Most folks figure they need to upgrade their Wi-Fi in that situation, so they either buy a new Wi-Fi router or upgrade their internet service (or both). Well, hang on before you do that, because for well under $100 in most cases you have another option. Chances are, a range extender will get the job done. Aptly named, range extenders pick up your router's Wi-Fi signal, amplify it, and rebroadcast the boosted signal. Our top-rated models are below, followed by a detailed guide to selecting the range extender that meets the needs of your home.
This is the best range extender for people whose network has or will have Wi-Fi 6 devices, which is pretty much everyone at this point. If you're certain you don't need Wi-Fi 6, you can save a bit of cash by opting for the RE450 below. Otherwise, this is the Wi-Fi range extender to buy.
If you know you don't need Wi-Fi 6, but still need a reliable way to extend a network that sees frequent use from multiple data-intensive streams at a time, the Nighthawk X4 is one of your best options.
Sometimes just one or two rooms in your house can't get a reliable Wi-Fi signal, while every other room is blessed with a strong connection. Or perhaps you live in a building with plaster walls and lead paint, known for killing signals even across relatively short distances. That's where the Linksys RE7000 can help. This Wi-Fi range extender achieved impressive results in our close-proximity tests (although performance did drop significantly when we moved further away). In addition to strong same-room performance, the RE7000 also offers extensive network customization options.
Do you hate switching between network names as you move in and out of range It's annoying, but if you've already got a cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 router, you're probably reluctant to ditch it in favor of a whole new mesh system. The EAX15 is a good alternative in this situation, extending the Wi-Fi signal to previously underserved locations in your house while letting you roam seamlessly from room to room without worrying about the name of the network you're on.
Depending on the size and layout of your home, a mid-to-high-end router may provide all the Wi-Fi coverage you'll need. But for homes built with dense materials like brick, concrete, plaster, and metal, some level of signal degradation is almost a certainty. Likewise, homes with multiple floors and many walls are more susceptible to signal loss than a one-story home with an open floor plan. In some cases, you can relocate your router to a central location to deliver a stronger signal to those dead zones that were previously out of reach. In most homes, however, the router's location is tied to the room where the internet enters the house, which means relocating the router will likely require running an Ethernet cable to the desired area. Range extenders provide a relatively easy way to deliver Wi-Fi without having to run cables.
It's also worth noting that, if you're having the rather specific issue of connecting a computer to Wi-Fi in a particular part of your home, you might be better served by a USB Wi-Fi adapter. For as little as $15, these adapters are essentially antennas that plug directly into your computer to help it pull in a better Wi-Fi signal.
Not very long ago, setting up a range extender required a bit of technical expertise and a good deal of patience to find the best location (ideally halfway between the router and the dead zone). But most of today's routers and range extenders support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which makes pairing the two as simple as pressing a couple of buttons, naming your new extended network, and creating a network password.
Whereas range extenders communicate with the router via the 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio bands, most Wi-Fi system satellites use mesh technology to talk to the router, and to each other. Each node serves as a hop point for other nodes in the system, which helps the nodes farthest from the router to deliver a strong Wi-Fi signal as they talk to other nodes and don't rely on one-to-one communications with the router.
In our wireless-extender review summaries above and our spec comparison chart below, check out our picks for the top extenders we have tested. To get even more from your home Wi-Fi network, also check out our guides to setting up your router, boosting your signal, and protecting your Wi-Fi network.
That said, keep an eye out for client devices (phones, laptops and so on) that automatically connect to whichever network offers the best signal at the time. If you've used a device like that on both your main network and the extender's network, then it's possible that your device will jump from one to the other without you realizing it. For instance, if your laptop is on your main network and you move a bit closer to the extender than the router, then your laptop might lose its connection and jump over to the range extender's network for the stronger signal strength, even though the speeds on that extender network might be slower.
