Wireless extenders do exactly what the name suggests. They connect to your Wi-Fi router, and boost the signal, allowing you to enjoy fast, reliable internet throughout your home. And with more and more us working from home in 2020, that's really something worth investing in.
Do you often experience slow Wi-Fi in certain rooms? Are there 'dead zones' where you can't get connected at all? Would you love to work in the garden, the shed, or the attic, but find your internet doesn't stretch that far? Then it's time to check out wireless extenders. And to help you out, we've brought together the best on the market, in one handy post. Don't miss our round up of the best cheap broadband deals right now too.
The three types of wireless extender
When it comes to choosing a wireless extender, the first thing to consider is that there are three broad types. The first, and most basic kind, is the wireless repeater. This consists of one unit that you plug into your router. It takes the existing signal and boosts it; nothing more, nothing less.
The second type is the powerline adapter, which uses your electricity cabling to broadcast internet around your house. It usually consists of multiple units. You plug one into a power socket and connect it to your router using a cable. Then you place a second unit in the place you want to supply the internet to, and connect any devices to this second unit.
Unlike the wireless repeater, this system won't lose signal strength the further you are from the router. However, it will only work if your home has a single electricity circuit. If it has a separate circuit on a different floor, it won't.
The third and most sophisticated type of wireless extender is the mesh network. Again, there are multiple units. You plug one into your router to boost its wireless signal, and then scatter other satellite units around the house, which do the same. Depending on the home in question, this is usually the most effective system, but also the most expensive.
The 5 best wireless extenders available now
Is the coverage provided by your current Wi-Fi setup more or less okay, but could do with a little boost? For instance, it reaches every room, but it's weaker in some than others? Then a relatively cheap and basic wireless extender, aka a wireless repeater, is probably all you need. And our favourite right now has to be the TP-Link RE650.
This nicely designed device promises an impressive 14,000 square feet of coverage, and delivers very fast speeds (1,733 mbps over its 5GHz channel and 800 mbps over the 2.4GHz channel). It's easy to set up too: we particularly love the LED circle that turns red when it's too far from the router, and blue when it's in the right area.
Not only does it come with two years' manufacturer warranty but this includes 24/7 support too. Overall, this clever device offers fantastic value for money.
If you're currently suffering from multiple Wi-Fi dead zones in your house, you may find that a simple wireless extender doesn't quite cut it. In which case, it may pay off to invest in a more expensive, mesh-based system. And here's what we consider the best one on the market right now.
Depending on the size of your dwelling and how much control you want, you can choose between two, three and four discs (each with a separate power supply) that relay your Wi-Fi signal around your home. Set up is simple: you connect one disc to your router via the supplied wired connection, and then place the other or others around your building. Handily, the free smartphone app gives you guidance on whether to place them to get the best results. You can name each disc as you go ('attic', 'spare bedroom' etc).
That app gives other useful features. For example, you can see who’s online at any one time and which devices are consuming most of the broadband. You can also pause the internet, and control and schedule access, user by user; particularly useful for parents of unruly children.
With a three-year manufacturer's warranty, easy set up and fast and reliable performance, this wireless extender may be expensive, but for a large and busy household it represents excellent value.
However powerful the signal broadcast by your wireless extender, it still has to cope with basic physics. Because Wi-Fi travels in a wave, thick walls, copper piping and other obstacles can prevent it from reaching where it needs to be, especially in a multi-storey dwelling.
If that's been the case in your home, then piggybacking off your electricity wiring instead may ultimately be the best solution. In which case, the wireless extender we'd recommend is the Trendnet Wi-Fi Everywhere Powerline 1200 AV2. This comes in two units: the first you connect to your router and the second you plug into a power outlet in another room where Wi-Fi connectivity is needed. (Note that unlike other powerline adapters, the device has a clone button that can clone your network, so that it can double as a Wi-Fi extender.) You can buy extra units and add up to eight in total.
This solution generally works well in a modern home, but note that it does require your wiring to be on a single circuit. So in older buildings, if there's a separate ring main for each floor, then it's not going to be suitable, as it will only work on the floor your router is on.
Want to boost your Wi-Fi speed and coverage, but short of cash? The TP-Link RE200 probably won't give the same results as the other devices on this list, but this basic but capable wireless extender can make a difference... at a rock-bottom price.
It's easy to set up: you plug in the device near your router, using the signal indicator to help you find the best place to install it. The free Tether app enables you to manage your network settings from your smartphone. And while the speeds it promises aren't amazing, they should be enough for seamless gaming and streaming TV and movies in HD.
If you're looking to spend a little more than for the TP-Link RE200, but not much more, then we'd recommend this quite beautifully designed, minimalist device. The Belkin AC1200 is very easy to set up: just plug it into a wall socket near your router. And while this is just your basic type wireless extender, with no clever features, the maximum speeds of 1,200 mbps it promises are very impressive for the price.