Putting up with poor Wi-Fi signal strength because of your home’s thick walls or being far from your router used to be something we had to accept as part and parcel of connecting to the Internet, wirelessly. Happily, there’s no need to live with Wi-Fi dead zones, any longer: If your wireless network doesn't already include a mesh Wi-Fi system that you can add extra nodes to expand your home’s Wi-Fi coverage with, the best way to get your videos to stop stuttering and web pages to load quickly, is to invest in a Wi-Fi extender. It’s a piece of hardware designed to receive your router’s Wi-Fi signal and then boost it, so that it reaches every corner of your home.
After extensive testing, we found that the best Wi-Fi range extender is the Linksys RE9000(available at Amazon). It can carry a fast signal long-distance from your router, effortlessly handling multiple 4K video streams and other data, so long as your internet plan and router already allow you to do this, at shorter distances.
For those with who subscribe to slower internet speeds, or want to extend their home Wi-Fi at a lower cost, the TP-Link RE220 (available at Amazon) is a great option. This inexpensive router is slow and doesn’t provide as much range as our Best Overall pick. However, it is perfect if you just need to boost your Wi-Fi sign to reach an additional room or deck.
These are the best Wi-Fi extenders we tested ranked, in order
You’d be forgiven for assuming that the RE9000 was a full router rather than an extender, because of its large case, four antennas, and four Ethernet ports on its back. And, to be fair, it can be used as a full router. However, its main purpose is to extend a fast network from a powerful router. It supports the AC3000 standard, one of the fastest non-Wi-Fi 6 variants, and also includes four Ethernet ports. That would make it perfect for something like an office or a garage with several devices in it that need internet access, as it can extend both wireless and wired connections. It is expensive, though: it is the priciest of the models we looked at by a significant margin.
You get what you pay for, though: we found that it was the fastest of the extenders that we tested, handling a 4K video without breaking a sweat and offering upload and download speeds of just over 200 Mbps during testing. That’s significantly faster than the other extenders in our tests.
However, it’s important to note that you’ll only see this kind of speed if the RE9000 is twinned with a router that supports the same AC3000 standard (we’ll talk about these standards, in a moment).
The TP-Link RE220 is an inexpensive, but capable Wi-Fi extender that offers acceptable performance, is relatively easy to set up, and includes an Ethernet port for connecting a non-Wi-Fi enabled device.
Around the same size as a deck of cards, the RE220 features a number of small LED status lights and a tiny button for connecting the device to a network using WPS.
This extender only supports the AC750 standard, which is the slowest of the 802.11AC variants currently available. Even if it’s connected to a router that’s capable of faster transfers, the RE220 can only extend the router’s network signal at pokey its AC750 speed. As such, we recommend that you invest in a router and extender which both support the same AC standard (more on this in a moment).
We found that the speed of the network created by the RE220 was adequate for casual use. Although the speeds were only around 30 Mbps, it was adequate for casual web browsing and editing a Google document. When streaming a 4K video, however, it stuttered several times as my laptop waited for more data to be downloaded over the extender’s slow connection.
Our only criticism of the RE220’s design is the location of the Ethernet port on the bottom of the device: when plugged into a wall socket, an attached Ethernet cable attached to the extender will block the socket below where the hardware has been plugged in. This problem is easily overcome, however, by plugging the RE220 into the lower electrical outlet.
I’m Richard Baguley, and I have been testing and breaking technology for over 20 years. In that time I have tested everything from automatic coffee makers to wearable computers. Until 2012, I was the VP of Editorial Development at Reviewed.com, where I created the testing protocols that are still used for products such as TVs, dishwashers, coffee makers and refrigerators.
The purpose of a Wi-Fi extender is to extend the coverage of a Wi-Fi network by retransmitting its signal.
During testing, we used each extender to boost the signal of a number of routers, one at a time.
On their own, the Wi-Fi signal from each of our test routers was never quite capable of reaching my backyard deck, or the second floor of my home, because of distance, intervening walls, and floors. So, we installed each of the extenders as the manufacturers recommended between the router and the test location, using included software tools (when available), to determine the location that best boosted the signal.
Once set up, we tested how well each extender worked by measuring the speed of the network using iPerf, and streaming a 4K video while counting the number of times the video stuttered or stalled because it didn't have enough bandwidth.
What You Should Know About Wi-Fi Extenders
What's a Wi-Fi Extender?
The further you are from the router, the weaker the signal is. Eventually, it becomes too weak to pick out from background noise. A Wi-Fi extender is a piece of hardware designed to receive the signal from your router and rebroadcast it, extending the distance the signal can be received.
Mesh Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi Extender: Which Should I Buy?
