Best WiFi Extender
One of our favorite WiFi extenders that we've ever had the pleasure of testing is the TP-Link RE220. Set up is made easy with a QR code on the box that links to the app and guides you through a setup that takes mere minutes. We love its stylish look and the fact that it's no larger than the average air freshener or night light. Despite its size and aesthetics, the RE-220 has still managed to fit in an ethernet port, which is fantastic.
With a range of 1200 square feet, scope is not the strongest suit for the RE220. Though it's great for home use, for businesses or special events we'd recommend choosing a model that projects a signal over larger square footage. On that note, it's not the fastest repeater. If you're looking to get maximum Megabits per second (Mbps) for gaming or an office, look for a faster model. Despite that, we still think it's great for most applications.
Claiming the top spot for mesh network-enabled extenders is the NETGEAR EX8000. With a range of 2500 square feet, this device would be perfect for an office or special event. This model has four ethernet ports, so it'd be ideal for a situation where you'd want to hardwire several devices. The EX8000 easily integrates with the NETGEAR Nighthawk app that guides you through a seamless setup. Most extenders require you to create a new network name, which means that you'll be switching your devices back and forth between the extender and the router as you move about the house or office. The EX8000 creates a mesh network that uses one name for the whole system so you can move from the router zone to the extended zone without dropping the signal.
If you're looking for a small, wall-mount style plug-in WiFi extender, this is not the one. It's pretty big, and you're going to have to find some room for it in your house. It's similar to the size of a 2010 era router. It's also on the pricier side for these products. If you don't need a massive range and a bunch of ethernet ports, it may make sense to get something a bit cheaper. That said, for those that want to maximize range and move around without switching networks, the EX8000 is a great choice.
The TP-Link N300 is an excellent choice if you need a decent WiFi extender at an affordable price. This device has a more tolerable look than models with several extra antennas, and as with all wall plug mount models, there are no wires or cords to deal with. The setup process for the N300 was exceptionally quick and easy, with a QR code on the box that directly links your phone to the proper avenue for downloading the TP-Link Tether app.
The TP-Link N300 lacks in a few ways. First off, the range is unimpressive, and it's not the fastest due to its single 2.4 GHz band. It also only allows connection for eight devices, so if you need to boost the signal for lots of computers, phones, and tablets, the N300 is probably not the right choice. We think this extender would be more well suited for one or two devices in a smaller space than an entire home or office.
If you want a wall plug WiFi extender that can connect as many devices as possible, the TP-Link RE300 is the way to go. This impressive little extender can have 25 devices connected at a time — more than any other wall plug model in our review. This makes it an excellent choice for households or offices with extra numbers of devices. Thanks to its dual bandwidth, it also has decent speed and range. This model has no antennas, giving it a nice, sleek look, which we liked.
One way that we found that the RE300 fell short is the lack of an ethernet plug — this device can only repeat wireless signals. As far as wall plug-style models go, the RE300 is also not the most affordable extender, but if you need an extended signal for several devices, we still think it's a reliable option.
Right out of the box, the NETGEAR EX6150 stood out to us with how easy the setup process was. The NETGEAR Nighthawk App allows users to automatically set up the extender using their SmartConnect mesh system without having to rename a network or reconnect all of your devices to a new network. This simple process, coupled with the wall plug design and lack of wires, will have you boosting your signal in a matter of mere minutes. The EX6150 also offers a solid range for a wall plug style model — 1200 square feet. We love that this model has an unobtrusive look and that it doesn't stick out of the wall very far.
However, this model has only one ethernet port, so if you're looking to hardwire several devices straight into your extender, this is not the one. The EX6150 is also on the pricey side. Despite that, if you're looking for an extender that seamlessly integrates with your current wireless system, we think that it's worth the time saved.
We like that the BrosTrend AC1200 package includes an ethernet cable for its port located on the bottom of the unit. Its classic look of a small box with two antennas isn't quite as snazzy as other models but is also much less of a mess to look at than the models that have several antennas.
During our internet speed trials, the BrosTrend finished in the middle of the road compared to the other models in our review. We weren't fans of the setup for this device. Although it does have a WPS button function for pairing with a router, BrosTrend does not have an app, so you'll need to navigate to their website to create the administrator login and password for the extender and then write it down on a piece of paper for backup.
With a range of 1100 sq feet and an ethernet cable port, the D-Link DAP1720 is a pretty solid WiFi extender and a solid choice for a wall plug model for someone who requires a decent amount of range. We found the signal indicator to be handy for letting the user know their connectivity level with the primary router. This model finished reasonably well for a dual-band model during our speed tests.
With its three antennas, we didn't think the DAP-1720 is the most modern-looking model, so if you're looking for a device that doesn't draw attention to itself, this isn't the one. It's also a bit top-heavy and in certain outlets nearly falls out off the wall. The setup process for the D-Linksystem seems a bit archaic compared to the models that have their own apps associated with them, so we weren't the most pleased with it. A configuration card with passwords and codes are included in this package that could easily get lost.
There were a few things about the Galaway G1208 that we really liked. First off, it's great that it has a signal indicator ring to let you know how much signal it is sending through from the router. The G1208 is also one of the only wall plug style WiFi extenders that we've seen with two ethernet ports.
