Wi-Fi is great. I still remember the days when computer networking meant a complicated web of cables had to be run with some difficult setup procedures involved, even for the most basic tasks. As a result we didn’t tend to network our devices much short of the occasional LAN party.
Now you can get Wi-Fi that is as good as or even better than a wired connection, and getting all of it setup is super easy meaning you can have all your devices connected to your network with little fuss. It’s a great improvement from how things used to be and has really changed the way we interact with technology. Wi-Fi is fairly ubiquitous in households now. Unfortunately that ubiquity can make it starkly frustrating when you don’t have Wi-Fi access. Perhaps you’re in a far off corner of your backyard, or an obscure part of your house that for some reason isn’t blanketed by your Wi-Fi coverage. You want to be able to access your Wi-Fi network wherever you are on your property at all times without having to jump through any proverbial hoops. That’s where Wi-Fi range extenders come in to the picture.
Wi-Fi Range Extenders 101
These are devices that can really help with this problem and do what it sounds like they do. They can extend the range, strength, and usefulness of your Wi-Fi network beyond the reach of your Wi-Fi router. Today we’ll be taking a look at a few options in the category to give you a primer on Wi-Fi range extenders so you’ll come to understand what they are all about, and what various models can do for you.
Of course before you get to range extenders its worth looking at your router itself.
Make sure you have a sufficiently powerful model. It may be worth upgrading to one with a stronger signal for greater range if you’re experiencing a shortfall. If you would rather just jump straight to a Wi-Fi range extender, no problem. They’ll work with pretty much any Wi-Fi router you’ll have, whether it’s a top of the line wireless AC powerhouse of a router, or a basic model. What you’ll want to do is setup the Wi-Fi range extender on the periphery of your network where you still get adequate signal. The Wi-Fi range extender (once set up) will act as a sort of relay station, extending the network radially from wherever you have it positioned.
So if there is a corner of your property where you need better or stronger connectivity to your Wi-Fi network, find the nearest spot to that where you can still get adequate connectivity and set you extender up there. If your router is set up in the top floor of your home and the signal is reaching as far as the ground floor but you want it in the basement too, for example, then you would find somewhere convenient on the first floor to install your new Wi-Fi range extender. Once you do, you’ll find that your basement now gets great coverage to your Wi-Fi network and you can now use it as you would anywhere else in the house.
Now let’s take a look at a few specific models of Wi-Fi range extenders to see exactly what they’re like and what they can offer you.
We’ll start our journey with the Netgear AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender in white. This is one of the more basic and straightforward models of Wi-Fi range extenders. It will help you extend the connectivity of your Wi-Fi network at the fringes of its range and ought to work with any Wi-Fi network. The specs provide it with dual band connectivity and transfer speeds topping out at 750 Mbps. It of course takes advantage of easy WPA security, has a nice white finish to help it visually blend in to your home, and has a design which lets you plug it in to a power outlet and leave it in place, out of the way. I personally like that sort of form factor as this is the sort of device you don’t want to have to give much thought to. You want to get one, set it up (in a couple of minutes with WPS), and never have to really think about it. The design and the coloring help it simply keep out of sight and out of mind once you have it set up how you like it which can be very convenient. The Dual band AC networking provides a decent signal extension of around a hundred feet without any complicated setup whatsoever.
If you just need a small boost and no fancy features, then this extender will certainly do the trick. The connectivity isn’t amazing at the extreme limits of its range but for many users this model will certainly suffice for basic Wi-Fi range extension. This unit simply gives you a very simple device that kicks your range up a little bit if it’s having trouble reaching across a couple of rooms.
If you were hoping for something a little better than that, then perhaps consider the D-Link Wireless AC1200 dual band gigabit range extender.
This model is noticeably different to the Netgear model we just looked at, though similarly priced. It sports 5GHz performance but unlike the Netgear model with one gigabit LAN port, this model has four of them so you can plug in numerous devices. It also has a very different form factor. While still stylish, this unit does not mount to your power outlet and so you’ll need to consider where you’re going to put it. It’s also black, which doesn’t tend to blend in to the background as much in homes. Where to set it up and keep it out of sight is now more of a concern with the bigger hardware which is your tradeoff for having more power and functionality. It even has a USB 2.0 port so you can connect an external storage device to network. WPS makes setup a breeze, and it supports 802.11ac level networking to boot with WPA security. It has a lot of handy software features too like WPS, DLNA, and more.
At close to medium range I found that this model performed fairly well but once I began to close in on the 100 foot range it began to struggle. This model is in some ways a step up from the Netgear AC750 if you’re looking to take advantage of the additional features and connectivity, but if you’re simply looking for basic range extension for your Wi-Fi network, it’s worth considering the differences against your personal preferences and needs.
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Now let’s look at one of the best Wi-Fi range extenders on the market to see how is stacks up.
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi range extender is among the best available models and has the features to prove it. First up, the bandwidth throughput on this model is glorious. Once you complete the super-simple setup you’ll be enjoying some fantastic speed and range. Even beyond 100 feet I was still getting a strong and stable connection, streaming HD video content as if I was just next to my router. Not everybody will need this sort of performance but for those that do, it is certainly great to have. With this unit I was able to laugh in the face of Wi-Fi network range limitations and boldly work on the fringes without worrying about my connection whatsoever, no matter how bandwidth intensive my activities. Beyond the sheer power of this router, you’ll also find five gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, DLNA, parental controls, and more. I
f you have an entertainment den tucked away in the basement, or a home office all the way up in the attic, for example, this Wi-Fi range extender is just what you need to give you superior reach, with loads of connectivity and all the added functionality you could ask for.
While the more basic entry level Wi-Fi range extenders do the trick in terms of giving you a little extra reach for typical web browsing activities at the extreme reaches of your wireless network, there are plenty of models available which can offer more features and connectivity options. Whether you want to be able to check your e-mails by the pool, or stream HD movies in the basement, there are plenty of choices out there to help you give your Wi-Fi network the extra range and connectivity it needs, without having to go overboard. These extenders are all very easy to set up and get running, so pick out whichever seems most convenient while still fulfilling your needs. Take it for a test drive once you get it home and make sure it lives up to your expectations right away. That way, if you decide you want a little more or a little less power or connectivity you can return it to your nearest Best Buy to exchange it for the model that best suits your needs.