Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.The RundownBest Overall:Netgear Nighthawk X4 at Amazon"Just plug in the extender and you'll get advanced dual-band Wi-Fi with up to 2,000 square feet of coverage."Best Budget:Netgear EX3700 at Amazon"Get 1,000 feet of coverage at a price that's easy on your wallet."Best for Gaming:Netgear Nighthawk X6S at Walmart"Say goodbye to lagging connections and hello to the ultimate gaming experience."Best Wi-Fi 6:TP-Link RE505X at Amazon"Fast 802.11ax Dual-Band Wi-Fi gives you fast performance in busy and hard-to-reach corners of your home."Best Technology:Netgear Nighthawk EAX80 at Amazon"Can be used to add Wi-Fi 6 coverage to your den or family room without replacing your main router."Best Powerline:Netgear PLW1000 at Best Buy"Using your home electrical wiring this handy adapter can extend access into areas your Wi-Fi router can't even begin to reach."Best Portable:TP-Link TL-WR902AC at Amazon"This handy little device lets you setup a quick bubble of extended Wi-Fi anywhere in your home or on the road."Best Low Profile:TP-Link RE305 at Amazon"Small and sleek, it's got a look that will go into any home and won't be catching your guest's eyes."Best Value:TP-Link RE200 at Amazon"An affordable way to extend your Wi-Fi network when peak performance isn't critical."in this articleExpandOur PicksHow We TestedAbout Our Trusted ExpertsFAQsThe Ultimate Wi-Fi Extender Buying GuideTypes of Wi-Fi Extender ProductsBrands and ManufacturersConclusion
You don't need to suffer through weak wireless coverage in far corners of your home if you simply pick up one of the best Wi-Fi extenders. These handy devices are both affordable and easy to set up, and can breathe new life into a den, family room, or even back deck in a matter of minutes.
As the name implies, the best Wi-Fi extenders will take the signal from your existing wireless router and make it go even farther by broadcasting its own entirely new bubble of Wi-Fi. These devices aren't just for filling dead zones either; since a weak Wi-Fi signal means slow performance, they can also give your Wi-Fi devices a much-needed boost, so they'll be ready for 4K streaming, gaming, and video calling. Although users having coverage in multiple areas around their home should consider a long-range router, the best Wi-Fi extenders are an ideal way to go for anybody who just needs to get better coverage in a single area of their home.
Best Overall:Netgear Nighthawk X4 WiFi Mesh Extender (EX7300)4.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Clear and speedy connection
Up to 2,200 Mbps
2,000-square foot coverageWhat We Don't Like
Slows down under loadNetgear Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender Review
If you're looking for a reliable and powerful extender that fits your home while also being affordable and easy to set up, then the Netgear Nighthawk X4 is for you. Just plug in the extender and you'll get advanced dual-band Wi-Fi with up to 2,000 square feet of solid and reliable Wi-Fi coverage, and thanks to Netgear's FastLane technology, you'll be guaranteed the performance you need for streaming Netflix in full 4K resolution.
As our testing showed, the X4 can deliver performance of up to 2.2Gbps without missing a beat, meaning that every device will be able to access fast streaming, gaming, downloads, and web browsing, and with the ability to handle up to 35 devices your roommates, family members, and guests will be able to use their tablets, phones, computers, without interruption. There's even a wired Gigabit Ethernet port so you can hook up a game console or smart TV for maximum performance, and with the ability to configure either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band as a dedicated backhaul channel to your main router, you won't need to worry about your wired connection being slowed down by your wireless traffic.
"Technological advancements such as MU-MIMO and beamforming seem to help deliver strong wireless performance."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Best Budget:Netgear EX3700 Wi-Fi Range Extender (AC750)3.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Enhanced Wi-Fi coverage and signal strength
Wi-Fi Analytics app for all status updatesWhat We Don't Like
Difficulty connecting to 5GHz bandNetgear EX3700 Wi-Fi Range Extender (AC750) Review
If getting the best range for your buck is more important than blazing fast speeds, then Netgear's EX3700 has you covered, with the ability to add 1,000 square feet to your wireless footprint at a really affordable price. It's no slouch when it comes to performance either—our testing showed it can deliver speeds of up to 750Mbps thanks to its dual-band 802.11ac support, which is still more than enough for a three or four devices to enjoy full-quality streaming and uninterrupted video calls.
