WiFi Extender Reviews: Top 12 Signal Boosters

Sometimes even the most powerful router just doesn’t have enough juice to reach the far ends of your home, especially upper floor and attached rooms such as the garage. The ideal solution is of course a wireless mesh, but this is still a very expensive option and there aren’t really any home systems on the market other than the excellent offering from eero .

That’s where these range-extending repeaters come in. All you have to do is connect it to your router and install it somewhere near the edge of the existing signal, it will then boost and relay the WiFi so that devices that were out of range can now access the network.

Here I have listed some of the best-selling repeaters on the market and put them under a scrutinizing eye to see which are worth it and which should be binned. My favorites are at the top and the rest just sort of hang around in no order. It’s not a ranked list, is what I’m saying.

Best Pick: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Desktop WiFi Extender

If you aren’t familiar with the Nighthawk series of routers you should at least Google for some pictures of these items. Netgear has designed them all using the Batman school of design. This WiFi extender bearing the Nighthawk name is no different, which is to say that it is black and angular.

Unlike many of the other extenders I have looked at this is not meant to sit unnoticed in a wall socket somewhere. No, the Nighthawk AC1900 takes up a space on your desk or other flat surface, begging you to pay attention to it.

That’s a significant sacrifice and if it offered the same feature set as an outlet-mounted unit I would immediately move along, but of course you get some benefits to the larger size and less efficient space usage.

First of all, it has five gigabit ethernet ports, which means you can wire several WiFi-less devices up using ethernet in a room. Secondly, it has a lot more power at its disposal – with 70 mW amplifiers this signal booster has a range like no other. It has a dual-core CPU which helps handle many devices or large file transfers. Like other Nighthawk devices it has FastLane technology which combines the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band into one bandwidth stream. So if you have gigabit fiber plugged into your router this extender can bring the full might of that connection to remote places in your home. Finally, it has a USB 3.0 port for network-attached storage which lets you add mass storage to the extender and share it across the network.

Feedback from long term users is overwhelmingly positive. The complaints about technical issues are few and far between. Most people find the Nighthawk to be eminently reliable. I know that is is a pricey item. In fact it costs more than many routers, but compared to the Nighthawk series of routers it is actually pretty cheap. The added features and specifications also further justify the price. This one get two thumbs up from me.

Budget Choice: TP-LINK N300 Wi-Fi Network Booster

Like the Netgear, this TP-Link extender is another unit that goes straight into the wall socket, but since it’s a somewhat older device it only supports 2.4Ghz Wireless N speeds of up to 300Mbps. Unlike the Netgear, this actually has a nice modern look and design. That is, if you take the version without the outlet passthrough, which is butt-ugly.

Yes, this N300 unit looks great and fits in with the futuristic aesthetic of modern home automation electronics. There is also an ethernet port, should you need to hook up a device that doesn’t have WiFi. There is also a phone app you can use to manage the extender, and a neat night mode to dial down the LED so that you can sleep.

The TP-Link is also considerably less expensive than the unit from Netgear. Based on what users say, this is a simple device that is easy to use and works as advertised. Some customer reviews report connection problems though, but for the rock-bottom price I think it is hard to ask for perfection. You could just give it a go and return the N300 if it doesn’t work. Or, invest a little more and go for its successor; my next best pick. This would also minimize compliance issues with any of your future devices.

TP-LINK AC1200 Wi-Fi Extender Review

This range extender from TP-Link provides 300MBps to your Wireless N devices and another 867Mbps to your Wireless AC devices. Unlike other AC1200 extenders I have seen this one has some very interesting design features. I really like the way it looks with the three little antennas sticking out the top on those little hinges. It reminds me of a modern reimagining of the PKE meter from Ghostbusters.

It has, as you would expect, a gigabit port for a wired device and will work not only with a router but also with an access point. That’s actually neat because some extenders will only work directly with a router.
One of the neatest features is the intelligent signal light, which helps you determine the optimal place to put your extender.

If your router has WPS it is dead easy to set this little guy up. There’s also a mobile app, a two-year warranty and a 24/7 support line. This is shaping up to be great deal. TP-Link is on the ball when it comes to helping people out, and I think they have a winner here.

