Should You Turn On Transmit Power On Your Wi-Fi Router?

A Netgear Nighthawk router sitting on a shelf in a living room.
netgear

If you’ve been struggling to get good Wi-Fi coverage in your home, it would seem intuitive to turn on your Wi-Fi router’s transmit power. Before doing so, read this.

What is transmitting power?

While there is undoubtedly a whole doctoral program and then some useful information about the power of radio broadcasting and everything it has to share with, in the service of getting useful daily material, we’ll keep it brief here.

Your Wi-Fi router’s transmit power is like the volume knob on a stereo. Just as sound energy is measured in decibels (dB), Wi-Fi radio energy is measured with decibel milliwatt (dBm).

If your router allows transmitting power adjustments, you can turn the volume up or down in the configuration panel to increase the power output.

How transmit power is displayed and adjusted varies between manufacturers. Depending on the manufacturer and model in question, this may be labeled as Transmit Power, Transmit Power Control, Tx Power, or some variation thereof.

Adjustment options also vary. Some have a simple low, medium and high option. Others offer a menu with relative power, allowing you to adjust transmit power anywhere from 0% to 100% power. and others provide an absolute setting corresponding to the radio’s milliwatt output, usually simply labeled as mW (not dBm), whatever range is available to the hardware, such as 0-200 mW.

Turning on transmit power on your router would seem like a very simple trick, no? However, the relationship between the transmit power of a given Wi-Fi access point and the associated user experience is not a 1:1 relationship. More power doesn’t automatically mean you get better coverage or speed.

We’d even go so far as to recommend that you leave the settings alone or, in some cases, even turn them on, unless you’re a serious home network enthusiast or professional network deployment fix. below instead of above.

Why You Should Avoid Turning On Transmit Power

A TP-Link router sitting on the corner of a desk.
tp-link

There are certainly fringe cases where tweaking the power on your network gear to increase transmit power can have positive results.

And, if your home is separated from your neighbors by substantially acres (or even miles) of space, by all means, feel free to play around with the settings because you won’t be helping anyone or anything. Won’t hurt yourself.

But for most people, there are some very practical reasons to leave the router settings as they are.

Your router is powerful; you don’t have equipment

Wi-Fi is a bidirectional system. Your Wi-Fi router is not destroying the signal in space to take it passively, like a radio listening to a distant radio station. It is sending a signal and expecting one to return.

Generally speaking, the power level between the Wi-Fi router and the client communicating with the router is asymmetric. The router is much more powerful than the device it is paired with unless the other device is another access point with the same power.

This means there will come a point where the client is close enough to the Wi-Fi router to detect the signal but not strong enough to talk back effectively. It’s not unlike when you’re using your cellphone in an area with poor coverage, and when your phone says you have at least one bar of signal strength, you can’t make phone calls or use the Internet. are unable to. Your phone can “hear” the tower, but it struggles to talk back.

Increasing transmit power increases interference

If your home is close to other homes that use Wi-Fi, be it tightly packed apartments or just a neighborhood with small lots, cranking up the power may give you a little boost but the airspace around your home at the cost of polluting it.

Given that increasing transmit power doesn’t automatically equate to a better experience, it’s not really worth reducing Wi-Fi quality for all your neighbors to, theoretically, get a modest performance increase in your home.

There are several better ways to fix your Wi-Fi problems, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Increasing transmit power can reduce performance

Counter-intuitively, cranking up the power can actually result in lower performance. To use the volume example again, let’s say you want to circulate music throughout your home.

You can do this by setting up a stereo system with large speakers in the same room and then turning the volume up high enough that you can hear music in every room. But you will soon find that the sound was distorted and the listening experience was not uniform. Ideally, you want a whole-house audio solution with speakers in every room so you can enjoy music without distortion.

While transmitting music and transmitting a Wi-Fi signal are not directly identical in every way, the general idea translates very well. You’ll have a better experience if your home is blanketed with Wi-Fi from multiple low power access points than if you turn on the power to a single access point.

Your router probably adjusts the power better

Perhaps back in the 2000s and even the early 2010s, when consumer routers were a bit rough around the edges, you needed to fold things under the hood more.

But even then, and many more, the firmware on your router can automatically adjust the transmit power. Not only that, but with each new generation of Wi-Fi standard updated routers that take advantage of protocol improvements and additions, your router simply works better.

On many newer routers, especially mesh platforms such as ero And google nest wi-fi, you won’t even find the option of fiddling with transmit power. The system automatically balances itself in the background.

Increased transmit power shortens hardware life

If this doesn’t concern you, we’re not going to scold you about it, because in the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor point compared to the other points we’ve discussed—but it’s worth considering. The thing is.

Heat is the enemy of all electronics, and the cooler devices can run, whether it’s your laptop, your phone, or your router, the happier the chips inside will be. For example, a Wi-Fi access point running in a cool and dry basement is going to last longer than a Wi-Fi access point stuck in the top of an unconditioned space in a garage.

Even though you won’t be able to turn up transmit power (at least with stock firmware) beyond a point that it will completely damage the router, you can turn it on to ensure that the router gets hot all the time. runs resulting in lower reliability and a shorter lifetime.

What to do instead of increasing the transmit power?

If you’re thinking about cranking up the transmit power, it’s likely because you’re disappointed with your Wi-Fi performance.

Rather than messing with transmitting power, we’d encourage you to do some basic Wi-Fi troubleshooting and adjustments first.

Consider moving your router and make sure Avoid These Common Wi-Fi Blocking Stuff when you restore it.

And while, of course, while tweaking the transmit power can provide better coverage (though it does come with the tradeoffs mentioned above), it’s usually a bit of a band-aid approach.

If you’ve been hankering to get more life out of an older router, despite being disappointed in several ways, it’s probably time to upgrade. a new router,

Also, if you have a spacious home or have Wi-Fi hostile architecture (like concrete walls) in your home, you may want to consider turning that new router into a mesh router like the economical but powerful one. tp-link deco x20, Remember, we want more coverage at low power levels rather than a single point of coverage operating at maximum transmit power.

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