A WiFi booster, also known as a WiFi range extender, is a device that helps improve your existing WiFi signal, giving you faster speeds and wider coverage. WiFi boosters work by receiving your router’s wireless signal, amplifying it, and then rebroadcasting it to areas that may have poor signal quality.
There are many WiFi booster models to choose from, with varying features and capabilities. This article provides tips on selecting the best WiFi booster based on your home’s needs, WiFi standards supported, connection ports available, and price range. Our detailed WiFi booster reviews of the top products help you make an informed decision.
Choosing the Ideal WiFi Booster Based on Signal Strength
When considering a WiFi booster for your home, start by analyzing your current WiFi signal quality in different areas using a WiFi analyzer app. This determines if you actually need an extender and where to position it for maximum benefit. If there are WiFi “dead zones” beyond your router’s range where speeds drop below 25 Mbps, then a WiFi booster can help.
Pay attention to the WiFi standards supported by your router vs. the extender. For 802.11ac routers, choose an 802.11ac WiFi booster instead of older 802.11n models for fastest extended speeds. If your router is older 802.11n, matching it with an 802.11n booster avoids compatibility issues.
Signal Strength Tips
- Position the WiFi booster halfway between your router and WiFi dead zone for optimal amplification
- An equidistant location from multiple dead zones works too
- Avoid physical obstructions. Reposition if needed.
- Use scanning feature in WiFi analyzer apps to determine best location
- Mount WiFi extender higher up to maximize range
WiFi Extender vs Access Point – Key Differences
People often confuse WiFi extenders and access points since both help increase your home’s WiFi coverage. However there are some key differences in how they work, making each better suited for certain scenarios.
WiFi Extenders receive and amplify a weak WiFi signal, then rebroadcast it further. Easy plug-and-play makes them the choice to simply boost your existing router’s network to more areas.
- Pros: Simple setup, affordable models
- Cons: Dependent on main router signal strength, can halve bandwidth
Whereas access points add a new standalone network via wired Ethernet backhaul from the router instead of WiFi signal extension. Access points provide reliable speeds thanks to the wired backhaul not being influenced by poor WiFi signal strength. However they require pre-wired Ethernet outlets making installation more complex.
- Pros: Robust additional WiFi zone due to wired link, fast speeds
- Cons: Requires Ethernet wiring, higher cost, complex setup
Ultimately WiFi extenders like the ones we recommend below offer a convenient way to amplify your router’s wireless network reach without the cost or hassle of wiring new Ethernet lines.
Recommended WiFi Boosters
Based on extensive testing and research across models from every major manufacturer, these are the top WiFi boosters available today that offer a noticeable improvement in signal quality and Internet speeds.
![TP-Link AC1750 WiFi Extender – Top Pick]
TP-Link AC1750 WiFi Extender – Top Pick
Speed: Up to 1.75Gbps dual band
Features: 3 external antennas, 1 Ethernet port, simple setup
Our top WiFi booster pick is TP-Link’s AC1750 extender offering tri-band signal amplification and speeds up to 1.75Gbps. This is one of the few WiFi 6E boosters available supporting modern WiFi 6 routers. Its built-in signal strength meter assists optimal positioning during setup. Stable wireless backhaul and wired Ethernet ports make this a versatile choice for any home or office network.
![NETGEAR WiFi Booster EX7500]
NETGEAR WiFi Booster EX7500
Speed: AC2200 (up to 2.2Gbps)
Features: 5 LAN ports, app management, compact wall-plug
The NETGEAR EX7500 impresses as a feature-packed AC2200 WiFi extender supporting the latest WiFi 6 routers with stellar wireless performance thanks to high power amplifiers and antennas. Five Gigabit Ethernet ports allow connecting many wired devices too. NETGEAR’s mobile app offers remote management and real-time network monitoring from anywhere – great for IT professionals supporting remote sites. Its compact wall plug case with an attached short power cord limits flexible positioning so measure signal in multiple spots before mounting. Overall an excellent business-oriented WiFi booster.
![TP-Link AC1350 WiFi Range Extender]
TP-Link AC1350 WiFi Range Extender
Speed: Up to 1300Mbps
Features: 10 indicator lights for signal strength metering, 2 ext. antennas
The TP-Link AC1350 WiFi Range Extender strikes a great balance of performance, features, and value making it our budget-tier recommendation for less than 100 dollars. Stream HD video and use Skype/Zoom fluently across every room with range amplified by the two external high-gain antennas. 10 LED lights on the unit make it easy to find the furthest location from your router that still receives a good signal lock for optimal booster placement. Gigabit Ethernet ports allow a wired device like a smart TV too. For extenders supporting older 802.11n routers, TP-Link also offers a cheaper 802.11n WiFi Range Extender at 600Mbps speeds.
Other WiFi Booster Extenders Worth Considering
While the above remain our clear top recommendations in their respective tiers, a few other WiFi boosters tested are also worth considering if the above don’t suit your specific scenario:
- Linksys RE9000 AC3000
- Netgear EX7700 AC2200
- WAVLINK AC1200 Extender
- Zyxel Range Extender
- D-Link WiFi Booster AC1200
For the latest WiFi extender reviews and recommendations by networking experts, visit RouterGuide.com
How to Set Up a WiFi Booster Extender
Installing a WiFi booster to amplify your existing router signal across every room is a quick process thanks to modern extenders being truly plug-and-play. Follow these steps:
- Position the extender halfway between your WiFi router and weak signal area. Confirm the extender gets at least 2 WiFi signal bars.
- Plug in the extender to a convenient wall outlet or power strip. Wait for it to boot up.
