There’s nothing more annoying than a black spot in your Wi-Fi network. Fortunately there are a variety of ways to stamp them out. These are the best we’ve tested.
The NetGear Orbi combines effortless setup with blisteringly fast speeds at long range. It’s not cheap, but if you want total peace of mind without any hassle then the Orbi is the Wi-Fi extender to get. £288.22
Best Overall Wifi Extender
The NetGear Orbi combines effortless setup with blisteringly fast speeds at long range. It’s not cheap, but if you want total peace of mind without any hassle then the Orbi is the Wi-Fi extender to get.
If you have basic needs and are on a budget then the TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender is the best value Wi-Fi extender currently available. If you’re after something a little more advanced, have a large home or particularly poor Wi-Fi signal the the Netgear Orbi (RBK50) Mesh System is the best overall option, though it’s fairly pricey.
But before you part with your hard earned cash, keep in mind a host of new Wi-Fi extenders and mesh network systems are set to hit the market in the very near future. These include the awesome looking Asus AiMesh AX6100 Wi-Fi System that was unveiled in Computex earlier this year. If you can wait, we’ll be putting the new systems through their paces the moment we get samples.
How we pick the best Wi-Fi Extenders
To compare Wi-Fi Extenders accurately we need to make sure all parameters remain the same. That’s why we review all Wi-Fi extenders in the same location, using the same router and network.
BEST VALUE WIFI EXTENDER
The TP-Link RE350 AC1200 performs very well for its price. It’s not as fast as more expensive range extenders but delivers excellent performance at long range, where you need it most.
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. With the router in a downstairs front room, we tested at a rear, second-floor bedroom (approximately 7m/23ft through two walls and a floor) and at the bottom of the garden (approximately 20m/66ft and through another wall). The extender was placed in a rear downstairs 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 just 11.2Mbps.
Note that the router is actually faster, or as fast as, the range extenders in the close-range tests. This provides a good indication of the maximum performance of the extender, making it a more accurate comparison.
Netgear Orbi RBK50
- Very fast speeds at long range
- Easy setup and use
- Consistent coverage
- Much faster performance than Wi-Fi extenders
- Single SSID makes managing connections easy
- High upfront cost
- Modest feature set for power users
- Not the fastest router when in close range
Yes, the Orbi is expensive, but the Orbi isn’t a pure Wi-Fi extender. Instead, the Orbi is both a router and a Wi-Fi extender that work on the same Wi-Fi network (or SSID). It means that no matter where you are in your home, you’ll be either seamlessly connected to the base router or to the extender, with no messing around and fiddling to connect to the router or extender you’re closest to.
What do you get for your money? One of the most advanced pieces of consumer networking on the market. The base package gets you a main router unit and one satellite. Setup is simple, and once you’re up and running performance is exceptional.
What’s special about the Orbi is that it uses a dedicated 5GHz Wi-Fi band for backhaul. That’s technical speak meaning, unlike traditional Wi-Fi extenders that act like just another device on your network, the Orbi units talk to each other on their own private network. You get maximum speed on the networks your other devices are connected to, without losing speed as a result of half the band being occupied by router-to-router communication.
As you’ll see from our benchmarking figures in the full Netgear Orbi review, this makes a big difference.
The Orbi isn’t the fastest in terms of raw speed, but nothing comes close when it comes long-range coverage and is a great buy if you have the budget to completely overhaul your home broadband setup.
TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender
- Impressive long-range performance
- Fetching design
- Simple setup
- Well priced
- Better for range than outright speed
- 5GHz performance could be better
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.
Netgear Orbi RBK20
- Router and mesh system
- Flexible configuration
- Speeds drop at range
- Comparatively expensive
The Netgear Orbi RBK20 is a cheaper version of the original Netgear Orbi (RBK50) router-cum-range extender hybrid. You get the same easy on the eye design, same neat interface and the same super-stable tri-band Wi-Fi that made us love the original so much. It’s aimed more at people who don’t live in big houses or aren’t bothered about setting up extensive home networks than power users.
If this is you, that’s perhaps just as well, because testing revealed that Wi-Fi speeds dropped off relatively sharply between five and ten metres. The fact that there’s only one Gigabit Ethernet port available to you means that if you want to wire in games consoles, a PC and a smart TV or set-top box, then you’d have to invest in a network switch. Most routers will come with at least three or four Gigabit ports these days.
Equally, the price isn’t quite low enough to make this a must-have system. But it’s important to remember that for your money you’re getting a router as well; unlike BT’s Whole Home WiFi, for example, which complements your existing router, the RKB20 Orbi package is a complete ecosystem. If you’re in the market for a mesh Wi-Fi set up for your flat and you needed a new router anyway, this might be just the ticket. In that case, we’d still recommend checking out the more versatile RBK50 first of all, which, depending on where you look, isn’t that much more expensive.
- Excellent 2.4Ghz performance
- Very compact design
- Simple and low cost
- Only supports 2.4GHz, not the faster 5GHz
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 basic network demands, but at £20 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 connect to your router automatically. Alternatively, 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.
