Best WiFi Extender of 2021
During our range testing, we were blown away by the performance of the TP-Link AX1500. This device stayed connected to a mobile device at a longer distance than any other extender that we've seen. As far as setup goes, the AX1500 was easier to connect to our current router than most of the extenders in our review, and it does not require an app for mobile devices. The AX1500 has mesh capabilities, so your device will always connect to the strongest signal, whether it is the extender or your primary router. This version has a gigabit ethernet port if you'd like to hardwire a TV, console, computer, or printer straight into the extender.
Although the TP-Link AX1500 emits WiFi over an extensive range, its speed is not quite up to par with the fastest extenders. If you're planning on using an extender for gaming or other applications that require a high Mbps rate, you may want to consider a faster model. The AX1500 is also not the most stylish wall plug model. It sticks out from the wall nearly 2 inches, and with two antennas, it doesn't exactly have a sleek look. Flaws aside, this is one of the best WiFi extenders that we've ever gotten our hands on, and we'd recommend it to those looking for a wall plug model with fantastic range.
If you don't feel like downloading apps, resetting your router, or dealing with confusing instruction pamphlets, we'd highly recommend the NETGEAR EX5000. NETGEAR claims that this product takes five minutes to set up, but we'd say it's more like three minutes. It does not require an app — any browser will guide you through the setup process by simply going to the website listed on the box or scanning the QR code. Although it's a bit boxy, the EX5000 is compact and has a discreet look to it. This model can connect up to 25 devices — the highest number that we've seen to date. Where this model truly shines is the speed it delivers. During our Mbps tests, the EX5000 was much faster than any other wall plug model that we've used to date.
Unfortunately, the NETGEAR EX5000 does not offer mesh capabilities, so you'll need to manually change back to your primary router if you're in a location where that signal is more substantial. With the compact design comes a lack of an ethernet port. If you're looking to plug directly into an extender, you'll need to go with a different model. Despite these small drawbacks, this is still a fantastic WiFi extender, especially regarding ease of setup and speed.
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.
Though this model's range is excellent for home use, we'd recommend choosing a model that projects a signal over more extensive square footage for businesses or special events. 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 area 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 multiple ethernet ports, it may make sense to get something a bit cheaper. That said, for those that want to maximize coverage 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're in the market for a WiFi extender that looks good, works well, and connects many devices, check out the TP-Link RE300. This model can support up to 25 devices — just as many as any extender 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 you 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 substantial 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 with 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 liked. It's great to have 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 Galaway G1208 signal 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 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.
Why You Should Trust Us
Leading the charge on our WiFi Extender review is Ross Patton. Ross's educational background is in environmental science, so he's no stranger to running experiments and spending time in the lab. Additionally, he has ten 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 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.
The NETGEAR EX5000 and TP-Link AX1500 are very similar when it comes to setup. They both have QR codes on the box that take you directly to the setup websites, or you can manually enter them. There are no cords or cables in either package — just a simple wall plug extender. While many extenders require you to install an app, these two versions can be configured using an internet browser. Neither of these models require you to reset or push any buttons on your existing modem, making them extremely easy to use. We were able to unbox these items, plug them in, and have them repeating an existing WiFi signal in under 5 minutes each.
We also found the NETGEAR EX8000 to be one of the stronger models for this metric, mainly because the NETGEAR Nighthawk app helps make the process of integrating with an existing router as painless as possible.
We used our expert panel of judges to score each device's look and feel subjectively for aesthetics. 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 NETGEAR EX5000, 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 TP-Link AX1500 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 smartphones and laptops and recorded the results. To test range, we connected a smartphone to the extenders, pushed play on a YouTube video, and slowly walked away until the WiFi connection was lost, then measured the distance back to the extender with a measuring wheel.
The model that showed an impressive range and also some of the fastest speeds 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.
Two dual-band models stood out during this assessment — the NETGEAR EX5000 and the TP-Link AX1500. The EX5000 showed a fantastic speed of 63 Mbps on a laptop and 28 Mbps on a smartphone. We were able to keep a WifI connection up to a distance of 45 feet with this model.
The TP-Link AX1500 is not quite as fast as either of the NETGEAR models mentioned above, but it still showed 45 Mbps on a laptop and 16 Mbps on a smartphone. However, where the AX1500 outshines the rest is range. This extender was able to play a YouTube video up to a distance of 75 feet.
Purchasing a product such as a WiFi extender can often be a confusing and challenging process. It's essential 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