chosen to call the standard Wi-Fi 6 to market.
The Wi-Fi 6 standard allows higher data throughput and lower latencies. | Picture: AVM
Fun fact: Phil Belanger, a founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, was inspired by the word HiFi when naming Wi-Fi . However, the acronym does not stand for "wireless fidelity", but has no direct equivalent.
Wi-Fi 6 routers like the Netgear Nighthawk promise maximum speed and stable WLAN. | Image: Netgear
In order to benefit from the new WLAN speed, it requires Wi-Fi 6-compatible end devices . These are slowly trickling in, but the market is still a patchwork quilt.
As an example, the current Apple devices are mentioned here: the current iPhone 11 as well as the 2020 iPad Pro can transmit in the Wi-Fi 6 standard. The new MacBook-Air – and Pro models on the other hand are still using the old Wi-Fi-5 (802.11ac) wireless on the move. Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible, meaning older devices can connect to the WLAN but do not benefit from the speed and latency advantages.
If you are planning to buy a new router, there is currently little to be said against it Wi-Fi 6 certified device . At most the still quite high acquisition costs. We recommend the Fritzbox 6660, the Netgear Nighthawk or the Amplifi Alien. These solutions offer advantages, especially in the long term. In addition to the increased data throughput, Wi-Fi 6 also offers other optimizations that promise greater stability, especially in "crowded" WLAN environments. Wi-Fi 6 features z.B. Also about new power-down features that can reduce endpoint power consumption.
Expanding WLAN: Access points and repeaters
If the primary goal is to extend the range and general coverage of the home WLAN, then a router is the best solution WLAN repeater the simplest solution. Repeaters connect themselves to the router via WLAN and span another network to which devices can connect over a greater distance. This also works over several floors and is therefore a good solution in houses.
One or more additional repeaters are the easiest way to extend the range of an existing WLAN. Here the AVM FRITZ!WLAN Mesh Repeater 3000. | Picture AVM
The downside: WLAN repeaters always slow down the WLAN speed to a greater or lesser extent – in extreme cases, the data throughput is cut in half. When streaming 4K material, such a solution can therefore easily reach its limits.
An alternative are WLAN extender or Access Points . These connect to the router via Ethernet cable and then set up their own WLAN. If laying an appropriately long cable is an option, you can significantly increase the WLAN range this way.
Professional access points like the UniFi-AC P RO from Ubiquiti can also be used in practice as a complete alternative to the router’s own WLAN. This can be worthwhile, for example, if the router provided by the Internet provider does not deliver enough power.
Mesh WLAN: The wireless top class
A fairly new, but extremely practical solution for bringing WLAN to the whole house is provided by a mesh network Mesh networks . Here, several devices radio among each other, but share the load among themselves much more efficiently.
In simplified terms, this is because the individual mesh nodes are connected via a separate WLAN channel communicate with each other. This ensures an efficient distribution of the network load, so that the WLAN speed does not suffer.
Mesh systems such as Amplifi HD communicate with each other to intelligently optimize WLAN coverage. | Image: Ubiquiti
In a good mesh network, the transition between the various points works more cleanly than with the classic repeater solution. Mesh access points ensure that the devices connect fully automatically with the best network nodes in each case connect. Repeaters, on the other hand, often have problems with the transition. Ideally, you won’t notice a difference even when streaming video when moving through a mesh home with your tablet.
Meanwhile, the market for mesh routers is quite diversified. Many manufacturers offer starter sets with a router and one or two satellites. In most cases, setting up a uniform mesh WLAN is extremely easy to do, for example via Smartphone app . If needed, you can later add additional Mesh components provide even more WLAN flexibility.
Mesh solution from Ubiquiti: Amplifi HD. | Image: Ubiquiti
Amplifi HD – the mesh solution from Ubiquiti we can recommend here. The setup and operation via app work very intuitively. Meanwhile Ubiquiti offers with Amplifi Alien a mesh capable WLAN router with Wi-Fi 6 support at. However, this is not an inexpensive option. A good mesh alternative is Google Nest:
Mesh routers like Google Nest score with easy setup. | Image: Google
Unfortunately there are practically none uniform standards for mesh systems. That means you more or less have to commit to one manufacturer. If you use Google Nest as a mesh setup, for example, you cannot simply add satellites from manufacturers such as Ubiquiti or AVM to the system.
The alternative to WLAN: Powerline
Another alternative for more Internet in the home is via the power grid. Under names like dLink (Devolo) or Powerline (AVM, TP-Link), a number of manufacturers offer adapters that distribute the Internet via the power outlet in the house. If the electrics are stable, this works quite well in practice.
A base plug is connected to the Internet router via a LAN cable. All other adapters then bring the Internet into the corresponding rooms via the power grid. Here, for example, the devices are connected to the Powerline adapter via LAN cable. In addition, many Powerline adapters offer the option of, own WLAN access points build.
Powerline adapters distribute the network throughout the house via the power line. | Image: AVM
Especially if you want to extend the network over several floors or through thick walls, Powerline can be a useful alternative. In terms of speed, however, the power outlet (W)LAN usually lags behind a stable mesh WLAN. In addition, the connection can be vulnerable if many power-hungry devices are active in the household. How well any two sockets can be connected to each other depends on the cabling and fuse protection.
The professional solution: hard-wired WLAN access points
For most households, a mesh solution can provide a sufficiently fast and stable WLAN at a manageable cost. But if the conditions are difficult or if maximum WLAN speed is required, you can’t tell Installation of wired access points not over. With mesh systems and repeaters, part of the available WLAN bandwidth is always required for communication between the devices themselves. Even the transmission of data from the next receiver to the central router costs bandwidth. In contrast, access points must communicate exclusively with the end device by radio. The communication with the router is done via a fast Ethernet cable.
But this means that you have to wire your house or apartment with Ethernet cables (preferably category Cat7). At least to the places where the access points should be placed or installed. In a new building it is a good idea to provide network cabling. To retrofit them is either costly or not very nice to look at.
UniFi: Professional WLAN infrastructure from Ubiquiti Networks. | Image: Ubiquiti
In the field of professional WLAN solutions, the American provider is regarded Ubiquiti so good choice. This is the solution we here in the HIFI.DE Editorial team. This ensures that we have an excellent WLAN connection everywhere in the office. This is how we can use the WLAN as a source of error in our hardware and streaming tests exclude. Of course this also works at home. In the end, everyone has to ask themselves what the requirements for the home wireless network are and how much effort they want to put into it.
What is your preferred solution for a stable WLAN? Tell us in the comments!