Best Wi-Fi Extenders

All but the smallest homes have a deep, dark Wi-Fi secret: There are places a single router can't reach. That disconnects family members from the web, their favorite activities and each other. But if you add a range extender in the right place, you can ensure that every corner of your home has internet access.

We put six new Wi-Fi extenders to the test, and Netgear's Nighthawk EX7000 ($148 at Amazon) emerged as the best. It not only came out on top in the throughput tests, but also had the longest range of the products we tested. In both the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands, the extender increased its lead as it got farther from the host router, where an extender's performance counts most. 

TP-Link's RE580D ($127 at Amazon) also fared well when we tested which network extenders could boost Wi-Fi range. But bargain hunters who'd prefer to spend less than $100 on their extender should also consider the TRENDnet TEW-822DRE ($80 at Amazon), which delivers solid performance at an attractive price.

To give you a sense of how far Wi-Fi extenders have come in the past year, our previous pick for the best range extender — the $79 Linksys RE6000 — could muster 255 Mbps of throughput and a 145-foot range. The Netgear Nighthawk EX7000 puts those numbers to shame: Its range is 20 feet longer and pushes through nearly 160 Mbps of extra bandwidth. 

Still, any of the six extenders we've looked at can push data at roughly the speeds of typical 802.11ac routers into a home's extremities so that everyone remains online.

How Wi-Fi Extenders Work

Unless you're going to rewire your house with Category-6 cables stuffed into the walls, the best way to augment the Wi-Fi signal already in your home is to use an extender. At its heart, an extender works by receiving the router's Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcasting it into virgin territory. This can spread the network's reach farther into a home or yard without pesky cables to hide. 

The key is to pick the right place for the extender, because as with most things in life, it all comes down to location, location, location. You need to find somewhere that's close enough to the router to grab a strong signal to rebroadcast but far enough away to extend the network's range to where it's needed.

Expect a little trial and error to find this happy spot. Each of the extenders has software that scans for the strongest Wi-Fi signals, and you need to optimize that along with the locations of your home's AC outlets to power the device. In other words, it's all a compromise. 

Extenders work on both the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands that 802.11ac Wi-Fi uses, though some extenders — such as the D-Link DAP-1620 — require you to do the setup and configuration separately for each band. The good news is that you're not restricted to using the same brand of extender as your network's router, because we live in a mix-and-match era of network equipment. You can feel free to pick the best of breed in both categories.

Performance Results and How We Tested

We evaluated and tested wireless extenders both at Tom's Guide's Manhattan offices and my suburban networking lab, to judge them in both office and home environments. Overall, our rating criteria include design, range, throughput, ease of setup and which settings you can adjust. In the final analysis, though, it all comes down to value — which extender provides the most for the lowest cost.

Throughput (Mbps)

To measure throughput, in our Manhattan office, we used a long hallway, the IxChariot benchmark, a Digital Storm Triton notebook with Windows 10 and a 2x2 802.11ac wireless card to gauge throughput at intervals of 5, 15, 50 and 140 feet (the end of the hallway). The software simulates traffic in a busy wireless network while measuring data flow back and forth. The results are shown in megabits per second (Mbps) at a distance from the extender, with higher numbers indicating better performance. 

Extender Range in 2.4-GHz

Later, I set up and used each extender in an old suburban house. After I watched lots of videos, browsed the web and played a few online games (someone's got to do it), I measured the extender's 2.4-GHz range with a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. I connected the tablet to the extender's 2.4-GHz signal, opened an internet radio station and slowly walked away. When I lost the signal, I moved back toward the extender to re-establish a link. At that point, I measured how far from the router I was.

Netgear Nighthawk EX7000 Wi-Fi Extender: Best Wi-Fi Extender

Big and bold, Netgear's Nighthawk EX7000 Wi-Fi Extender has it all, with top throughput and range. It can be one of the hardest extenders to get fully up to speed, and at $148, it's among the most expensive of the extenders we tested. Still, this Wi-Fi extender is the best way to fill a big house with wireless data.

