Your wireless router can't do everything, and Wi-Fi dead spots are unavoidable in most homes. The quickest solution to wireless coverage woes is to add a Wi-Fi extender, which is a specialized repeater that boosts the wireless coverage to those portions of your home that your router just can't reach.
Based on our rigorous testing, which includes in-depth lab tests and hands-on evaluation in a real home, the best extender on the market is the Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000. It offers fast speeds, excellent reach and an array of features that make it easy to use. Our top value pick is the Motorola MX1200, which gives you a Wi-Fi boost for under $50.
News & Updates (February 2019)
- Want a more comprehensive solution for whole-house Wi-Fi? Check out the best mesh routers of 2019.
- TP-Link has announced a new wireless signal booster with the TP-Link RE220 Wi-Fi Range Extender. The plug-in signal extender is a dual-band 802.11ac unit with three internal antennas and speeds of up to 743Mbps, as well as a built in Ethernet port. It's on sale now for $29.99.
- We may have focused on routers when we rounded up the coolest networking gear of 2019, but there's more than one extender on the list as companies like Netgear and TP-Link showed off new wireless signal boosters that support Wi-Fi 6 and can make any router a mesh Wi-Fi system.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 Tri-band Extender emerged as the best range extender we tested by a large margin, with faster data speeds and an enormous range.
The Nighthawk X6S uses a desktop design that's much larger than the average plug-in signal booster, but that size allows for more antennas (six in total) and beefier hardware that offers tri-band coverage out to 168 feet. You can even use multiple X6S extenders to create a mesh network for larger homes. It's big and expensive, but it's worth every penny.
- Top performance
- Tri-band operations
- Software is easy to set up
- Excellent assortment of ports
- Huge device
- Only 90-day support included
The Motorola MX1200 offers the best performance we've seen from any Wi-Fi extender under $50. Not only is it a great way to extend a home network so that everyone gets access to games, movies and their social media feeds, but it also includes a two-year warranty. The inexpensive extender offers a simple setup process, a user-friendly design that won't monopolize your outlet, and an easy-to-use signal strength meter that helps you find the just the right position for the unit to maximize signal coverage and strength.
The Motorola MX1200 can inexpensively help fill in Wi-Fi dead zones with 802.11ac signal, and its AC1200 throughput is paired with beamforming technology that ensures a solid connection for whatever device you want to connect. Compared to competitors that cost $100 or more, it's an incredible bargain.
- Two-prong plug
- Cutout to accommodate nearby AC plug
- Two-year warranty
- No mobile app
- Uneven performance
The TP-Link RE650 takes a top position as the best plug-in range extender we’ve tested, and our pick as the best repeater for big homes. It packs a lot of power, and delivers great speeds at up to 75 feet.
That performance came second only to our top overall pick, but the TP-Link RE650 offers competitive speeds in a handy plug-in design. With four external antennas and dual-band wireless-AC support, the TP-Link RE650 is a great choice for large homes. You can also set up and monitor your extended network with TP-Link's handy Tether app, which puts advanced settings and security tools right on your phone or tablet.
- Good performance
- Dual-band operations
- Excellent interface
- Phone/tablet app
- Bulky Design
- Can block adjacent outlets
The Netgear EX6200 gets a nod as the budget-firendly alternative for large homes, offering a less expensive alternative to the TP-Link RE650 that gets our top recommendation. It lacks a few features, most significantly a dedicated backhaul channel for data, but it balances that omission with a great price. On top of that, you'll get excellent performance, great range, and a flexible setup that can position the extender horizontally or vertically.
- Excellent performance
- Horizontal or vertical orientation
- Assortment of ports
- Good range
- Big and bulky
- 90-day support policy
Other Wi-Fi Extenders Reviewed
If you want the lowest possible price, there's no beating the Coredy E300 Mini, which offers added range and simple setup for under $30. Besides that, it offers all-day, error-free performance and a plug-in design that won't hog all the space for your outlets.
If you're just looking for the most affordable way to push your Wi-Fi signal to that one corner of the house that never seems to get a signal, the E300 Mini offers an affordable solution, with a compact plug-in design that can add as much as 75 feet of range to your network and still deliver enough bandwidth for streaming media in 4K. Sure, it's limited to single-band, wireless-N performance, but you're unlikely to find a cheaper option that gets the job done.
