A Wi-Fi repeater, also known as a wireless range extender, is a device that helps expand your existing Wi-Fi network’s coverage area. Whether you need one depends on if you have areas in your home or office where the Wi-Fi signal is poor or nonexistent.
Benefits of a Wi-Fi repeater
Wi-Fi repeaters offer the following key benefits:
- Expand coverage range – Fill Wi-Fi dead zones in rooms too far from router
- Boost signal strength – Help devices get faster, more reliable connections
- Easy to set up – Plug into wall outlet without wiring or configuration
- Affordable – Inexpensive solution for improving Wi-Fi issues
When you may need a Wi-Fi repeater
Here are some common situations when installing a Wi-Fi repeater can help:
Dead zones in parts of your building
- Getting no signal or intermittent drops in some rooms
- Wi-Fi doesn’t reach detached garage, backyard workshop, etc.
Slow internet speeds and buffering
- Videos, music, apps buffering frequently
- Connected devices limited to slower 2.4GHz band
Adding Wi-Fi coverage outdoors
- Need Wi-Fi in yard for security cameras, smart landscaping
- Lack strong signal around patio, pool, or outdoor kitchen
Expanding network capacity
- Many users and Wi-Fi devices like cameras and smart home tech
- Experience congestion, lag when multiple devices in use
So if you have areas with no signal, frequent disconnections, slow speeds or need to add more Wi-Fi devices, a repeater can help. It’s an easy way to get more range and faster speeds to devices in those far corners of your space.
Considerations before getting a repeater
While repeaters have benefits, they also come with potential downsides to weigh:
Cut maximum bandwidth in half
- Each repeater connection requires relaying via main router, limiting throughput
Some loss in speed
- Data transmission slowed slightly going through extra hop
- Related: Repeaters have slower specs than mesh systems
Limited configuration options
- Less robust controls than higher-end Wi-Fi systems
- Mostly simple plug-and-play setup, less customization
Multiple needed for larger spaces
- One repeater has limited expansion range
- Might need several to bolster entire home’s coverage
So evaluate your space, bandwidth needs, number of users and devices first. In smaller spaces needing a minor boost, a repeater is likely sufficient. Those with advanced needs may require a more robust mesh system instead.
Shopping considerations when choosing a repeater
The key factors to consider when selecting which Wi-Fi range extender model to buy:
Compatible with your wireless router
- Matches Wi-Fi protocols, brands for optimal compatibility
- 802.11ac or Wi-Fi 5 ideal for best performance
- 300Mbps lowest tier, 600Mbps better for 4K/8K streaming
- Top models offer 1000-3000Mbps for best bandwidth
- Up to 2000+ square feet for a single device
- Number and placement of antennas impacts coverage area
- One or more Ethernet ports allow connecting devices via cable
- Useful for devices like smart TVs, streaming players, consoles
- $25-$150 range covers most home needs
- Higher-end professional models with better antennas, wired ports cost over $200
So check your router’s standard first, then choose an AC1200-1750 model from a trusted brand that aligns with your use cases, number of users and budget.
How a Wi-Fi range extender works
It’s helpful to understand how a Wi-Fi repeater actually works before deciding if adding one will solve your wireless issues.
This is the basic process when using a repeater to connect devices to your existing Wi-Fi:
- User connects phone, laptop or other device to the repeater’s Wi-Fi network instead of their main router network.
- The repeater receives the device’s signals then amplifies them before wirelessly transmitting the boosted signals back to the main router through the air.
- The main router then connects back THROUGH THE AIR to send data from internet back through the repeater.
- Repeater wirelessly receives response data from main router then retransmits it at boosted strength BACK THROUGH THE AIR to connected device.
Key things to note:
- There are always TWO wireless transmissions for every data exchange (sending and receiving) when using a repeater.
- The repeater has to first catch the signal out of the air from your devices before boosting and relaying back to router. Same in reverse for receiving data from router to transmit to your device.
- This adds latency since signals pause at each hop point to get retransmitted. More wireless hops means more delays.
So while using a repeater gives you greater range by DAISY CHAINING multiple access points together wirelessly, the tradeoff is slower overall throughput speeds and potential lag due to multiple air transmissions per data exchange.
