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November 29, 2017

Extend your Wi-Fi range with one of the best Wi-Fi extenders

by John_A

If your Wi-Fi router lacks enough oomph to reach all your devices or leaves you with dead zones around the home or office, you’ve got a problem. As much as a decent router can alleviate that problem, Wi-Fi extenders can push your signal even further. They take your current wireless signal and amplify it so that it reaches the furthest corners of your home while offering a host of other useful benefits in the process.

For the most affordable solution to the problem, we’d suggest learning how to convert a old router you have lying around into a Wi-Fi extender of your own. Tinkering around isn’t for everyone,  but it’s a good way to save some money.

Otherwise, we’ve put together a list of the best Wi-Fi extenders you can buy, whether you’re looking for a feature-packed beast or merely an affordable device for your home or office.

Our Pick – Netgear EX6200 (AC1200) ($85)

Netgear‘s powerful Wi-Fi extender has the ability to create dual-band Wi-Fi speeds up to 1200Mbps and spread them throughout your house with a powerful 700mW range booster. So far, so good – but it’s the extra features that really make this powerhouse stand out from the crowd and the reason that we consider it our best pick for a Wi-Fi extender.

First, there are useful tracking features that check your Wi-Fi strength where you set up the extender, which allows you to pinpoint the precise spot in your home or office to put the satellite device for maximum range. You can also measure channel interference to help locate any serious problem areas. Perhaps even more interesting, you have the ability to use a dedicated Fastlane band to create an extra-powerful signal, which is ideal for demanding tasks such as HD streaming or online gaming.

There are also features here more suited for offices or complex entertainment setups, such as the ability to directly connect up to five wired devices into the extender using its Gigabit Ethernet ports, which ultimately gives you a more reliable connection.

Note that this extender uses a Wi-Fi connection to amplify the signal – it does not need to be plugged directly into your router to function (though it does need a wall outlet for power). This is a common type of setup these days. If you buy a Netgear router and specifically format it to be an access point, then you can attach the EX6200, but there’s not usually a good reason to do so.

It might not be as understated as the plug-in Wi-Fi extenders on this list, but it’s still our pick as the best of the bunch.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Best Buy Netgear Walmart

Best router with touchscreen – Amped TAP-EX3 (AC1750) ($170)

The Amped TAP-EX3 is a very different model from our top Netgear pick, but is still one of the best Wi-Fi extenders we found, especially for larger homes and families that want an easy solution. We’re talking about a lot of range here, around 12,000 extra square feet of coverage for your network and some of the highest speeds we’ve seen in an extender with its AC1750 rating. The TAP-EX3 contains 12 amplifiers in all, designed to broadcast a dual-band Wi-Fi signal powerful enough to stream 4K content and play demanding online games without a stutter.

The standout feature here, however, is the touchscreen. While small, it allows for easy and obvious setup procedures (oddly enough, with an included, unnecessary stylus). If anything goes wrong, the touchscreen makes a great focal point to locate the problem, reset, or find a resolution. There are also five Gigabit Ethernet ports for directly connecting devices like smart TVs or gaming consoles for a more straightforward connection – these setups are handy if you don’t mind putting the extender right by your TV and the router at the other end of your house, a placement that may seem counter-intuitive at first.

On the downside, the price for the TAP-EX3 may be a little high for some homeowners, and its capabilities are overkill for a typical family home.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Best portable router – D-Link DCH-M225 ($43)

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have a far more affordable model, suitable for smaller homes or offices where the primary problems may be interference instead of range (although of course range will also be boosted). The D-Link DCH-M225 is a direct plug-in model that fits into the outlet like a little adapter.

The small size, plus the low price, make this the most portable offering on our list and means you can take it with you if you’re heading somewhere that you expect to have poor Wi-Fi reception. You will still have to download the QRS mobile app to complete installation though.

Notably, this model also offers AirPlay support if you are an Apple fan and really don’t want to buy another AirPort device.

On a less positive note, this D-Link model only provides up to a 300Mbps, single-band connection. That’s certainly okay, but it’s not enough for high demand situations like lots of HD streaming, or gaming from multiple devices. You’ll need a stronger device for the more demanding tasks, but the portability of this one make it worth the mention.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Newegg Walmart

Best middle ground – Linksys RE6500-FFP (AC1200) ($80)

If you want a Wi-Fi extender that covers almost all of the bases of the bigger boys without the heftier price tags, the Linksys RE6500-FFP is a solid choice. It’s not quite out top-pick, but it’s not far off either.

This 10,000 square foot, dual-band extender is a strong middle-of-the-road offering, letting you retain the ability to speed things up a bit, this time with crossband tech that takes data from one band and delivers it using the other band for a higher rate of efficiency and speed. Other unique features include an audio jack for connecting music devices, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and varied security options that offer WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption to choose from.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Newegg Walmart

Best budget router – D-Link Wi-Fi DAP-1520 (AC750) (from $20)

This affordable, outlet-based model does provide dual-band extension – in fact, it can turn an older single-band router into a dual-band signal. This is a handy option if you have one of those single-band routers and still like it, but just wish it had more range and could handle more devices without faltering.

At $20, this budget offering is the most affordable way to expand your wireless network and is certainly a less expensive solution than buying an entirely new router! However, the network speed is fairly low, so this is most suitable for low-key Wi-Fi connections that don’t need to stream the very latest ultra HD content.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Newegg Walmart

Best alternative – Eero ($203)

If you are considering the possibility of buying a new router entirely, take a look at Eero. Eero is part of a growing number of next-gen routers that have evolved into multiple device setups (another example is Luma). Instead of being a single router placed in one central location, these routers are made of several different parts that work together simultaneously. Eero, for example, is made of three hubs that you spread throughout your house.

As you can see, these routers tend to be much more expensive than traditional versions, at least for now. But they also have multiple advantages. Notably, the multi-device setup essentially eliminates problems with range and dead zones, and allows you to re-adjust on the fly to fix any particular issues. It may be the future of routers, and if you can afford one of these solutions you can kiss your typical range issues goodbye.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

Updated by Jon Martindale on November 28, 2017 with updated formatting and copy.

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