Got snail-pace Wi-Fi or wireless coverage that doesn’t actually cover? You might not need to buy a new router. Instead, an extender could be what would sort your woes, and we’ve rounded up nine of the best Wi-Fi extenders, starting from just £15, all the way up to high-end mesh networks.
Don’t need to know the basics? Scroll past for our list of the best Wi-Fi extenders
The quickest internet connection can be massively hampered 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 right to the bottom of your garden, there are numerous scenarios that can leave you frustratingly short on signal.
Thankfully, there are several 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
Netgear EX3800 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £70 | Now £39.99
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 EX7000 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £159.99 | Now £120
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 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).
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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.
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.
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
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.
1 of 9
- Excellent 2.4Ghz performance
- N300 rated
- Very compact design
The D-Link DAP-1320 is the smallest adapter on test and by far the cheapest. We wouldn’t recommend it for people who have anything beyond the very most masic network demands, but at £15 it could well be the cheapest solution to your Wi-fi woes.
At 48 x 42 x 56 mm it’s not even as wide as a standard UK plug, so it won’t interfere with your other devices.
It’s also an elegant enough little thing, with a gently curved front with a single LED.
Feature wise it’s simplicity itself. Rated at 300Mbps it uses only the 2.4GHz band so doesn’t offer the contention reducing abilities of 5GHz, nor the speed of AC. However what it lacks in extras it makes up for in simplicity and basic performance.
A side mounted WPS button can be used to automatically connect to your router or a manual option is available where you connect to its default WI-Fi signal and it will automatically take you to a setup page when you open your browser.
It offers a clear choice of using either a different SSID for your extended network or the same as your original network (we recommend using different ones to save confusion) and you can choose whether to copy the same password or add a new one.
Performance is great, quite possibly due to the lack of competing wireless bands to deal with. The D-Link came in second at 7m (22.4Mbps) and fourth at 20m (13.6Mbps).
For an extender that can be had for as little as £20 it’s a great option if you only need 2.4GHz extension.
Buy Now at Amazon
At time of review the D-Link DAP-1320 was available for £38.
D-Link DAP-1520 AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender
2 of 9
- Dual-band Wi-Fi extension
- AC750 speeds
- Easy WPS setup
- Review price: £30
The D-Link DAP-1520 is the simplest and cheapest extender on test, retailing for just £30. For that you still get a dual-band extender capable of reaching theoretical speeds of up to 300Mbps over the 2.4GHz band and 433Mbps over 5GHz.
This is a markedly smaller device than the other extenders here. It will comfortably sit alongside other plugs and only extends 42mm below the dimensions of the plug itself.
However, with its compact form comes a modest feature set. There’s no Ethernet port for connecting wired devices to the extended network; no off switch for the extender; and, most importantly, there’s less room inside for more powerful aerials, therefore resulting in reduced speed and range.
Thankfully, setup is as easy as any other extender, with a quick tap of the WPS button all that’s needed to get everything going. What’s more, unlike some other devices on test, it extended both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks straight away, without having to press the WPS button again to connect to the second band.
When it comes to performance, the DAP-1520 inevitably can’t keep up with more expensive extenders, but it still put in a decent set of results. At 5GHz, it could deliver 69.8Mbpps in the short-range test, and still managed 43.5Mbps in the long-range test.
At 2.4GHz, it hit a reasonable 32.9Mbps at short-range but it struggled at long range, managing only 14.5Mbps. Most of the extenders were pretty close to their limit in the long-range test – only a few steps further away and they all struggled – but the D-Link was noticeably closer to its limit.
Overall, though, for £30 the DAP-1520 does what it needs to. It’s easy to setup, works reliably and provides enough speed and range to get the basics done.
Buy Now at Amazon
At time of review, the D-Link DAP-1520 was available for £39.
TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender
3 of 9
- Dual-band Wi-Fi extension
- AC1200 speeds
- 1 x Ethernet port for wired devices
- Review price: £45
The TP-Link RE350 isn’t the fastest Wi-Fi extender at close range but competes with the best at long range – and does so for half the price.
This is also a great-looking extender. Its glossy white and grey exterior, rounded shape and aerials give it an appealingly cute vibe. It’s still a fairly large device, so is likely to block adjacent plug sockets, but it isn’t as tall as the Netgear EX7300.
Of particular appeal about the RE350 is its setup. Similar to the other extenders on test, you connect it to your existing network simply by plugging it in and tapping the WPS button. However, here you get lights on the front of the device to indicate that it’s properly connected to each Wi-Fi band. If only one is lit then you hit the WPS button again and it should connect the other network.
One potential downside is that, unlike the other extenders on test, the TP-Link defaults to naming its extended networks the same as your existing ones. While this is convenient, it can lead to problems with your devices connecting via the least optimal route and could fool you into thinking you have a mesh network. You can manually change these by logging into the web interface of the extender or using TP-Link’s mobile app.
