WiFi Repeaters vs Powerline Adaptors
Speed race between a WiFi repeater and powerline adaptor. Really the test isn't ideal but it can give you an idea of the difference. A powerline adaptor allows you to connect devices together through ethernet connections to a power socket. A wireless repeater creates a second wireless connection for you while it connects to the original one. While the powerline was faster in this case keep in mind models and local wireless setups do matter and there is always the balance between the speed of a wired connection (your network is always faster with ethernet) vs the flexibility of a wireless connection for multiple devices.
Do WiFi Repeaters Work?
An example of a quickly setup wireless repeater and the difference it made to a wireless connection with speed tests throughout different rooms.
Latest Wireless Extender Reviews
These are our current top models. You can read the full review for each one but they're given a rating for each category to help you narrow them down. If you are not sure what to look for then you might want to take a look at the overall best repeater or some of our guides on what to look for and how to set up.
Do You Even Need a WiFi Repeater?While WiFi repeaters and extenders are by far the easiest and (generally) best performance boost to any WiFi network there are alternatives. We review our repeaters and extenders against other devices but sometimes a few changes like positioning or wireless router settings can make enough of a difference. If you take a look at our network setup guide we cover a couple of easy ways to squeeze the most out of your WiFi signal and make your router work harder for you. In some cases you don't even need to add any new hardware. If you've tried fiddling with the settings already or you just want a device to handle all the tech work for you then these devices are pretty much plug and play. You don't really need to worry about your router or current network just throw a WiFi repeater into the mix and watch the difference it makes to your WiFi signal. We do cover the best devices for specific needs and guide on how to make the most from them but for the majority of users all you need is a 5 minute setup and you'll never have to look twice at the device again.
The Best WiFi Repeater For YouAs with any electronic device choosing the right WiFi repeater can be time consuming and wastes your money if you get the wrong one. There are hundreds of range extenders to choose from and each one will tell you they are the best. Our goal is to help you find exactly what you are looking for and make it easy for you to choose between them. Because wireless repeaters come in different types and with different features we have divided them up to make it easier for you to choose between. Each page will list the WiFi range extenders and a short review for each. Hopefully this site will make it as easy as possible to find the right one for you. One final note before we get started. A WiFi repeater is the same thing as a WiFi range extender or WiFi booster. We alternate between the terms from time to time just to make sure everyone finds what they are looking for. They are stand alone devices which take your wireless signal and 'boost', 'extend' or 'repeat' them to improve the range and quality of your wireless signal. Various names given to the same kind of device. We also look at signal booster antennas which can be plugged into your wireless card to improve your individual signal. Choose from the pages below to find our reviews and suggestions to fit your needs.
How to Setup a Wireless Network (And Why You Won't Do It)
The incredibly clever scientific folk have done the math and they've worked out exactly where your wireless router should be placed. Right slap bang in the middle of the house. And you can't have it on the floor or tucked away somewhere. In fact it should be bolted to the wall in plain sight. But, let's face it, none of us are going to do that. Even if you do there are so many more wireless devices and networks causing interference you could stick the biggest, ugliest router you could find in place of your TV and it's no guarantee you'll get a signal. I have been on a WiFi booster install where the office had literally nailed two of their access points over the doorways of offices. It probably didn't help that one of the nails went through something important but you get my point. People go to some pretty crazy lengths to try and improve their wireless network when you could plug in a WiFi repeater in the corner somewhere and get a better signal anyway.
Every wall makes your signal weaker. Every window. Every piece of furniture, every closed door even the person standing in front of the fridge staring into it hoping something interesting is going to appear - all of them are blocking your wireless signal. And that's just the things you can see. For every neighbour changing something with their own network or connecting more devices your own network has to put up with more and more interference. The more those signals get blocked, the worse your wireless connection becomes. At this point you have two options. Take a sledge hammer to some of the walls (fun, but messy) or use a wireless repeater. Rather than try and explain how WiFi extenders work I think this image pretty much sums it up. They act as a man in the middle. They take the original signal from your router and create a second one so your devices can connect to either.
The repeater picks up the slack where the original routers signal starts to weaken. In some cases (especially when your internet provider gives you a cheap router) the repeated signal can actually be stronger than the original wireless signal.
Difference in a Wireless Extender, WiFi Repeater or Wireless Booster?At least half of the emails we receive wind up asking the same thing. What is the difference in a booster, an extender, a repeater and whatever else the shops end up calling them. In short, they're the same thing. Especially online you might find vendors calling the exact same equipment by completely different names. Oh WiFi amplifier is another common one. Occasionally we'll swap around in what we call them because we want people to know what they're looking at regardless of what they've seen someone else call it. But at the end of the day they'll take your wireless signal and boost, extend or repeat it to another area. I don't care what it wants to call itself as long as I can sit in my garden on a warm day and still get an internet connection. I did watch people in an office argue over "the WiFi repeater vs extender debate" I didn't really have the heart to tell them they were talking about exactly the same equipment.
