What is a Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender?
Specifically, a Wi-Fi Repeater or extender is a device that connects to an existing Wi-Fi network and re-broadcasts the existing network through its own Wi-Fi network. As the name suggests, its main purpose is to “extend” or “repeat” the existing Wi-Fi network. Of course, there are some technicalities to the whole process, but generally, that is what a repeater does.
Best Wi-Fi Repeater Complete Guide
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NETGEAR AC1200 Desktop WiFi Range Extender (EX6200)
Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE6500-FFP)
D-Link Wi-Fi AC750 Dual Band Range Extender (DAP-1520)
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Desktop WiFi Range Extender (EX7000-100NAS)
Ubiquiti NanoStation loco M5
Why do you need a Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender?
For many, the need for a Wi-Fi Repeater is a no-brainer. Two reasons why you may need one include:
- When a section of your home or office does not receive good Wi-Fi network signal
- When you are unable to connect a long Ethernet cable to an access point that is wired
The main purpose, regardless of the reason, is to extend your existing Wi-Fi bubble (so to speak), beyond its normal range. In technical-speak, it is referred to as extending your router’s coverage.
Coverage has always been a bottleneck encountered with the use of Wi-Fi or similar wireless standards. While the use of a repeater appears to be a quick easy solution for a common problem, you should consider other options before throwing cash into the purchase of yet another device.
Manufacturers have been seeking out for ways to address the issue of limited coverage of wireless routers for donkey years. Fair to say, they may not have successfully conquered the foe. However, one thing is certain, newer routers have better coverage than older routers.
Therefore, if you are using a router from years back, you may want to upgrade to a newer better router. A terrific pick anytime is our best Wi-Fi router choice. It supports the very latest in wireless networking 802.11ac with better range than your old router. Aside coverage, 802.11ac routers are capable of offering more bandwidth, when paired with devices that support the ac standard. Even with devices that do not support the ac standard, your Wi-Fi network will boast of faster connection speeds all round.
The verdict has been out for a very long time, with comparable networking infrastructure; wired connections are faster and have higher fidelity than wireless connections. Therefore, if you are not getting enough coverage, you may want to use a connect an Ethernet cable from your router to either of the following options:
- A device’s Ethernet port, for example your Desktop PC, Video Game Console
- A wireless access point
- A second router, after deciding that it is a good decision in economic terms
By itself, this option is not as effective as the first two. It is highly recommended to use it in conjunction with either or both of the first two options. Generally, you should position your router near the center of the space in which you are using it.
In a living space, the closer it is to the center, the better. Similarly, in an office space, it should be as close to the center of the space as possible. Additionally, the router should be out in the open. It should not be hidden behind a physical obstruction of any kind; that includes a desk, closet, partition etc. One good reason to ensure that your router pick has brilliant esthetic build—another good quality of our best Wi-Fi router pick.
When do you need a Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender?
- When you already have a high-end router located centrally in your space
- When using Ethernet is out of the picture
- When you have tried all available alternatives and still need more connectivity
- When you need an quick easy solution with only a few minutes of setup time;
You should consider purchasing a wireless extender or repeater if you receive unnecessary lag or skips in your internet usage.
Important Buying Considerations for the Best Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender
Single band wireless repeaters are cheap, yes, but you should not buy them. They are usually terrible in terms of performance, and so are not worth buying. The shabby performance single band extenders have an infamy for is due to its mode of operation. When a single band extender communicates with your router on the one hand, and your devices over Wi-Fi on the other, on the same band; there is a resultant speed drop that is significant. This significant speed drop causes problems for the long-range performance of a single-band extender. Interestingly, the use of Ethernet cables as an alternative avoids this problem.
Although, this problem is not exactly non-existent in dual band extenders, it has been corrected to a satisfying degree, such that speed drops, if present, are minimal. This is because, dual band repeaters are able to connect to the router on one band, while it outputs a Wi-Fi signal on another band.
If you already own a dual-stream router with 802.11ac capabilities, and want to make the connectivity stronger in certain sections (say, more rooms) of your space, then you should go with our top pick in the next section. Such a combination will also be ideal for bandwidth-intensive activities like file sharing at the outer reaches of your extended network and HD movie streaming. If however, you need basic Wi-Fi connectivity extension for simpler devices, like your smart thermostat, any of the other repeaters in our Best Wi-Fi Repeater/Extender reviews section will work just fine with a decent router.
What is the Best Wi-Fi Repeater?
#1 Netgear EX6200 Review
A premium device from a premium manufacturer, the Netgear EX6200 takes the crown of the best Wi-Fi repeater/extender 2015. It would serve well for many people regardless of their needs, as it is the best extender in the market. Among the extenders we tested, the EX6200 was the only extender that hit speeds of over 30 Mbps from more than 60 feet away. This was pleasantly surprising, as was the fact that we were able to stream a 4K YouTube video at same distance (at 63 feet).
It may not be one of the cheapest routers—premium devices are purchased at a premium—but it makes for the price in having the best speed and range, sporting more operating modes than the competition, and featuring Gigabit Ethernet ports for extended functionality.
Earlier on, we explained why single band extenders are a bad idea. The dual band Netgear EX6200 is not just better, it is much better. You see, unlike competitors, the EX6200 is fitted with three operation modes. Ensuring that you have a fully featured device at your disposal, which can be configured to your peculiar needs.
