• Linksys RE9000

  • TP-Link RE220

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Wi-Fi Extenders

  • Why You Should Match Your Routers and Extenders

  • Other Wi-Fi Extenders We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Wi-Fi Extenders of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Linksys RE9000

    Pros

    • Excellent speed

    • Strong signal strength over distance

    Cons

    • Large, bulky device and power brick

    • Expensive

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    TP-Link RE220

    Pros

    • Inexpensive

    • Includes 100 Mbps ethernet port

    Cons

    • Supports only the slowest AC750 standard

    • Ethernet port blocks the adjacent power socket

    Skip to the full review below
Linksys RE9000
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Offering fast transfer speeds and a large coverage area, the Linksys RE9000 is the best Wi-Fi extender you can buy.

Best Overall
Linksys RE9000

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).

Pros

  • Excellent speed

  • Strong signal strength over distance

Cons

  • Large, bulky device and power brick

  • Expensive

TP-Link RE220
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

An ideal Wi-Fi extender for those with routers that offer slower Internet speeds.

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How We Tested

How We Tested
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Sorting out which Wi-Fi Extender is the best for most people isn't a straight forward affair.

The Tester

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 Tests

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

Netgear EX6110

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.

Pros

  • Compact design

Cons

  • Underwhelming speed

  • No ethernet ports

Netgear Nighthawk X4S EX7500

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.

Pros

  • Decent speed

  • Good signal strength

Cons

  • Large

  • No ethernet ports

Linksys RE6350

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.

Pros

  • Simple installation

Cons

  • Supports only AC1200 standard

  • Poor performance

Meet the tester

Richard Baguley

Richard Baguley

Contributor

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Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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