Try One of These WiFi Extenders

Category: Wireless

Many homes have WiFi “dead zones” where radio signals are weak or non-existent. WiFi extenders (also called repeaters) can fill such gaps, enabling your teenagers to keep their video gaming in the basement instead of taking over the living room couch. An extender can also let you live the dream of Web surfing in a hammock out the back yard. Here is some recommended gear to make it happen…

What is a WiFi Extender?

A WiFi extender works by receiving the radio signal from your router or access point, amplifying it, and rebroadcasting it. The latest extenders can operate on either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz wavelength and support the 5th generation 802.11ac WiFi protocol for the fastest throughput.

As a general rule, you’ll want to place the extender roughly halfway between the access point and the outer limit of the dead zone you wish it to enliven. But if the access point and extender are on different floors of your house, the signal may be weakened more by thicker, denser floor and ceiling materials; in that case, place the extender nearer the access point. You may also need to consider barriers such as metal wall studs, window screens, and radio-reflective surfaces. Sources of radio frequency interference (RFI) should also be avoided; microwave ovens. cordless phones, baby monitors, and electric motors are common sources of RFI.

What differentiates one make/model of WiFi extender from another? Price is obvious; consumer-grade extenders range between $30 and $100, roughly, The range of an extender is the maximum distance it can be from the access point before losing signal. Throughput is definitely important; a 54 Mbps extender and a 144.4 Mbps access point are mismatched. That said, here are some of the leading choices on today’s market:

WiFi Range Extenders

The Netgear Nighthawk EX7000 ($103 at Amazon) is a high-end extender that can double as an access point. Its three removable antennas give it a range of 165 feet. By merging the throughput of two channels, the EX7000 achieves over 400 Mbps. It sports five Gigabit Ethernet ports and one USB port for printers, external drives, and other peripherals. On the downside, it’s among the bulkiest extenders, requires an external power supply, and can be rather tricky to configure for optimal results.

The TP-Link RE580D ($108 at Amazon) lacks a USB port, yet it’s even bigger than the EX7000 (9.5 x 7.8 x 1.8 inches). With a range of 150 feet and maximum throughput (at 5 feet) of 327.7 Mbps, it’s a close second to the EX7000 in performance. Unlike other extenders, the RE580D’s 2.4 and 5 GHz radios can be set up in one operation. You can turn off its blue LEDs or set them to automatically switch off at night for better sleeping.

The TRENDnet TEW-822DRE ($60 at Amazon) is a lot cheaper and smaller (5.9 x 5.1 x 2.4-inch) than the Netgear and TP-Link extenders. Small enough to plug directly into a wall outlet, it does not require an external power supply. However, its throughput drops off rapidly the further you get from it, and its 125 foot range is not the best. Costs are shaved by including only two antennae and one Gigabit Ethernet port. The configuration GUI is dark and crowded, more suitable for a desktop PC than a tablet or phone.

On the lower and less complicated end, there's the $15 TP-Link Wireless N300 High Gain USB Adapter (TL-WN822N). I recently recommended it to a friend and she loved it. A gadget like this is not a range extender, but instead acts as an antenna to pick up weak signals. It plugs into the USB port on your desktop or laptop and can significantly extend your WiFi reception range. The downside is that it's for one device only, and won't help if you have a tablet or smartphone, because they lack USB ports.

Have you tried a WiFi range extender? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Try One of These WiFi Extenders"

Posted by:

Bob
10 Apr 2017

Don't most (if not all) extenders cut your throughput? I thought some models lose up to 50% of bandwidth.


Posted by:

Dan Valleskey
10 Apr 2017

Not sure if our problems are the range of our router, or the capacity of our router, or is Comcast not giving us all the signal we pay for? Any articles coming on the MU-MIMO standard now showing up in the stores?


Posted by:

Stephen
10 Apr 2017

@Bob (the questioner, not MR. Rankin): In general, you will lose something, but if I may use the saying, isn't half a loaf better than no loaf? Depending on one's needs, being able to get some connection might be ok. Granted, streaming a movie might not be the best experience using an extender, but you should be able to check your email and do basic web browsing.

@Dan V: Check your system via the dslreports site to see what your up- and download speeds are. If they are close to what Comcast is telling you, then you're ok. If not, as Bob mentions, be sure you don't have any of the usual suspects causing RFI.