D-Link DAP-1520 AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender
- Low cost
- Limited range
- Average speeds
The D-Link DAP-1520 is one of the simplest and cheapest extenders 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 it 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.
Netgear EX3800 Wi-Fi Range Extender with passthrough
- Good overall range and speed
- Convenient mains passthrough
- Good value
- Slightly dull design
- Annoying setup
The Netgear EX3800 is a great mid-range, dual-band Wi-Fi extender with a decent set of features.
It’s not the prettiest Wi-Fi extender in our round-up, featuring a noticeably boxy design and sprawling ventilation holes, but it ticks all the right boxes when it comes to functionality.
For starters it’s fairly small considering its specs, measuring in at a compact 55 x 114 x 34mm. Its controls are also intelligently placed, with it featuring four front-facing lights that clearly indicate the status of the extender. The mains passthrough will also be a welcome addition for people with a limited number of plug sockets.
Setting up the extender is a little bit of a faff compared to some simpler extenders. To start, you have plug it in and press the WPS button on it and the one on your router. After a brief signal tango the two will connect. From there you have to log in to the extender by connecting to its network and navigating to www.mywifiext.net. What makes the process annoying is that you then have to sign up to the Netgear Genie service to access the extender’s settings.
Fortunately, the Netgear EX3800’s performance more than justifies the extra faff, particularly at close range. During the 5GHz short-range test it could deliver 61.9Mbps speeds. It then delivered reasonable 34.5Mbps speeds in our 2.4GHz long-range test.
As a result, if you regularly stick to the 5GHz spectrum, then the EX3800 is a great, cost-effective choice.
Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ Wi-Fi Range Extender
- Looks good
- Great short-range 5GHz performance
- Long range speeds disappointing
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 is particularly neat and elegant; 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.
Asus RP-AC66 AC1750 Dual-band Repeater
- Looks smart
- Excellent all-rounder
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 exist 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 was 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.
- Ultra-fast and stable connection
- Effortless setup
- The easiest way to extend a fast network connection
- Almost as expensive as a Mesh network
The Devolo GigaGate is a niche proposition given its relatively high price, but sits in an interesting middle ground between full-fledged Mesh Wi-Fi systems and slower, cheaper Wi-Fi extenders. The GigaGate is effectively a very fast two-part Wi-Fi extender using a dedicated Wi-Fi channel to shuttle data back and forth between a base unit connected to your router, and a satellite that’s in a room that has poor coverage. The satellite then creates its own Wi-Fi network for your distant devices to connect to.
It performed exceptionally well in our tests, managing long-distance speeds better than many high-end routers and all Wi-Fi extenders, so its performance isn’t in doubt. Your only question should ask, is if a PowerLine network will perform better if your home is wired up correctly, or if spending a bit extra on a mesh network is better value. For what it sets out to do, though, the GigaGate is excellent.
Buy now: Devolo GigaGate for £185 from Amazon
BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
- Good overall speed
- Great Wi-Fi coverage
- Quick and easy setup
- Cheaper than many mesh router systems
- Needs base router
- One Ethernet and no USB on each disc
BT has abandoned selling conventional Wi-Fi extenders, although you can still buy some of its older models from other shops. Instead, it offers either Powerline adapters or the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi.
The latter is a full mesh Wi-Fi kit that uses nodes that you place throughout your home and which entirely replace your existing Wi-Fi system.
It’s a form of mesh router, similar to the Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop. However, unlike most other similar systems, it doesn’t replace your router, making it purely a Wi-Fi replacement/extension solution – which explains its inclusion in this test.
To set up the system, you simply download the Whole Home app to your phone then plug one of the nodes into your router and follow the instructions. Repeat this for each of the nodes, and you’re ready to go. It’s all automated and incredibly simple.
Then, you place one node next to your router and the remaining two around the house: say, one on each floor in a three-storey home.
The resulting network is incredibly fast – around 300Mbps throughout a large home – and, moreover, you don’t have to deal with numerous different network bands and SSIDs. The whole system uses just a single SSID.
It’s a great system, as all mesh router systems are. BT now offers the Whole Home Wi-Fi in packs with one, two or three nodes. Three nodes should cover most regular UK homes, and two nodes are good for flats and smaller homes. The two-node and single-node options can be used to expanding an existing BT Whole Home Wi-Fi network to get even more coverage where required.
Those are our top picks of the best Wi-Fi range extenders. If you want to know more about how Wi-Fi extenders work and what to look out for when buying one then read on.
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).
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.
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 – What are Wi-Fi Frequencies?
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.
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|BEST OVERALL: NetGear Orbi||BEST VALUE: TP-Link RE350|
|The NetGear Orbi combines effortless setup with blisteringly fast speeds at long range. It’s not cheap, but if you want total peace of mind without any hassle then the Orbi is the Wi-Fi extender to get.||The TP-Link RE350 AC1200 performs very well for its price. It’s not as fast as more expensive range extenders but delivers excellent performance at long range, where you need it most.|
|Buy now for £288.22 from Amazon|