The EX3700 also gives you the option to create a new Wi-Fi access point or hotspot over a wired Gigabit Ethernet port, which can make this an ideal extender for the home that turns into a hotel when guests come for visits all around the year, letting you create a separate network just for your guest room. Plus, with Netgear's signature Wi-Fi Analytics app you can check your signal strength and see what channels are getting particularly crowded to help you get the best coverage.
"The Netgear EX3700 Wi-Fi Range Extender (AC750) is a serviceable device that's perfect for anyone on a budget."— Brittany Vincent, Product Tester
Best for Gaming:Netgear Nighthawk X6S Tri Band WiFi Mesh Extender (EX8000)4.4 Buy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Coverage up to 2,500 square feet
Seamless roamingWhat We Don't Like
Unexpected signal drops
High priceNetgear Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band Wi-Fi Mesh Extender Review
For serious gaming you need a fast low-latency connection, so if you want to ensure your games go uninterrupted while everyone else is watching Netflix, then you'll want to check out Netgear's Nighthawk X6S.
The tri-band Wi-Fi system will get you up to 3Gbps of bandwidth that works over an area of up to 1,000 square feet that can be expanded up to 2,500 by adding more units. Plus, you can expect seamless roaming with one Wi-Fi SSID, making setup painless and providing an easy connection to your devices. As with most Netgear devices, you'll also have universal compatibility with any wireless router, gateway, or cable modem with Wi-Fi.
Say goodbye to lagging connections and hello to the ultimate gaming experience with this powerful range extender. The only thing that may put a halt on adding this to your cart immediately is the price tag, but for the coverage and bandwidth that this one delivers, it may be well worth it.
"With the four Ethernet ports, this is an ideal extender for plugging in game consoles, computers, and other devices that require steady bandwidth."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Best Wi-Fi 6:TP-Link RE505X AX1500 Wi-Fi Extender4Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Technology
Intelligent Signal Indicator
Can be used as a wired Access PointWhat We Don't Like
Optimal performance requires Wi-Fi 6 devicesTP-Link RE505X Wi-Fi Extender Review
Whether you're already using an 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 router or you're planning to jump into this latest wireless technology, you'll want a Wi-Fi extender like TP-Link's RE505X that can play along. Although older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 range extenders will work fine with modern 802.11ax routers, you'll lose the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 as soon as your smartphones and tablets stray out of range of your main router.
As an 802.11ax Wi-Fi extender, the TP-Link RE505X can keep your Wi-Fi 6 devices connected at the fastest speeds, even on the most congested networks, while also letting them use less power to maintain a Wi-Fi connection. Of course, your devices will need to support Wi-Fi 6 to take advantage of this, but if you're using the latest smartphones and tablets from companies like Apple and Samsung, you're already there.
The RE505X also has a few other tricks up its sleeve, including an intelligent signal light that helps you figure out the best place to plug it in, and a Gigabit Ethernet port that not only lets you extend the range of wired devices, but can also be used to turn the RE505X into a standard wireless access point. Plus, if you're already using a supported TP-Link router, you can take advantage of the company's OneMesh technology, using the RE505X to extend your network more seamlessly and manage it all from one place.
"I was able to get the extended signal all over my house—in every bedroom, closet, and even outside in the backyard."— Erika Rawes, Product Tester
Best Technology:Netgear Nighthawk EAX80 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender4Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Can add Wi-Fi 6 to your existing network
Four Gigabit Ethernet portsWhat We Don't Like
Requires Wi-Fi 6 clients for maximum benefitNetgear Nighthawk AX8 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Extender Review
Netgear's Nighthawk EAX80 was one of the first Wi-Fi extenders to support the new 802.11ax standard, more colloquially known as Wi-Fi 6, and while the name would suggest it's a great companion to Netgear's Nighthawk RAX80 Wi-Fi 6 router, it's actually compatible with just about any normal Wi-Fi router. It can even give you a nice bubble of Wi-Fi 6 coverage if your main router doesn't yet support the new standard, making it a great way to add the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 to a busier area in your home such as your den or family room without replacing your existing router.