Wi-Fi extender vs. mesh systems
Wi-Fi range extenders are simple wireless amplifiers, while full mesh systems take a more advanced approach to expanding Wi-Fi. Here’s an overview comparison:
|Up to 2000 sq ft per node
|3000+ sq ft per node
|Up to 1750Mbps if repeater spec supports
|3000Mbps or more
|Higher latency due to wireless relays
|Lower latency with dedicated backhaul
|Single nodes, daisy-chain
|Entire home coverage via nodes working as a system
|Robust controls for advanced management
|Sometimes one wired port
|Multiple wired ports common
|$25 to $200 per unit
|Mesh router plus 1-3 nodes for $250 to $700
So in summary, extenders act as singular boosters while mesh systems use multiple access points with smart software and dedicated wireless backhauls for expanding Wi-Fi in a more robust way.
Pros and cons of Wi-Fi range extenders
Here is a summary of the key upsides and downsides when evaluating using a plug-in Wi-Fi range extender in your home or office:
- Inexpensive – $25 to $100 price range
- Easy setup – Plug into outlet and connect to router
- Small and portable – Easily moveable depending on usage needs
- Expand coverage – Boosts signal reach by 300-2000+ square feet
- Slower speeds – Each wireless hop cuts throughput up to 50% or more
- Adds latency – Extra wireless transmissions increase lag and buffering
- Limited configuration – Less controls than prosumer/commercial Wi-Fi gear
- Single unit coverage – Might need many units to cover larger spaces fully
So best for smaller spaces needing minor signal boosts. Advanced users or those wanting whole-home coverage might require a mesh system instead.
Setup guide for installing your Wi-Fi repeater
Once you have your new Wi-Fi range extender, installing it is a quick process:
Step 1. Strategic placement
Place your repeater halfway between your main router and the Wi-Fi dead zone you want to extend range to. Keep it out in the open, away from obstructions.
Step 2. Plug it in
Simply plug your repeater into an electrical outlet and turn it on. LED indicators confirm when it has power.
Step 3. Connect repeater to router network
On your phone, tablet or laptop, search for and select your main router’s Wi-Fi network. Enter password if prompted.
Step 4. Find and connect to repeater setup network
In list of available Wi-Fi networks, look for your repeater’s temporary setup network name and connect to it.
Step 5. Open browser to access setup page
Opening any web browser will take you to the repeater’s built-in configuration page. Follow prompts to select your main network and sync the repeater to it.
Step 6. Reconnect devices to extended network
The repeater will now broadcast an extended network with your main router’s name that devices can connect to.
That’s all there is to it! Just make sure to connect devices to the repeated network name going forward. No further software, wiring or configuration needed.
Tips for getting the best performance from your Wi-Fi extender
To ensure your new repeater provides maximum Wi-Fi performance gains:
Place extender so there are no thick walls, metal, or other signal barriers between it and router or devices connecting to it.
The higher the repeater, the broader the signal spread. Place on a bookshelf, cabinet, or wall mount if available.
Find closest power outlet
Repeater needs electricity so choose outlet closest to optimal midway placement between router and devices.
Update router and device Wi-Fi
If router or end devices are more than 3 years old, update them to latest Wi-Fi 6 standard for fastest possible repeater throughput.
Limit heavy usage devices
Minimize number of high-bandwidth activities like streaming HD video or gaming on repeated network. This prevents congestion and lag.
Following best practices for placement, obstruction avoidance and Wi-Fi protocol standards ensures you get the fastest, most reliable expanded wireless coverage area possible from your new Wi-Fi range extender.
- Wi-Fi repeaters (also called wireless range extenders) boost router signals to expand Wi-Fi coverage areas
- They can fill dead zones and give better connectivity to far-flung rooms or outdoor spaces
- Repeaters relay signals wirelessly between devices and router, adding latency
- Best for minor coverage gaps but can slow overall speeds for multiple high-use devices
- Mesh Wi-Fi systems also expand coverage but keep fast dedicated wireless backhauls working as smart network
Adding an AC1200+ Wi-Fi range extender can provide an affordable connectivity upgrade for homes and offices struggling with Wi-Fi dead zones or other wireless fringe coverage issues. Just note that while plugging in a repeater provides a quick fix for reaching devices out of normal router signal range, the tradeoff can be slower wireless throughput overall compared to a robust mesh system. Factor in your budget, usage needs, number of users and device types to decide if a basic repeater makes sense or if investing in an advanced modern mesh system is warranted instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How does a Wi-Fi repeater work?