The best approach is to plug the extender in somewhere close to the dead zone you're trying to fix, but not within that dead zone. That's because you need the extender to have a decent connection with your router in order to put out a worthwhile signal of its own.
Plug-in range extenders are a good fit when you need to boost the signal in a single dead zone. If you have more than one dead zone in your home where the speeds plummet, then you might be better off just upgrading to a good mesh router (we've got plenty of recommendations there, too).
The best way to figure out how many dead zones you're dealing with is to grab your phone or a laptop and run some speed tests in each room where you need to use the internet. Start with a fresh connection to your network in the same room as the router, and then pull up a good speed-testing site (I like the Ookla speed test). Run at least three speed tests in the room, jot the download and upload results down for each one, then move to the next room and repeat.
You've got lots of options to choose from, and I've spent the past few years regularly testing them out to find the best of the bunch. After countless tests, my data identified the range extenders that reigned supreme. Let's get right to them.
The performance is particularly sharp, too. In my tests at the CNET Smart Home, an RE605X in the basement was able to extend the router's signal from upstairs just fine, giving my upload and download speeds a significant boost in every room I tested. Throughout the entire 5,800-square-foot-home, among all the extenders I tested, the RE605X delivered the fastest average upload speeds to both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices, the fastest average download speeds to Wi-Fi 6 devices and the second fastest average download speeds to Wi-Fi 5 devices.
The only thing keeping me from saying that the two finished in a virtual tie is that the RE7310 was slightly less impressive with earlier-gen Wi-Fi 5 devices, particularly with respect to upload speeds. Still, the performance was solid across the board, and strong enough for me to take video calls in the Smart Home's basement dead zones, something I would have struggled with using just the single router I ran my tests on. It's a bit bulky-looking, but the RE7310 is the best Linksys range extender I've tested yet, and it's an especially great pick if you can catch it on sale.
It's a little long in the tooth at this point, and it won't wow you with Wi-Fi 6 speeds, but the strong ease of use and the steady, dependable level of performance it offers mean it's still an absolute steal. It's not as fast as the top models I've tested in the years since, and I haven't had a chance to retest it at the CNET Smart Home just yet -- but it's still a great choice if you want to boost the signal from the Wi-Fi router to a back room that sits beyond the router's reach, but you'd like to pay as little as possible to get the job done.
Fortunately, it isn't too hard to catch it on sale. As of writing this, Amazon has it listed at a more reasonable price of $80, though I'd probably stick with the $23 TP-Link RE220 if I were just looking for the best value pick. I'll keep an eye out for any other good sales and update this post as I spot them.
With my control speeds established, it was time to start adding in the range boosters and seeing which ones improved things the best. Pairing each one with the router only required me to plug it in nearby and press the WPS button on both devices -- after that, I relocated them downstairs, to the basement rec room, which was the farthest point from the router that still had a decent signal and speeds. Whenever you're using a Wi-Fi range extender, that's typically the best place to put it: just shy of the edge of your router's range, where it will still receive a strong enough signal to put out a strong signal of its own. The best way to find that spot Grab your phone or laptop and run some speed tests.
For my first batch of range extender tests a few years back, I tested four bargain-priced models to see which one offered the most bang for the buck. It was the start of the pandemic and people were scrambling to bolster their home networks -- I wanted to be sure we could point them to a good, budget-friendly pick that would do the best job as a signal booster offering an extra room's worth of coverage in a pinch.
My top pick, the TP-Link RE605X, makes it easy to tweak settings via TP-Link's Tether app on an Android or iOS device. Again, the features make for slim pickings, but you can check signal strength or turn on High-Speed Mode, which dedicates the 2.4GHz band for traffic from the router to the range extender, leaving the 5GHz free for your normal Wi-Fi network traffic. That mode actually wasn't as fast as sharing the 5GHz band like normal when I tested it out, because those incoming 2.4GHz speeds are limited, but it still might be a useful option in some situations. 59ce067264