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The Best Wi-Fi Range Extender

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The Best Wi-Fi Range Extender

Person plugging in a Wi-Fi repeater
Sendo Serra/Shutterstock.com

What to Look For in a Wi-Fi Range Extender in 2021

It probably won’t surprise you to know that buying a Wi-Fi range extender is very similar to buying a router, and that means that you’re going to be looking for similar things.

For starters, it’s essential to understand that the rated speed on the box doesn’t always translate to real-life performance. Often these numbers are based on perfect conditions, standing right next to the device in an area with absolutely zero interference.

As such, real-life performance tends to be much lower, but that’s okay! Most people don’t have 1Gbps or 2Gbps internet speeds, so you aren’t missing out on the theoretical best-case performance anyway.

This brings us to the next point. Most modern routers tend to come either in dual-band or tri-band varieties. This often means they can broadcast in two different frequencies—2.4GHz or 5Ghz. Therefore, when you’re picking a Wi-Fi range extender, make sure to find one that is also either dual-band or tri-band so that you can take full advantage of your router’s speed and range.

Speaking of range, you’re probably looking at this page due to a Wi-Fi dead zone in your home. One way tech companies have solved that issue is using Mesh Wi-Fi systems, which Wi-Fi range extenders also support.

If you are using a router that has a Mesh system, you’ll want to try and get a range extender that also has that since it will make your life so much easier. Of course, each company has its system, like OneMesh for TP-Link, so always check for compatibility.

Another thing you’ll want to check for compatibility is what Wi-Fi standard you are using—4, 5, or 6. Wi-Fi 4 is a bit old, and unless your router is a decade old, you’re most likely on Wi-Fi 5, or if you got your router in the last year or two, even possibly Wi-Fi 6. This ultimately shouldn’t be a problem since most Wi-Fi extenders can handle Wi-Fi 4 and 5, but only a few can do Wi-Fi 6, so it’s always something to double-check.

Finally, one standard you should also check for is MU-MIMO. While we encourage you to read more into it by following the link, the long and short of it is that MU-MIMO helps avoid lag when several devices are connected to one network. This is especially important for things like gaming or if you have 15 or more devices connected to your network, such as in the case of a smart home setup.

This is a lot to keep track of, but provided you know your router’s specifications and limits, our recommendations below should make it easy.

RELATED: What Is MU-MIMO, and Do I Need It on My Router?

Best Wi-Fi Range Extender Overall: TP-Link AC1750

TP Link Wi-Fi Extender plugged in
TP-Link

Pros

  • Easy installation and setup
  • Great speed and range performance
  • Dual-band and triple antenna
  • Ethernet port

Cons

  • Big for a plug extender
  • Lack of Wi-Fi 6

If you sat down in a room with a bunch of engineers to design a Wi-Fi range extender, the TP-Link RE450 would be what they come up with. While it doesn’t tick every single feature box of similar devices, it still manages to put the most important stuff in, while also keeping it relatively cheap.

For example, setup is straightforward with the front-and-center Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which allows you to pair it with any other WPS router by simply touching the front of the extender. Compare that to some other Wi-Fi extenders where the button is hidden on the side, and it’s a pretty wise decision. Another smart design choice is surrounding the button with an indicator light to know precisely when it connects and how stable the connection is.

In terms of speeds, you’ll be getting up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,300Mbps on the 5Ghz, both of which are probably more than your maximum speeds. In practical terms, though, you’re looking at around 45Mbps at 50-feet for the 2.4GHz band and around 85Mbps at 50-feet for the 5GHz band, both of which are relatively good speeds when compared to the competition.

You’ll also be happy to know that it comes with a single ethernet port that you can use to plug in a laptop, computer, or even smart TV. If you have several devices that you need to use, you could always go the eco-conscious route of turning an old router into a network switch instead. It will save you some money and help you recycle some of your old networking gear.

The only real downside to the RE450 is that it lacks a throughput outlet, so you’re going to be taking up a whole plug slot and probably several ones nearby since the RE450 is pretty bulky. It also lacks support for Wi-Fi 6, which isn’t great but not necessarily a dealbreaker if you don’t have a router that uses it.

Best Wi-Fi Range Extender Overall

Best Budget Wi-Fi Range Extender: TP-Link AC750

TP Link extender on blue lined background
TP-Link

Pros

  • Good range and performance for the price
  • Easy to use and install
  • Ability to set dedicated backhaul band
  • Pretty design

Cons

  • Lack of MU-MIMO
  • Not that great 5GHz performance
  • Slower ethernet speeds

It should be no surprise to see another TP-Link product here, considering how good the company is at making accessible consumer-grade gear. They’ve even managed to pack good performance on TP-Link AC750 while keeping it below $20, which is pretty impressive for a piece of modern networking equipment.