Wi-Fi 6 provides greater network capacity than older Wi-Fi standards, so you can support more devices without the need to worry about congestion. Although you'll need 802.11ax Wi-Fi clients to take full advantage of this, our testing showed that the eight streams and MU-MIMO support let even older Wi-Fi 5 devices get maximum performance over 5GHz 802.11ac connections.
The EAX80 offers up to 2,500 square feet of additional coverage from your main router, along with seamless smart roaming so your devices can use whichever router or extender offers the best performance. There are also four wired Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can plug in your game console or streaming box for maximum speed.
"I wasn't prepared for the blistering 406Mbps speed registered by my laptop when plugged into one of the Ethernet ports on the back of the Netgear Nighthawk AX8."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
Best Powerline:Netgear PowerLINE 1000 + WiFi (PLW1000)Buy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo Video
Powerline technology offers extended range
Fast 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
Includes Gigabit Ethernet port
Performance is dependent on quality of home electrical wiring
For an easy way to get Wi-Fi coverage to the other side of your home you may need to go beyond the traditional Wi-Fi extenders that simply boost your existing Wi-Fi signal and this is where a Powerline network adapter like the NetGear PLW1000 comes in.
Most Wi-Fi extenders still need to be able to pick up a signal from your main router to have something to extend, but not so with the PLW1000, which instead runs its network connection through your electrical wiring, allowing you to set up a new Wi-Fi hot zone just about anywhere you can find an electrical outlet.
Unlike most Powerline network adapters, however, which only extend a wired connection, the PLW1000 packs in its own built-in wireless access point that offers dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 1,000Mbps of bandwidth back to your main router, so it's more than enough for a whole roomful of devices to surf, stream, and game without interruption, and there's also still a Gigabit Ethernet port included, so you can hardwire in a game console or smart TV for maximum performance.
"Powerline network adapters can offer a range of close to 1,000 feet, but keep in mind that this depends on how your electrical circuits are laid out, and it's not a straight line but rather the distance that the signal travels along your home's wiring."— Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Best Portable:TP-Link TL-WR902AC AC750 Travel Router5Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Solid 802.11ac Performance
Versatile with five wireless modesWhat We Don't Like
Not ideal for a large number of Wi-Fi devicesTP-Link TL-WR902AC Travel Router
Although it's easy to write off TP-Link's TL-WR902AC purely as a travel router, this versatile little device actually offers five different wireless modes, one of which is to act as a handy Wi-Fi range extender, letting you create your own little bubble of strong Wi-Fi just about anywhere you happen to be.
With dual-band AC750 performance, it's no slouch either, offering up to 433Mbps on the 5GHz band, which is easily more than enough if you only need to extend Wi-Fi to a small number of devices and leave the heavy lifting for the rest of the household to your main router.
What's great about the TL-WR902AC however is that you can also take it on the road with you, so if you find yourself in a hotel room, conference room, or coffee shop with weak Wi-Fi, you can easily use it to boost that as well. There's even a built-in USB port for sharing files and media, and it's powered over a standard microUSB connection, so you can run it straight from your laptop or tablet.
"I was able to use it throughout a medium-sized house and around the yard beyond up to about 100 feet."— Andy Zahn, Product TesterThe 7 Best Wireless Travel Routers of 2021
Best Low Profile:TP-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE3054Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Small and sleek design
Complete home coverageWhat We Don't Like
Slower than other optionsTP-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE305 Review
If you're looking for a Wi-Fi extender that doesn't look like a bulky eyesore, our tests proved that the TP-Link RE305 is the way to go. Small and sleek, it's got a look that will go into any home and won't be catching your guests' eyes—some might even describe it as cute. With dual antennas and two bands, this extender runs at 2.4GHz (up to 300Mbps) and 5GHz (up to 867Mbps) and includes a fast Ethernet port that lets you connect to a wired device, making it perfect for all your devices whether they'll be streaming, gaming, or browsing.
The TP-Link RE305 certainly isn't the fastest extender on the market, but it promises full coverage of your home. Plus, it's simple to set up and includes two LED lights that indicate whether or not you're properly connected. Get all your needs met with this attractive and budget-friendly option.
