What Are The Best Wi
Based on our in-depth lab tests and hands-on usage in a real home, the best Wi-Fi extender on the market is the TP-Link RE650 AC2600 Wi-Fi Range Extender. It has great range and performance in a plug-in design that’s easy to install in most any room. It also has a handy smartphone app that makes managing your network easier.
If you’re willing to pay for top performance, the Editor’s Choice Netgear AX1800 4-Stream Mesh Extender is the most capable extender we’ve reviewed, with Wi-Fi 6 speeds and built-in mesh support, but it’s a larger desktop model that’s not as easy to hide.
Rock Space Ac1200 Wifi Extender Review: Performance
The Rock Space extender has the ability to extend 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi 5 networks, but you cant combine them into a single unified LAN. Built around the Realtek RTL8197FS Wi-Fi chip, the extender has a 1GHz processor and can theoretically move up to 300Mbps in 2.4GHz mode and up to 867 in 5GHz mode. It carries an AC1200 rating.
Using Ixias IxChariot networking performance benchmark and a TP-Link Archer C5400X router, the Rock Space range extender fell behind the best at filling my 100-year old 3,500-square-foot home. Able to move upwards of 175.4Mbps at 15-feet, the device fell behind anything we saw in the Netgear EAX20 extender review . It had a range of 75-feet, 20-feet short of the Netgear EAX20.
With it set up on the same floor 40-feet from the host router, the Rock Space extender delivered 50.0Mbps to a test machine 50-feet farther away. Thats well off the Netgear EAX20s 124.4Mbps pace. The Rock Space extender partially redeemed itself when I set it up a floor above the router and placed the test machine 40-feet away. It delivered 112.1Mbps, right behind the Netgear EX2800s 124.4Mbps. This makes it ideal for multi-floor use, like in a townhouse.
The Rock Space Wi-Fi range extender used 4.3-watts of electricity. If its on for 24 hours a day, the device will have an estimated $4.90 in yearly electricity costs if you pay the national average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Other Things To Consider
Aside from my speed tests, I made sure to stream video in my bedroom on each extender’s network and I made several video calls on each network, too. I also spent time playing with each extender’s settings. You shouldn’t expect much, but most will at least make it easy to change the extension network’s name or password. Some include app controls with extra features, too.
My top pick, the TP-Link RE505X, makes it easy to tweak settings via TP-Link’s Tether app on an Android or iOS device. Again, the features make for slim pickings, but you can check signal strength or turn on High-Speed Mode, which dedicates the 2.4GHz band for traffic from the router to the range extender, leaving the 5GHz free for your normal Wi-Fi network traffic. That mode actually wasn’t as fast as sharing the 5GHz band like normal when I tested it out, because those incoming 2.4GHz speeds are limited, but it still might be a useful option in some situations.
Setting a range extender up is about as painless as it gets. Most, including all ten that I’ve tested here at home, support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, which is a universal protocol that wireless networking devices can use to connect with each other. Just plug the range extender in and wait a minute for it to boot up, press the WPS button and then press the WPS button on your router within two minutes.
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Best Overall: Netgear Ac1900
Extended range and stronger, faster connections are the most important aspects of any Wi-Fi booster that youre going to travel with, but they arent the only ones. It needs to be durable and easily portable as well: bulky, flimsy accessories are no use to anyone on the road.
Thats why weve chosen the Netgear AC1900 as our top overall USB Wi-Fi adapter pick for travelers. This compact dual-band device is 4.7 inches long and 1.8 inches wide, and weighs just 2.4 ounces. Its not the smallest youll find, but still fits easily in a laptop sleeve or day bag, and the extra size is put to very good use.
With a top cover that extends out to act as an antenna but folds down for better portability, this adapter boosts your signal to the point where you can detect networks up up to 200 feet away. Put simply, it helps provide better Wi-Fi in thick-walled hotels, rural AirBnbs, and anywhere else that radio waves fear to tread.
The Netgear AC1900 ships with a magnetic stand that lets you place it on your desk or somewhere else with better coverage, rather than having it hanging out the side of your laptop. The stand is a bit bulky to travel with , but is ideal for when you return home.