The three modes are:
- Dual Connect Mode
- FastLane mode with 2.4 GHz input and 5 GHz output
- FastLane mode with 5 GHz input and 2.4 GHz output
Dual Connect Mode
In this mode, the EX6200 is configured to use either of the two available bands for both input (router to wireless repeater) and output (wireless repeater to devices). That is, the EX6200 in this mode can connect with a router on the 2.4 GHz band and output Wi-Fi signal on the same 2.4 GHz band. Likewise, for the 5 GHz band.
This mode is the easiest to setup and is also the most flexible. Many older gadgets only support wireless networks on the 2.4 GHz band, while recent devices like smartphones and laptops with wireless-ac capabilities will have need of the faster 5 GHz band.
However, for similar reasons to why a single band wireless repeater has limited performance, using this mode will result in significantly reduced speed. On the basis of severity, the 2.4 GHz band had the most reduction is speed because it naturally supports lesser bandwidth than the 5 GHz band, and is more predisposed to interference. Still, unlike other extenders, the Netgear EX6200 showed better performance in this mode at long ranges.
FastLane mode with 2.4 GHz Input and 5 GHz Output
Of the three modes, the EX6200 had the strongest signal at a long range in this mode. However, the wired performance (Ethernet connection) of the extender suffered in this mode.
FastLane mode with 5 GHz Input and 2.4 GHz Output
At comparable distances, the Netgear EX6200 displayed minutely weaker signals in this mode (9 Mbps slower than the alternate FastLane mode in the farthest range test). However, it made up for this with increased performance for wired connections (up to three times faster than the alternate FastLane mode).
The Netgear EX6200, in our testing, permitted us stream a 4K YouTube video at long distances without error, on its FastLane mode with 2.4 GHz input and 5 GHz output. The EX6200 was also capable of delivering faultless 1080p Netflix stream at every location on all three modes. This was not the case with competing repeaters reviewed below, as they reduced the Netflix stream resolution to 720p in at least one test mode and location.
Top-performing extenders like each extender on this review list had decent performance when devices are placed behind interior walls and furniture at close range. However, the EX6200 gives better performance at both close and long ranges. It had the best long-range performance by a long shot, with good reception even through exterior walls.
The reasons are:
- A wireless 802.11ac connection between router and extender on the 5 GHz band is about three times faster than a connection on the 2.4 GHz band
- An output Wi-Fi connection from the extender to devices on the 2.4 GHz band has longer range than on the 5 GHz band
- The output Wi-Fi network on the 2.4 GHz band will be supported by all wireless devices, rather than the 5 GHz band that is supported by only newer wireless devices
- Increased connection speeds for wired Ethernet connections
However, if you are certain that all devices connected to the extender will support the 5 GHz band, then the FastLane mode 2.4 GHz input and 5 GHz output would provide better speeds.
Salient Selling Points
- Dual Band
- Best wireless range and connection speeds
- Top-grade performance
- Triple Effective Operation Modes
#2 Linksys RE6500 Review
Looks can be deceptive, or so it is with the Linksys RE6500. Brilliantly designed, Linksys manages to squeeze in top-performance internals into a compact build that has subtle space requirements.
The RE6500 is an astutely built device with a crisp black-and-gray colored exterior. Its dimensions of 6 by 4.2 by 1 inches is the most compact among high-grade extenders. Nonetheless, this repeater boasts of an impressive line of features and terrific performance, which without reservation is an engineering feat.
Starting off, like several Linksys models, the D-Link DAP 1520, the Netgear WN3500RP, and the Belkin DB600, the RE6500 cannot be connected directly to an AC outlet. Limiting in a way, but during purchase, an AC adapter is included to which the repeater can be velcroed—owing to its light weight. You could also screw it under a desk or into a wall.
The Linksys RE6500 sports two bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. On its back are very versatile 3dBi dipole antennas. These antennas may be flexibly aimed, or unscrewed and replaced with a different pair that is more sensitive for increased range and bandwidth.
There are four Gigabit LAN port along the back of this extender. The RE6500 also offers a 3.5-millimeter earphone jack, which extends the functionality of the extender to become a media server to which a stereo can be connected.
Blinking LED lights are conspicuously absent on the RE6500. Instead, there is a lighted bar to show the repeater’s status. Underneath the lighted bar is a recessed reset button.
Out of the box, the Linksys RE6500 is unencrypted and can be set up through an easy four-step process that does not require networking knowledge or experience. After setup, the repeater’s Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button on the back can be used to link with a WPS-capable client automatically. The WPS connection can be set up manually as well.
Salient Selling Points
- Compact build
- Impressive features
- Terrific performance
#3 D-Link DAP 1520 Review
Do you want an extender with extended functionality with obvious limitations, or a repeater that does what it primarily is supposed to do and does it brilliantly? If your answer is the latter, then the D-Link DAP 1520 should be your pick.
Features and Performance
When the focus is on performance over versatility, there are going to be compromises. Absence of a power cord, stand, external antennas, ports for wired connections, user control does look poor on a spec sheet. But according to D-Link, they are necessary omissions for a repeater with a very compact build (3.6 by 2.2 by 1.3) and very simple setup.
However, that’s not all there is to the DAP 1520. The repeater reaches an amazing performance of 53.5 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band, higher than on premium high-grade extenders. It is better on the 5 GHz band, with a peak of 171.5 Mbps.
The icing on the DAP 1520’s offering is the $57 price tag. A steal for the capabilities, the DAP 1520 gives you top performance at an inexpensive price point, a rare double win amongst extenders.
Salient Selling Points
- Minimalist features
- Top performance