We all rely on Wi-Fi and more so now than ever before. We want strong Wi-Fi throughout our homes so we can stream Netflix in any room and make Zoom calls, even from that room that’s a bit too far away from the router.
And that’s precisely why you’re here, of course. You want an affordable, simple fix to your Wi-Fi problems. And an extender will do exactly that. Or at least it will in many cases.
But before you scroll down to our recommendations, there are a few things you should know about Wi-Fi extenders.
The first is that they are not the only option. For example, you might consider buying a new router if you’ve not upgraded in a while, or if you live in a busy household with lots of people and devices all clamouring for Wi-Fi, it can be worth spending more and buying a mesh Wi-Fi system.
However, if Wi-Fi in your home is generally good, but there are one or two rooms where it’s patchy or doesn’t reach at all, then picking a Wi-Fi extender might well be the answer. Even then an alternative – which might prove more effective – is to buy a Powerline adapter which uses your home’s mains wiring to transmit the internet signal to exactly where you need it.
Just note that you’ll need a pair of adapters, one of which has built-in Wi-Fi. You can only get away with the cheaper non-Wi-Fi adapters if the computer or device you’re connecting (such as a PC) doesn’t have Wi-Fi and needs a network cable connection.
We’re not trying to put you off buying a Wi-Fi extender, but as long as you’re sure one is right for you, here’s what to look for.
Are Wi-Fi extenders worth it?
Yes – but only in the right situations. Because of the way they work, which is to take the signal from your existing router and re-broadcast it, they need to be plugged in roughly mid-way between the router and the room which doesn’t have good Wi-Fi coverage.
Second, there’s the issue of speed. They run at half the speed you’d expect. That’s because half of it has to handle the signal from your router, and the other half is taken up broadcasting that signal to the devices that need it. That might not be a problem, but you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting the speeds you see plastered all over a Wi-Fi extender’s packaging.
For example, devices with Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) are often called AC1200, which means a combined speed of 1200Mbps.
It’s combined because the theoretical maximum speed on the 2.4GHz band is 300Mbps, and 867Mbps over 5GHz (which has a shorter range than 2.4GHz). That’s 1167Mbps in total, which if you rounded it up, is 1200.
The actual speed you’ll get will depend on the specifications of the model you buy, but also on the general layout of your home, and how many devices you have using Wi-Fi at the same time.
You might find that you get 100Mbps, which is one twelfth the advertised speed. And that may be enough for you, but at least now you know.
One final thing: some extenders double up as mesh Wi-Fi satellite units. This means that if you have a compatible router, they’ll work in ‘proper’ mesh mode and won’t be re-broadcasting at a slower speed.
If you don’t already own a compatible router, then do consider the overall cost of the system and compare it to the cost of a mesh Wi-Fi kit.
1. TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender – Best Overall
TP-Link Tether app
Works as mesh Satellite
No mains passthrough
5GHz range not great
If a Wi-Fi extender is what you need, then the TP-Link RE305 is the one most people should buy.
It’s cheap and effective if you need a usable Wi-Fi signal in a corner of your home.
Just know that, like a lot of extenders, it’s a compromise overall compared to buying a better router or going the whole hog and getting a mesh Wi-Fi system.
But if you’re on a budget, the RE305 offers good 2.4GHz performance, both in terms of speed and coverage. 5GHz is never going to beat 2.4GHz for range in a home with walls and other obstacles, but even so, the RE305’s 5GHz performance was a little disappointing.
Better news is that it’s very easy to set up and configure, thanks to the Tether app, and support for OneMesh could be a bonus if you have, or intend to buy, a router such as the TP-Link Archer AX90, or another device that supports OneMesh.
Read our full
Review TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender
2. D-Link Eagle Pro AI E15 – Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Extender
Good value for a mesh extender
The E15 is part of the Eagle Pro AI range from D-Link and is designed to be used in conjunction with the R15 router and, optionally, the M15 mesh Wi-Fi system. Used in this way, the E15, as with the TP-Link’s OneMesh, you get much better speeds than if you were to use the E15 with another brand of Wi-Fi 6 router, where it would revert to working in half-duplex mode.
Quite obviously, there’s no point at all in buying the E15 if you don’t even have a Wi-Fi 6 router as you’ll be paying more but not benefitting from the extra speed and features.
The E15 has fold-out antennae, for improving the signal range and there’s a Gigabit Ethernet port on the bottom edge which can be used to connect wired devices such as TV set-top boxes. There’s also a useful signal meter on the front which tells you if you’ve plugged it in in a good location or not.
It’s relatively simple to set up with the Eagle Pro AI app, and using that you can see which devices are connected to the extender (even if you don’t use it in mesh mode) and there’s a bizarrely named Health Mode which allows you to turn off Wi-Fi overnight as a way to prevent your kids using their devices.
Annoyingly, quite a few settings aren’t available in the app: if you tap Advanced Mode, a web browser opens and presents a traditional router management interface that’s way too small for a phone screen. It’s only there you can force the E15 to use WPA3 security, for example.
There’s Alexa and Google Assistant support, but these are no real use if you don’t have the R15 or M15 as the extender doesn’t support a guest network.
At the time of review, the Eagle Pro AI was considerably cheaper than TP-Link’s RE505X, making it better value – but only if you already have an R15 router or are going to buy one.
3. TP-Link RE505X – Wi-Fi 6 OneMesh support
No mains passthrough
The TP-Link RE505X is a powerful Wi-Fi 6 extender that adds speed and coverage for a reasonable premium over Wi-Fi 5 extenders. It’s a good choice if you’ve got a new Wi-Fi 6 phone or laptop, and you want to benefit from that. As with the Eagle Pro E15 above, you need a Wi-Fi 6 router to connect it to, otherwise you won’t benefit.