Posted by:

JC
10 Apr 2017

If you have an Android device get the "Wifi Analyzer from the google store. It will show you the signal strength wherever the device is. The only downside is it only works on 2.4 GHz, on my phone anyway, But; 2.4 GHz is better at range. Oh, the app is free.


Posted by:

Uncle Joe;
10 Apr 2017


Bob! I am in a dead zone; As you know I can not send or receive a phone call in this dead zone!
Please do not promise me you can fix it if you can't! I have tried to find a solution to this problem ! So far NO luck! C.B, band works for the police or ambulance cars; Please call me @ 518-827-5903 !
I would like to buy a unit that will work !
Uncle Joe :)


Posted by:

JP
10 Apr 2017

In a similar vein, I purchased a pair of Netgear Powerline 500s that use a home's electrical outlets to extend a wired connection. It's not perfect -- it does require a physical connection, but it works wonderfully with my TV. Since buying them, the technology has improved. (My usual timing on tech purchases.)


Posted by:

Jeff Miller
10 Apr 2017

I recent purchased 3 EERO A0010001 wifi extenders which can be wifi daisy-chained together. Big improvement of wifi signal. Easy setup


Posted by:

Bob Dale
10 Apr 2017

Why not add the iDrive One to the list. It is dual band and has a TB of storage.


Posted by:

Barry Pask
10 Apr 2017

The link to Amazon that you have for the "TP-Link N300 Wireless High Gain USB Adapter (TL-WN822N)" at the end of the article says it works with Windows XP / Vista / 7 - what about Windows 10??


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
10 Apr 2017

I second what Bob Dole said. The iDrive One is turning out to be the best wifi extender I have tried (and I have tried several).


Posted by:

Dwayne Hunt
10 Apr 2017

Is it valid to "third" what Bob Dole said? Bob and Daniel were quicker on the trigger than I was.
Dwayne Hunt


Posted by:

Storm
10 Apr 2017

iDrive One was to be my solution. Unfortunately, it drops the connection very frequently. Very dissatisfied with its performance. Only useful as a USB hard drive.


Posted by:

wayne
10 Apr 2017

This one from Factorydirect.ca increases 2 to 5 bars outside of coffee shop. It is often on sale

http://www.factorydirect.ca/Canada-Ontario-/Computer_Add-Ons/Networking/Computer_Add-Ons_Networking_Wireless_Networking/TA7183/017874013517_TOWER_USB_WIFI_ANTENNA_ADAPTER_017874013517/0


Posted by:

Denis
10 Apr 2017

I have found the powerline extenders excellent for use in concrete constructed buildings with lots of steel reinforcing and residential buildings with steel framing. As long as the powerpoints are on the same phase you can extend for long distances and over multiple floors, and they are really easy to setup.
Another thing to consider, mainly for desktops where the network adapter has a removable antenna, is to replace the original antenna with a high gain one, these are also available with an extension cable so the antenna can be located at the best signal location.


Posted by:

Granville Alley
11 Apr 2017

Bob,

Perhaps you could discuss the differences between the new "Mesh" WiFi Network devices such as the Netgear Orbi, Google WIFI, Luma or the eero amongst others. My understanding of these systems is that they seamlessly connect your device and automatically switch between transmitters as you roam the space constantly providing you the strongest signal.

I have also been led to believe that unlike WIFI Extenders that all reduce throughput not only for the distant locations but also for the main WIFI Router as well unless you play setup games with multiple radios the Router and/or extenders offer. But in any case where you do that you actually have to choose differing 'networks" in different areas of the home or office to avoid bandwidth degradation everywhere.

My understanding is that these "Mesh" Network devices do not suffer from this "attribute". I realize these devices require replacing perhaps perfectly good WIFI Routers but if maximum throughput and seamless coverage is the primary consideration and cost is not as much an issue are these the "answer" many of us might be looking for? Would love an objective look at these devices compared to traditional WIFI Routers and Extenders. Thanks, Bob


Posted by:

Col. Kurtz
11 Apr 2017

Three eeros really worked for my one floor, spread out house. About tripled my download speeds to around 67mbs throughout the house.


Posted by:

Michele
11 Apr 2017

I reprised an older Links us G router with WPA2 security and Linksys extender that I added to my existing wifi network. They substantially increased my WiFi not only throughout my house but also through my huge yard as well. Now I can stream audio from the Web when I'm cutting my grass.


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