When it comes to speeds, you’re looking at a stated 300Mbps on 2.4GHz and 433Mbps on 5GHz, which are pretty close to each other. That means that 5GHz gets mediocre performance, and, in practical terms, you’re likely to get around 45Mbps at the 50-foot range. Of course, 5GHz still manages to beat out the 2.4GHz performance of around 25Mbps at 50 feet, although not as much as it should.

While the AC750 can support up to 32 devices, it lacks the MU-MIMO technology that allows simultaneous streaming and beamforming. You probably don’t want to be playing games using this extender, but most other uses, such as streaming, should be fine.

Besides that, the AC750 comes with a handy WPS connect button in the front, and an ethernet port below, making overall connectivity pretty good. It also looks much more understated and minimalist compared to other routers that are big, black, and wouldn’t be out of place in the Batcave.

Overall, for just $20, you aren’t going to get the best performance, but if you need a bit of extra range to use the phone in the bathroom, or stream Netflix in the living room, then this little Wi-Fi extender is perfect.

Best Budget Wi-Fi Range Extender

TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender (RE220)

 

It’s hard to fault a Wi-Fi extender when it’s so cheap, but the Re220 manages to put give you just the right amount of features and performance to make it a contender.

Best Wi-Fi 6 Range Extender: TP-Link AX1500

TP Link AX1500 and living room setup
TP-Link

Pros

  • Good overall performance
  • Support for OneMesh
  • Easy to use
  • Great price for access to Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • Very bulky
  • No plug passthrough
  • 2.4GHz not that great

While looking like something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Transformers movie, the TP-Link RE505X is one of the few Wi-Fi extenders that support Wi-Fi 6.

First up, we see a theoretical speed of up to 300Mbps on 2.4GHz and 1,200Mbps on the 5Ghz band. Unfortunately, the real-life performance of the 2.4Ghz is pretty bad, probably not seeing much more than 10Mbps at around 50 feet. On the other hand, 5Ghz does a lot better with a throughput of about 200Mbps at 50-feet, so it won’t be a stretch to say you’ll primarily be using the 5Ghz.

If you currently have a Wi-Fi 4 or 5 router and you plan to switch to Wi-Fi 6, you’ll be happy to know that the RE505X is compatible with all three standards. It also supports OneMesh, which is great if you have another compatible product to pair it with for overall better coverage. There is, of course, the standard ethernet port and WPS button to make connectivity a cinch as well.

As for downsides, you’re mostly just looking at the surprisingly bulky design, which might be a bit off-putting for some. This is further compounded by the fact that it doesn’t have an outlet passthrough, which means you’re going to give up a whole wall outlet since it’s unlikely you can plug anything next to it.

Best Wi-Fi 6 Range Extender

TP-Link AX1500 (RE505X)

 

While the bulky RE505X might look like it belongs on a sci-fi set, the great 5GHz, OneMessh support, and reasonable price make this one of the best Wi-Fi 6 range extenders money can buy.

Devolo wi-fi extender in outlet
Devolo

Pros

  • Great for homes with thick walls
  • Two ethernet ports each
  • Passthrough plug
  • Powerline and Wi-Fi Hybrid

Cons

  • On the pricey side
  • App is not intuitive

This next entry on the list combines both traditional Wi-FI connectivity and Powerline. What’s interesting here is that even though it’s marketed as tri-band, the Wi-Fi is only dual-band, with Powerline considered the third band. So the Devolo Mesh Wi-Fi 2 is a complete hybrid system.

When it comes to speeds, this one is a little harder to pin down. Since this is a mesh system that uses Powerline, your actual performance may vary widely depending on where you are in the home.

That being said, the stated speed on the tin is 1,200Mbps, with practical speeds closer to 250Mbps at the 20-foot mark and rapidly decreasing down to around 30-40Mbps when you reach 35 feet. Truthfully though, if you place them evenly around the home, you should never be more than 10-15 feet away from any access point.

So what about Powerline speeds? Powerline is used as a backhaul to help distribute your internet speeds; any speed you get on the wireless network is the total speed of the system. On the bright side, that means that connecting to the Ethernet ports will get you a good signal, assuming you also have good Wi-Fi as well. Powerline’s quality relies heavily on your home’s wiring, so if you have old wiring, it might be a bit of a gamble.