If you prefer the lights-free approach then there’s also a button on the side for turning them all off, alongside an on-off button and reset button.
A single Ethernet port sits on the top of the device, which isn’t perhaps the most convenient location, but it really depends on the wiring/plug socket situation in your home. It can be used to connect wired devices to the extended network but not to convert the extender into an access point.
Performance-wise, in our short-range test at 5GHz the RE350 delivered an average of 83.6Mbps – which is impressive, although comfortably behind the fastest. Moreover, at long range it dropped to 44.8Mbps, which is again decent but well behind the best.
At 2.4GHz, however, it was impressive at long range, with a figure of 31.7Mbps. At short range it was only middling; but that long-range performance is where it really counts.
All told, the RE350 is a competitively priced option, with good all-round performance – although there’s a slight bias towards long range, rather than raw speed.
Buy Now at Amazon
At time of review, the TP-Link RE350 was available for £49.
Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ Wi-Fi Range Extender
5 of 9
- Dual-band Wi-Fi extension
- AC1900+ speeds
- 1 x Ethernet port
- Review price: £70
The Linksys RE7000 can’t claim to be the fastest Wi-Fi extender out there, but it can deliver some lightning-quick speeds and offers decent range, too. This makes it a good mid-range option at its £70 asking price.
It’s a very tidy-looking option. Although large, like many other super-fast extenders, the RE7000 has a particularly neat and elegant form factor; its sheer, gloss-white front is interrupted by only a single light and Linksys logo.
For features, you get an on/off switch alongside a WPS button and reset button on one side, while on the underside is the single Ethernet port. The plug socket is removable, so plug standards from other countries can be used, but you don’t get any others included. And that’s your lot.
Setup is simple: a couple of presses of the WPS button to connect the two Wi-Fi bands to get going.
As for performance, the RE7000 was a bit of a mixed bag. On the short-range test at 5GHz it delivered very fast upload speeds of 126.7Mbps, but less impressive download speeds (99.7Mbps) for a notable average of 113.2Mbps. However, all the other extenders in this test were faster for downloads rather than uploads.
At long range things flipped; the RE7000 was slow for uploads (34.3Mbps, from laptop to server) but reasonably fast for downloads (78.8Mbps), for an average of 56.6Mbps.
Meanwhile, at 2.4GHz it was fast and more consistent at short range, with an overall average of 73.2Mbps. At long range it plummeted, managing only a 32.7Mbps upload speed and 17.5Mpbs download for an average of 25.1Mbps.
Overall, then, the RE7000 remains a good option for the price, especially if you don’t need the longest range. However, by spending a little extra you’ll get better speed and range.
At time of review, the Linksys RE7000 was available for £109.
Asus RP-AC66 AC1750 Dual-band Repeater
6 of 9
- Dual-band Wi-Fi extension
- AC1750 speeds
- 1 x Ethernet port
- Review price: £80
The Asus RP-AC66 is rated to deliver AC1750 Wi-Fi speeds and costs around £80, making it one of the more premium options in this group. It can’t quite match the speeds of the fastest units here, but then it comfortably undercuts them on price.
Despite being slightly slower than the Netgear EX7300, for example, the RP-AC66 is actually quite a large unit, at 167mm tall and 83mm wide – and this doesn’t account for the extra space taken up by the adjustable aerials, either. It looks smart enough, though, and has a slim profile, so doesn’t protrude too far from the wall.
For features, there’s a single Ethernet port on the left side, an on/off switch on the underside, and on the face are three LEDs and a couple of buttons. Two of the LEDs indicate each of the two Wi-Fi bands being correctly connected to your router, while the third just shows power. As for the buttons, they’re for WPS and resetting the device.
The Asus RP-AC66 can also function as an access point, with the Ethernet port providing the feed signal.
Setup is as simple as any other. Options exists to use either WPS, or login to the device’s default Wi-Fi and setup it up via its web interface. It took a couple of attempts to get the WPS to kick in, but it soon got going and found a rock-solid signal.
As for performance, the RP-AC66 is an excellent all-rounder. Its 5GHz performance is excellent in the close-range test, hitting an average of 96.05Mbps (85.8MBps upload; 106.3Mbps download), making it the third-fastest in this test. It maintained this position in the long-range test, too, dropping to an average of only 78.8Mbps (78.2Mbps upload, 79.4Mbps download).
At 2.4GHz, its speed of 44.6Mbps (47Mbps upload; 27.8Mbps download) in the close-range test was only good enough for fourth place, a position it maintained in the long-range test, achieving 30.7Mbps (27.8Mbps upload; 33.5Mbps download).
Notably, unlike some of the faster extenders we’ve tested, the RP-AC66 wasn’t noticeably faster or slower for uploads or downloads.
Overall, then, the Asus RP-AC66 delivers exactly the features and performance you’d expect given its price. It isn’t the fastest, but it’s still impressively speedy and is well worth considering.
Buy Now at Amazon
At time of review, the Asus RP-AC66 was available for £108.