A WiFi extender and a WiFi repeater serve the same purpose – to boost your existing WiFi coverage area. However, they work slightly differently. This article compares WiFi extenders vs repeaters, analyzing the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is the better option for your needs.
How WiFi Extenders Work
A WiFi extender connects to your existing WiFi network and projects that network further. It does this by receiving the signal from your router, amplifying it, and rebroadcasting it under the same network name, password, and settings. Essentially it acts as a middleman device to widen your network’s range.
Benefits of WiFi Extenders:
- Seamless connectivity – Devices automatically connect without network changes
- Expand coverage area – Extend signal to eliminate dead zones
- Wired option – Some feature Ethernet port for stable backhaul
How WiFi Repeaters Work
A WiFi repeater also connects to your existing network, receives the signal and rebroadcasts it. However, it does so under a different network name and password. When your device connects through the repeater, you must manually select the repeater’s network.
Benefits of WiFi Repeaters:
- Expand coverage area – Boost range to remove dead zones
- Flexible placement – Repeater can be placed anywhere with outlet access
- Affordable pricing – Generally cheaper than WiFi extenders
Comparing WiFi Extenders vs. Repeaters
When evaluating your options, here are some key differences between WiFi extenders and WiFi repeaters:
|Devices connect seamlessly under same SSID/password
|Require manual connection to repeater’s SSID
|Wired backhaul for strong data relay
|Wireless backhaul relies on existing WiFi
|Fast dual-band AC1200-1900
|Slower speeds up to 300 Mbps
- Extenders – Easier connectivity, faster speeds, wider coverage
- Repeaters – Cheaper, flexible placement, manually connect
When to Choose a WiFi Extender
If seamless connectivity, maximum WiFi speed and the widest coverage to eliminate dead zones are most important, a WiFi range extender is likely the better choice. The key advantage of WiFi extenders is that devices automatically connect through them without needing to select another network or re-enter a password. This makes connectivity much simpler. They also typically feature the latest WiFi standards for faster dual or triple band coverage. Plus they can use wired Ethernet backhaul for the strongest signal relay.
Here are the best uses cases when a WiFi extender is preferable:
- Expanding WiFi coverage throughout larger homes
- Adding coverage to outdoor areas or external buildings
- Boosting signal to security cameras or smart home devices
- Improving connectivity for bandwidth-intensive uses like 4K streaming and gaming
Our top WiFi extender picks are:
- Netgear Nighthawk EAX80
- TP-Link RE705X
- Linksys RE9000 Max Stream
When to Choose a WiFi Repeater
If budget is most important or flexibility in placement is needed, a WiFi repeater generally makes the most sense. WiFi repeaters are more affordable, compact for flexible positioning, and easier to install. Just keep in mind connectivity takes an extra manual step each time you connect through the repeater network. Speeds are also not as fast.
Top uses cases suited for WiFi repeaters:
- Adding connectivity to a workshop/garage
- Small studio apartments or dorm rooms
- Quick setup for rental properties or while traveling
- Temporary solution for short-term needs
Our recommendations for top WiFi repeaters are:
- TP-Link RE220
- Linksys RE6500
- Netgear EX2700
- WiFi extenders offer wider coverage, faster speeds and seamless connectivity but cost more
- WiFi repeaters provide a cheap and flexible way to expand WiFi but have slower speeds and require manual connections
- Extenders work best for large homes, streaming, gaming and devices needing strong backhaul
- Repeaters suit smaller spaces like apartments, garages or travel needs more easily
Ultimately, choosing the right option comes down to your budget, coverage needs and priorities for connectivity. Evaluate where you need better signal, how many devices connect and types of activities you’ll use the network for. This helps determine whether an extender or repeater better accomplishes your goals.
In conclusion, WiFi extenders generally provide faster speeds, wider coverage and easier connectivity thanks to dual-band standards and wired backhaul support. But WiFi repeaters offer a more affordable way to eliminate dead zones in a pinch.
Analyze the pros, cons and differences to decide if seamless connectivity from extenders or the budget flexibility of repeaters better matches your environment and needs. Optimizing your home or office WiFi network starts with choosing the right equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do WiFi extenders cut your speed in half?
A: No, dual and triple-band WiFi extenders support maximum wireless standards like 802.11ac for speeds up to 1900Mbps minimally impacting bandwidth over short distances. Older or improperly placed extenders may reduce WiFi speeds. Always choose well-rated dual/tri-band extenders for best connectivity.
