Best WiFi Extenders

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

114 Models Considered
13 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
79 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for the best WiFi extenders

Last Updated December 2019

If you’re one of the millions of people who spend hours each day online, you know just how essential a good WiFi signal is — and just what a show-stopper it can be when you’ve got poor WiFi reception. It’s time to face facts: In the digital age, WiFi dead spots can be a real liability.

If your wireless router is good, but not great — that is, if you have decent WiFi coverage, but one or two low-reception areas in your home — a WiFi extender can fill your coverage gaps and revolutionize your browsing experience. WiFi extenders, sometimes referred to as repeaters, are placed at the edge of your coverage range; basically, you’ll put one as far away from your primary router as you can while still allowing it to get a good signal. Once connected, your WiFi extender will then re-broadcast your WiFi signal, providing coverage to other devices in areas that previously got low reception.

WiFi extenders are ideal for “almost perfect” wireless networks, so if you’ve got a few trouble spots in your home that need a better signal, we’ve got your back. Read on for everything you need to know about WiFi extenders, and how to pick the perfect one for optimizing your WiFi.

A WiFi extender is similar in looks to a WiFi router, but works differently. An extender's job is to relay your WiFi's signal strength to areas with low reception.

How does a WiFi extender work?

A WiFi 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.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re looking to connect a device such as a game console or IP-phone to your WiFi extender, ensure that extender has built-in Ethernet ports.


Staff  | BestReviews

Who benefits from a WiFi extender?

Extenders helpful in homes where walls or interference from other devices lead to dead spots for WiFi reception. Devices offering easy setup can range from $29 to $120, with the sweet spot hovering in the $80 range.

If your home network runs the newer and superior Wireless-AC, instead of the older and more common Wireless-G or Wireless-N variants of WiFi, you should purchase a matching AC WiFi range extender to ensure that the device is capable of relaying your network’s high rate data transmission across your home.

Before you start

Prior to choosing a WiFi range extender, it’s important to establish proper “benchmarks” for your home WiFi throughput. Basically, this means identifying the areas in your home where WiFi signals are weakest.

We recommend this series of steps:

Step one

Download an app to your mobile device for portable testing. Ookla and Speed Test are two of the more popular WiFi speed testers, and both are available for IOS and Android for a minimal cost (or free).

Step two

Run a throughput test in the general area of your wireless router and note the results.

Step three

Visit the spot (or spots) in your home where WiFi 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.

Step four

Purchase and install your WiFi 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.

Step five

Retest your throughput speed in the area that previously experienced less-than-optimal WiFi. If you don’t see a significant boost, it’s possible you may need a different range extender.

Adjust the antennas on your WiFi extender to get the best connection. It may take a few configurations to find the best one.

Tips for choosing a WiFi extender

  • It is best to select the same brand for your WiFi extender as your router. This generally ensures that the products have the same chipset and software.
  • You may be attracted to an extender that offers simple setup. That’s fine, but bear in mind that more advanced models that provide throughput on multiple bands require a more complex setup, with separate bands needing individual setups.
  • For maximum throughput, select a model that supports both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Older models with only 2.4 GHz offer little more than 50% of the router’s signals, while extenders that also support the newer 5 GHz band provide stronger signals to weaker zones. The reason for this has to do with the need for the extender to simultaneously communicate with the base router and the client device. With one band, the network must perform both functions, but with two separate bands, one can talk to the router while the other services the targeted deficient zone.

When to consider a powerline WiFi extender

In some cases, a standard WiFi 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 — alternatives such as AC or powerline-based — WiFi extenders should be considered. Generally, AC-based extenders cost slightly more than their non-AC counterparts. However, as more companies enter the market, we expect prices to 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:

The powerline approach is only as good as the home’s electricity circuitry. In older homes where the wiring has not been updated, an AC extender is likely the wrong choice for extending WiFi signals.

“Multimedia over Coax Alliance,” or MoCA is a WiFi extending alternative that utilizes your home’s preexisting coaxial cable wires to directly carry your network from your router to other MoCA WiFi adapters elsewhere in the building. This method is an excellent solution to frustrating architectural problems that may prevent a traditional WiFi signal from easily traveling through your home, while providing faster network speeds and a far more reliable connection at the same time.

Mesh networking is another alternative method of ensuring that your home is completely blanketed by your network’s WiFi signal. In a nutshell, a mesh network relies on a system of mini-routers, or nodes. The node closest to your modem connects to the internet, and broadcasts the signal to the other nodes in your network, which in turn, locally amplify the WiFi signal it receives. Costing between $200 and $400 on average, mesh networking solutions aren’t cheap, but if a system of nodes are positioned and installed correctly, your WiFi coverage issues will be a thing of the past.  

Note that other devices and appliances, including surge protectors, microwave ovens, and cordless phones, may weaken any WiFi signal in its path.

DID YOU KNOW?

Not all WiFi extenders work with every computer, so be sure to check the compatibility before purchasing one.

How to set up your extender

  • First, unbox your extender. If your device has remote antennas, raise them to a fully vertical position. Plug it into an electrical outlet in the same room as your home wireless router.
  • Find the WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) button on your router. If your router does not have a WPS button, the manufacturer will provide additional instructions which include how to connect an Ethernet cable from your router to your WiFi extender.
  • Press the WPS button on your range extender. Then, press the EPS button on your router. The WPS button on your range extender will turn a solid green when a connection between the devices is established.
  • If your router supports the 5 GHz band, repeat the WPS process for both devices.
  • Unplug your WiFi range extender and select a location about halfway between your weak signal area and router. The extender must be in the range of your router to ensure a strong signal.
  • Plug your extender into an outlet and wait for the LED light to turn green. (For most range extenders, there will be a signal light that indicates the extender is within range of the router. Ensure your indicator light says your extender is within the proper range of the router.)
  • Connect your client device (a laptop, for example) to the extender. You should find a network name which is the same as your established SSID (Service Set Identifier) but with a suffix _EXT. The password, or “key,” will be the same as your existing network password.
  • At this point, test the throughput from the extender with a mobile device app to ensure it provides adequate throughput. If the range extender does not offer the desired results, it is possible you may need to look at other solutions, such as an AC or powerline WiFi range extender.

Price

How much should you expect to pay for a good WiFi 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:

  • Does the extender offers single or dual band operation?
  • Does the extender have external antennas that can be moved for optimal reception?
  • Does the product offer easy, step-by-step setup?
  • Does the vendor offer free, 24-hour technical support?

 

The team that worked on this review
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    Digital Content Producer
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    Post Production Editor

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