We recently reviewed Mesh Wi-Fi systems, which replaces a single router with several devices that connect together to form a mesh of Wi-Fi access points that your devices can switch between, seamlessly. These are different from Wi-Fi extenders, which just extend the range of your router. So, how do you decide which you need? Consider your existing Wi-Fi router and setup:
If you are happy with how fast it is and there is just one spot that it doesn’t cover well, you need a Wi-Fi extender.
If your Wi-Fi is slow, doesn’t cover much of your home, or stops working when the kids are online, you should get a mesh Wi-Fi system that can handle more users.
Why You Should Match Your Routers and Extenders
It is also important to match the speed of your Wi-Fi extender with the speed of your main Wi-Fi router because a mismatch here will lead to either a slower network or wasted money. To show why this is important, we compared the fastest extender in our tests, the Linksys RE9000 with the slowest, the TP-Link RE220.
Both were tested with the same wireless router, a Linksys WRT1900ACS that is capable of speeds of over 200 megabits per second. Under the same test conditions, we measured the speed at which each extender could carry data. With the RE220, the speed was about 30 Megabits per second. With the Linksys, that speed increased to over 200 Megabits per second. In other words, the Linksys extender was about six times faster than the TP-Link RE220. That doesn’t just mean that a single device would be faster with the Linksys extender; it also means that more devices could connect to the Linksys extender at one time and still get a speedy connection.
Another advantage of getting the same brand of the extender as the router you own is that you might be able to keep the same Wi-Fi network name. If you use a Wi-Fi router and extender from different manufacturers, you will have two different Wi-Fi networks, called something like FRED and FRED_EXT, where the latter is the one created by the Wi-Fi extender. To use the extender network, you would have to manually switch between them.
If both the router and extender are from the same manufacturer, however, they can often share the same Wi-Fi network name, and your device should switch between them automatically. That is a manufacturer-specific feature, though: TP-Link devices call this feature OneMesh, while D-Link and Linksys devices call it Mesh Smart Roaming.
Terms to Know
AC750, AC1200, AC1950, etc: Most modern routers use a Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ac. The numbers after the letters in 802.11ac indicate the total theoretical speed that the router can send data at (called the bandwidth). An AC750 router, for example, can send data at up to 750 megabits per second, while an AC3200 one can manage 3200 megabits per second. These numbers can be confusing, though, as you will never actually manage to achieve these speeds. For one thing, they combine the speeds of all of the Wi-Fi bands that the router can use, while a device like an iPad or laptop, can only connect to one Wi-Fi band at a time. Additionally, the speed you will get in practice is even lower, because other signals, noise, and the distance between the router and device will affect the speed.
Wi-Fi 6: Released in 2019 and also known by the technical name 802.11ax, this new standard increases both the amount of data that can be sent over a Wi-Fi network and the number of devices that can join a network. The speed is increased to a theoretical maximum of 11 megabits per second from the 3.5 of the older 802.11ac standard that most modern devices use. More devices can also be connected to Wi-Fi 6 hardware, which makes managing mesh networks that include large numbers of devices easier.
Dual and Tri-Band: All of the Wi-Fi extenders that we tested for this guide are dual-band, meaning that they support two signal bands in the 2.4Ghz and 5.8GHz signal band. Some of them, including the Netgear EX6110, are tri-band, meaning that they also support an additional signal band in the upper 5GHz range. That said, most Wi-Fi devices can only use the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands, while the additional 5GHz signal is used by the mesh routers to talk to each other. As such, they can share data without using up the valuable signal space that they use to talk to your devices.
MIMO:Multiple In, Multiple Out. Modern routers use multiple antennas that can send and receive multiple signals at the same time. By synchronizing these signals, they can increase the amount of data that can be sent. The amount of antennas and signals that can be sent and received at once is usually described by two numbers, which indicate how many of these synchronized signals they can send and receive. The Eero Pro, for instance, uses 2x2 MIMO, so it can send and receive 2 signals at once. The latest Wi-Fi 6 routers expand this further with MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-In Multi-Out), which allows multiple users to use this technique at the same time.
Other Wi-Fi Extenders We Tested
The TP-Link RE650 is fast enough for several people to browse the web at once, but it is not as fast as some of the other more expensive extenders we tested. It looks kind of like a brutalist teddy bear, with its four antenna arms outstretched to give you a hug. At 6.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches deep, it’s one of the largest of the extenders that we looked at. With the RE650’s antennas folded out, the width of this extender’s footprint is bumped up to eight inches. So it needs a lot of space in order to be set up correctly.
Additionally, it requires a grounded, three-pin power socket. While it can be plugged directly into your wall, its large size makes it better suited to being plugged into an extension cord, so the remaining plug can still be used.
During testing, we measured speeds of around 120 Mbps, which is plenty fast for a couple of computers browsing the web or emailing. It was also quite capable of streaming a 4K video without delay.
That’s because the RE650 supports the fast AC2600 standard and includes multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) radios that can send and receive several signals at once.