Compatible with Windows and macOS, with fast speeds, good range, and a sensible antenna design that helps prevent it getting damaged in transit, the Netgear AC1900 is the best USB Wi-Fi booster for travel.
- Magnetic stand for flexible placement
Strong Throughput And Signal Strength
Whether you use the TP-Link Tether mobile app, a web browser, or the WPS button, the RE603X is easy to install and configure. I used the Tether app, which was already installed on my phone.
To start, I tapped the plus icon in the upper right corner of the My Devices screen, selected Range Extender from the list of devices, and plugged the RE603X into an outlet that was close to my router. I verified that the power LED was illuminated and agreed to allow the app to connect to the extender, and after a brief search the extender was identified. I gave the device an Admin password, selected the 2.4GHz and 5GHz SSID for the host router, and entered the router passwords. The settings were saved, and within seconds the extender was connected. I relocated the device to an area between the router and the part of the house that required an extended signal, verified that the signal LED was blue, and the installation was complete.
The RE603X turned in impressive speeds on our throughput tests. Its speed of 104Mbps on the 2.4GHz close-proximity test was significantly faster than the TP-Link RE505X and the Netgear EAX15 . On the 20-foot test, its speed of 38Mbps was higher, if only slightly, than the TP-Link RE505X and the Netgear EAX15 , but fell 3Mbps short of the Netgear EAX15s speed of 15Mbps on the 40-foot test.
Top to bottom: 2.4GHz signal strength, 5GHz signal strength
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Do You Need A Desktop Or Plug
There are two types of range extenders: desktop and plug-in. Most desktop extenders look just like a wireless router and are typically equipped with external adjustable antennas, multiple LAN ports for connecting to devices like TVs and gaming consoles, and USB ports for attaching to peripherals such as storage drives and .
Plug-in extenders are much smaller than their desktop counterparts and are inserted right into a wall outlet. Some models have external antennas, while others use internal antennas to present an unobtrusive profile. Due to their size, plug-in extenders usually have only a single LAN port and lack USB connectivity, making them less versatile but more affordable than desktop extenders. If you can’t spare a wall outlet, look for a plug-in model that offers a pass-through outlet.
It’s also worth noting that, if you’re having the rather specific issue of connecting a computer to Wi-Fi in a particular part of your home, you might be better served by a USB Wi-Fi adapter. For as little as $15, these adapters are essentially antennas that plug directly into your computer to help it pull in a better Wi-Fi signal.
How Do I Know What Extender I Need
Like the purchase of, arguably, anything else, the decision is heavily based on the requirements of your situation. Many of the extenders that are available, while they seem like they are the perfect answer to your problem, can vary in compatibility and usefulness. For example, something like the NightHawk would be an expensive purchase for sure, but if you have a large area where it is crucial to keep a consistent connection, like an office space or hospital, the extended coverage becomes worth the price. At the same time in order to get the best range and performance out of this extender, it must be paired with other NetGear products. And NetGear are not the only ones to do this. With the increasing complexity of the hardware, which goes into these extenders, some companies will attempt to increase a level of exclusivity with their products to remain independent and influence buyers to maintain a certain commitment to them.
If you are ever in doubt of which to lean towards, or you are just unsure of the needed specifications, I would recommend going for something marked as universal. These extenders are made to be fully compatible with any current router and perform to the max of its abilities with your current setup.
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How Does A Wifi Extender Boost Your Signal
A WiFi extender connects to your router and then becomes part of your network. The extender uses radio waves to distribute your internet connection as a wireless signal between access points.
Extenders are available in single- or dual-band frequencies, just like routers. Learn more about the two frequencies.
How Does A Wifi Range Extender Work
A WiFi extender doesnt replace your existing router, it works together with it, making the original signal stronger.
WiFi extenders work like stereo amplifiers used for driving hi-fi systems. They use electric power from a power supply to increase the strength of the original WiFi signal, transmitting the amplified signal in the air. To accomplish this feat of engineering, WiFi range extenders contain two WiFi antennas: one is used for signal capture and the other one for signal transmission.
