Home / Product Round-ups / Routers & Networking / Best Wi-Fi Extenders: 8 of the Best Wireless Boosters

Best Wi-Fi Extenders: 8 of the Best Wireless Boosters

by

wifi extenders

Having Wi-Fi speed, range and coverage problems? Our list of the best Wi-Fi boosters and extenders has something for everyone from as little as £15.

The fastest internet connection can be completely ruined by a poor setup of your home network, leaving your 100Mbit/sec fibre broadband feeling like it's dial-up. Whether it's the result of a weak router, a particularly large home, or simply that you want to stretch that Wi-Fi signal right to the bottom of your garden, there are numerous scenarios that can leave you frustratingly short on Wi-Fi signal.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways around the problem that don't involve having to lay endless metres of network cable around your home. These include powerline adapters and whole-home Wi-Fi systems, but it's the humble Wi-Fi extender that's most often the cheapest and quickest solution. Just adding a single £50 Wi-Fi extender might be all you need to provide Wi-Fi coverage in those hard to reach places.

Related: Best Routers

If you want optimise your home network before shelling out for a Wi-Fi extender, you could buy a long phone or network cable and run it from your phone wall socket to a more central point in your home. This would result in slightly better Wi-Fi connectivity in more areas within your home. This won't help stretch the signal to the bottom of the garden, mind, but if it's the furthest corner of that last room that you're trying to reach then a more central placement of your router might work for you.

To see our list of the best, click here to start or pick an item from the drop-down menu above. Otherwise, read on for our guide to how Wi-Fi extenders work and which are the best to buy right now.

Video: How to improve Wi-Fi signal

This Week's Best Wifi Extender Deals

D-Link DAP-1320 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £38 | Now £16

Netgear EX3800 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £70 | Now £39.99

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 EX7000 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £159.99 | Now £124

D-Link DAP-1320 at Amazon.com | Was $34 | Now $15

Related: How to speed up your internet

Best Wi-Fi Extenders – What is a wireless booster?

Wi-Fi extenders simply piggyback on your existing Wi-Fi connection and re-broadcast to provide a stronger signal to those further-away places.

These units won’t reach as far as wired connections, and neither will they improve overall network speed. However, if you simply want to ensure that you can get signal on the top floor of your house then, in general, they’re the cheapest and simplest option.

Best Wifi Extenders

Most offer straightforward automated setup procedures, where you simply plug in the extender then hit the WPS button on its side. Run to your router and hit its WPS button and the two will connect, and away you go.

Some dual-band extenders will require that you do this twice, but it remains a quick and simple process. Many units will also indicate via coloured lights whether the extender is too close, too far away, or just the right distance from your router.

Alternatively, these boosters can be configured via a web browser. In this instance, you simply need to know the SSID (the name) of your existing Wi-Fi and its password to get setup.

Best Wi-Fi Extenders – What to look out for

The main consideration with Wi-Fi extenders is what sort of Wi-Fi standard you need. Wi-Fi used to be fairly simple: it went from Wi-Fi A to B then G and N, with each new standard increasing in speed. Now, however, things are far more complicated, with two radio frequency bands available – the older 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz – as well as a new standard called AC (in fact, AD has just arrived and AX is just around the corner).

In addition, be aware that there are different rated speeds for Wi-Fi N and AC, ranging from the basic 300Mbps of N right the way up to routers that claim 1,900Mbps and more.

The long and short of it, though, is that if you’re using anything older than a Wi-Fi N-compatible router then it's best you first replace that. Even routers available for free from ISPs have come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of years, so all your connection issues could be resolved simply via a free upgrade.

Related: Best desktop PCs

Beyond this you'll have to determine the sort of connection you have and buy an extender to match. There’s no point spending big money on a fancy 1,200Mbps AC extender if you only have a 300mbps N router.

Aside from speed, also worth consideration is the number of Ethernet ports on an extender. These will enable you to connect wired devices – such as older network-equipped TVs – to it, and potentially help improve overall speed because there will be fewer Wi-Fi signals interfering with each other.

Also look out for models that have a pass-through for the mains plug socket. Extenders can be quite large, so often don't only take up one plug socket but block an adjacent one; a mains pass-through can be a godsend.

Related: What is Mesh Wi-Fi and is it right for you?

A few models also include USB sockets, enabling you to attach printers or external hard drives to share them on the network. Some even have audio outputs, so you can plug them into a remote audio system and stream audio from your phone or tablet. However, most of these extras are rare since better routers and smart home devices such as the Chromecast and Alexa have taken over these roles.

Many do still offer the ability to act as either a Wi-Fi extender or an access point. For the latter, the Wi-Fi and Ethernet socket reverse roles, so it's the latter that connects to your existing network and is used to extend it to wherever you need; the Wi-Fi just provides wireless access at that remote location.

