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 Coredy E300 Mini, which gives you a Wi-Fi boost for under $30.
News & Updates (August 2018)
- Earlier this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced a new interoperability standard for mesh routers, called EasyMesh, and the first EasyMesh device has been announced. The Arris VAP4641 Wi-Fi Extender will pair with other certified devices from any manufacturer to create a mesh network without having to buy an entire closed system from one company. The devices uses 4x4 antennas and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and the versatile design can either be set on a desk or mounted at the wall outlet. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced.
- Our new top pick for wireless range extenders is the Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000. With potent tri-band support, impressive range and speed, and optional mesh support for multiple repeaters, it's the best option you can buy.
- Comcast is finally bringing expanded coverage to its Xfinity wireless gear with the introduction of xFi Pods. Designed for use with Comcast's xFi Wireless Gateway, these wireless extensions blend range-extender technology with mesh-networking capability, letting you cover more of your home just by plugging in an xFi Pod. These extenders will be sold in packs of three for $119, or packs of six for $199.
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 range extender, 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
If you want a bargain, 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
The TP-Link RE650 takes the runner-up position as the best plug-in range extender we’ve tested. It packs a lot of power, and delivers great speeds at up to 75 feet.
That performance came second only to our top 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
Other Wi-Fi Extenders Reviewed
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
The Netgear EX6120 AC1200 Essentials Edition Wi-Fi range extender offers all the basics, like a petite size and easy-to-setup installation. But Netgear's technology is lagging behind the latest standards, and we wish it had better performance and support coverage.
- Dual-band operations
- Quick installation
- Poor performance
- 100-Mbps Ethernet
- 90-day support
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.
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.