What to look for in a Wi-Fi extender
There are tons of wireless extenders on the market, but not all of them are created equal. Here’s what we think makes a range extender worth your money.
802.11ac and dual-band Wi-Fi
To really get the most out of your Wi-Fi extender, make sure you get one that supports a modern wireless standard.
The current go-to is 802.11ac, which offers great range and supports speeds up to 1,300 Mbps. Even budget routers and extenders should come with 802.11ac these days, so there’s really no reason to accept anything less.
And for best results, make sure your extender supports both the 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz wireless band—this helps it handle heavy traffic better.
A WPS button
WPS, or Wi-Fi protected setup, makes it easy to add new devices to your network. You just push the WPS button on your router, and as long as you access it within a certain time period, you won’t need to input the password.
This can make getting onto the network a bit more convenient and may allow you to use a stronger password (since you won’t have to remember it).
The feature is really only useful if you frequently add new devices to the network, though, and it’s more of a convenience than a truly vital addition. Think of it as a nice bonus that can act as a tiebreaker if you’re stuck between a couple options.
Do you want a traditional extender or a powerline adapter?
There are two types of Wi-Fi extenders on the market: 1) the traditional kind that connects to your router via Wi-Fi like any other device, and 2) powerline adapters.
Powerline adapters consist of two adapters rather than just one. One of the adapters plugs in near your main router and connects via Ethernet cable. It then sends the internet signal through the electrical lines of your home to the other adapter, which you can plug in anywhere you like.
The advantage of a powerline adapter is that it lets you place the extender as far away from your main router as you like without losing signal strength, whereas traditional extenders need to be within a certain range to get the best results.
This means you can (in theory) get more range out of a powerline adapter.
The disadvantage of a powerline adapter is that the signal depends on the integrity of your electrical wiring, which can sometimes be finicky, especially in older homes.
Neither option is necessarily better than the other. There’s really no way to know if a powerline adapter will work well in your home without trying, either. So if you do go for one of these, first make sure you can return it just in case it doesn’t work out.