We also found it quite simple to install: the router’s built-in software makes it simple to configure using a web browser, and the TP-Link Tether app available for iOS and Android can be downloaded to your smartphone for free.
The EX6110 is the smallest Wi-Fi extender we tested, but it is also rather slow: it will struggle with more than a couple of users browsing the web. Its dimensions are similar to those of many smart plugs. Its feature list is just as diminutive as the extender itself: it only supports the slower AC1200 standard. MIMO and tri-band Wi-Fi are not supported. As such, it isn’t a particularly fast device: we measured the speed of the EX6110’s extended network at an average 30Mbps, making a 4K video a bit more than it could handle.
We found its installation process had a few quirks. Strangely, there is no companion app for this device: Setup is completed through a web browser that provides access to Netgear’s Installation Assistant. The Installation Assistant is designed to take you through the process of picking the network you want to extend and testing its signal strength. However, when attempting to use both an Android tablet and smartphone, we weren’t able to complete the extender’s setup. Partway through the step-by-step process, the NEXT button on the webpage refused to respond. Restarting the setup process, using a laptop, proved successful.
Once the EX6110 is configured, it creates a new network with the suffix _2GEXT and _5GEXT, but with the same passkey as you’d use to access your router. To use the extender, you have to manually connect your devices to its network—a bit of a pain, as you have to remember to do it each time you want to switch from being connected to your home router over to your extended network.
In theory, the X4S should be one of the faster extenders we tested, but we found that it struggled with more than one or two users browsing the web. It supports three Wi-Fi frequency bands (one 2.4Ghz and two 5GHz) and the AC2200 variant of Wi-Fi. The multiple antennas and radios that this requires take up space. As such, the X4S is a little beefier than most of the devices we tested for this guide. Despite its size, we found that it was still possible to plug another power cable into the adjacent electrical socket while the extender was connected.
During testing, we found that the X4S wasn’t especially fast: working with an AC2900 router, we found that we only got about 30 to 40 Mbps of speed. This was fast enough to watch a 4K video without problems, and the signal spread noticeably further than with other extenders, so it could be a good option if you need to cover a wider area and already have a fast router.
The DAP-1610 is a simple, inexpensive extender that is fast enough for two or three users browsing the web or 4K video streaming. It offers a simple setup process and a wired Ethernet port that can be used to connect a single non-Wi-Fi device. This means it can do double duty: connect to an older computer via an Ethernet cable and it will connect it to your extended network, while all of your modern devices can connect to the extender, using Wi-Fi. You should know, however, that its wired connection is only rated at 100 Mbps, which is slower than the Wi-Fi signal the DAP-1610 provides.
We liked the set of three amber or green LEDs on the top of the DAP-1610 that shows your router’s signal strength: a useful feature if you’re trying to find the right spot to place the extender. However, other parts of the design are a little clumsy. The device is about the size of a pack of cards, with two fold-up antennas at the top that partially block the power socket above. This could be a pain if you need to frequently unplug the device using the other socket.
The D-Link DAP 1860 is a mediocre WiFi extender with lackluster performance: it can handle a single 4K video user or a couple of people browsing the web, but it would choke on much more than that. It measures in at six inches tall and two inches deep, it has a fold-out antenna on each of its corners, as well as an Ethernet port on one corner. As such, when the antennas are folded out, they’ll likely get in the way of either whatever is plugged in next to the extender on a power bar or wall socket.
Installing and setting up the DAP 1860 is a rather confusing process. After plugging in the device and connecting your laptop to the extender’s Wi-Fi network, the DAP 1860’s manual instructs you to navigate to one website to complete the extender’s setup. Separately, the Wi-Fi details card that comes included with the device points to a different website. I couldn’t get either website to work and ended up using a third-party app to find the extender’s IP address.
It’s software setup wizard also failed, insisting that there were no local Wi-Fi networks to connect to. I wasn’t able to resolve this issue until I unplugged the extender, hit the reset button, and started it up again. After all of this, we found that the DAP 1860 could only manage a lackluster 35 Mbps. It had no problem handling a 4K video, however.
None that we could find
Comes with contradictory installation instructions
The Linksys RE6350 Boost is a mid-range Wi-Fi Extender that is about the size of a typical wall-wart power supply. Unfortunately, its weak performance meant we weren’t able to stream a 4K video without it choking. It is easy to set up, though: plug it into a wall socket, run its easy-to-use setup app and it will extend your Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, it only supports the AC1200 standard, which is one of the slower AC standards out there. If this matched the standard of the router you’re using, that’s fine. However, the RE6350 is a poor choice if your router can handle faster speeds.
During testing, the extender only managed 17 Mbps. That’s lackluster compared to the other devices we tested (including the ones that support the same AC1200 standard). The extender’s pokey performance wasn’t enough to smoothly playback a 4K video: during a four-minute video, it paused and restarted, nine times.
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