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The Best WiFi Range Extenders to Maximize Network Throughput

The Best WiFi Range Extenders to Maximize Network Throughput

Tom Gerencer
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It’s frustrating to experience dead spots and reduced speeds in your home or office network. WiFi black holes can make phones, tablets, and other devices default to cell service or fail to connect entirely. The good news? WiFi range extenders can fill in your dead spots and create a seamless internet experience.
The bad news? Buy the wrong model and you’ll cut your signal strength and speed in half. That’s why we dug up the best WiFi extenders based on range, speed, and price. The extenders in the list below can supply smooth connectivity for work, play, and 4K TV streaming.

What is a WiFi extender?

WiFi extenders, also called WiFi boosters or repeaters, are just what they sound like - devices that extend your router’s WiFi range. They pick up your network’s radio signal, boost its strength, and pass it on to fill in dead spots.
You don’t have to worry about upping your security risk with WiFi range extenders. They use the same staunch security your router does. The problem, however, can be loss of speed. The best of these devices lose a little speed, with many sacrificing 50% or more.

How does a WiFi range extender work?

A WiFi range extender works by receiving the signal from your WiFi router and then amplifying and re-broadcasting it. But all extenders are not created equal. They supply speeds from 50 Mbps to 3,000 Mbps, so it’s critical to look at an extender’s specs before you buy.

Do WiFi extenders increase bandwidth?

WiFi range extenders don’t increase bandwidth, any more than a photocopy of a Picasso can outdo the original. They can only pass on some fraction of what they “hear.” On the upside, the latest and best WiFi boosters won’t slow you down by much.

Do WiFi extenders make internet faster?

Even the best WiFi extenders actually slow down internet speeds, because they only reproduce what they pick up. If the signal near them is already slow, they can only amplify that slow signal so it covers a wider area. They can’t speed it up.

How to find the best WiFi range extender

No one wants to cut their internet speed in half, but that’s what single-band WiFi boosters do. The reason? The single-band design works like the old telephone game. It uses half a band to “catch” the signal and the other half to pass it on. At most, it can pass on half of what it hears.

Dual-band is best

The solution is to get a dual-band extender. They “listen” with one band, then use the other to pump out a robust copy of your signal. The upshot is that a dual-band WiFi extender will give you both wide coverage and fast internet. But make sure the extender’s top speed at least matches your router’s.

How to set up a WiFi extender

Put your WiFi range extender halfway between your router and your “dead spot.” To find the best location, download a WiFi analyzer app like Speedcheck or WiFi Analyzer [1,2]. Then test to see where your signal strength goes off a cliff. Put your extender just shy of that dropoff zone, so it picks up a strong transmission, then broadcasts it into the dead zone.
That’s all there is to it.
Of course, you’ll need to link it to your router, but that’s as easy as discovering your new extender with a connected device and then typing your WiFi password. One final note: most WiFi extenders are simple plugins. You pop them in a wall outlet and they’re ready to go.

Which WiFi extender has the best range?

The WiFi network extender with the best range on our list is the TP-Link RE650 AC2600 Long Range Wi-Fi Extender [3]. It covers a whopping 14,000 sq. ft area. That’s about 3 basketball courts of coverage. Square feet isn’t everything though.
Speed and number of devices matter too, and the RE650 isn’t the best pick for those. None of the products in the list below are outdoor WiFi extenders, but the RE650 can extend your coverage to an outdoor patio or back lawn.

What’s the difference between a WiFi extender and WiFi booster?

All WiFi extenders are WiFi boosters, but not all boosters are extenders. In fact, there are non-extender boosters that can strengthen your WiFi signal. That said, if you want a cost-effective way to boost your WiFi signal, extenders are a safe bet.

What is a mesh extender?

To quote Dr. Alfred Lanning from I, Robot, “Now you’re asking the right question.” A mesh extender is a WiFi range extender with two advantages. First, mesh extenders use at least dual-band tech, which means they ramp your signal strength up to the max while they extend your network. Second, they create a single, seamless WiFi network in your home or office.
Does that sound trivial? It’s not. Imagine walking around your home and having to log into and out of different networks as you move locations. Not fun. You’ll put up with that with single-band WiFi extenders, but you’ll only log in once with mesh networks. The downside? Price. But don’t worry. We cover the best WiFi range extenders in the list below with details including whether they’re mesh plus their speed, price, and range.

MU-MIMO what?

One more thing to think about when you’re buying an extender is: can it handle Multiple Users with Multiple Inputs and Multiple Outputs (aka MU-MIMO)? That’s a complicated way of saying, “If we use four phones, three tablets, two voice assistants, and a smart light, will we overload it?” MU-MIMO technology lets you load as many devices as you like into the network without noticeable lag time. Only the cheapest WiFi network extenders in the list below lack this technology.