- Simple setup
- 802.11n-based single band operation
- Unreliable bandwidth
- Ethernet ports limited to 100Mbps
Need to beef up your Wi-Fi network but don't want an extender that stands out? The Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ Wi-Fi range extender is compact and low-profile, with a design that won't block other outlets or stand out as a garish tech product. But aside from the subtle design, the Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ offers solid performance and set-up assistance that helps you find the right spot for optimal performance.
- Simple design
- Dual-band operations
- Practical software
- Gets hot
- Unexceptional performance
D-Link's DAP-1720 is easy to set up, provides a mobile app and can help fill a home with Wi-Fi, but it serves up patchy performance and is so large that it risks blocking adjacent AC outlets. Despite some irregular performance, the D-Link DAP-1720 does particularly well when pushing signal to a floor above or below, making it a smart choice for multistory homes.
- Two-prong plug
- Good multistory performance
- Easy setup
- Mobile app
- Can block adjacent outlet
- Spotty performance
How We Test Wi-Fi Extenders
We rigorously test every Wi-Fi extender we review to get a clear picture of how well each device performs. This testing is performed in our Utah testing facility and our reviewer's suburban home, in addition to hands-on use. Overall, our rating criteria include design, range, throughput, 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.
We use Ixia's IxChariot testing software to measure throughput at a variety of distances and environmental conditions. This includes testing with the extender placed at 50 feet and 75 feet from the router, as well as testing between floors in different configurations. 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.
Measuring the throughput at various distances also lets use determine the effective range of the extender, giving you a better understanding of how well a device will do in covering the farthest corners of your home.
Do I need an Extender, Booster or a Repeater?
Confused about the difference between Wi-Fi extenders, signal boosters, and wireless repeaters? While each term gets used frequently, this is one bit of tech jargon that shouldn't be confusing, because they all mean the same thing.
A Wi-Fi extender works by rebroadcasting your Wi-Fi signal, both strengthening poor signal and expanding the area it covers. So, calling a Wi-Fi extender by another term, such as a wireless repeater or range extender, is entirely correct.As long as your Wi-Fi signal booster is set up properly, it won't matter what you call it.
The one time it may not be quite so simple is with a mesh router system. Mesh routers also extend the Wi-Fi coverage in your home, but instead of just repeating your wireless signal to give Wi-Fi a boost, they use a more complex system of individual devices producing signal, multiple data channels and automatic configuration, providing more seamless coverage and better overall performance.
Quick Tips for Shoppers
- How Much Should a Wi-Fi Extender Cost? The cheapest Wi-Fi repeaters will often sell for less than $50, and our current budget pick sells for half that. Newer signal boosting devices have support for the latest wireless standards and offering technologies like beam-forming and Mu-MIMO for enhanced performance will often cost more, but even the best extenders can be had for less than $200.
- Plug-In or Desktop? While most Wi-Fi extenders use small plug-in designs that connect directly to a wall outlet, they aren't the only option. Some use larger designs that sit on a desk or shelf, more like a traditional router. These larger devices don't have the same size and weight limitations of plug-in units, allowing for better antenna placement and better internal hardware. Plug-in models, on the other hand, will often be less expensive and more convenient to install.
- Match Wi-Fi Standards: While you may not pay much attention to which wireless standard your router uses, it will definitely have an impact on how helpful your extender is. If your wireless router uses the current 802.11ac standard, you’ll want to be sure your extender does, too. The older 802.11n standard is slower and often is limited to one band, which will create a bottleneck in your Wi-Fi coverage, slowing down all of your browsing and streaming. But that's a problem only if your router is offering better speeds. If you have an older wireless-N router, then a matching extender will do the job just fine.
- Placement Is Everything: Both wireless routers and Wi-Fi extenders use radio waves to share data back and forth with your internet connection. 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. Need more help? Check out our guide to Wi-Fi extender placement.
- Consider an Upgrade: If your wireless router isn't providing the speeds or coverage you want, it may be better to skip the Wi-Fi extender entirely and get a new router. Newer models offer better performance, and mesh routers will let you expand your wireless coverage across even the largest home.