Today’s digital recreation — streaming movies and TV shows and online gaming — is placing a higher demand on our Wi-Fi networks than ever before. Whether you live in a large house or simply want a faster Wi-Fi connection (since Wi-Fi signals degrade the further you are away from your router — and walls and floors do nothing to help), a Wi-Fi range extender can be awesome.
There are lots of reasons to buy a range extender, actually. You might want to hardwire a gaming console or smart TV using an ethernet cord in a room that’s not wired for an ethernet jack. You might want to stream a lot of 4K content and your current Wi-Fi setup just isn’t cutting it. Maybe you need MU-MIMO support so everyone’s devices in the house aren’t sunk when someone starts gaming. Whatever your situation is, I’ve got you covered with some great recommendations.
In my house, streaming slows down around 6pm when everyone in the neighborhood starts streaming too. Wi-Fi congestion can be a real problem in dense neighborhoods and, depending on your ISP and internet connection type, digital traffic jams can happen too. And when they do, it’s best to move into the fastest possible lane you can; and that’s something a Wi-Fi range extender can help you do.
Since this is a roundup of “the best” range extenders on the market, I’ve included only those that are dual band (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) and those with Wireless AC technology (which is backward compatible with all a/b/g/n technologies). AC is the newest and fastest wireless standard and is the best way to currently future proof your network setup as much as possible.
One final word on range extenders before we get to my top 3 picks. Looks matter. Seriously. Routers and range extenders are traditionally some of the ugliest tech products in a person’s home. At least the router usually lives in your home office or can be tucked away where visitors won’t see it, but the same can’t be said for range extenders. Wi-Fi extenders typically need to be placed in a living room, for instance, where they can be very visible and that is something I did take into account when making these selections. You’re welcome.
TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender w/ Gigabit Ethernet Port (RE450)
After returning an Asus router I was very unhappy with I settled on a TP-Link Archer router and have been pretty happy with it. So, naturally, I feel good recommending a TP-Link Wi-Fi range extender. The TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender offers some incredible performance for just $99 and it’s my recommendation for most people.
There’s a lot to like here. First, I love that this plugs into an outlet (as does the Nighthawk) and doesn’t have to sit out in the open. And while the antennas aren’t internal, at least they aren’t huge monstrosities. Overall, this thing looks pretty decent and shouldn’t offend anyone’s senses (even in posh settings).
Capable of extending your Wi-Fi range up to 10,000 square feet, you can simultaneously game while streaming 4K UHD content using the goal band capabilities. I love the built-in Gigabit Ethernet port for hardwiring things like gaming consoles and the smart signal indicator helps you find the best placement. Beam forming is also present here and you’ll have some peace of mind with a 2-year warranty and unlimited 24/7 tech support (I like TP-Link’s support MUCH better than Neatgear’s).
This is one of (if not the) most affordable higher-end Wi-Fi range extenders and makes even more sense if you already happen to have a TP-Link router.
Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE6500)
The Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi range extender may indeed be the cheapest of this bunch but that doesn’t mean it lacks in the features department. For one thing, this device is perfect for homes that want to hardwire multiple devices at once because it has 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports (so you could hardwire your smart TV, an Apple TV or Roku device, a gaming console and another gadget, for instance).
With up to 10,000 square feet of coverage and with simultaneous dual-band connections, your devices will be able to automatically connect to the best band for the fastest coverage. Also, the crossband technology allows data packets to be sent and received on different bands which helps to avoid dropped packets (in other words, this is another feature that will provide a better Wi-Fi connection).
This extender does have one more innovative feature that the other 2 extenders in this roundup don’t: it has an audio jack which will let you connect an older (“dumb”) stereo system to Wi-Fi for wireless streaming. Yet another reason why this could be one of the best Wi-Fi range extenders to place in the midst of a home theater setup.
If you’re looking for a more affordable, but still very high-quality, range extender, give this Linksys some consideration.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2200 Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7300)
The Nighthawk AC2200 Wi-Fi range extender is a top-of-the-line model for people with the best routers you can buy. If you’ve already got an incredible router, it only makes sense to get the best range extender you possibly can to match.
With support for MU-MIMO for simultaneous streaming to multiple devices, Beamforming+ for faster and more accurate coverage, FastLane Technology for Wi-Fi band optimization (in order to create a super high speed connection for steaming or gaming), you won’t find a Wi-Fi range extender that can do more (or that is faster). Another great feature: you can extend coverage using your existing Wi-Fi connection or you can create a new AC Wi-Fi access point. Plus it’s got an ethernet port on the bottom if you want to hardwire your Xbox or Playstation.
Plus, the white design of the AC2200 model is quite an upgrade from other range extenders (and even the cheaper NETGEAR AC1900 model with it’s big black body and large antennae). So yes, I love that this model features an internal antenna array!
As far as range extenders go, this guy is fairly pricy at $149.99 (at the time of writing), but clearly it is worth it if you want to get the maximum performance out of your high-speed Internet setup.
One downside though: everyone knows that Netgear tech support is awful (just sayin’).
Recommendations and Conclusion
- If you want the best features go with the Netgear: it’s as top-of-the-line as Wi-Fi extenders come.
- If you want the most budget-friendly option out of this (high-performing) group, go with the Linksys.
- If you want the best all-around option for most people (and best-looking and reasonably priced) go with the TP-Link.
In all honesty, you probably can’t go wrong with any of these Wi-Fi range extenders in terms of performance. They all get pretty comparable (favorable) reviews on Amazon. But what will probably influence your decision more will be looks and extra functionality (how many ethernet ports, MU-MIMO support, etc.).