The Best Wi-Fi Range Extenders for Just About Everyone
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It doesn’t matter what you’re paying for at home — you’re going to need with plenty of range if you want to put those speeds to work in whatever room you want. Too often, a single router won’t quite cut it on its own, leading to dead zones where you can’t connect.
This is where a Wi-Fi range extender can come in handy. A range extender, or Wi-Fi booster, is a compact, plug-in device that uses built-in Wi-Fi radios and antennas to pair wirelessly with your router. Plug one in near the edge of your router’s wireless range and pair it with the network, and it’ll start rebroadcasting the signal farther out into your home. All of today’s top models are less expensive than upgrading to , they’re a cinch to set up, they’ll work no matter what brand of router you’re using and in most cases it’s easy to give them the same SSID and password as your original router. That creates a single, seamless connection that you won’t need to think about too much.
CNET Smart Home range extender tests
The CNET Smart Home has a fiber internet connection with matching upload and download speeds of up to 150Mbps. That’s a far cry from the more and more of us have access to (not to mention the new, emerging in some parts of the country). However, it’s in line with the average internet speed in the US, which makes it a great place to test how home networking products will work for the average consumer.
For my purposes, I started by setting up a router in the Smart Home’s laundry room, which is where the modem is set up. I went with the , a perfectly decent model I reviewed last year. It offered reliable performance but limited range when I tested it — and that’s exactly what I wanted for these range extender tests.
Sure enough, the router was able to deliver strong speeds on the home’s main floor, but as soon as I headed down to the basement level, speeds started to fall. That includes single-digit upload speeds in the bourbon room and the mud room. (Yes, the Smart Home has a bourbon room that the previous owners used to age their own barrels. We don’t have any barrels of our own, but it smells amazing in there. Kentucky, folks!)
Bring in the extenders
With my control speeds established, it was time to start adding in the range extenders and seeing which ones improved things the best. Pairing each one with the router only required me to plug it in nearby and press the WPS button on both devices — after that, I relocated them downstairs, to the basement rec room, which was the farthest point from the router that still had a decent signal and speeds. Whenever you’re using a range extender, that’s typically the best place to put it: just shy of the edge of your router’s range, where it will still receive a strong enough signal to put out a strong signal of its own. The best way to find that spot? Grab your phone or laptop and .
In the end, I ran a total of at least 96 speed tests for each extender, two rounds of 24 tests to find its average speeds to a Wi-Fi 5 client device (an iPad Air 2 from 2015) and another two rounds of 24 tests to check its speeds to a Wi-Fi 6 client device (a 2021 Lenovo ThinkPad laptop). In each case, I started the first round of tests with a fresh connection in the laundry room, closest to the router, and then started the second round of tests with a fresh connection in the mud room, farthest from the router. With each test, I logged the client device’s download speed, its upload speed and the latency of the connection.
Solid results from the 2022 crop
Ready to see how the range extenders did in terms of upload and download speeds? Let’s take a look.
On the left, this first set of graphs shows you the average download speeds by room for each extender I tested. On the right, you’re looking at the average upload speeds. All of these speeds are to my Wi-Fi 6 test device, a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop from 2021.
So what jumps out? First, all five of these extenders did a decent job of boosting speeds in those last four rooms, down in the basement. With all of them, I had a faster connection throughout the house than I had when I connected through the router alone. The D-Link EaglePro AI struggled a bit with upload speeds in the basement, but still kept things above a minimum of 20Mbps or so.
That was with a Wi-Fi 6 device, though. How did the performance look with an older Wi-Fi 5 device from several years ago?
Things get interesting here — you can see a greater gulf between download and upload performance, as well as some more distinct weak spots and dead zones throughout the house. Each of the five extenders struggled to keep uploads speedy in the upstairs dinette, for instance. With Wi-Fi 6, we barely saw any issues there at all, save for the Netgear Nighthawk X4S.
Meanwhile, in the basement, our top picks from TP-Link and Linksys (as well as the high-performing Asus RP-AX56) were each able to keep download speeds above 100Mbps, which is great. Uploads were another story, as all of the extenders struggled. None of them failed to deliver a usable upload connection outright, though the D-Link EaglePro AI came close with single-digit upload speeds in the basement’s farthest reaches.