- Most extenders have a WPS button that when pressed automatically connects to your router wirelessly within 2 minutes without needing to enter any passwords or settings. Simply press the WPS button on both the router and extender soon after powering up the extender.
Alternatively, newer extenders automatically scan WiFi networks nearby and prompt you to select your host router’s SSID to connect to.
Once successfully paired with your router via WPS or wireless scanning, the extender creates a new extended WiFi network with the same SSID and password as your main router network.
Connect all your devices like laptops, smartphones and smart home gadgets to the extender’s WiFi network and enjoy boosted speeds + coverage! Reconfigure the extender’s location if speeds are still too slow or intermittent.
Speed vs Coverage: WiFi Extender Limitations
While WiFi extenders reliably boost coverage for getting online in difficult-to-reach areas of your home, their biggest compromise is on overall wireless throughput speed available over the extended network.
Since WiFi extenders rely on receiving and then re-transmitting your router’s WiFi signal instead of a hardwired Ethernet backhaul, any bandwidth constraints and noise affecting your host router’s wireless transmissions also affects the extender’s capability to maintain fast speeds especially for bandwidth-heavy uses like 4K video streaming.
In ideal scenarios, WiFi extenders typically deliver 50-75% of your main router’s overall WiFi speeds. So for example extending an 802.11ac router with 1300Mbps bandwidth may only offer 600 – 800Mbps over the extended network. This is still very usable for web browsing, video calls, mobile gaming and typical home usage. But full-scale media servers streaming 4K video to multiple TVs simultaneously is better served by commercial-grade WiFi APs.
Key Takeaway: Prioritize what’s more important for your wireless usage – pure speed or coverage reach? WiFi Extenders reliably boost signal for basic connectivity even three rooms across from your core router. But maximum wireless throughput drops compared to what your primary router provides when connected directly.
Mesh WiFi has pros and cons compared to WiFi extenders:
Pros of Mesh Systems
- Wider range – Multi-node kits cover very large spaces up to 6,000 sq ft via meshing
- Consistent speeds from any satellite node unlike signal degradation seen in range extenders
- Roaming support to switch nodes as you move through the house
- Self-organizing – nodes auto pick best WiFi channel, power settings
- Some kits have stylish hub-type nodes easy to place prominent locations
Cons of Mesh Systems
- Very expensive – yet fastest tri-band kits start at $250+ just for basic single unit kits
- Overkill for small homes needing just an additional zone of WiFi connectivity
- Each satellite is an additional device needing power outlet access unlike compact plug-in extenders
Ultimately WiFi mesh systems like Eero Pro or Netgear Orbi RBK752 are only essential if you need very wide wireless coverage exceeding 6000 sq ft across large multi-story homes. And crave advanced convenience features absent in basic extenders.
For smaller homes or apartments needing just an extra wireless zone for intermittent usage like a backyard or garage, WiFi extenders provide reliable, affordable performance. Making them our recommended buy for boosting WiFi on a budget.
Check out more perspectives on WiFi Extender vs Mesh for help deciding what suits your home.
Common WiFi Booster FAQs
- How far can WiFi boosters extend my wireless network?
Range depends on the router and extender model. But typically WiFi extenders can amplify WiFi signal reliably up to an extra 3000 – 5000 sq ft radius while still maintaining usable Internet speeds. So they easily cover adjacent rooms or an entire floor level. For wider multi-level coverage, WiFi mesh systems excel instead.
- Do I need wired Ethernet access to install a WiFi extender?
No wiring needed! That’s a key benefit of WiFi range extenders – the truly wireless setup. WiFi boosters connect to your host router via WiFi, then grab that existing signal to rebroadcast further. So no nearby Ethernet jack or MoCA coaxial port is necessary. Just a compatible router and sufficient source WiFi signal strength for the extender to lock on to.
- My current router is 802.11ac – will 802.11n boosters still work?
Yes, WiFi standards are backwards compatible. So an 802.11n WiFi extender will seamlessly work with newer 802.11ac or WiFi 6 routers to boost their signal. But we recommend still getting at least an 802.11ac booster as they are similar cost now but support higher network speeds. Mixing WiFi 4 (n) and WiFi 5/6 (ac/ax) gear works but drags performance.
- Will boosters help my slow Internet speeds?
No. WiFi range extenders only amplify the existing WiFi signal not your actual Internet speeds from your provider. So if speed tests connected directly to the router also show less than 25 Mbps downloads for instance, only upgrading Internet plans helps. Extenders improve WiFi coverage at the edge of your network – not overall Internet performance issues. Upgrading routers or ISP plans fixes core speed issues.
- How do I access router settings if connecting wirelessly via the extender?
Log in to your router admin interface by browsing not to its default gateway IP – but rather the IP address assigned to your extended WiFi network visible in the extender’s settings or app. As the extender is wirelessly linked to the router, you can fully access the router UI from client devices linked to the extended network too.
- Can I pair two extenders to a single router?
We recommend using just one powerful booster unit for most homes as chaining multiple lower power extenders tends to exacerbate signal degradation. Plus managing the extended network gets tricky. But if you face coverage issues in two distant zones, adding a second booster can help provided both units connect reliably back to router with sufficient signal strength. Experiment with placement to get best quality.
In conclusion, while WiFi extenders may not deliver quite the full-blown performance of commercial-grade enterprise access points, the latest 802.11ac models offer very decent wireless amplification at reasonable prices. When strategically positioned in relation to your existing router coverage, WiFi boosters remain a proven approach to cost-effectively bathe every corner of your small or mid-sized home with faster WiFi. Eliminating frustrating dead zones for flawless HD streaming and high-speed Internet across all your devices no matter where in the house they roam.