"The RE305 is a value-priced, no-frills extender that promises quick setup, a low-key design, and typically smooth connectivity at a great price."— Brittany Vincent, Product Tester
Best Value:TP-Link RE2003.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
High speed modeWhat We Don't Like
No Gigabit Ethernet
Slower AC750 speedsTP-Link RE200 AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender Review
If you're looking for an affordable way to extend your Wi-Fi network and peak performance is not important, TP-Link's RE200 offers some of the best value for the money, with dual-band Wi-Fi covering both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. While the maximum 733Mbps throughput isn't going to win this one any performance records, realistically it's more than enough for most home internet connections, especially at this price.
As a dual-band extender, the RE200 also has one other useful trick up its sleeve in that it can kick into a “High Speed” mode that maximizes throughput by using one dedicated Wi-Fi band as a “backhaul” and the other as an access point, which promises to deliver the kind of higher speed and lower latency required to handle gaming without lagging or buffering.
The RE200 can quickly and easily be moved from room to room so that you can carry it around to extend Wi-Fi to different parts of your home when you need it. An Ethernet port also lets you connect wired devices in like game consoles, although it's not Gigabit Ethernet, so if your devices support 802.11ac you're probably better sticking with Wi-Fi.
"At just $30, this compact, easy-to-use adapter sets up easily and works as advertised, extending Wi-Fi access into dead zones in your home."— Andrew Hayward, Product TesterFinal Verdict
Netgear's Nighthawk X4 is a versatile and affordable Wi-Fi extender that can bring higher-speed wireless coverage to a whole room of devices, whileNetgear's EX3700 is a great budget pick for those who only need to connect a single room or a few distant smart home accessories.
How We Tested
Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate Wi-Fi extenders based on design, range, performance, and features. We test reception and analyze their effective range, as well as each extender's included feature set and how well those features are implemented. We also consider the setup process and each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Ach5; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.
About Our Trusted Experts
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.
Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports.
Andy Zahn has been writing for Ach5 since April 2019. When he's not obsessing over (and writing about) the latest gadgets and consumer technology, he can be found traveling and photographing the wild Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, or tending to a herd of obnoxious goats on a small farm in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens.
Erika Rawes has written for Digital Trends, USA Today, Cheatsheet.com, and more. Previously a personal finance writer and freelance tech writer, Erika has tested more than 50 consumer technology products, ranging from kitchen gadgets to cameras, thermostats, and more.
Brittany Vincent writes for a variety of publications including Complex, IGN, Tom's Hardware, CNN Underscored, Mic, Mashable, GamesRadar, Destructoid, Kotaku, and GameSpot. She has also gained experience working with PR representatives to build relationships and obtain review products for her work.
How do you know if you need a Wi-Fi extender?If there are areas in your home where you're having trouble getting a reliable network connection, then a Wi-Fi extender will help increase the reach of your main router. The best Wi-Fi extenders also aren't just for filling in dead zones—by offering a stronger Wi-Fi signal they can give you a nice speed boost too. Just keep in mind that Wi-Fi extenders are only designed to fill in one specific area, so if you're having coverage problems throughout your home you'll be much better off with a long range router.
Do Wi-Fi extenders work with any router?Unlike mesh Wi-Fi systems, Wi-Fi extenders are designed to work with almost any router, in much the same way as any other wireless device. For as seamless of an experience as possible, however, you should get a Wi-Fi extender that supports the same standards as your router, such as dual-band Wi-Fi, 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6.
What is the difference between a Wi-Fi extender and a Wi-Fi repeater?In most cases, Wi-Fi extenders, Wi-Fi repeaters, and Wi-Fi boosters are all simply different names for the same type of device. All serve the same goal of increasing the range of your wireless network, although it's important to keep in mind that not all Wi-Fi extenders work quite the same way or offer the same features. For example, while most Wi-Fi extenders simply connect back to your main router over Wi-Fi, some use Powerline technology instead to connect using your home wiring, so be sure to read the fine print and check the system requirements when picking a Wi-Fi extender for your particular needs.
What to Look For in a Wi-Fi Extender
As homes become smarter, people continue to add more and more Wi-Fi connected devices. Think about how many devices in your home use your wireless network—TV streaming sticks, smart TVs, smart home devices, Echo or Google Home speakers, security cameras, phones, tablets, and computers. It can easily add up to a dozen or more devices using your home's Wi-Fi. It's more essential than ever before to have a reliable signal in every corner of your home. A Wi-Fi extender can help promote a more stable connection in areas where your standard Wi-Fi signal from a router alone is lacking.
