With working from home now looking to be the default for millions as we emerge from a global health emergency, there’s never been a more appropriate time to consider improving your home Wi-Fi. If Zoom calls regularly freeze and web pages are slow to load in your home office, then you'll be looking for a solution.

And that's precisely why you're here, of course. Before we get to recommending products to buy, you should know a few things about Wi-Fi extenders. They can be a good, inexpensive way of fixing Wi-Fi ‘not spots’: those parts of your home where Wi-Fi coverage is either non-existent or not good enough.

But there are other options which, while a bit pricier, are far more capable of improving your home network situation. 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, invest in a whole-home mesh Wi-Fi system.

If Wi-Fi reception 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. 

If you think a Wi-Fi extender is right for you, here's what to look for.

Are Wi-Fi extenders worth it?

Yes – but only in the right situations. If there’s one room or area in the home where the Wi-Fi signals broadcasted by your router simply aren’t reaching your devices, then a single Wi-Fi extender in the right location can save you a lot of bother, and as they’re largely pretty cheap, they can be a good short-term investment. 

Having said that, after having tested a number of Wi-Fi extenders, I couldn’t wait to turn my mesh WiFi system back on again.

There are a couple reasons for this. First, a Wi-Fi extender – also known as a Wi-Fi booster, Wi-Fi repeater or Wi-Fi amplifier – is designed to connect to your existing router via Wi-Fi and also broadcast a Wi-Fi signal of its own. 

This means it needs to be plugged in roughly mid-way between the router and the room which doesn’t have good Wi-Fi coverage. You can't (as you can with powerline adapters) put a Wi-Fi extender in the room with poor (or no) coverage. 

How fast are Wi-Fi Extenders?

Second, there's the issue of speed. Wi-Fi extenders effectively split their wireless bandwidth in two. One half of it has to handle the signal from your router, and the other half to broadcast that signal to the devices that need it. If you don't need much speed, that's not a problem, but you'll be disappointed if you're expecting the speeds you see plastered all over a Wi-Fi extender's packaging.

The 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.

For example, devices with Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) are often sold saying that they will in theory give you a top Wi-Fi speed of 1200Mbps.

The theoretical top speeds on the 2.4GHz band are 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.

In reality, then, most devices will use 2.4GHz and, because of the way Wi-Fi extenders work, only half that speed is available to use. And because that 300Mbps is a theoretical maximum, you'll actually get less than half of that, which could be 100Mbps. Which is one twelfth the claimed speed. It may be enough for you, but at least now you know.

Can a Wi-Fi extender make Wi-Fi worse? 

If a Wi-Fi extender and your Wi-Fi router are sending signals on the same Wi-Fi channels, then yes, this can result in congestion which will see wireless speeds drop and generally make for a bad service overall. 

Naturally, this is something you’ll want to avoid – but you can read our guide on changing Wi-Fi channel for an in-depth explanation on how to do this.


TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender - Best Overall

TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender
  • Pros
    • TP-Link Tether app
    • Works as mesh Satellite
  • Cons
    • 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 TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender review


TP-Link RE505X - Best Wi-Fi 6 Range Extender

TP-Link RE505X Wi-Fi Range Extender
  • Pros
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • OneMesh Support
  • Cons
    • No mains passthrough
    • Bulky

The TP-Link RE505X is a powerful Wi-Fi extender that adds extra reach 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.

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.

If you’ve got the right TP-Link router, the RE505X could also operate as a mesh Wi-Fi satellite as a bonus.

Read our full TP-Link RE505X Wi-Fi Range Extender review


Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater

Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater
  • Pros
    • Inexpensive
    • Easy to install
  • Cons
    • Average performance
    • No mains passthrough

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 Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater review


Devolo WiFi Repeater Plus AC

Devolo AC WiFi Repeater Plus
  • Pros
    • Good 5GHz performance
    • Mains passthrough
  • Cons
    • Frustrating app
    • Relatively expensive

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's RE505X offers Wi-Fi 6 for the same price, 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 Devolo AC WiFi Repeater Plus review


Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender

Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
  • Pros
    • Cheap
    • Good speeds overall
  • Cons
    • No mains passthrough
    • No app

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 Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender review


BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster

BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster
  • Pros
    • Good performance
    • Ethernet cable included
  • Cons
    • No app
    • 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 BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster review

Wi-Fi extenders vs Ethernet vs Powerline vs mesh Wi-Fi 

Finally, before you throw down money for 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.

Mesh Wi-Fi

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. 

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.