Otherwise, the only major issue with the kit is that it’s a bit obtuse to set up and use. For example, the first-time setup requires all three extenders to be in the same room, so unless you have a lot of plugs, you’ll have to root around for a power splitter. You also have to connect at least one of the extenders by ethernet to your router for the system to work.

Similarly, the app can sometimes be hard to navigate, with parental control needing technical know-how of MAC addresses. The Develo Cockpit gives you more granular control if you have said know-how, so that’s pretty nice.

Overall, while the Devolo Wi-Fi 2 is expensive and hard to set up, it can be a significant improvement for those with thick walls that Wi-Fi has a hard time penetrating. Not only that, but a large amount of ethernet ports means that you don’t have to worry too much about dealing with a network switch or moving cables around to get your gear connected.

Best Wi-Fi Range Extender With Wire Ports

Devolo Mesh Wi-Fi 2

 

Offering a hybrid "tri-band" system that uses Powerline for backhaul, the Devolo Mesh Wi-Fi 2 provides a good amount of ethernet ports and helps solve issues of thick walls that block Wi-Fi signals.

Netgear Nighthawk on green and blue background
NETGEAR

Pros

  • Four ethernet ports
  • Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Excellent range and performance
  • Easy to use app and advanced web interface

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Performance reliant on Wi-Fi 6 availability
  • A bit bulky

We won’t blame you for thinking this is the Monolith from 2001: Space Odyessy, especially since the Netgear Nighthawk EAX80 boasts some of the best performance you’re going to see on a Wi-Fi range extender.

Speed on the EAX80 is not a problem, especially since the specs list 1,200Mbps for the 2.4GHz band and a genuinely whopping 4,500Mbps for the 5Ghz band. As such, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that real-life speeds are amazing, with around 75Mbps at 50-feet for 5Ghz and around 30Mbps at 50-feet for 2.4Ghz.

Of course, it’s important to note that these speeds are based on using Wi-Fi 6, and if you’re looking to take advantage of this extender, you ideally need that.

That being said, if you’re going to play online on a gaming console or PC, then you want to connect with an Ethernet cable, and EAX80 has four ethernet ports for you to plug into. Ping speeds while wired can be as low as 30-35ms, assuming you already have low ping. If you don’t, it will likely be able to match whatever your router pings at, so no worries there.

Aside from that, you also get support for MI-MUMO and could theoretically get up to 30 devices connected without too many problems. On that note, setup is pretty easy using the Netgear Nighthawk app, and if you have a bit of tech experience, the web interface offers a lot more advanced controls and granularity.

That brings us to the biggest issue of the EAX80—the price. Some people might balk at the $150 price tag for just a single unit, but the truth is that top-tier performance is expensive. Not only that, but if you don’t have a router that supports Wi-Fi 6, then you’re spending a lot of money for something you’re not using to its fullest extent, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Best Wi-Fi Range Extender for Gaming

NETGEAR Nighthawk EAX80

 

It’s hard to beat the EAX80 when it comes to speed and performance, assuming that you’re using Wi-Fi 6. Otherwise, the high price might not be worth the performance you’d get with Wi-Fi 5.

TP-Link N300 on pink background
TP-Link

Pros

  • Truly massive range
  • Weatherproof design
  • Relatively cheap
  • Lots of control
  • Relatively cheap

Cons

  • Hard to setup
  • Can only transmit in one frequency

So far, we’ve mostly looked at Wi-Fi network extenders made for inside the home, but the TP-Link N300 CPE210 is a different beast. Extenders made for outside the home are not only weatherproof, but they also tend to have pretty massive antennas to get a long range.

Take the case of the CPE210, which has a spec range of a mind-boggling 5km. In exchange, you tend to give up a bit of speed—with the rated capacity being 300Mbps, you aren’t going to get the blistering speeds of the Nighthawk EAX80, or even the budget Wi-Fi range extender.

Another thing to consider is that the CPE210 only works in the 2.4GHz frequency, which is what most devices tend to use anyway. Of course, you may want 5Ghz, in which case you’ll need to go for the CPE510 instead, which happens to boast a 15km range.

Finally, if you need both speed and distance, there’s the CPE710, which not only has 3x the rated speed, it also has 18 miles line-of-site range for an extended network. Just be aware that this is a point-to-point Wi-Fi extender, so not only do you need two of these, you will also need another device at the end-point to distribute the Wi-Fi.

Best Outdoor Wi-Fi Range Extender

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