At 1.2 x 9.9 x 6.9 inches, the all-black EX7000 is one-third smaller than Belkin's RE580D but looks gigantic next to D-Link's DAP-1620. Unlike the tiny TRENDnet TEW-822DRE and D-Link DAP-1620, Netgear's extender is too big to be plugged directly into a wall outlet and requires a midsize AC adapter.

Performance

Without a doubt, the Nighthawk EX7000 is a top performer, running rings around the other extenders we tested. The EX7000 was able to move 88.8 Mbps and 325 Mbps of data at 5 feet, for a total of 413.8 Mbps. The closest competitor — the TRENDnet TEW-822DRE — mustered only 360.3 Mbps of throughput.

If that were all, it would be enough to make the EX7000 a standout performer, but as the extender got farther from the host router, it left the others in the digital dust. At 50 feet, the EX7000 pushed 373.9 Mbps — more than 100 Mbps more than its closest competitor. At 140 feet, it could still deliver 284.6 Mbps.

The EX7000 had a range of 165 feet — 15 feet farther than the RE580D.

Features

A 700-milliwatt amplifier inside the EX7000 boosts the signal from the extender's three external antennas. You can replace the rotatable antennas with high-gain ones to improve the EX7000's reach.

As is the case with Amped's TAP-EX3, the EX7000 has a USB connection along with its five gigabit LAN ports for adding a variety of peripherals, such as hard drives and printers.

Setup and Software

Be warned: The EX7000 can be tough to figure out, but it pays dividends in throughput and range that the other extenders can't match. After creating an account with Netgear and making a Wi-Fi connection between the EX7000 and the host router, you'll need to either press the WPS button to make a quick connection or type "mywifiext.net" to start the Smart Setup routine. You pick whether to use the EX7000 as a range extender or wired access point and select which network to extend. Conveniently, the EX7000 does both the 2.4- and 5-GHz setups together .

Unfortunately, on the first few tries, the EX7000 could connect only on the 2.4-GHz band. It took a call to Netgear's technical support and trying a few things out before we got the most out of the extender. The key is to go to the Netgear account and manually enable the extender's 5-GHz band. After a quick restart, everything connected.

Configuration screens make it easy to optimize and tweak your settings. In addition to adjusting the transmission output, you can do things such as see a list of who's connected and set an access schedule for children. A Wi-Fi Analytics Android app displays signal strength, which channels are overloaded or underutilized and interfering networks.

Warranty

Like so many of its competitors, the EX7000 only offers a one-year warranty. Other extenders come with longer warranties, such as TP-Link's RE580D (two years) and TRENDnet's TEW-822DRE (three years).   

Bottom Line

If you have holes in your Wi-Fi network, there's no more efficient way to fill them than with Netgear's $148 EX7000 Nighthawk Wi-Fi Extender. It may be a little tough to set up, but the EX7000's top throughput and excellent range combine to ensure that every family member remains connected and happy.

Specs and Speed

Size:9.9 x 6.9 x 1.2 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3 external/Yes
Wi-Fi Spec: AC1900 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 5 Gigabit Ethernet, one USB
Peak 802.11.ac performance: 413.8 Mbps at 5 feet
Extender range in 2.4 GHz: 165 feet

TP-Link RE580D: Runner-Up

TP-Link's RE580D Wi-Fi extender combines good range and throughput in an extender that is worth every penny of its $127 price tag.

At 9.5 x 7.8 x 1.8 inches, the dull silver and geometrically patterned black RE580D is the biggest of the five extenders. Still, it can be hidden on a bookshelf, mounted on a wall or stood up vertically with the included stand. It requires a midsize AC adapter. 

The extender's three antennas can be rotated, angled and replaced with off-the-shelf high-gain antennas to push the Wi-Fi signal even farther. Like the EX7000, the RE580D has five wired gigabit LAN ports for linking the network to printers, storage and other devices, but it lacks the USB port found on both the EX7000 and the TAP-EX3.