Most range extenders are fairly simple devices that, like Powerline adapters, are incorporated into a single mains plug/transceiver. Those with a greater number of features and external aerials (for better range and performance) look similar to routers, with a separate power supply and external aerials.

Related: Best Routers Roundup

Best Wi-Fi Extenders – Frequencies Explained

At the heart of the latest push for speed in Wi-Fi is the introduction of a 5GHz frequency. Nearly all existing Wi-Fi devices use the 2.4GHz band, which makes it highly congested. By using 5GHz, you’re far less likely to encounter problems with interference from neighbouring Wi-Fi signals.

The 5GHz band actually has a lower theoretical range than 2.4GHz, so drop off at distance – and through walls – is likely to be far more dramatic. However, the latest AC standard only uses 5GHz, combining it with techniques such as MIMO and beamforming to improve peak performance and range.

As such, a top-notch 5GHz AC router provides super-fast performance, even at long distances. So much so that if you're thinking of upgrading your router anyway, spending the extra on a top-end one may well eliminate the need to buy an extender.

Note that aside from the frequency band, all Wi-Fi standards are backwards compatible. Although you'll need compatible hardware at both ends to get the performance benefit of the latest standards, so your older phone or laptop will only ever get up to a certain speed.

Whole-home Wi-Fi

Also an option are “whole-home Wi-Fi” or mesh-router solutions. These are systems of multiple routers/extenders/access points that work seamlessly together to provide better Wi-Fi coverage. The idea is that you place several units around your home and they all link together to distribute the Wi-Fi load and optimise the connections to each other and your devices.

These solutions are great for a couple of reasons. First is that they're ideal for large homes, where you might otherwise need several Wi-Fi extenders. Whole-home systems will generally provide much better coverage and faster speeds thanks to more powerful hardware and a more intelligent, integrated system.

The second big advantage is that the system condenses all the many Wi-Fi signals it uses into a single network (SSID). This means you never have to manually connect to whichever router or extender you’re closest. You just roam about your house and the system takes care of everything for you.

The downside is the expense of such systems, but the seamless experience they offer and the extra range they provide will be worth the spend to those who wants a Wi-Fi network they no longer have to think about.

One thing to note, though, is that all these systems are different. So once you invest in one – the Netgear Orbi, for example – you can't then add an extra unit from the BT Whole Home system to extend it further.

Best Wi-Fi Extenders – How We Tested

We’ve picked out a range of Wi-Fi extenders and put them to the test. They vary from a very basic £30 unit to a couple of whole-home systems costing £350 and £500, with plenty in between.

They were tested by recording transfer speeds at two points distant from our main router, the TP-Link AC3150. With the router in a downstairs front room, we tested at a rear, second-floor bedroom (approximately 7m through two walls and a floor) and at the bottom of the garden (approximately 20m and through another wall). The extender was placed in a downstairs rear room, putting it 5m and one wall closer to the garden, as well as a couple of metres and one floor closer to the bedroom.

For comparison, using the router alone we achieved average speeds of 148.6Mbps for 5GHz and 69.5Mbps for 2.4GHz in the close-range test. In the long-range test, the 5GHz band wouldn't reach our test location – it was about two metres beyond its range – while the 2.4GHz band managed 11.2Mbps.

Note that the router is actually faster, or as fast as, the range extenders in the close-range tests – which may make them seem a bit pointless. However, it provides a good indication of the maximum performance of the extender, making it easier to compare one extender to another.

Meet our expert

Edward Chester

A 10-year veteran of tech journalism, Ed has reviewed just about every type of technology you care to mention, and even had a stint as TrustedReviews’ Mobile Phones Editor. Surely nobody in the UK has seen as many Wi-Fi extenders as Edward has, which is a blessing for you, and probably a curse for him. He knows good from bad better than anyone, though.

Prem Desai

November 18, 2014, 1:29 pm

Nice one TR - I've been waiting for this for some time.

Karl

February 19, 2015, 3:43 pm

Don't waste your money on this bit of kit. I have to have the unit so close to my router that it's not worth it. Even then the signal keeps dropping out

Muddflap

September 7, 2015, 3:25 pm

Such a bad recommendation. Look at the reviews on Microcente for this product

Down With Blizz

December 6, 2015, 2:31 am

I keep seeing recommendations for netgear EOP extender units. My experience with them (and im not the only one) was that i noticed that it didnt matter which way around i installed the units, or how i set them up, they would say they were connected with each other, but ultimately one of the pair just plain never worked. Netcomm might make ok routers but their extenders are crap.

John

December 31, 2015, 10:19 pm

Extenders just kill your internet speed. Google it.

Alex Oakley

February 15, 2016, 9:53 pm

Frankly, my hair straighteners could do a better job. And where is my other comment? Been removed? Whoever is testing this particular WiFi extender needs a test themselves. Needed placing so close to the router once set up and failed consistently to allow anything to connect to it. Sent back in disgust. As for its "20m" claim: total sh!t£!