Most wireless range extenders plug into the standard electrical outlet. They can be then set up with the help of the WPS button or a dedicated smartphone app. WPS is a network security standard that allows WiFi-enabled devices to communicate without entering long passphrases.
With modern WiFi extenders, you get to enjoy the same robust encryption protocols as you get with your main WiFi router, so theres no need to worry about your privacy. However, you should be prepared for some speed loss. Some of the best WiFi extenders on the market can rebroadcast WiFi signal with only a negligible speed loss, but most single-band extenders lose up to 50 percent of the original bandwidth.
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How Do We Test Wifi Extenders
TechRadar tests Wi-Fi extenders in a variety of ways, from how easy they are to connect and setup, what apps or software they might come with, and of course, how much increase you get to the range of your wireless internet.
Features will be noted, we check to see if Wi-Fi 6 is supported, as well as if they’re able to connect to any existing router and if the products are Dual-band or Tri-band compatible. As a Wi-Fi extender is designed to support an existing router, and not act as a dedicated router in itself, you’ll likely want to check if your wireless router isn’t up to scratch before you spend serious money on an extender.
A series of benchmarks are used to determine how effective a Wi-Fi extender is, using applications like the Ookla Speed test and the Steam game download client to test how many megabytes per second of data is achievable in different locations of a home, such as right beside the extender itself and behind partition walls that could block a signal.
How We Test Wi
Every Wi-Fi extender we review is evaluated based on a combination of in-depth performance tests and hands-on usage in a real home. This mix of real-world use and controlled benchmark testing gives us a clear picture of how well each device performs.
We use Ixia’s IxChariot testing software to measure throughput at a variety of distances and environmental conditions. This includes testing with the extender placed at 50 feet and 75 feet from the router. The software simulates traffic in a busy wireless network while measuring data flow back and forth. The results are shown in megabits per second at a distance from the extender, with higher numbers indicating better performance.
Measuring the throughput at various distances also lets us determine the effective range of the extender, giving you a better understanding of how well a device will do in covering the farthest corners of your home.
We also use each product in a real home, which has signal-thwarting brick walls and the sort of sturdy construction that basic routers struggle to contend with. In that environment we use the network for everything from listening to music and streaming video to performing additional tests and even writing the review.
Check out all of our home networking coverage:
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Tips For Choosing A Wifi Extender
- It is best to select the same brand for your WiFi extender as your router. This generally ensures that the products have the same chipset and software.
- You may be attracted to an extender that offers simple setup. Thats fine, but bear in mind that more advanced models that provide throughput on multiple bands require a more complex setup, with separate bands needing individual setups.
- For maximum throughput, select a model that supports both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Older models with only 2.4 GHz offer little more than 50% of the routers signals, while extenders that also support the newer 5 GHz band provide stronger signals to weaker zones. The reason for this has to do with the need for the extender to simultaneously communicate with the base router and the client device. With one band, the network must perform both functions, but with two separate bands, one can talk to the router while the other services the targeted deficient zone.
Should I Just Get A Mesh Router
One last note: If you’re living in a larger home, or if you need speeds faster than 100Mbps at range, then it’s probably worth it to go ahead and upgrade to a mesh router that comes with its own range-extending satellite devices. You’ve got more options than ever these days, and just about all of them would likely outperform a standalone router paired with a plug-in range extender like the ones tested here.
For instance, I had a three-piece TP-Link Deco M5 mesh router on hand during my 2020 tests, so I set it up and ran some speed tests alongside the four range extenders I initially tested. My average speeds stayed well above 100Mbps throughout my entire house, even in the back. Better still, I didn’t need to jump back and forth between my main network and separate extension networks. Everything was consolidated to a single, unified network and the mesh automatically routed my connection through an extender whenever it made sense. Simple!
Better still, a three-piece version of that system with a router and two extenders currently costs $150 — and it’s just one of several decent mesh setups you can get for under $200. For instance, the 2019 version of Eero’s mesh system now costs $199 for a three-pack. The AC1200 version of Netgear Orbi is another good budget mesh pick and a three-pack is available for just $140 at Walmart. Options like those are why I don’t recommend spending much more than $100 on a range extender.
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