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Best Wi-Fi Extenders

A Wi-Fi extender plugs into a mains socket and re-broadcasts your router's signal to improve coverage in your home. Here are the best models to buy.

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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.

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TP-Link RE305 Wi-Fi Range Extender

  • Rating: ****

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.

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Next Prev tp link re305 wi fi extender review unplugged

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.

TP-Link RE505X Wi-Fi Range Extender

  • Rating: ****

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.

Tenda A18 AC1200 Wi-Fi Repeater

  • Rating: ****/2

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.

Devolo AC WiFi Repeater Plus

  • Rating: ***

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.

Rock Space AC1200 WiFi Range Extender

  • Rating: ***

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.

BrosTrend AC1200 WiFi Booster

  • Rating: ***

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.

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