Unfortunately, we have more complaints about this model than kind things to say about it. The setup process is complicated, and we didn't find the instruction booklet to be very helpful. We also found that the signal on the Galaway G1208 tends to drop to practically nothing at random. With four antennas, this model is a bit silly looking, too. Unless you like making your device look like it's making funny hand gestures, we'd recommend a more simplistic design that does a better job.
Our favorite thing about the AMAKE Super Boost is its "access point" capabilities. Once the device is set up, you can then take it with you on the road and plug it directly into a modem with the included ethernet cable to create a small area of WiFi in the room — so it doubles as a router.
However, most hotels and restaurants do not have their modem out for public access. Most places have wireless routers already plugged into their modems, making this a bit of a silly feature except in particular situations. The AMAKE also sticks out from the wall quite a bit, giving it an awkward look. Regrettably, the setup process for the Super Boost is pretty much a convoluted pain that requires the user to enter their current WiFi password into a very questionable website. Still, this device would make a good choice for someone who needs a wireless signal projected directly from the router over a minimal area.
The dodocool Wireless-N is a neat looking compact WiFi extender that somehow hides an ethernet port into its tiny body. A QR code on the box makes for an easy setup that directs the user to a website to usher through the process.
Regrettably, we could not get this device to show any noticeable difference in the WiFi performance. In fact, it actually made it worse. We cannot recommend this product to our readers.
Why You Should Trust Us
Leading the charge on our WiFi Extender review is Ross Patton. Ross's educational background is environmental science, so he's no stranger to running experiments and spending time in the lab. Additionally, he has 10 years of product testing experience and has worked on projects such as Bluetooth trackers and lithium-ion battery-powered tools.
At GearLab, we pride ourselves on the fact that we don't build our reviews from manufacturer specs or other reviews — we purchase the products ourselves, from the same retailers as our readers, to physically get our own hands and eyes on them. More importantly, we create a test plan for each category of products and run a side-by-side analysis to gauge each model's true performance.
Analysis and Test Results
After forming a test plan, we narrowed our determination down to three metrics — ease of use, aesthetics, and speed & range.
Ease of Use
To start things off, we judged each package as we opened them to note the included cables, instruction booklets, cords, and configuration cards. Next, we inspected each model for its various buttons, plugs, lights, and ports. This metric is mostly weighted toward each extender's setup process and how they interface with the current WiFi router.
We found the NETGEAR EX8000 and its smaller cousin, the NETGEAR EX6150, to be the strongest models for this metric, mainly because the NETGEAR Nighthawk app helps make the process of integrating with an existing router as painless as possible. Scoring just behind the NETGEAR models are the TP-Link models. We love that they include a QR code on the box that links you straight to the app download, and we found the setup process to go quite smoothly as well.
For aesthetics, we used our expert panel of judges to subjectively score each device's look and feel. We agreed that the more sleek looking extenders with the least amount of antennas looked the best.
Our favorite model for this metric was the TP-Link AC750 RE220, as it looks more like a nightlight or an air freshener than something that is emitting a WiFi signal. Also scoring well for this metric is the TP-Link RE300, which looks a bit more like an extender but lacks antennas.
Next, we liked the NETGEAR EX8000 for its sleek black finish and tower design, but since it's quite large, you'll need to make sure you have the space for it.
Our other favorites for their looks are the NETGEAR EX6150 and the TP-Link N300. These each only have two antennas, unlike other models that have three or four.
Speed & Range
Speed and the range are dependent on the strength and number of bands that the extender provides. Single bands broadcast at 2.4 GHz, dual bands emit 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and the newest triple-band models have two 5 GHz bands and a 2.4 GHz band. The higher the bandwidth and the more bands available, the more range and speed the extender will produce.
To test speed, we set each extender up precisely halfway between our router and the devices — a distance of 25 feet. Using one of the many free internet speed test websites, we ran tests on both a smartphone and a laptop and recorded the results. To test range, we began by connecting a smartphone to the extender then walked 100 feet away to ensure the signal was lost entirely. We then pushed play on a YouTube video and slowly walked closer to the extender until playback began, which confirmed a stable connection. From this point, we measured the distance back to the extender with a measuring wheel.
By far and away, the fastest extender with the most extensive range is the NETGEAR EX8000. We were able to play a YouTube test clip on our phones at a distance of 49 feet from the EX8000. For this model, we measured an Mbps rate of 59 with a cell phone and 65 with a laptop.
This model has three bandwidths, and with the mesh technology, your device will always automatically connect to the one that will provide you with the best signal as you move around the covered range.
The dual-band model that did the best or this metric was the NETGEAR EX6150. During the YouTube assessment, we were able to connect at a distance of 37 feet. When we ran the speed test, the EX6150 showed 47 Mbps on the laptop and 21 Mbps on the smartphone.
Finally, the top finishing single band model for this metric was the TP-Link N300. During the speed analysis, this device showed 21 Mbps on a laptop and 6Mbps on a smartphone. For range, we established a connection at a distance of 22 feet from the extender.
Purchasing a product such as a WiFi extender can often be a confusing and challenging process. It's important to find a user-friendly product that is strong enough to suit your needs, but you also don't want to overspend on a device that is more powerful than necessary. Here at GearLab, our goal is to provide you with the best information possible so that you can purchase the products that are perfect for you.
— Ross Patton