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Best Wi-Fi Extenders: 7 of the Best Wireless Boosters

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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 £20.

The fastest internet connection can be completely ruined by a poor home network setup, leaving your 100Mbit/s fibre package feeling like dial-up. Why waste your money on an expensive package and line rental when you're literally losing it in thin air? A cheap Wi-Fi extender can solve the problem, and shelling out for something a little more expensive can get you fantastic performance as if you were right next to your main router.

Read on to find out how to choose, and turn the page to start our round-up for the best Wi-Fi extenders.

The main cause of poor Wi-Fi performance and slow coverage is usually the number of walls between you and your router. If you live in an old house with thick walls, a Wi-Fi extender is a must-have. In such circumstances, even the best router you can imagine won't be able to provide top-notch performance up a floor and through a couple of walls. Shelling out £50 on an extender will improve your situation dramatically. No longer will you have a dead-spot from where it isn't possible to stream Netflix.

Related: Best Routers 2016

If you don't want to shell out extra cash on a Wi-Fi extender, you could buy a long Ethernet 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 isn't hugely effective, though, and still requires you to trail cables throughout your house. We'd always recommend using at least one Wi-Fi extender.

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 £16.99

Netgear EX3800 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £70 | Now £39

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 EX7000 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £159.99 | Now £123.99

D-Link DAP-1320 at Amazon.com | Was $34 | Now $18

Linksys RE6500 at Amazon.com | Was $99 | Now $74

If you want to know how Wi-Fi extenders work then check out our jargon buster below. Otherwise to jump straight into our roundup of the best Wi-Fi extenders you can buy right now.

Related: How to speed up your internet

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

As their name suggests, Wi-Fi extenders simply piggyback on your existing Wi-Fi connection and rebroadcast it so further away places can get a stronger signal.

They won’t reach as far as wired connections and they won’t improve your overall network speed, but if you simply want to ensure the top floor of your house finally has some signal they’re a really easy option. Generally they’re cheaper and less hassle than any alternative.

Best Wifi Extenders

Most offer simple automated setup procedures, with them either connecting automatically using WPS or having their own open network to which you connect to then configure them through a browser. Generally you only 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 a fairly simple standard where it went from WiFi A to B then G and N, with each new standard increasing in speed. Now things have become more complicated with two radio frequency bands available – the older 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz – as well as a new standard called AC. On top of 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 1900Mbps.

The long and short of it, though, is that if you’re using anything older than a Wi-Fi N compatible router then your first port of call should be to replace that. Beyond that you need to check what sort of connection you’ve already got and buy an extender to match – there’s no point spending big money on a fancy 1200Mbps AC extender if you’ve only got a 300MBps N router.

Aside from speed the next possible extra you might consider is an extender with an in-built Ethernet switch. These models will enable you to connect wired devices to the extender, such as an older network-equipped TV, and potentially help improve overall speed because there will be fewer Wi-Fi signals interfering with each other.

A few models also have USB sockets so you can 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.

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

SEE ALSO: 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. Its main advantage is that 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 get 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 much 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, as shown in our tests, a top-notch 5GHz AC router provides very 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-notch one may well eliminate the need to buy an extender.

In case you were wondering, aside from the frequency band all Wi-Fi standards are backwards compatible, though you will need compatible hardware at both ends to get the performance benefit of the latest standards (most hardware still can’t use AC without an extra dongle).

Whole-home Wi-Fi

Something to consider now is the rise of so-called “whole-home Wi-Fi” solutions. There aren’t many around from big router companies right now, but 2017 will likely see several companies adopting the technology as part of their product line-up.

Whole-home Wi-Fi is special because, unlike a Wi-Fi extender, the router and extender you buy work as a single network, meaning you never have to manually connect to whichever router or extender you’re closer to. These things are expensive, but the seamless experience that they offer and the extra range they provide will be worth it to anybody wants a Wi-Fi network they no longer have to think about. Netgear Orbi, on our list here, is one example of this.

Best Wi-Fi Extenders: How We Tested

We’ve picked out a range Wi-Fi adapters and put them to the test. They vary from a very basic £20 unit to a high-speed unit costing £100, with plenty in between. We tested them by recording transfer speeds at two points distant from our main router, the class-leading Netgear R7000 Nighthawk. 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).

Baseline speeds for 5GHz were 189Mbps when right next to the router, 146Mbps in the upstairs bedroom and 20Mbps at the bottom of the garden (see what we mean about the rapid drop off in peak performance of 5GHz). For 2.4GHz it was 43Mbps, 19.2Mbps and 8Mbps respectively.

For our tests we placed the extender in a downstairs room below the upstairs bedroom, putting it 5m and two walls closer to the garden as well as a couple of metres and one wall closer to the bedroom.

We actually found that because the router we were using for 5GHz was so powerful, with its triple external antennae and beamforming, it far surpassed any of the extenders for the 7m test, with the extenders only improving things for the longer range garden test. However, for less hardcore routers you would likely see benefits at this shorter range.

At 2.4GHz the router struggled much more, with all but one of the extenders out pacing it for the 7m test and all far surpassing it for the 20m test.

Also, note we tested with a Netgear A6100 USB dongle with a max speed of AC600, so its peak performance isn’t as high as some adapters (you can reach over 500Mbps real-world performance with the fastest hardware). However, we’re not interested in peak performance but rather range.

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