Buttons let you turn the RE580D on and off, connect to a WPS-enabled router and reset the system. You can turn off the extender's five blue LEDs, and a stealth mode can set the lights to go off at night.

The RE580D took about 4 minutes to set up, although you should change its generic network names and password. After you connect a computer to the router and type "tplinkrepeater.net" into a browser window, the RE580D scans for local Wi-Fi networks to extend.

Fortunately, you can set up both the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands at once. Other extenders, such as D-Link's DAP-1620, require a two-step configuration. After picking your host network and typing the password, you can add the extended network's names and passwords, which worked on my first attempt.

Bright and open, the RE580D's Status page has a visual representation of the devices that are connected, with the details listed below. However, the software doesn't let you adjust things like the transmission power — something you can do with the EX7000.

Still, the RE580D filled in annoying gaps in Wi-Fi with reliable data connections and smooth video to a variety of devices. While not our top performer, the RE580D delivered a total of 327.7 Mbps at 5 feet, putting it in third place behind the EX7000 (413.8 Mbps) and the TRENDnet TEW-822DRE (360.3 Mbps). The RE580D had a 150-foot range, just short of the EX7000's 165-foot range.

Unlike the EX7000 and so many other competitors, the RE580D comes with a two-year warranty.  

TP-Link's RE580D extender is one of the least expensive ways to fill the holes in your Wi-Fi network with data and guarantee that everyone at home remains connected.

Specs and Speed

Size: 9.5 x 7.8 x 1.8 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3 external /Yes
Wi-Fi Spec: AC1900 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 5 Gigabit Ethernet
Peak 802.11ac performance: 327.7 Mbps at 5 feet
Extender range in 2.4-GHz mode: 150 feet

TRENDnet TEW-822DRE: Bargain Choice

With a compact size and an even more compact $80 price tag, TRENDnet's TEW-822DRE doesn't need much more than an AC outlet to extend your Wi-Fi network. However, its throughput falls off quickly as it gets away from the router.

The 5.9 x 5.1 x 2.4-inch extender looks tiny compared to the RE580D, and TRENDnet's all-white extender won't hog the outlet above or below. It has subtle blue LED lights for Power, Wi-Fi and connection status. You can aim its pair of movable antennas, but you can't replace them.

A WPS button on the side allows for quick connections, while a lone gigabit Ethernet port lets you connect a networked storage unit or printer. (There's no USB port.) A unique three-way switch turns on the TEW-822DRE and lets you choose between using it as a wireless extender or plugging it into a local area network to serve as an access point.

TRENDnet's setup wizard made for a quick configuration that lets you set up 2.4- and 5-GHz bands together. An online emulator lets you try out configuration changes without any potential for damage, while the live configuration screens allow for some configuration choices. Its interface is dark and too cramped for use with a phone or tablet, though.

At a combined throughput of 360.3 Mbps at 5 feet, the TEW-822DRE came in second place among the extenders we tested, just behind the Netgear EX7000 (413.8 Mbps). Unfortunately, at more realistic ranges, like 50 feet, it moved 228.4 Mbps, which is 146 Mbps less than the EX7000's throughput. The TEW-822DRE's 125-foot range was good but much shorter than the EX7000's 165 feet.

The TEW-822DRE costs less than half of some of the other extenders we looked at, and includes a three-year warranty. The TEW-822DRE can move lots of data, particularly up close, if you're willing to live with a performance dropoff as you move farther away from the router.  

Specs and Speed

Size: 5.9 x 5.1 x 2.4 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 2 external/ No
Wi-Fi Spec: AC1200 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 1 Gigabit Ethernet
Peak 802.11.ac performance: 360.3 Mbps at 5 feet
Extender range in 2.4 GHz: 125 feet

Amped Wireless TAP-EX3

While it provides direct access via a 4-inch touch screen, Amped Wireless' TAP-EX3 offers less than meets the eye, with low throughput and an expensive $200 price tag.