NETGEAR AC1200 Wireless WiFi Extender

802.11n extenders are perfect for normal internet use and for home automation devices that usually don’t require much in the way of bandwidth, but what if you also want to download large files over high-speed fiber or stream HD video to multiple devices in far-flung parts of your house? That’s when you have to start looking at something like this Netgear AC1200. If you have an 802.11ac router then you can use this extender to bring that high-speed connection just a little bit further. Netgear claims that this is currently the smallest AC1200 extender that anyone makes. Whether this is still true or was ever true I have no idea, but it is a tiny little thing.

You don’t need to use it as an extender either, you can lay an ethernet cable from your router to the AC1200 and then use it as an access point. Alternatively, in extender mode, you can use the ethernet port as a means to hook non-WiFi devices that are far away from your router up to the home network.

Although this product does not have the neat internal antennas of some other extenders, the upside is that you get a lot of extra range for the tradeoff.

Overall, people have had a good experience with this product, but of course there are always tales of woe when it comes to network gear and there are people who complain about poor build quality and slow performance. Getting a wireless network to work flawlessly at the best of times is a bit of a dark art though, and these negative experiences are definitely in the minority. I also see that Netgear is quick to help out when there are issues. The price is a little steep-ish, but considering how new 802.11ac is, I could live with it. This is definitely worth considering.

TP-LINK AV500 Network Extender, Powerline Edition Starter Kit

I remember back sometime in the early 2000s a computer magazine ran an April Fool’s article that described a home network that converts your existing electrical wiring into a network. Little did they know that at that time the HomePlug Alliance had already put together the specifications for just such a system. These early systems could only transmit data at a now achingly slow 14Mbps.

I have actually created a separate review page for powerline network adapters, but I’ve put this product here because it is a WiFi extender and I also wanted you to be aware that this technology exists. It really doesn’t get enough acknowledgment, and for home automation it holds a lot of promise.

So how does this kit from TP-Link work? It is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is take one unit from the kit, plug it into the wall near your router, and then connect them with an ethernet cable. Put the other unit anywhere in the house and connect another wired device via ethernet and the powerline adapter will bridge the connection between them at a respectable 500Mbps.

This is perfect for devices that are usually far away from your router, such as a smart TV or game console.

The WiFi part works as usual, you just use the WPS buttons on both devices to clone the WiFi network.

Now, I know that regular WiFi extenders also often have ethernet ports and allow you to hook up wired devices, but this is fundamentally different. While regular extenders bridge ethernet over the WiFi, this bridges it over the powerline. This is more secure, more stable, and more reliable.

While this only provides 300Mbps WiFi, an additional dedicated 500Mbps connection is ideal for a whole host of applications and at a much lower price than an AC WiFi extender.

The downside is that the quality of your electrical wiring or noise from the electrical system or certain appliances can negatively affect the connection. In many real world situations you’ll get more like 30 or 40 megabits per second, but since this is not shared with WiFi and perhaps only for one or two devices, it may still be more than enough. This is an awesome and affordable way to extend your network across the home quickly and easily. Above all, it is just pretty freaking cool.

MSRM US302 Wi-Fi Range Booster

Man, does the US302 immediately make me remember 90s cellular phone gear. I’m not judging here, just saying that this hardware doesn’t exactly scream “contemporary” to me.

Although this is only a 300Mbps device it actually has one or two nice specifications for the price – the dual chipset being one that stands out. Those are also some very large antennas, at least proportionally.

The product material is all in pretty broken English, though, and I can’t find mention of an ethernet port. This is also not much cheaper than products that are faster and have the additional connections, so despite this apparently working OK, I can’t recommend anyone buy it.

NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2200

Did you dig the AC1900 Nighthawk but think to yourself “it just isn’t fast enough?” Well, it turns out you can crank it all the way to 11 and get 2.2Gbps of bandwidth extended into the far reaches of your domain. That is, if you have a router that can offer that much in the first place.

And like its little brother, the Nighthawk X4 can give you the whole fat pipe by using its Fastlane technology to combine both bands. This is perhaps the perfect solution to the distant man-cave where high bandwidth stuff happens.

The biggest negative I have about the X4 has more to do with the way it looks than the way that it functions. This is the first Nighthawk product I have seen that looks neither cool nor attractive. In fact it is medical equipment-ugly if you ask me. I can’t believe this is designed by the same people.

I can’t fault it in terms of the specification though! This has everything on offer by the far-sexier (and cheaper) model, but at faster speeds. There is not much to say further. If the additional speed is worth the added expense and introduction of an eyesore into your home then by all means buy it.