If you have a multi-level home, a large amount of square footage, or you simply have areas in your home that don't get a good signal for one reason or another, a Wi-Fi extender can help provide better coverage. They're also handy for pushing signal to backyards or decks where coverage is often attenuated by interference. But, how exactly does a Wi-Fi extender work? Do you even need a Wi-Fi extender? How do you select the right Wi-Fi extender product? We answer all of these questions and more in this guide.
What causes Wi-Fi dead zones?
If you have certain rooms or areas in your home where the Wi-Fi signal is slow or almost non-existent, you may have a Wi-Fi dead zone. Does it take forever to load a page on the laptop in your bedroom? Is it almost impossible to watch Netflix in the basement? Dead zones and slow zones can cause your streaming sticks, laptops, and smart home devices to run poorly, inconsistently, or sometimes, not at all.
Think of your Wi-Fi signal like a sound wave, which gets quieter as it travels and goes through walls, doors, and floors. If you play music in one room, and then travel to the opposite side of your home or go downstairs to the basement, you may only be able to hear the music faintly (or not at all). When you turn the radio on, you can hear the sound with less interference on certain channels, and it may even play a bit louder on a specific channel.
If you imagine your Wi-Fi signal in the same manner, it's also going to weaken as it travels over longer distances, especially as it goes through doors, walls, floors, appliances, and other obstacles.Ach5 / Bill Thomas
Do you need a Wi-Fi extender?
If you have a large home, a closed layout with a lot of walls, or if you have more than one floor, a Wi-Fi extender can be an ideal solution. It can also be helpful if you have a lot of people using your Wi-Fi, or if you have a lot of devices on your network. However, before investing in new equipment, you might want to try moving your router to a more central location, and especially keeping it away from any nearby obstacles or potential sources of electrical or radio frequency interference. If basic troubleshooting isn't effective at eliminating dead zones, you probably want to look into a Wi-Fi extender.
In addition to extending your coverage area, some Wi-Fi extender products (like mesh systems) can also manage device traffic for you. Your devices are kind of like cars on a busy freeway, and the mesh system can direct traffic, telling one device to go this way and another to go that way. This lets every device on your network get the fastest possible connection, and you don't experience congestion because you have too many devices trying to take the same path.
Types of Wi-Fi Extender Products
You have a few different options for extending your Wi-Fi signal. You can use a mesh Wi-Fi system, a Wi-Fi signal repeater, or a Wi-Fi signal extender, or even a whole new Wi-Fi access point. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Mesh Wi-Fi Systems
A mesh Wi-Fi system is also known as a whole-home Wi-Fi System. It uses a central router that connects to the modem and one or more satellite routers (or nodes) that all act as access points for the Wi-Fi signal. This way, you can place the different nodes around your home and extend your signal range far beyond the range you'd get if you only had a single router.
Mesh Wi-Fi System ProsYou get a very large coverage area.You can typically control mesh systems with a smartphone application.Mesh systems may include extra features like parental controls or security software.Many mesh networks are compatible or come or equipped with smart home platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant, or IFTTT.You can easily expand your mesh network with additional satellites.Mesh networks are self-managing. They can often configure themselves, discover devices on their own, and find the fastest path for each device.Mesh networks are self-healing, and the connection is usually stable because the nodes can automatically rediscover a fast and reliable data path.Since mesh systems replace your existing router entirely and all of the modules are designed to work together, mesh systems guarantee that you won't have to worry about problems with interoperability.
Mesh Wi-Fi System ConsThe system involves more components.A mesh system generally replaces your existing router entirely.It's often more costly than just a basic router.Some mesh systems require a subscription for the premium features.
Wi-Fi Repeaters and Extenders
Terms like"Wi-Fi Repeater"and"Wi-Fi Extender"get thrown around a lot, but these days they generally mean the same thing in practical terms — both are used to extend the Wi-Fi signal from an existing router into another section of your home or office. You may have also heard terms like Wi-Fi"boosters"or"amplifiers,"and while there was a time that these described slightly different things, when it comes to modern consumer devices, they're all still essentially the same now.
Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender ProsSince these are compatible with almost all existing routers, it means that you don't have to purchase anything more than the repeater/extender itself.You can typically keep your existing router.You usually don't need to reconfigure your existing router.It's one of the most cost-effective solutions.
Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender ConsThe additional coverage range can be limited. So, if you're trying to extend coverage to an entire floor, this may not be the best option.Can only add and extend areas that already have some Wi-Fi coverage.The repeater/extender is generally a relatively"dumb"device that doesn't add any features beyond what your router already does, so you'll get fewer features than you'd get with a mesh system.
Wi-Fi Access Points
Since Wi-Fi repeaters and extenders only work if you can put them in an area that already has at least some Wi-Fi coverage, if you have a large home and need to bring Wi-Fi to an entirely dead zone of your house, you'll need to add an actual Wi-Fi access point. This is a device that you hardwire in to your network to create what is effectively an entirely new Wi-Fi network in a different part of your home, although if you use your existing SSID your devices won't notice the difference.
Since a Wi-Fi access point uses a wired connection, you'll either need to run Ethernet cables to wherever you plan to locate the access point, or invest in a Powerline network adapter to extend your network connection over your home wiring.
Wi-Fi Access Point ProsYou can add coverage to areas that your existing router can't reach at all.Almost any Wi-Fi router can act as a Wi-Fi access point as well, so you have a wealth of options in terms of price, coverage, and performance.You can keep your existing router, or purchase a better main router and repurpose your old one as a Wi-Fi access point.The cost will vary depending on your needs, but since many budget routers make great Wi-Fi access points, you'll likely pay less than you would for a whole-home mesh system.
Wi-Fi Access Point ConsYou'll need to have a wired network connection where you want to place your Wi-Fi access point, which means either running cables or buying a Powerline network adapter.Maintaining multiple router and access point configurations separately can be more complicated than a whole home mesh system. Ach5 /
Dual-band vs. Tri-band?
These days, it's very uncommon to see routers that only use single-band technology, since the 802.11ac standard requires at least one 5GHz band in addition to the standard 2.4GHz required to support older devices and smart home accessories. These are referred to as dual-band routers.
You'll also come across tri-band routers, which add an extra 5GHz band to allow you to reduce congestion for your fastest devices. The 5GHz band is faster, but doesn't have nearly as long of a reach as the lower 2.4GHz frequency, and its range is even more impacted by walls and other solid objects. However, since a given Wi-Fi device can still only use one band at a time, you don't get any benefit from a tri-band router unless you have a lot of devices that use the 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 or 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 standards and are competing for 5GHz bandwidth.
As a result, tri-band isn't necessary for everybody, so you can still find quality dual-band Wi-Fi extenders and mesh systems as well. An example of an excellent dual-band system is Google Nest Wifi. An example of a tri-band mesh network is the Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System. The Orbi has the 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies, but it also has a third backhaul radio band, which it uses as a dedicated communication frequency between the router and the satellites to ensure that you get maximum speeds across your entire network.
Note that if you're adding a Wi-Fi extender, you don't need to worry about matching your router in terms of the number of available bands. The type of Wi-Fi extender you choose should be geared to the devices you need to deliver Wi-Fi access to, and in fact, you could even simply add a single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi extender if you were only concerned about extending coverage for smart home devices, since these almost never use the 5GHz band anyway.
Equipment cost and setup
A good mesh system with a router and one or more satellites is going to cost you at least $200, depending on the brand and features. You can set up the system yourself, and most mesh systems walk you through the setup process using an app or quick start guide. With a mesh system, you're usually going to swap out your router for the mesh router (unless you already have a router with mesh technology, in which case you can purchase compatible satellites).
With a repeater/extender, you usually can keep your existing router, as many extenders are universally compatible. However, it's a good idea to check the compatibility requirements before selecting a product, especially if you have an older router. You can DIY install a repeater or extender in less than an hour, and it usually just involves choosing optimal placement, plugging the device into a wall outlet, and connecting it to your network. Generally speaking, repeaters and extenders are typically a more affordable option, and unless you're looking for blazing-fast performance specs, you can find decent ones for around $50.
