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Getting consistent Wi-Fi reception in every part of your home can be a challenge. If you’re having trouble picking up internet in some rooms, you may wish to consider a Wi-Fi extender.
It’s quite common to get a robust Wi-Fi signal of 100 Mpbs on your PC or mobile device when you are in close proximity to your base WiFi router. It’s also common to get a far weaker signal in rooms on other floors of the home — an upstairs bedroom or office, for example.
Thick walls can block signals and neighbors with their own home networking setups can cause interference with your WiFi signal.
A Wi-Fi range extender rebroadcasts wireless internet signals from the base router to areas of the home where reception dips significantly below baseline. For example, if a consumer experiences a constant signal of 90 Mbps (as promised by the service provider) in the same room as the wireless router, but he receives only a fraction of that — say 10 Mbps — in a second-floor bedroom, an extender could remedy the problem.
Extenders helpful in homes where walls or interference from other devices lead to dead spots for Wi-Fi reception. Devices offering easy setup can range from $29 to $120, with the sweet spot hovering in the $80 range.
An adjacent category to Wi-Fi extenders is AC Wi-Fi range extenders. AC-based range extenders provide a similar resolution to the problem of spotty Wi-Fi, but their setup is more complex and can be a bit more costly. See our “Tips for Choosing a Wi-Fi Extender” section for more information.
Prior to choosing a Wi-Fi range extender, it’s important to establish proper “benchmarks” for your home Wi-Fi throughput. Basically, this means identifying the areas in your home where Wi-Fi signals are weakest.
We recommend this series of steps:
Download an app to your mobile device for portable testing. Ookla and Speed Test are two of the more popular Wi-Fi speed testers, and both are available for IOS and Android for a minimal cost (or free).
Run a throughput test in the general area of your wireless router and note the results.
If you’re looking to connect a device such as a game console or IP-phone to your Wi-Fi extender, ensure that extender has built-in Ethernet ports.
Visit the spot (or spots) in your home where Wi-Fi reception is slower. There is no hard and fast rule, but if your tests in areas away from your router are less than half of your base signal, it’s time to consider a range extender.
Purchase and install your Wi-Fi extender. (See “How to Set Up Your Extender” for more details.) Buyer note: not all range extenders are built equally. Many promise the ability to extend a signal up to 10,000 square feet, while others have the ability to take signals from multiple bands of the router and combine them to create a more powerful repeated signal.
Retest your throughput speed in the area that previously experienced less-than-optimal Wi-Fi. If you don’t see a significant boost, it’s possible you may need a different range extender.
Not all Wi-Fi extenders work with every computer, so be sure to check the compatibility before purchasing one.
In some cases, a standard Wi-Fi range extender will not bring new bandwidth life to spotty areas of reception. If a building’s architecture prohibits central location of the extender, for example, you could run into this problem.
In such scenarios, an AC- or powerline-based Wi-Fi extender should be considered. Generally, AC-based extenders cost slightly more than their non-AC counterparts. As more companies enter the market, however, prices continue to drop.
Powerline solutions come in pairs, with a base unit that plugs into an outlet near the router and a second unit that sits in an area with poor bandwidth throughput. The unit close to the router plugs directly into the router via Ethernet cable; the signal travels through the home’s electrical circuitry to the extender.
By and large, this method can provide the best throughput to weak or dead bandwidth zones. However, the AC-based solution has its drawbacks:
Some wireless extenders come with additional features like audio streaming capabilities and additional ethernet ports, which can be pretty helpful.
How much should you expect to pay for a good Wi-Fi extender? As mentioned above, you could spend anywhere from $30 to $120 for a good one. Many great ones cost around $80.
The cost will vary based on the answers to these questions:
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.