Few people like having to walk across their home or office to get a strong Wi-Fi signal for their phone or laptop. Thankfully, Wi-Fi range extenders are a cost-effective option for boosting your router or wireless gateway’s range to eliminate dead zones and increase network speed.
Buying Guide for Wi-Fi Range Extenders
Why buy a Wi-Fi range extender?
There are many factors that can limit the coverage area of your home or business’s router. If there are holes in your network where you can’t access the web, a Wi-Fi range extender can help strengthen your signal, even in remote areas that are far removed from your router. This, in turn, can both improve your network speed and eliminate dead spots. It can also be used to more efficiently access a Wi-Fi signal outdoors.
What should you look for in a Wi-Fi range extender?
- Compatibility: Generally, the frequency and age of your router are linked to whether a Wi-Fi extender will be compatible with it. The easiest way to ensure compatibility is to look at your router’s specs (they should be printed on a label on the router) to see what standards it supports. If you’re in doubt about the compatibility of your router, it’s wise to opt for a model that boasts universal compatibility with 802.11 a/b/n/ac routers.
- Range: While some Wi-Fi extenders can be used to free up network access in large areas, even extending well outside your home, others are better suited for extending access to small areas, such as a single room on the far side of your home. Unsurprisingly, a wider range is usually accompanied by a heftier price tag, so be sure to consider your unique needs so that you can invest in a Wi-Fi extender appropriate for the application.
- Performance: Measuring a Wi-Fi range extender’s performance can be tricky for non-techies, and it is further complicated due to the fact that it will be limited by your router’s specs. Luckily, Wi-Fi range extenders are rated in terms of their performance so that you can choose a model that is appropriate for your router and network.
Is it safe to use a Wi-Fi extender to improve my home network coverage?
Wi-Fi range extenders work over the same signal and have similar security measures as Wi-Fi routers utilizing WEP, WPA, and WPA2 standards. Thus, no additional security measures are required when you set up your Wi-Fi range extender. In short, if the network you are using is secure, your Wi-Fi range extender won’t compromise your network security.
Our Picks for the Best Wi-Fi Range Extenders
NETGEAR EX6120 Wi-Fi Range Extender
This easy-to-setup Wi-Fi range extender is a great product for fixing small gaps in your network.
Pros: Featuring a low-profile design that doesn’t block adjacent AC outlets, the NETGEAR EX6120 Wi-Fi Range Extender is a great solution for those attempting to cover small gaps in their home network. This model stands out for being incredibly easy to set up, even for non-techies who struggle to learn new technology. Also, its 1,200-Mbps speed offering should suffice for the rigors of media streaming, work, and even gaming in remote areas of your home.
Cons: While this is a great Wi-Fi range extender for those with basic needs, trickier applications will likely benefit from a product with more robust performance. This model’s speed performance drops off fairly sharply at 50 feet, making it a less-than-ideal solution for larger dead zones that traverse stairways or other obstacles.
Bottom Line: If you live in an apartment or small home and are seeking to extend your router’s normal speed and performance to a couple of extra rooms, this Wi-Fi extender is a great choice. That being said, it is certainly not a heavy-hitter that’s designed to bridge the gap between your router and more demanding dead zones.
TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender (RE220)
This Wi-Fi range extender stands out for its budget-friendly price and dependable 2.4-GHz performance.
Pros: If you’re in the market for a budget-friendly Wi-Fi range extender with solid 2.4-GHz performance, the TP-Link RE220 Wi-Fi Extender is worth consideration. Don’t let its bargain bin price fool you, this sleek Wi-Fi range extender has a respectable range and performance that rivals models that are twice the price. It can also be used as an access point in a pinch thanks to its built-in ethernet port, making this a solid option for those seeking to extend their network without emptying their checking account.
Cons: Sadly, the RE220’s 5-GHz performance is nowhere near as dependable as its 2.4-GHz performance, so those seeking to extend their 5-GHz network for data-intensive media streaming or gaming should probably look for another product.
Bottom Line: Given this product’s extremely low cost, its ability to effectively eliminate dead zones and extend 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi is well worth the money. However, you get what you pay for as the old adage goes, so those expecting a lightning-fast LAN port or solid 5-GHz performance will likely need to up their investment to have their needs met.
NETGEAR Orbi Outdoor Satellite Wi-Fi Extender
This Wi-Fi range extender features a rugged weather-resistant design and incredible performance.
Pros: If you’d like your Wi-Fi network to extend to the great outdoors, the NETGEAR Orbi Outdoor Satellite Wi-Fi Extender is built for the task. This Wi-Fi extender sports a rugged IP66 waterproof and dustproof design that can withstand the elements and a large coverage range of up to 2,500 square feet. Additionally, it provides optimal speed from further away, so you will have to walk quite far from the Wi-Fi extender before you detect a noticeable drop-off in network quality.
Cons: Although this outdoor Wi-Fi range extender can be wall mounted, its heat sink somewhat complicates things since it attaches to the mounting bracket that directly connects to your wall. Also, it’s worth noting that this product is a good deal bulkier than most Wi-Fi range extenders.
Bottom Line: This product’s price tag may turn some people away, but it’s hard to question the performance and range you get for the cost of admission. While this range extender excels outdoors, it’s also a fantastic option for indoor use. This is especially true for tricky applications that require more range and speed than budget alternatives can provide.
TP-Link AC1900 WiFi Extender (RE550)
This Wi-Fi range extender sports impressive range and great speed for its price.
Pros: Seeking excellent range for an affordable price? The TP-Link RE550 WiFi Extender sports a stellar range of up to 2,800 square feet and reliable AC1900 dual band Wi-Fi with solid 5-GHz performance for data-intensive applications. Like other TP-Link Wi-Fi range extenders, this one benefits from the easy-to-use TP-Link Tether App, which makes setting up and managing your network a breeze.
Cons: While this Wi-Fi range extender impresses in terms of its range, installation can be made trickier by the fact that it will likely need to be placed closer to your router than similar models for optimal results. Of course, this will depend on your home’s layout, wall thickness, and other factors, but thankfully this device makes it easy to find a nice spot to set it up.
Bottom Line: From its impressive 5-GHz performance to its lightning-fast Gigabit ethernet port, this Wi-Fi range extender is an excellent option for those with the need for speed. Its premium range also makes it a nice choice for larger homes with sizable dead zones that are not covered by your router.
rockspace Wi-Fi Range Extender
Featuring impressive vertical reach, this Wi-Fi range extender is great for multi-level buildings.
Pros: Featuring a convenient, compact design, the rockspace Wi-Fi Range Extender is best utilized in multi-story homes that struggle to receive Wi-Fi a story or two above the router. This is because this Wi-Fi range extender performs better than comparable products in terms of its vertical reach. So, if you live in a multi-story dwelling and are looking for an easy-to-use Wi-Fi range extender that won’t break the bank, this is a product to consider.
Cons: Although this product exceeds expectations in terms of vertical range, its horizontal reach is fairly underwhelming when compared to similarly priced Wi-Fi range extenders. As such, it’s probably not an ideal product for wide, single-story homes.
Bottom Line: While it’s not the most affordable device on the market to boost your Wi-Fi, its vertical reach is up there with much pricier models. It’s also universally compatible with most routers, making it a very attractive choice for those who live in a townhome or split-level dwelling.
Given how most of today’s smart home and home security devices require a robust Wi-Fi connection, investing in a great Wi-Fi range extender just makes sense. However, it’s important to do your research in order to end up with a product that is perfect for your router, home, and Wi-Fi needs.