Q: Where is the best place to position my WiFi extender?
A: Ideal WiFi extender placement is halfway between your router and the WiFi dead zone you want to improve. Ensure the extender connects at full signal strength to receive and amplify the best source signal. Avoid placement in a metal enclosure that could interfere with wireless signals.
Q: Can I use a WiFi extender as a repeater?
A: Yes, most dual-band AC1200+ WiFi extenders can function as a repeater in a pinch to expand WiFi coverage. You’ll have to manually connect devices to the extender’s SSID instead of pass-through connections. Performance is also slower in repeater mode.
Q: Should my repeater have same SSID as my existing network?
A: No, WiFi repeaters broadcast a new network SSID. If you give it the same name as your main network, devices may connect to the weaker repeater signal rather than the stronger main router signal. Unique repeater SSIDs allow manually connecting only when in range.
Q: Can I use old routers as WiFi repeaters?
A: Yes, many routers have a setting to function as a WiFi repeater, also called Wireless Distribution System (WDS). Connect your old router to the new primary router via Ethernet or wirelessly in WDS mode using the same network name and password to act as a WiFi repeater.
Q: Why does my WiFi extender keep dropping connection?
A: Frequent WiFi extender drops are generally because it’s too far from the router or receiving interference. Move your extender closer to the router with fewer obstructions in the path and devices connected to minimize disconnects. Check for possible interference from electronics, large metal objects and reflectors.
Q: How do I know if my WiFi extender is working properly?
A: Indicator lights on your WiFi extender show if it’s working right. You should see a strong solid connection light showing communication with your main router, not blinking or weak signals. Run a speed test when connected through extender vs direct to router to test performance boosts, minimal speed drops indicate proper functioning.
Q: Can I connect a WiFi repeater to an extender?
A: You can add a second WiFi repeater to connect to your main WiFi extender network. The double repeater extender connection will provide additional coverage but with reduced WiFi speeds. Ensure your main extender receives very strong router signal for the repeater to amplify. Too many hops degrades quality.
Q: What is better, a WiFi booster or extender?
A: WiFi boosters and extenders serve the same purpose of amplifying WiFi signals for wider coverage. Extenders are typically newer tech with faster dual-band speeds and wider compatibility. Boosters use older WiFi booster technology with slower single-band speeds. Extenders are preferable for best connectivity.
Q: Can I install a WiFi repeater myself?
A: Yes, WiFi repeaters provide an easy way to install a signal booster yourself without special tools or wiring. Simply place the compact repeater halfway between your router and WiFi dead zone. Plug it into an outlet and connect wirelessly to your existing network using WPS or browser-based setup to repeat signals.
Q: Why does my repeater have a weaker signal than my router?
A: WiFi repeaters rebroadcast your router’s wireless signal so will always cover a smaller range vs your main router’s native coverage area. Minimize signal drops from your router to the repeater for strongest repeated bandwidth. Place halfway with clear line-of-sight and avoid interference.
Q: Can I use old smartphones as WiFi repeaters?
A: Yes, you can setup an old Android phone or iPhone as a WiFi repeater using wireless tethering or hotspot features. Enable personal hotspot on the smartphone using your main router connection. Connect devices you want to repeat coverage to the phone’s hotspot network to amplify signals.
Q: Can WiFi repeaters work on different channels?
A: Dual-band WiFi repeaters with two radios allow connecting router and repeated device connections on different channels to minimize self-interference and bandwidth reductions. Place the repeater channel on low interference channels 1, 6 or 11 and different from primary router channel.
Q: Why does my WiFi repeater keep dropping signal?
A: Frequent drops from your WiFi repeater generally mean it’s too far from the router or receiving interference impacting the wireless relay connection. Move it closer to the router in a central area between dead zone with fewer walls, metal objects and electronics that could degrade signals.
Q: Can a mesh WiFi system work as repeater?
A: Yes, advanced mesh WiFi systems like Google WiFi, Eero, Orbi and Velop often have a mode to configure satellite nodes as wireless repeaters. Connect mesh satellite via WiFi or Ethernet to main home router and enable wireless repeating / Wireless Distribution System (WDS) mode.
Q: Will a WiFi repeater help neighbor’s WiFi?
A: No, a standard WiFi repeater is designed to rebroadcast the wireless network from a single main router connection and won’t boost neighbor’s WiFi. For that, look into specialty long-range outdoor wireless bridge/repeater systems designed for point-to-point multi-location rebroadcasting.