Best Wireless Repeater
We thought we'd start with the best. After reviewing every repeater we could find it would be hard not to find one we liked the best. All of our reviews are impartial but when one repeater has better reviews, features and pricing than the others it makes it kind of hard not to pick a favorite. There are hundreds to choose from and to start with this is our top rated WiFi repeater. It has the best reviews, features and all around value. If you don't already have an idea of what you are looking for then this is our #1 suggestion. With great value and suitable for almost all situations the entire Amped range is a good place to start and we think we've found the overall best. You can visit the catalog of repeaters to see the full review and get the cheapest price. Our other pages have shorter reviews and selections but this is frequently updated with the best 'all rounder' and is the one we get the best feedback about.
Easy to Use WiFi Range Extenders
While some of us enjoy the tinkering and playing with technology the slightly more sane among us just want to plug things up and have them work. This is getting rarer and rarer these days but we keep our updated "easiest setup" model which is as close to working out the box as we can get it. You won't need to get anyone to set this up for you it'll do almost everything but clip your toenails. While some repeaters come with easy setup software which guide you through everything others involve far too much configuration and messing around before they will work. For those who do not want to bother with a nightmare of getting everything working we have our easy setup extenders page. Whether you're a technophobe or just hate the fuss we have grouped up some of the easiest to use range extenders which can be setup and ready to go in minutes. No technical skills required. A few minutes to setup and then you can leave them to do their thing and enjoy the increased signal. Of course this all becomes a moot point if you are lucky enough to have a 'tech head' as a friend or in the family who can set one up for you. We do make a point of focusing on the best we can find which usually involves an easy setup but here we've just focused on the ones which make it as easy as possible. The rule of thumb for this category is it only qualifies if my grandmother would be able to set it up. And she once asked me how to plug the printer into the internet. Most of the repeater options are easy enough to setup but involve connecting from a computer to a web based control panel or running the software to get things setup. For an easier option some of them are touch screen so you just tap the network you'd like to repeat and fill in the password. Job done. You do pay a little extra for the touchscreen generally but it makes life easier (especially if you're planning on changing network settings often) and they tend to have an extra feature or two like an inbuilt browser you can check the weather from the hall table or something.
Cheapest WiFi Repeater
Prices for extenders can vary pretty widely depending on features and branding. If you are looking to keep it low cost then we do have some suggestions for you while still keeping quality in mind. For basic tasks you can save money and still get exactly what you need. We have some short reviews and comparisons to the higher priced models on our cheapest WiFi repeater page. We always say there is no point in spending more than you have to on electronics and range boosters are no different. If you can get the range on your wireless network and not pay too much then I'd call that a double win. They're not expensive devices in general and most of the ones we suggest keep price and value in mind but if you strip out the flash and go for simple range boosting ability then you can save yourself a little extra. Keep in mind when you see things listed for $5 online you are probably looking at a signal booster and not a repeater. The lines seem to blur somewhat between the two and we've seen people buy the wrong thing before. So you won't see $5 listings here because we are reviewing actual WiFi repeaters but these are still some of the cheapest models which still being good quality and actually doing what they're supposed to be doing. We have also avoided any with bad track records. No point in saving $20 if you have to replace it again (and waste more money) a few weeks later.
Outdoor WiFi RepeaterNormally repeaters are used indoors but there are some outdoor signal boosters which will not break down when the rain starts. Perfect if you want to boost your wireless signal between buildings or out into the garden for example our outdoor WiFi repeater page has reviews and suggestions of the perfect solutions. Note: If you're trying to get your signal into your garden remember you can still do so with an indoors repeater depending on the size of your garden and the positioning of your repeater. But if you do intend on putting it outdoors then make sure you are getting an outdoors WiFi repeater and not just putting a normal one outside. Electronics and the weather do not mix well unless they've been properly designed for it.
Setting Up a WiFi RepeaterBecause we only really review the devices we think are worthwhile we tend to find they come with everything you need to get them up and running. But it never hurts to have some extra advice and we've had enough experience with using them for our own networks that we put together our quick reference guide on setting up WiFi repeaters. In fact we have an entire section on how you can squeeze the most out of your wireless signal if you really want to geek out over it. For those of us who just want to plug it in and let it handle things then we cover that as well. This is one of those rare occasions where computing hardware can actually handle the dull parts itself for the most part without you really having to do anything. When I'm out on an install I might hum and haw a while until someone refills the coffee pot but at the end of the day if I'm in doubt I can install one of the easier setup models and throw on some great big antennas.