Another key takeaway from these tests is that Wi-Fi 6 delivers some of its most noticeable speed boosts on the upload side of things. If you’re looking to make lots of video calls, upload lots of large files to the web or anything else requiring sturdy upload performance, then upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 hardware should be high on your list of priorities (assuming you haven’t already made the jump).
Affordable Wi-Fi extender picks
For my first batch of range extender tests a few years back, I tested four bargain-priced models to see which one offered the most bang for the buck. It was the start of the pandemic and people were scrambling to bolster their home networks — I wanted to be sure we could point them to a good, budget-friendly pick that would do the best job as a signal booster offering an extra room’s worth of coverage in a pinch.
In the end, the aforementioned was the runaway winner. Currently available for $25 or less, it remains a solid value pick.
I’ve separated these four models from the other six because the test setup was different in 2020 and it wouldn’t be fair to make direct comparisons with those results. You’ve already read about the TP-Link RE220, but here are my takeaways from the other three I tested:
: This was the only range extender that ever managed to hit triple digits during my 2020 tests, with an average speed of 104Mbps in my bedroom during evening hours. Setup was just as simple as what I experienced with TP-Link, too. I was able to stream HD video, browse the web and make video calls on the extender’s network without any issue.
Network speeds were inconsistent though — and much slower in daytime hours, with a bigger dropoff than I saw with TP-Link. The device also dropped my connection at one point during my speed tests. On top of that, the app was too finicky for my tastes, refusing to let me log in and tweak settings with the supplied device password, something that ultimately forced me to reset the device. That’s too much hassle for me to recommend outright, but it’s selling for less than $30 these days, so consider it as a potential alternate pick if the TP-Link RE220 goes out of stock.
: It’s a dated-looking device and it wasn’t a strong performer in my tests. The 2.4GHz band was able to sustain workable speeds between 30 and 40Mbps throughout most of my home, which was strong enough to stream video with minimal buffering, or to hold a quick video call with a slight delay. But the 5GHz band was surprisingly weak, often dropping into single digits with only a single wall separating my PC or connected device from the range extender.
I wasn’t a fan of the web interface, as it seemed more interested in getting me to register for the warranty (and opt in to marketing emails) than in actually offering me any sort of control over the connection. WPS button-based setup lets you skip all of that, which is helpful, and some outlets now have it listed for as little as $20, but even so, this is one you can safely pass by.
: My speeds were consistent with the RE6350 — they just weren’t fast.
By default, the device automatically steers you between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but with download speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 35Mbps throughout all of my tests over multiple days, it might as well just default to the slower 2.4GHz band. The device supports automatic firmware upgrades, which is great, bucksays but you can’t use the Linksys Wi-Fi app to tweak settings — instead, you’ll have to log in via the web portal.
On top of all that, the RE6350 seemed to be the least stable of all the extenders I tested in 2020, with more than one dropped connection during my tests. Still priced at about $50 from most retailers, it has just too many negatives and not enough value for me to recommend it.
Other things to consider
Aside from my speed tests, I made sure to stream video on each extender’s network, and I made several video calls while connected through each one. I also spent time playing with each extender’s settings. You shouldn’t expect much, but most will at least make it easy to change the extension network’s name or password. Some include app controls with extra features, too.
My top pick, the TP-Link RE605X, makes it easy to tweak settings via TP-Link’s Tether app on an Android or iOS device. Again, the features make for slim pickings, but you can check signal strength or turn on High-Speed Mode, which dedicates the 2.4GHz band for traffic from the router to the range extender, leaving the 5GHz free for your normal Wi-Fi network traffic. That mode actually wasn’t as fast as sharing the 5GHz band like normal when I tested it out, because those incoming 2.4GHz speeds are limited, but it still might be a useful option in some situations.
It’s also worth noting that setting a range extender up is about as painless as it gets. Most support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, which is a universal protocol that wireless networking devices can use to connect with each other. Just plug the range extender in, wait for it to boot up, press the extender’s WPS button and then press the WPS button on your router within 2 minutes. Voila, connected.
It’s also worth making sure that your range extender includes at least one Ethernet port (almost all of them do). If you can directly connect your wired device (like a smart TV), then you’ll enjoy speeds that are as fast as possible.
Should I just get a mesh router?