Number of devices
Although this is less of a concern with mesh systems, many Wi-Fi extenders support a specific number of devices. With range extenders and repeaters, that number might be pretty small. You might see a range extender that supports “up to 15 devices” or “up to 20 devices.” If you need support for more devices than the product specifies, it's best to go with a different option. If you try to load too many devices onto a product, it'll compromise performance and essentially defeat the purpose.
In the product's description, you'll often find a square footage amount that indicates the extender's coverage range. Mesh systems tend to offer a larger coverage area than basic extenders, and you can easily find a mesh system that will provide coverage for up to 6,000 square feet. If you opt for an extender, you can expect to extend coverage by about 1,200 square feet. Some extenders have smaller or larger coverage areas, but 1,200 square feet is pretty common. If you're willing to wire in a Wi-Fi access point elsewhere in your home, you'll have a much wider range of options, since you can pick anything from a $50 budget router to a higher-end long-range router, according to your needs.
When choosing a product, also keep in mind that a mesh system represents total coverage, while a Wi-Fi extender represents additional coverage. Therefore, if you purchase a mesh system that covers 5,000 square feet, you're replacing your router with a mesh router and satellites, so you have 5,000 square feet of coverage in total. If you purchase an extender with 1,200 square feet of coverage, that coverage is in addition to your router, so if your router provides 2,000 square feet of coverage, you can expect about 3,200 square feet of total coverage—assuming you place the Wi-Fi extender at the very edge of your existing router's range. In most cases, you'll likely end up with some overlap.
Wireless extenders should (at minimum) support basic wireless security protocols, like WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2, while newer Wi-Fi 6 extenders should also offer WPA3 support. Some extender products, especially mesh systems, also offer extra security features like guest access and firewalls, or even additional services like threat scanning, ad-blocking, and anti-malware.
One of the huge benefits to mesh systems is their ability to self-manage the more difficult functions like channel and band selection, while also allowing you to control user-friendly features that enhance your Wi-Fi experience. For instance, your mesh system may allow you to prioritize certain devices for which you want the fastest connection. It may also allow you to send your friend a guest Wi-Fi password or block certain content.
Some mesh systems also allow for voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, and certain models even have an assistant built-in. You can find repeaters and extenders with app control, but the applications may not be as feature-rich.Ach5 / Brittany Vincent
Brands and Manufacturers
You can find Wi-Fi extender products from a number of brands and manufacturers-- some of them you've likely never heard of, and others come from more familiar names. It's best to go with a brand you trust. Here are a few of the more well known brands, and what they have to offer.
When most people think of a wireless router, Netgear is one of the first brands that comes to mind. Netgear also offers several Wi-Fi extender products, including its Range Extender EX3700, Mesh Range Extender EX8000, and Orbi line of mesh Wi-Fi systems. The Netgear Orbi system is loaded with features, and it's one of the better rated systems available. The Orbi Wi-Fi 6 probably has the fastest speeds you'll find in a mesh system. Aside from the cost, one downside to an Orbi system is that some of the more advanced features, like Netgear Armor, require a subscription.
TP-Link offers affordable Wi-Fi extender products like the AC750, which costs around $30 and has an impressive amount of functionality. It can serve as a signal booster or you can use it to create a mesh network if you have a compatible router (Archer A7). The AC700 only boosts coverage up to 1,200 feet, so the signal range isn't as good as you'd get on mesh systems. TP-Link also sells its Deco mesh system, which is relatively affordable, and it includes features like Alexa compatibility and parental controls. TP-Link systems may not offer the speeds you'd get with some of the more expensive options though.
Adding a Wi-Fi extender can have a huge impact on your Wi-Fi performance. Wi-Fi is such an essential part of daily life, and most people rely on a stable connection and fast speeds. A Wi-Fi extender takes some of the load off of your router, helping to give you the best possible coverage in every area of your house.
Before deciding on a product, keep in mind the range. If you have a modern router, and you're just looking to boost your signal in a single room, you can probably get away with an inexpensive extender like the Netgear Range Extender EX3700. However, if you're experiencing connection issues on an entire floor of your home, or if you want to ensure the fastest speeds possible, you'll want to invest in a mesh system like Google Nest Wi-Fi, Netgear Orbi, or Eero Pro.