The 5 best WiFi extenders

Without further preamble, here’s our list of the 5 best WiFi range extenders. There are dozens of extenders out there, and we analyzed criteria including range, speed, and bands to find the cream of the crop.

1. Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 WiFi mesh extender - Best WiFi extender for gaming and general use

This is hands-down the best WiFi range extender for gaming and all-around use. If you can spring for the larger price tag, get it. It uses tri-band tech to max out your speed while making room for up to 50 connected devices at once [4].
It’ll give back your network’s top speed in areas that used to be slow spots. It’s also a mesh extender, so you won’t have to log into a new network just because you walked into the dining room. The downside? It covers less square-footage than some of our rangier picks.
Specs:
  • Bands: Tri-band
  • Range: Up to 2,500 square feet
  • Number of devices: 50
  • Speed: Up to 3 Gbps
  • Mesh: Yes
  • 4K streaming: Yes

2. Linksys RE9000 MU-MIMO Range Extender

This long-range WiFi extender hits 3x faster speeds than many dual-band range extenders [5]. Plus, the Linksys RE9000’s range of up to 10,000 square feet is pretty sweet. It’s also mesh-based. Like most of the other WiFi range extenders on our list, it’s got MU-MIMO tech, so you won’t notice any lag-time even when using lots of devices.
Specs:
  • Bands: Tri-band
  • Range: Up to 10,000 square feet
  • Number of devices: not listed
  • Speed: Up to 3 Gbps
  • Mesh: Yes
  • 4K streaming: Yes

3. Opticover - the low-priced leading WiFi extender

Are you loving the idea of extending your range, but are just not into the router-sized price tags? Opticover has got you covered. This upstart WiFi extender is a true crowd pleaser with a reduced price point. It’s dual-band as well, which you may not expect in such a low-priced option.
It’s not as speedy as our other picks, with “only” 300 Mbps, but that’s more than enough for 4K streaming. It’s also not mesh tech. It’s not a MU-MIMO device, either, so you may experience some lag when using it with multiple devices. But for the money, this little gizmo can’t be beat.
Specs:
  • Bands: Dual-band
  • Range: Up to 2,000 sq. ft
  • Number of devices: Not listed
  • Speed: Up to 300 Mbps
  • Mesh: No
  • 4K streaming: Yes

4. Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2200 EX7300

If you like the Netgear Nighthawk X6S, but not the higher price, the EX7300 may be your pick [7]. It’s a mesh WiFi extender, so you’ll roam seamlessly throughout your home or office. It covers up to 2,000 square feet and uses MU-MIMO tech to handle lots of users and devices.
Better still, it has a more reasonable price, making it one of Netgear’s lowest-cost mesh WiFi range extenders. It’s also got a wired Ethernet port for plugging in game consoles or other wired devices.
Specs:
Bands: Dual-band
Range: Up to 2,000 sq. ft
Number of devices: 35
Speed: Up to 2.2 Gbps
Mesh: Yes
4K streaming: Yes

5. TP-Link AC2600 WiFi Range Extender

If you’re looking for a solid, small, no-nonsense WiFi extender with a massive 14,000 range, the TP-Link AC2600 is a safe bet [3]. It’s not a mesh extender, so you’ll need to use a separate network in its area. It’s also on the lower end of our picks for speed and number of devices. That said, it’s not as pricey and it includes multiple wired ports.
Specs:
  • Bands: Dual-band
  • Range: Up to 14,000 square feet
  • Number of devices: 4
  • Speed: Up to 800 Mbps
  • Mesh: No
  • 4K streaming: Yes

Did I get the best WiFi extender?

Let’s save you from buyer’s remorse by giving you a tool to test your WiFi extender’s speed. There’s nothing worse than hooking the thing up, then wondering if you bought a pricey black box that may or may not do its job.
Download a WiFi analyzer app and test your WiFi signal strength in two ways. See the links at the bottom of this article for both Apple and Google apps to download [1,2]. First, log in to your router and test its speed with the extender powered down. Then, plug in the extender, log in to its network, and test your signal strength again. Run the test in multiple locations in your home. You’ll get a good idea if your extender lives up to its promise.

WiFi range extenders for smoother coverage

There’s no doubt the Internet of Things is taking hold. We’ve got more and more connected devices ranging from phones and tablets to voice assistants and refrigerators. As a result, dead spots in WiFi coverage can quickly turn into a real problem. A WiFi range extender can solve that, with a huge emphasis on “can.” Pick one of the best WiFi extenders from the list above to save on connection headaches down the road.

About the Author

Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
[2] Google Play; WiFi Analyzer

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