When to Use a Booster
The basic answer here is "whenever your WiFi sucks". You can use them at home, at the office and there's more than a few people using them to share an internet connection with neighbours in a different building. Basically any time your wireless signal isn't able to reach the area you want it to you can stick one of these down and it essentially doubles your range. That's not to say there's not an alternative to a repeater. There's a couple of things you can do to improve your wireless strength without buying new equipment (I'll go over a few options in a moment) but a booster tends to be the quick and easy answer - also the most successful. As we start to use more and more tablets and phones on our wireless networks we also need to have a more reliable original signal. It's easy to stick a big powerful wireless card on a desktop computer but when it comes to an iPhone or iPad for example their WiFi range is pretty limited. And you can't exactly boost their signal with an antenna. Boosting the original networks range means anyone can connect without needing to be using specific equipment. If the problem is your computer itself is running slowly then you won't really get a lot of benefit from a better internet connection. If it's slow to open up programs and start up to begin with then your speed issues might be with the computer rather than your wireless network. The best way to tell if the wireless network is the issue is to look at the signal strength. If your signal strength is fine but the speed still suffers then it might be a problem with your internet provider. If you're seeing a low signal and your internet tends to work better closer to the router than a booster can certainly help. If you don't get a signal at all in some areas then it should go without saying that it would work there as well.
Alternative to a Wireless Repeater
Not as mad as it looks there is actually a reason for this.[/caption] As much as some of us like to play around with a new gadget it isn't always necessary. I will say that in the majority of cases you are much better setting up a repeater because it is a lot easier, a lot less faffing around and it is equipment which has been made for this purpose. Personally, even as a tech guy, I don't like fiddling around with things if there's an alternative I can just switch on instead. That said in some cases you might be able to improve things just enough or at least do something to tide you over until your wireless booster knight in shining armor arrives.
- DD-WRT Firmware. Warning: This one is fairly technical. If you have a spare compatible router you can flash it with this and it will have a repeating option. In our experience (and we've done this with several devices) it doesn't give the same performance as a purpose built repeater. And it can require some fiddling to get working properly but if you happen to have a spare wireless router sitting around (obviously not the one you use to actually provide the original signal) this might give you just enough for a small range boost. By default most routers don't have a wireless repeating function this is a custom piece of software you can install on the router which unlocks that functionality.
- Directional or higher power antennas. This really comes down to both your router and your wireless adaptor. If you have the option of external antennas on either of them you can swap to a higher power version or a directional option to force the signal to a specific area. You can see our reviews of the best wireless antennas as well.
- Speaking of antennas the cheaper option is also the "Cantenna". This is the image you see above. It actually takes more work than you might think (no, you can't just throw a Pringles tube on the top of your router). They can make a decent enough distance if you only need a small boost. I've used them before in a pinch (it was a reason to have some Pringles at least) but they won't really stand up to an actual piece of equipment.
The Myths of Wireless Internet Booster SoftwareNote: If you're suffering from a poor internet speed because of a weak wireless signal then a repeater can help you but there's nobody apart from your ISP who can increase your actual internet speed if your wireless network is not the problem. No. Just no. This idea of a software based "internet signal booster" is just not based on reality. There's a lot of stuff claiming that they fill this role and they're usually selling you something (even if you pay it won't actually help) or making you the product (which we'll look at in a moment). Look I've tried. I've hunted. I've searched. This stuff is all a marketing ploy. Even if they tell you this internet boost is free it's either loaded with adverts or other nonsense. If your computer is running slowly as a result of things which could be cleared then there is software which can help with that (not that you really need it) but there is nothing on the software end that can improve the speed of your internet connection. I've seen them make some wild claims in the past and none of them have lived up to it. People have floated the idea of using a VPN to improve connection speed. In some specific cases this can help lower the number of hops you make to a specific site or service. But in general not only does it add an extra step to your internet access (which can affect both speed and security) it costs a monthly fee. And the overall speed difference isn't likely to be noticeable and can be detrimental. There are some providers claiming to offer free internet signal booster software and giving out a free VPN. But what actually happens is they then turn around and sell your bandwidth to other providers who pay them. So your connection might take a different route to the server but you're also suddenly loaded with the extra bandwidth usage of these others users. Not only will this slow down your connection but it can lead to charges if you have a bandwidth limit. They do, of course, tell you about this. They just bury it under layers of small fine print in the terms of service. As much as common sense tells me it's just not possible I have at least tested a couple. If I'm doing an install I owe it to them to know as much as I can about the options available. I've yet to be pleasantly surprised by this kind of software. There are tools which can help you see how busy your local WiFi channels are. We cover using it in our repeater setup guide but this can only help your wireless signal it won't actually help your internet speed.
