From seemingly endless buffering as you’re trying to watch a YouTube video to web pages taking an age to load before timing out completely, we have all experienced the frustration that comes with poor internet connections at some point in our lives.
If a poor connection is something you are experiencing with your broadband service right now, it can be natural to assume that you simply need to increase the speed of your broadband package. However, not only is this likely to lead to additional monthly costs, but switching to a different broadband package or provider promising faster speeds may not even be necessary in the first place.
So, if working from home more frequently has put an increasing set of demands on your home broadband or you are simply hoping to secure the best value for money by maximising the performance of your internet connection, then here is everything you need to know about WiFi extenders.
What is a WiFi extender and how does it work?
WiFi extenders are also sometimes referred to as WiFi signal boosters and they essentially do what they say on the tin: they boost existing signals so you can connect to your WiFi service and experience the best possible internet speeds from every corner of your home.
WiFi extenders start to work as soon as they have established a stable connection between your router and the device you want to connect to the internet with, such as a smartphone or a laptop. Extenders have the unique ability to draw in an existing WiFi signal, enhance its strength and then ensure it has a much further reach.
What is the difference between a WiFi extender and a WiFi repeater?
Although there are many similarities between WiFi extenders and WiFi repeaters, the ways in which they work can be different. As such, certain models arguably fulfil different roles which is why making the right selection for your needs is so important to maximise the value of your broadband package.
WiFi repeaters are single boxes that solely use WiFi signals to relay information backwards and forwards between your router and whichever device you are using to access the internet. Conversely, a WiFi extender works by pulling the signal from your router into itself before using a different type of network to transmit additional coverage further throughout your home.
If you only want to connect a handful of devices and won’t be streaming, gaming or doing anything else that could be particularly strenouous on your internet connection then a WiFi repeater may be adequate for your needs. However, it would be remiss of us to overlook the fact that WiFi extenders are able to offer a better, more reliable and consistent improvement to your internet connection
Do I need a WiFi extender?
Before purchasing a WiFi extender, it is important to determine whether it is definitely the right option for you and your circumstances. To do this, you will need to determine whether your wireless network is responsible for disruptions to your internet service and not the result of a slow connection.
– How to conduct accurate broadband speed checks The easiest way to determine the answer to this important question is to use an internet speed checker. Speed checkers work by accurately measuring the download speeds you are receiving. You will want to conduct several speed checks at different distances away from your router to determine whether your internet speed is reduced in particular areas of your home.
– Check your signal settings It is also a good idea to test several different wireless settings before purchasing an extender. We recommend trying a few different radio bands, as this simple switch can often provide you with a stronger and more reliable signal. If you discover that this test makes little to no difference, you may well find that a WiFi extender will help you to achieve the internet speeds you want and need.
– Determining the best router placement However, before you dive head first into the process of researching different extender models, always try placing your existing router in a few different places to see whether that makes any difference to your connection. Remember, it is best practice to place your router as close to the centre of your home as possible.
– How old is your router? Another thing to think about is the age and quality of your router. Technology has improved significantly in a relatively short amount of time, so it is always worth looking into the features of your existing router to determine whether a more powerful router will be more effective than a WiFi extender. If you aren’t sure what you should be looking for, the Tp-Link Archer C9 AC1900 router is widely accepted as being one of the best choices because it has ultrafast processors and Beamforming technology, which allows WiFi signals to be targeted towards very specific areas within your home.
If, after all these checks, you determine that your router is up to date and has been placed in the best possible location but you’re still experiencing poor quality internet signal, then a WiFi extender could be the answer to all your concerns.
Are Wi-Fi extenders secure?
Provided that you implement proper security precautions when setting up your WiFi extender, it will ensure you have a secure connection to the internet suitable for everything from online shopping to banking and more. Plus, many recently released WiFi extender models are equipped with enhanced security features that include the most advanced digital technologies.
What do I need to know before getting a WiFi extender?
Here are a few main things to keep in mind when beginning your search for a WiFi extender.
– Placement There are a variety of different WiFi extenders available on the market, some of which will sit comfortably on a countertop while others are designed to be mounted onto a wall.
– Ethernet connectivity You should also consider the number of Ethernet ports you will require, as some models will only offer one whilst other models may have three, four or even five. Think about how many devices you may want or need to plug directly into your WiFi extender at any one time. While your household may only need one or two, others may benefit from selecting a model that offers plenty of versatility.
– Antennas While some WiFi extenders will have external antennas, other models have internal antennas that result in a neater, arguably more refined piece of technology. The majority of extenders have two antennas, one of which receives and the other of which transmits the signal. There are a few models that have three antennas, which can further increase the reach and quality of your internet signal.
– Range It is imperative to select a WiFi extender with the ability to successfully bridge the gap between your preferred device and your router. Many models have a range of approximately 300 feet, however some of the more basic models may only stretch to 100 feet. Conversely, some of the more advanced models have a reach that can stretch across thousands of feet. A good rule of thumb to use is: when in doubt, choose an extender with a larger reach.
Which WiFi range extender is best?
When searching for WiFi extenders, it is important to note that not all models are made equal. So, just as different types of router can perform differently, so too can extenders. There are several different features that you may want to look out for when looking for the best WiFi range extender for your needs.
The vast majority of WiFi extenders are equipped with their own web portal, which typically provides access to a range of valuable features. Some manufacturers of WiFi extenders have also developed their own smartphone apps, which can offer an additional element of convenience if you primarily use a smart device to access the internet.
If you frequently have guests staying with you, it could be worth selecting an extender model that offers the option of a separate guest network which essentially means that visitors to your home can access the internet without having any direct access to your personal local devices. There are numerous advantages to this, including allowing you to give it a unique name and even a different set of security settings to your own personal network.
Additionally, some WiFi extenders have integrated access controls, which allow you to determine precisely who is permitted to connect to the internet and at what times. This is something that can be particularly appealing to families with children to prevent them from browsing social media late into the night.
Are there any specific WiFi extender models I should look out for?
Your personal needs and circumstances should always play a central role in selecting the right WiFi extender for your home, however, we have noted a couple of the most positively-reviewed models that deliver excellent results.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 is a tri-band extender that delivers fast internet speeds and a reliable level of coverage throughout your home. There are some disadvantages to this particular model, particularly in terms of its price and the bulkiness of the unit itself.
The good news is that there are a variety of budget-friendly WiFi extenders available that can also deliver dependable results. The TP-Link RE605C can be connected to any router with ease. It also benefits from a web interface that offers access to more advanced settings for experienced users. There are some disadvantages here as it only offers dual-band support and speeds max out at 1800Mbps.
What are the advantages of WiFi extenders?
We hope that we have highlighted the variety of benefits that a WiFi extender can deliver, but here is a brief summary reminder just to make sure.
WiFi extenders are affordable and easy to set up
WiFi extenders can help you to easily create additional networks
WiFi extenders can significantly expand the reach of your existing broadband connection
The results of WiFi extenders are immediately noticeable
WiFi extenders can improve your online browsing experience by minimising interference
Just remember that if your connection doesn’t get any stronger the closer you get to your existing router, an extender is unlikely to make much difference to the quality of your browsing experience. In this situation, always begin by investing in a higher quality router to see whether that addresses your main concerns.
If you have a good quality router already and you’re still having issues with connectivity, the right WiFi extender could offer significant benefits for you. Do remember that it simply isn’t necessary to splash out on the most expensive model, so by taking time to do your research you shouldn’t find it difficult to identify an extender that meets your needs and suits your budget.
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