NannyB

March 4, 2016, 1:40 am

John, when my home was built, we used LOTS of steel as we are on a volcanic island and earthquakes are common. Now I find that the steel in the walls helps to stop my WiFi. I was told to get an extender that plugged into the wall so it could reach to the other end of the house - maybe 80 feet away. My goal is to use an Android X Box and the WiFi from my computer to watch TV. I am trying to dump my TV provider as it is mostly in Spanish. OYE!! Not my native tongue and it is expensive. I currently download at 25 mbytes. Is my plan going to work????

Owen Lewis

March 19, 2016, 8:47 am

One point that is omitted in the reviews and often overlooked is the fact that the plug in extenders have to be on the same electrical circuit to work, most houses have separate downstairs and upstairs ring mains, as such plugging to the router downstairs and the extender upstairs typically will not work, as they need to share the same electrical circuit.
Easily tested by checking your houses fusebox. Hope this helps. :)

Sonu

March 24, 2016, 1:41 pm

Nice article . . .

Rsm

March 24, 2016, 11:20 pm

This is incorrect. These extenders are NOT powerline adapters. These extenders simply take your existing wifi signal and amplify it/send it out again. They can be plugged in whatever hole you want as long as it's within the reach of the wifi it has to extend.

Owen Lewis

March 25, 2016, 8:50 am

Yes sorry, my bad information, got mixed up with the ones I have :P

James Kaelin

October 13, 2016, 7:19 pm

I don't care what kind of RADIO or TRANSMITTER you use! THE ANTENNA IS HALF OF THE RADIOS RANGE! 50 yrs. of experience around the world with all kinds of Frequency's

Qablooie

November 1, 2016, 3:58 am

Even if it was, it is incorrect that powerline adapters have to be on the same circuit. I've installed many over the years in clients homes that have thick old stone walls and never had an issue.

Rob Brown

December 7, 2016, 6:16 am

Kill your internet speed compared to what?

In our bed room we had NO internet coverage.

We added a range extender and now we have internet.

Nothing before. Something after. Doesn't sound like killing it to me.

MrRadthorne

December 12, 2016, 12:41 am

They DO have to be on the same circuit. Because separate circuits aren't even connected. How would the data travel between 2 places that aren't connected to each other? Don't be daft.

Qablooie

December 15, 2016, 4:53 pm

I'm telling you I've been doing IT for 20 years. You don't understand home electric. All the electric in you house is connected UNLESS a breaker on a circuit trips, then that circuit obviously would not be cut off. The manufacturers even warn you to secure the two endpoints because you its possible to connect to other powerline adapters in the same neighborhood. I'm telling you I must have installed 20-30 pairs over the years from main to carriage houses and garages... they are definitely not on the same circuit.

Qablooie

December 15, 2016, 4:54 pm

Meant to say that it WOULD obviously be cut off.

Ralph

December 22, 2016, 6:24 pm

Exactly.......fit new antenna, or even extend the existing antenna using cable, plus a signal amplifier and Bob's your uncle!

Jay Smith

January 1, 2017, 4:13 am

I have the netgear ex3800 with socket (mainly as i don't loose a socket as sockets are sparce)... I barely get 2ft away then the signal is gone.. It's rubbish. Doesn't allow for signal in the dead zones from main router as main router is still more powerful then extender when 1 to 3ft range from extender (which is over 20ft from main router)

Alan Drayson

March 13, 2017, 2:24 pm

I was getting good results from a power line system across different ring circuits until we installed RCBOs in the consumer unit to avoid nuisance RCD trips. Since then our signal has been weaker and more prone to dropouts.

Ned Hoon

April 16, 2017, 11:15 pm

Exactly why most folks even buy an extender Rob agree with you 100% it was a silly comment.

Sue Diggines

June 4, 2017, 12:28 pm

I live in a ground floor flat with the lounge with router etc, in the front and the bedroom at the back. No wifi whatsoever in the bedroom, let alone our tiny garden, despite a plug in range extender in the kitchen, midway in the flat..........any suggestions please very welcome.

Thonk

June 12, 2017, 1:29 pm

Would have been nice to list what the increase in speeds was for each of your tests and the distances involved. I don't see that info readily

I dont really care about the breakdown of each one, I just want to know
Distance from Router, Signal strength

Red Dogg Rules

June 13, 2017, 7:59 pm

Horrible article . Doesn't help one bit . It talks like everyone who would ever read it are already super computer wizzes and know exactly what is being talked about . Fucking horrible .

Sarah Walters

June 15, 2017, 2:42 pm

We have just got the NETGEAR Orbi system for our house and it is a disaster. So far we have less range, more blind spots and much slower speeds for loading web pages. It absolutely does not live up to the hype. Technical geekery inside is all very well provided it actually WORKS which this doesn't. Our ancient Netgear hub was much better. This is going back to the shop :(

comments powered by Disqus