Rather than lights and buttons, the TAP-EX3's color screen is where you interact with the extender. It's a big step forward for home networking, but the display is a tenth of an inch below the surface, making it hard to tap precisely at times, even with the included slide-out stylus.

Tapping the extender's display is the easiest way to configure both its 2.4- and 5-GHz bands at once or adjust things like transmission power. I like how the TAP-EX3's screen can double as a clock.

At 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches, the TAP-EX3 falls between the larger RE580D and the tiny DAP-1620 in size. You can't plug it directly into an outlet, so it comes with an AC adapter. You can wall-mount the TAP-EX3 or use its stand. In the back, five gigabit LAN ports and a USB port let you add a variety of devices, matching the ports on the EX7000.

Despite having a dozen signal amplifiers, two internal antennas and one external antenna, the TAP-EX3 lagged behind its competitors in our tests, moving a total of 292.0 Mbps at 5 feet. That's well off the pace set by the Netgear EX7000 (413.8 Mbps). The TAP-EX3 had a middle-of-the-pack range of 100 feet.

Amped offers a one-year warranty for its extender that can't compare with the two- and three-year warranties available for some competing products. On the other hand, if controlling your network with the touch of a finger appeals to you, the Amped Wireless TAP-EX3 is for you.

Specs and Speed

Size: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 2 internal, 1 external/Yes for external antenna only
Wi-Fi Spec: AC1750 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 5 gigabit Ethernet and 1 USB 2.0
Peak 802.11.ac performance: 282.7 Mbps (at 5 feet)
Extender range in 2.4 GHz: 100 feet

D-Link DAP-1620

The white-and-gray DAP-1620 is a wonder of miniaturization, measuring just 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches. It plugs directly into a wall outlet without hogging the adjacent plug. While the DAP-1620's $80 price is alluring, its performance can't compete with that of other extenders.

The DAP-1620 has pull-out antennas, but you can't rotate or replace them. There's a WPS button up front (something other extenders hide in the back), and there's a single LAN port and Reset button underneath.

With separate setup routines required to configure the DAP-1620 for 2.4- and 5-GHz extending duties, installation is slow and tedious. There isn't much to adjust, and it took two tries to get it to connect with our network.  

The DAP-1620 was just ahead of the Amped TAP-EX3, with total throughput of 292 Mbps at 5 feet. However, its throughput doesn't compare with the 413.8 Mbps that the EX7000 can deliver. It had a disappointing 2.4-GHz range of 90 feet — the shortest of the five we recently tested.

At $80, the DAP-1620 includes a one-year warranty and is roughly half the price of some other extenders. Small enough to hide in plain sight, it's for those who have a small home with Wi-Fi dead spots and can live with its less-than-robust performance.

Specs and Speed

Size: 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 2 external/ No
Wi-Fi Spec: AC1200 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 1 Gigabit Ethernet
Peak 802.11.ac performance: 292 Mbps
Extender range in 2.4 GHz: 90 feet

Amped Wireless Athena-EX RE2600M

Easily the best equipped range extender, Amped Wireless’ RE2600M Athena-EX has trouble getting out of its own way. At $220, it's the most expensive product in its category, but it turned in some of the worst results.

The jet-black, 10.7 x 8.0 x 1.6-inch extender is too big to plug into an AC outlet and requires an external power supply. Its demure blue or green LEDs show power, activity on the 2.4- and 5-GHz Wi-Fi networks, USB accessories and the RE2600M’s signal strength.

While you can rotate and swivel the extender’s four high-gain antennas, they add 7 inches to the height of the extender, though you can replace them. In addition to the RE2600M’s four gigabit LAN ports — other extenders provide five — Amped Wireless' extender has connectors for USB 2.0 and 3.0 drives.

