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Dumb, basic question: Router or Access Point?

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George Reiswig:
I'm fairly tech-savvy, but things like this make me think "maybe not." I know roughly what the difference is between these two categories of devices, but I'm not really sure why one might choose one over the other for something where internet service isn't needed, such as when just enabling control of main and monitor mix on a digital console with an ethernet port.

Are there distinct advantages and disadvantages? Or does one need both? Is there a primer somewhere on this topic that I can read up on?

Brian Jojade:
Most common home internet devices are 3 or more things.

1. WIFI Access point. The job of a WIFI access point is to allow a wireless connection on to your wired network. That's it.  That's the device you absolutely need for wireless devices to connect to your network.  If you only have an access point, you may need to manually assign IP addresses to your devices, although some have auto discovery and assignment these days.

2. DHCP server - This is a controller on your network that hands out IP addresses to devices on the network. If you manually assign IP addresses, this isn't necessary, although it's convenient.

3. Router - This routes traffic between different networks. Local traffic on the same subnet talks directly device to device, but if it needs to get to another network, it needs to go through a router.  Typically to get to the internet, either your ISP provides a router on their end and every device on your network talks to that remote router, or you put your own in.

4. NAT server - This is a subset of a router. What this does is direct traffic from a single IP address to multiple devices inside the network. This way, to the internet everything appears as one device, but traffic gets where it needs to go.  Due to the limited number of IP addresses, NAT servers are a critical part of the internet.

frank kayser:

--- Quote from: Brian Jojade on October 20, 2023, 02:58:06 PM ---Most common home internet devices are 3 or more things.

1. WIFI Access point. The job of a WIFI access point is to allow a wireless connection on to your wired network. That's it.  That's the device you absolutely need for wireless devices to connect to your network.  If you only have an access point, you may need to manually assign IP addresses to your devices, although some have auto discovery and assignment these days.

2. DHCP server - This is a controller on your network that hands out IP addresses to devices on the network. If you manually assign IP addresses, this isn't necessary, although it's convenient.

3. Router - This routes traffic between different networks. Local traffic on the same subnet talks directly device to device, but if it needs to get to another network, it needs to go through a router.  Typically to get to the internet, either your ISP provides a router on their end and every device on your network talks to that remote router, or you put your own in.

4. NAT server - This is a subset of a router. What this does is direct traffic from a single IP address to multiple devices inside the network. This way, to the internet everything appears as one device, but traffic gets where it needs to go.  Due to the limited number of IP addresses, NAT servers are a critical part of the internet.

--- End quote ---


Brian is correct.
For wireless mixing, only an access point is needed.  Disadvantage is one has to manually keep track and assign all IP addresses.  Some feel this is superior to using a DHCP server. Me, I'm lazy and I like the convenience of DHCP.  YMMV.


I have never seen an access point with a DHCP server.  That function is usually part and parcel of a router package, along with NAT server.  The reason I'd guess, is that one does not want to run multiple DHCP servers.  Products are mostly marketed as people use them.  We're pretty much talking home and SOHO gear.


I've seen router package Routing, NAT, and DHCP in the same box - fairly normal.
Then there is the all-in-one, as Brian described.
Finally, the "mostly featureless" WiFi access point. 


As Brian noted, the Routing and NAT functions are more appropriate where there are multiple networks, i.e., Internet is involved.





David Sturzenbecher:

--- Quote from: frank kayser on October 20, 2023, 07:20:38 PM ---
I have never seen an access point with a DHCP server.

--- End quote ---

They exist, but sometimes you need to search for it.   Here is a page that I have bookmarked to find it on a few of the units I own.
https://doctorengenius.engeniustech.com/en/articles/6709069-how-can-i-find-the-dhcp-server-on-eap300v2-access-point-mode

Its also not a feature that commonly shows up in spec sheets for APs...so...YMMV

Riley Casey:
One not insignificant point in choosing your wifi hardware configuration is that a wifi access point can be much smaller than a consumer router + switch + wifi AP. This is important anyplace that is densely packed with large bags of salt water - AKA audience members. Getting your wifi antennas above head height is the first step in reliable communication with iPad type devices. The switch with or without a router capability can be at the console while the small AP like the Unifi AC is small enough to go on a mic stand boom.

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