One last note: If you’re living in a larger home or if you need speeds that are reliably faster than 100Mbps at range, then it’s probably worth it to go ahead and upgrade to a mesh router with its own range-extending satellite devices. You’ve got more options than ever these days, and like the ones tested here.
For instance, I had a three-piece mesh router on hand during my 2020 tests, so I set it up and ran some speed tests alongside the four range extenders I initially tested. My average speeds stayed well above 100Mbps throughout my entire house, even in the back. Everything was consolidated to a single, unified network by default and the mesh automatically routed my connection through an extender whenever it made sense. Simple!
Better still, a three-piece version of that system with a router and two extenders — and it’s just one of several decent mesh setups you can get for under $200. For instance, the 2019 version of Eero’s mesh system now costs . Meanwhile, the AC1200 version of the is my top value pick in the mesh category, with a three-pack that’s available . None of those systems support Wi-Fi 6, mind you, but even so, options like those are why I don’t recommend spending much more than $100 on a range extender.
If you’re willing to spend more than $200 on a mesh router, you’ll start seeing options that support , as well as tri-band models with an additional 5GHz band that you can dedicate to traffic between the router and the extenders. If you can afford it, my recommendation is to invest in a system that does both, as tri-band design paired with Wi-Fi 6 makes for .
We’re also seeing a new crop of mesh routers that support , which adds in exclusive access to the , ultrawide 6GHz band. I’ve got plenty of information on systems like those in , so be sure to give that a look, too.
That said, if all you need is for your current router to maintain a steady signal one or two rooms farther into your home, then a simple range extender will probably do just fine — especially if you buy the right one. For my money, the TP-Link RE605X, the Linksys RE7310, the D-Link Eagle Pro AI and the TP-Link RE220 are the best places to start.
Range extender FAQs
Got questions? Look me up on Twitter () or send a message straight to my inbox by clicking the little envelope icon . In the meantime, I’ll post answers to any commonly asked questions below.
How effective are range extenders?
Plug-in range extenders like these can help boost your speeds when you’re connecting far from the router, but they can only do so much. The actual speed boost will depend on a multitude of different factors, including the layout of your home, the type of router you’re using, the type of device you’re trying to connect with and your internet plan’s speeds.
If your home’s internet connection offers top speeds of 100Mbps or higher, then a decent, well-placed range extender should be able to boost your download speeds in a dead zone or when you’re in range by at least 50Mbps, if not 100Mbps. That’s enough to browse the web or stream video online. Upload boosts are typically a little lower, but should still be enough to ensure that you can make a video call or upload a file to the cloud.
Is a range extender good for Wi-Fi? Does it slow it down?
Most range extenders will put out their own separate network — usually the name of your original network with “_EXT” added to the end, or something like that. Having a separate network like that under the same roof as your main network could potentially cause a small amount of interference, but I haven’t seen any noticeable slowdowns on my main network during any of these tests. And, in most cases, you can rename the extender’s network and password to match your main network, at which point you’ll have a single, seamless network that automatically passes your connection back and forth as you move throughout your home.
That said, keep an eye out for client devices (phones, laptops and so on) that automatically connect to whichever network offers the best signal at the time. If you’ve used a device like that on both your main network and the extender’s network, then it’s possible that your device will jump from one to the other without you realizing it. For instance, if your laptop is on your main network and you move a bit closer to the extender than the router, then your laptop might lose its connection and jump over to the range extender’s network for the stronger signal strength, even though the speeds on that extender network might be slower.
How do I know if I need a range extender?
Plug-in range extenders are a good fit when you need to boost the signal in a single dead zone. If you have more than one dead zone in your home where the speeds plummet, then you might be better off just upgrading to a good mesh router (we’ve got there, too).
The best way to figure out how many dead zones you’re dealing with is to grab your phone or a laptop and run some speed tests in each room where you need to use the internet. Start with a fresh connection to your network in the same room as the router, and then pull up a good speed-testing site (I like , but there are you can use). Run at least three speed tests in the room, jot the download and upload results down for each one, then move to the next room and repeat.
Once you have average speeds for each room, look for spots where your speeds fall below 30% of whatever ISP speeds you’re paying for each month. Those are the rooms that could use a boost — if it’s just one (or two that are close together), then a single range extender might be all you need. If there are more than one, then maybe mesh is the way to go.
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