Happily, you can configure the RE2600M’s 2.4- and 5-GHz extended networks together in one of the easiest setup routines around: It took me just 2 minutes. Although most users will never adjust the extender’s transmission strength, channel width or fragmentation threshold, it’s nice to know that you can do so via the RE2600M’s Dashboard.

Inside, the RE2600M has a dual-core processor, 16 signal amplifiers and MU-MIMO capabilities for efficiently transmitting data, but it failed to deliver top performance. In fact, its combined throughput of 177.8 Mbps at 5 feet was the worst of the extenders we tested, delivering less than half the bandwidth that Netgear's EX7000 provides (413.8 Mbps). The RE2600M's 110-foot, 2.4-GHz range was middle of the pack.

A one-year warranty is much too short, particularly in light of that $220 price tag. While the RE2600M's impressive hardware makes it the exotic sports car of range extenders, it spends more time spinning its wheels than actually getting you up to speed

Specs and Speed

Size: 10.7 x 8.0 x 1.6 inches
Number of Antennas/Removable: 4 external/ Yes
Wi-Fi Spec: AC2600 dual-band 802.11ac
Ports: 4 Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Peak 802.11.ac performance: 177.8 Mbps (at 5 feet)
Extender range in 2.4 GHz: 110 feet

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6 comments
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  • prashB
    Hi Tom, I use Wi-Fi at home, coffee shop and library and carry Wi-Fi booster around. Do you know of a Wi-Fi booster/extender that once programed to a Wi-Fi router saves its info and when configured to other weak public Wi-Fi router saves its info as well. A Wi-Fi booster than can save more than 1 router info in it. So that next time when plugged in within a range of 1 of the pre-configured router does not need to re configure again.
    Example… the way our laptops store various Wi-Fi routers security info and when within a range just connects it.
    Currently I have Netgear WN3500RP configured to my home. It works fine there. When I decided to take it to a coffee shop and use there had to factory reset it to configure it to the
    coffee shop. I do not want to factory reset every time I configure to a new place.
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  • dolandr
    I just got this and set it up but it wouldn't see my 2.4ghz network at all! I had to click the text that reads "I don't need a second network". Will it not work as well because of that?? Also, is it supposed to improve speeds when doing a speed test because it didn't, in fact it got 32mbps versus 44mbps before right I bought it. Is there maybe a router setting I should do for it to see my 2.4? (I have a Netgear router)
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  • Sonja_
    Wow, RE6500 as best buy. You are very lucky or this paid review, no offense. I have that crap and it breaking whole network, DC every so, breaking connections between my devices and router, WPS not working at all. If you want more just go at Amazon and read 1 star reviews. There are no problem there I have not experienced. It even broke casting radio via router to Chromecast somehow. Could not listen more than 30 sec. Setup is story for it self, you can try same thing 5 times and it won't work, but 6th it will. It is like playing lottery, and yes, speed, my internet speed was dropped to 1/3 of my max speed, still RE6500 was showing that it is on perfect spot. DO NOT BUY THIS.
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  • nasty62nick
    I bought the RE6500 and got it set up without difficulty but was surprised to find out that it does not offer the option of using MAC address filtering on the extended network. There has been some discussion about using MAC address filtering on the router and virtual MAC addresses assigned by the extender to achieve this but I don't have any spare spots in my router's permitted MAC address list. My old Netgear extender had no problem using MAC address filtering but it crapped out on me six months after the warranty expired.
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  • durland
    Thanks, Tom. I'm taking your suggestion for best extender and clicking BUY.
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  • mr_dj80
    I can't believe nobody has commented this yet. Your wifi range chart says the TRENDNET TEW-822DRE comes in second place with 150 feet. But in your review comment, you say it comes in third with 125 feet.

    So, WHICH IS IT??? ;-)

    I personalli am looking for a long range, but still cost/efficient wifi booster solution and was just about to buy the Trend 822dre based on your range chart.

    But undtill confirmed, it seems I can't depend on the information provided! :-(
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