And, Ideally, you’d pair it with a compatible TP-Link router and use the RE505X is a mesh node.
For targeting specific Wi-Fi dead-zones, this can be a very cost-effective buy with good speeds, range and an easy-to-use app with handy features.
However, if you don’t already own a OneMesh router, D-Link’s Eagle Pro AI system works out a bit cheaper overall.
Read our full
Review TP-Link RE505X Wi-Fi Range Extender
4. Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater
Inexpensive Wi-Fi 5 extender
Easy to install
The Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater’s low price will make it very attractive to some, and given that, it’s hard to complain too much about it.
There’s no app, but it’s not difficult to set it up, and it has a clean-looking web interface.
Although it won’t burn a hole in your wallet, it won’t set the world alight with its performance. It did give a decent boost compared to simply relying on our test router in the furthest-away room, but like that router, it couldn’t provide a 5GHz connection in that room.
If you’re really tight on funds and you don’t mind taking a punt on a Wi-Fi extender to see if it fixes your problem, the Tenda A18 should fit the bill.
Read our full
Review Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater
5. Devolo WiFi Repeater Plus AC
Good 5GHz performance
The Devolo WiFi AC Repeater Plus looks like one of Devolo’s powerline adapters, or even its mesh Wi-Fi adapters.
A boon is the fact it has a mains passthrough so you don’t lose a mains socket wherever you install it.
Performance is pretty good, but not significantly better than what you’ll get with a cheaper Wi-Fi extender. TP-Link and D-Link offer Wi-Fi 6 extenders for less, too.
The Devolo Home Network App, which should make things easier to manage and configure, is actually tricky to use and – in our testing at least – was prone to crashing.
If you find it discounted, though, it’ll offer better value.
Read our full
Review Devolo AC WiFi Repeater Plus
6. Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
Good speeds overall
No mains passthrough
The Rock Space AC1200 is a budget Wi-Fi extender which, in the right circumstances, could be a good solution to poor Wi-Fi.
You tend to get what you pay for with Wi-Fi extenders, so as long as you’re able to install the Rock Space somewhere close to where you need the Wi-Fi signal to be boosted, and you’re not expecting miracles, it’ll do the job.
You may notice a certain similarity in the design to Tenda’s A18 and the BrosTrend. Obviously the plastic is black in this case, but the fact that the Tenda A18 is even cheaper means that unless you can find the Rock Space cheaper still, you may as well go for the A18 as they’re all basically the same.
Read our full
Review Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
7. BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster
Ethernet cable included
Limited 5GHz range
No, you’re not seeing double: you’re seeing triple. BrosTrend is another manufacturer which has picked this extender as a base and popped its logo on to not just the case, but the web interface as well.
It’s a bit more expensive than the Tenda A18 and Rock Space, but there’s an Ethernet cable in the box which – if you need it – adds value.
Most people wanting to extend their Wi-Fi probably don’t want a network cable and, given this Wi-Fi Booster suffers from the same limited 5GHz range as its identical-looking rivals, it’s hard to recommend it over them at the higher price.
It’s certainly capable of plugging holes in your home Wi-Fi coverage, though.
Read our full
Review BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster
Wi-Fi extenders vs Ethernet vs Powerline vs mesh Wi-Fi
Finally, before you buy a Wi-Fi extender, do consider the other options first, because they will more than likely be better for your immediate if not long-term needs.
As we explain in our roundup of the best Ethernet cables, if it’s convenient to do so, go wired. Sending data over wires will always provide higher speeds and greater stability than wireless and so, if you need better Internet connectivity in your office for a desktop PC or a laptop, going wired is actually a better choice.
If it’s not practical to do that – not everyone can run dozens of metres of Ethernet cables up the stairs – then a Powerline adapter might be what you’re after.
These use your home’s mains wiring as a sort of Ethernet cable, with one adapter plugged in near your router and connected via Ethernet, and the second adapter is plugged in in the room where you need an internet connection.
Not all Powerline adapters have Wi-Fi built in as well as Ethernet ports, but those that do almost act like Wi-Fi extenders. A set of these could be what you need if the room in which you need coverage is just too far away from your main router. Powerline can also work if you have a garden room or office which has electricity.
If you’re living in a busy household, with lots of family members or flatmates, and there’s more than one Wi-Fi not-spot, then your needs will likely go beyond what a humble Wi-Fi extender can reasonably cater for – you’re far better off turning your attentions to a mesh Wi-Fi system, in this case.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are made up of a main hub, which essentially replaces your old router, and one or more satellites, typically two, but most mesh Wi-Fi systems let you add as many satellites as you need.
Most Wi-Fi extenders broadcast a separate SSID (network name), that’s distinct from the one your main router uses.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems by contrast use the same SSID, so you don’t have to manually connect to separate access points on your phone every time you walk between rooms – mesh Wi-Fi systems do that automatically, moving devices over to the strongest, least congested access points as you move about the house.
While some Wi-Fi extenders let you use the same SSID and network password, it’s not always easy to do. Plus, even though it’s the same network name, it is a different network, so switching between your router and the extender isn’t seamless as it is with mesh. If you’re on a voice or video call, for example, you’ll lose the connection if your laptop, phone or tablets switches network mid-call.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems also typically feature a dedicated wireless backhaul channel – called ‘tri-band Wi-Fi’ in marketing speak – to cut down on congestion.
Wi-Fi extenders will use the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to handle communications between client devices and your router. Often, if you’re connected to the Wi-Fi extender on your phone on the 2.4GHz band, the extender will also talk to the router on that same band, which can add to congestion, and result in slower overall speeds.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems with tri-band Wi-Fi solutions have a separate partitioned 5GHz channel which is used exclusively for router-to-satellite communication, neatly avoiding this.