|#1||NETGEAR EX6200||AC1200||2.4, 5 GHz||4||2||4/5||$$$$||Buy Now|
|#2||Linksys RE6500||AC867||2.4, 5 GHz||4||2||3.7/5||$$$||Buy Now|
|#3||D-Link DAP-1520||AC750||2.4, 5 GHz||0||0||3.5/5||$||Buy Now|
If you own a two-story condo or sprawling ranch house, you’ve likely experienced dead zones. Dead zones are those areas of the home where the internet goes to curl up and die. You know you’re in one when the connection slows to speeds akin to dial-up and your streaming video lurches from frame to frame. On the whole, this is a highly unpleasant and frustrating experience.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way: the solution to poor connectivity and speed rests in Wi-Fi extenders, which are sometimes called “boosters” or “repeaters.” Their purpose is to either amplify the Wi-Fi signal or disperse it throughout the home.
Top 3 Wi-Fi Extenders
#1: NETGEAR EX6200
Amazon Rating: (4 / 5)
Frequency: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz (dual-band)
Other Features: This extender employs MU-MIMO, which is the acronym for “multiuser, multiple input, multiple output.” This feature makes sure your W-Fi works smoothly, even when lots of people are using it.
The NETGEAR EX6200 Wi-Fi Range Extender costs a little more than the other extenders we’re recommending, but it’s worth the extra cash if you want the extra power. Using 700 mW of electricity and a quad-core processor, this range extender has the oomph and the processing capability to push your Wi-Fi signal to the far corners of your home and to keep your information flowing smoothly.
#2: Linksys RE6500
Amazon Rating: (3.7 / 5)
Frequency: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz (dual-band)
Other Features: The Linksys RE6500 has cross-band technology that automatically maximizes the transfer of information across its two frequency ranges.
Although it’s slightly less powerful than our fist recommendation, the Linksys RE6500 earns our second spot because it sports a couple of cool extra features. Along with providing a good signal boost for your Wi-Fi, this extender lets you plug in your stereo speakers. This allows you to set up your music source in one room and your speakers in another. For example, this feature can be extremely useful if you keep your computer in your office but want to play music from it in the living room.
Another great feature you’ll get by going with Linksys is access to its Spot Finder Technology. The Linksys Spot Finder Technology lets you use your mobile device to figure out the best place to set up your extender in relation to your router. It’s almost like having a Wi-Fi whisperer telling you where all the dead spots in your home are.
#3: D-Link DAP-1520
Amazon Rating: (3.5 / 5)
Frequency: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz (dual-band)
Other Features: Internal antennas, which are less vulnerable to physical damage.
At less than half the price of the other recommended extenders, the D-Link DAP-1520 is the most affordable by far. It’s also simple to set up, but it’s not as powerful as the other extenders we recommend. It doesn’t have any ports, so it will work only for wireless devices. However, since that’s the whole point of Wi-Fi, we don’t see this as a huge drawback. If you’re looking to extend your Wi-Fi network and you’re on a tight budget, the D-Link DAP-1520 is a good option.
All Your Wi-Fi Extender Questions Answered
What Is a Wi-Fi Extender?
A Wi-Fi extender supplements your existing router by extending the Wi-Fi connection throughout the home, increasing connectivity, reliability, speed, and overall performance. With one or more extenders installed, dead zones disappear.
How Does a Wi-Fi Extender Work?
A Wi-Fi extender works in conjunction with your existing router, essentially piggy-backing on the signal. It takes that signal and either transmits it further or creates a secondary access point. Depending on your home and connectivity desires, you may want to purchase more than one extender. For example, if you want to extend wireless coverage to the backyard and the basement, you would likely need at least two extenders.
Do I Have to Buy a Wi-Fi Extender?
You don’t have to buy a Wi-Fi extender—you get to buy one. The extender enhances signal strength and range, making it a recommended and desirable purchase, but not a necessary one. In short, it’s a privilege rather than an obligation. For more information on why you might not need an extender, read the section below about the differences between boosters, repeaters, and extenders.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Extenders?
It seems like an extender would only come with pros, but it does claim some cons. One of these cons is interference. If the extender is too close to the router, it could cause a signal overlap, producing interruptions that lead to poor performance.
The pro is obvious: coverage. An extender will improve your device’s connection to the internet. But be careful—most extenders run wirelessly, so they are essentially additional devices attached to the network, meaning they pull power and speed from it just as a laptop and tablet do.
To overcome slow speeds, place the extenders strategically and perhaps pair them with a dedicated device like a TV or gaming system. Hardwiring the extender and device should reduce the network load and increase speed and reliability.
What’s the Difference Between an Extender, Booster, and Repeater?
Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters increase wireless coverage by repeating the internet signal throughout the home and, in some setups, the backyard. A booster, by contrast, usually attaches to an existing modem, router, or other device to increase signal strength. If you own a small home or rent an apartment, a booster may serve you better than an extender.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Wi-Fi Extender?
Several features hold court as must-haves when it comes to Wi-Fi extenders: compatibility, frequency, Ethernet ports, single- or dual-band, and ease of use.
Most new Wi-Fi extenders—including all the extenders we recommended—use protocol 802.11ac. This is simply a name for the technology and procedure the extender uses to communicate with a router. The 802.11ac protocol is backward compatible, which means it will work with older routers and other equipment that may still be using an older protocol, usually 802.11n.
Compatibility is the main reason we recommend getting a newer model extender. Newer protocols will work with older protocols, but it doesn’t work the other way around. If you buy an older model, you may save a few bucks, but if it doesn’t use 802.11ac, it might not be compatible with your other equipment.
Routers and extenders either rely on the standard 2.4 GHz or have upgraded to 5 GHz. Since the 5 GHz frequency is relatively new, it’s less congested and less prone to signal interference. If you purchase a router that relies on the newer frequency, you should buy a matching extender. Newer routers often feature additional technologies like MU-MIMO or beamforming to facilitate high speeds at longer ranges.
In terms of Wi-Fi extenders, standard means the speed of its throughput when operating at its top protocol. The extenders we recommend all have the same top protocol of 802.11ac. At that protocol, our recommended extenders function at speeds of 1,200 Mbps, 867 Mbps, and 750 Mbps respectively.
Ethernet ports assist with reaching top speeds. By hardwiring some devices into them, you decrease the number of items demanding power from your Wi-Fi network. Most extenders feature at least one Ethernet port, but some include as many as five.
Routers and extenders are either single- or dual-band. Dual-band tends to prove highly beneficial because it directs traffic flow, sending some devices to the 2.4 GHz band and others to the 5 GHz one. The dual-band technology can also help prevent signal interference.
Lastly, you should consider ease of use. Some extenders will automatically connect and configure with the router once plugged into a power source. Others require you to press a button or to employ a setup wizard, often via a mobile app.
What Else Do I Need to Know about Wi-Fi Extenders?
- Besides the must-haves, you should also think about security and aesthetics. Only purchase devices that enable strong, private, and secure home networks. To that end, examine the security protocols and make sure they use the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access version (WPA2-PSK (AES)).
- Extender aesthetics vary widely. Some look like power adapters and are plug and play; others seem to materialize out of a Star Trek episode and feature numerous antennas, ports, and a host of other bells and whistles.
- Finally, the extender market continues to grow, meaning manufacturers will continue to add feature sets. If you seek an extender that improves your streaming capabilities, there is likely one available or soon-to-be available for that.
- Start ramping up your home’s wireless network by checking out some of the extenders listed here. Not only will they make dead zones a thing of the past, but they’ll also improve reliability, speed, and coverage, giving you an all-around better user experience that you’ll be grateful for every day.