Do WiFi Extenders Really Work?In short? Yes. We'll look at some alternatives but there is no other piece of hardware or modification you can make which will improve your wireless signal as much as an extender will. There are limitations, of course, a cheap $20 repeater is not going to boost your signal into the next block of houses but these devices are popular for a reason. For the use most of us want out of them? They're ideal. If you follow our extender setup guide we'll show you how to get the most out of them so you can squeeze as much wireless power as you can out of your device. For average use you should be able to just turn it on and leave it be but if you're really trying to push it we can show you a couple of things to try. Considering the site is entirely based on WiFi repeater reviews it's obvious we're going to say "yes" here. I can show examples of how the boosted signal we've installed in an office took it from a few rooms poorly covered to an entire building with a strong, stable WiFi signal. But why would you have any reason to listen to us? You should question us the same way as you question the "news" that WiFi repeaters don't work. The ones which demonise repeaters and extenders as "useless" but of course they have some software or gadget which you can buy which does have the answer. There is a difference however. These fake news sites that say WiFi repeaters don't work pop up and promote some product out of a Chinese factory that nobody else has ever heard of. You can't find reviews on it anywhere than on an article which conveniently spills the beans on the better known alternatives. WiFi repeaters and extenders however have been around for years. Sure the technology has changed and advanced we have better models than ever but if you look at either the older or newer models you'll see thousands and thousands of positive reviews of people getting results. Review sites like ourselves don't just try to find a repeater or extender which works because we know they work. We want to find the ones which work best and compare the results against each other. Sure you'll have bad reviews on some models. The cheaper ones out of crappy factories producing WiFi repeaters at $10 a pop are going to under perform. And any computer hardware has a few negative reviews generally from people who haven't set them up or misunderstood the limits of the technology. You can't cover a city with a wireless network with one WiFi repeater (yes I've seen a review where someone thought they could) but repeaters can easily cover homes and offices and remove WiFi dead zones. And there are thousands and thousands of reviews behind it. Both from third party sites and actual users of the devices. We're an impartial service here. We do office WiFi network installs and try to find the best models. If someone is having signal issues our go to every time is going to be a repeater. I 100% urge you to do your own due diligence when getting a new piece of hardware and don't take any one sites opinion but you'll see the reviews for yourself on Amazon for most of the devices we review positively there is a lot of consumers these devices are working for.
Potential Problems with WiFi Repeaters and BoostersAs much as I love wireless repeaters and think they make one of the easiest ways to improve the range of a wireless network – they are not without problems. Even the best technology out there at the moment is still technology which inevitably leads to problems. So, what’s the worst we can expect with WiFi repeaters and how can you reduce the problem as much as possible?
Slight Speed DropNormally when you connect to your wireless router the wireless traffic goes between you and it. When you start using a repeater it becomes a ‘middle man’ for this traffic so it has to make one extra stop which can slow it down. Your connection is still making that one extra step before it reaches the internet. But a couple of things are important to remember.
- This "extra step" is in your local WiFi network and we are talking about fractions of seconds here. For general use most of us will never notice the difference to connecting directly to the original WiFi router.
- Even if the speed drop was noticeable I'd still rather have a speed issue than no signal at all. The whole point of a wireless network is to make life easier not force me to have to move rooms just to get a connection to the internet.
ResetsThis can really depend on the router you’re using. Sometimes if, for whatever reason, the signal stops or your power cuts out you have to go through the setup again. On one hand the setups are usually pretty easy, especially if you’re using WPS which makes it push button, but this is still not ideal. Some wireless repeaters store the last used configuration even through a power cut which means you won’t have to reset the information again. I’ve been on each sides of this myself with repeaters but I do have to say I’ve never really had that much of a problem with it. This tends to be very situational to the frequency of power cuts in your area as well as the wireless repeater you actually use.
Poor Signal Problems?The majority of the time all you have to do is connect your WiFi repeater and that's it. If you are experiencing a poor with a WiFi booster then one of three things is wrong.
- Setup issue. This is the most common. Even with the booster you might still have to look at positioning or change the original network channel to make sure you're getting the most from your new device.
- Expecting too much. If you're trying to cover a large area with a single device you might well be disappointed unless you've gone for something very specific like an outdoor WiFi repeater with a directional antenna. For general use in homes or offices a single wireless repeater is enough but for larger areas with multiple floors for example you might consider multiple wireless access points or even multiple repeaters for the same wireless network.
- Antenna issue. If your antennas are obscured or you're using the wrong type then a slight positional change can make a big difference to signal strength.