It catches your main router’s wireless signal then retransmits it at boosted strength to extend coverage range farther, allowing devices to connect out-of-range areas.
- Do Wi-Fi repeaters reduce speed?
Yes, each wireless hop a repeater makes between router and devices cuts maximum bandwidth roughly in half per relay. More repeaters daisy-chained together equals slower speeds.
- Is a mesh system better than a Wi-Fi extender?
In most cases, yes. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are engineered to provide expanded coverage while keeping fast dedicated wireless backhauls between nodes to avoid slowing down data speeds much.
- What’s the best Wi-Fi repeater brand?
Top makers like NETGEAR, TP-Link, Linksys, and Amped Wireless offer quality repeaters good for most homes. Get one matching router Wi-Fi specs.
- Where should I place my Wi-Fi extender?
Halfway between your main Wi-Fi router and the area you want to boost connectivity to is ideal. Out in the open high up is best to spread signal.
- How do I setup a Wi-Fi repeater?
First connect it to router wirelessly, then connect devices to repeater’s secondary network instead of main router SSID. Most work via browser-based setup wizard when plugged in.
- Why does my Wi-Fi repeater keep disconnecting?
Frequent drops likely mean it’s too far from router, experiencing interference, or is overloaded by too many devices simultaneously connected. Relocate closer to router in clearer signal path.
- Do I need an extender if router supports device x?
Not necessarily. Choose latest Wi-Fi 6 long-range router broadcasting on 5GHz band, position further into space and add directional antenna to aim signal toward fringes first. Extender is easier but will sacrifice speeds.
- What reduces Wi-Fi signal?
Distance from router, obstructions like walls/floors, interference from appliances, incompatible frequencies, legacy device standards, congestion from too many high-use devices at once.
- Can I use Ethernet backhaul instead?
Yes, one option that avoids speed loss by connecting extender to router via Ethernet cable instead of relaying wirelessly. But this means having cables routed through rooms limiting convenient placement.
- How many repeaters should I use?
Start with one central repeater positioned halfway to problem zone. If coverage still not adequate, try adding a second further into dead zone for daisy chain effect. Too many can slow network to a crawl.
- Is it okay to unplug Wi-Fi repeaters?
Yes. They act as standalone boosters without dependence on each other or main router. Shut off or unplug safely anytime without harming network.
- Why does my repeater have two networks?
The primary one matching your main router SSID for extended coverage zones, and a secondary dedicated setup network for configuring connection to primary network.
- How do I know if I’m connected to main or extended network?
The extended network from your repeater will have same Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and password as original router one but often with “_EXT” or “_2” added at end to differentiate.
- Can I use old router as repeater?
Yes. Most routers have setting to change to Access Point mode functioning like a repeater without needing Wi-Fi extender device. Just ensure router has latest Wi-Fi specs first.
- Do I still need my router if I use a repeater?
Yes absolutely. The repeater just enhances router signals – it can’t work independently to get you internet connectivity without syncing to SSID of existing router network first.
- Will a repeater help neighbor’s Wi-Fi?
No, it connects locally to your own network only. You’d have to grant access for their devices to connect to your Wi-Fi network separately via password to access the boosted signal.
- Can I use same network name for both?
Yes but not recommended. Keep routers and repeaters labeled differently to ensure connecting to correct band and managing connections easier without confusion.
- Why device won’t connect to repeater?
Ensure you’ve selected the extended network name (main SSID + _EXT or other suffix) and are close enough for device to “see” the repeater’s boosted signal. Reboot repeater and try reconfiguring if still having issues.
- How to troubleshoot repeater problems?
Start by checking LED indicators on unit to confirm if has power and has synced properly with router network. Reboot router and repeater to force fresh handshake. Relocate for clearer signal path between devices. Consult manual or contact manufacturer support if problems persist.