D-Link Wireless AC1200 Dual Band WiFi Gigabit Range Extender

“Round, round, get around. I get around” go the lyrics to the popular Beach Boys song, and D-Link has taken the sentiment to heart. This is certainly a very rotund WiFi extender which immediately brings the OnHub products designed by Google to mind.

As a product design meant to go on a desk or other flat surface, this fits right in with other home electronics. This is a trend that I am very happy about. Computer and network equipment are becoming objects that are part of everyday mainstream life and should not look like alien white boxes.

This extender is priced right in the middle between basic wall outlet products to $200 beasts like the Nighthawk. In terms of features, however, it is much closer to the expensive big boys. For your money you get four gigabit ethernet ports and fast Wireless AC connectivity. You have the same easy WPS cloning setup and backwards compatibility with 2.4Ghz devices.

You can also use it as an access point using an ethernet cable connected to the router. The range is apparently quite good. D-Link doesn’t mention an exact number, but says that there are “multiple” internal antennas.

Of concern is a sizable minority of users who complain of poor speeds and bad reliability, but most people are very happy with the performance. At this price this is a hard deal to pass up, but you could always return it if it does not work for you, so I say give this a go if you need AC speeds, but can’t stretch to a Nighthawk’s price.

TP-LINK AC1900 Desktop Wi-Fi Booster w/ Touchscreen Interface

I like the idea of having a direct display on routers and other network hardware. These are becoming mainstream appliances, and having to “dial-in” from a web browser to operate your router or extender is a real pain in the behind. I understand why it is not more widespread. It adds significant cost to the device, but it is still just a little bit more human-friendly and user- friendly.

While the touchscreen is a great idea, I think the person who decided to cover this device in a crocodile skin pattern (I’m guessing) should, however, be fired. That is just too dumb to permit.

Yes, it is old-fashioned looking and has huge antennas and generally is something you don’t want to look at. In terms of the technical details, though, this may be a better deal than we at first realize. With dual-band speeds of up to 1900Mbps this is no slouch and a fast dual-core CPU should keep things ticking along quite nicely. Apart from the WiFi, there are four gigabit ethernet ports, so you can connect WiFi-less devices with no hassle. Another feature the TP-Link has that I have only seen on one or two other extenders is an indicator light that lets you know where the optimal spot is to place the extender, by measuring the WiFi strength coming from the router.

Network management is a breeze straight from the touchscreen on the device. I love that you don’t have to whip out an iPad or go looking for a desktop computer when you need to do some basic or routine stuff on the device.

This is a well-specified and easy to use device that, despite being quite ugly, is worthy of your time and money.

Linksys AC1200 Amplify Dual Band High-Power WiFi Extender

Oh, this extender makes me laugh every time I look at a picture of it. The outlet pass-through and the placement of the antennas make it look like a little guy who is shocked and throwing his hands up in the air.

This router is another AC unit that provides a total of 1.2Gbps of bandwidth. 300Mbps for the 2.4Ghz band and 867Mbps for the 5Ghz band.

It has beamforming for better signal quality and range and sports a power pass- through so that you don’t have to sacrifice an outlet in order to use the device. As we’ve seen with some of the other extenders this also has a WiFi spot finder so that you can locate the extender in the optimal position. There’s also the nearly ubiquitous gigabit ethernet port for devices that don’t have WiFi built in.

The Linksys also has a technology equivalent to Netgear’s FastLane feature that they call “crossband” technology. This combines both frequency bands to work together and make everything faster and more stable.

As is becoming the norm, there is also a smart app that will let you set up and interact with the device.

All in all it is a pretty unremarkable product compared to the rest. It is also not the cheapest, being priced closer to the top of the market. Linksys is however known for making good quality gear, even if there are no standout gimmicks.

The customer responses look good as well. There are few if any complaints; it just works as promised. That’s good of course, but it give us no compelling reason to buy this extender over another cheaper unit with the same functionality and unremarkable, yet expected, performance.

NETGEAR N300 Wifi Range Extender Review

This unobtrusive range extender from Netgear is a relatively inexpensive option, but is limited to 802.11n and therefore 300Mbps. Perhaps not ideal for media streaming or big file transfers, but if you want to include home automation gear that runs on Wireless N (which is still most of them) this could be a great solution, especially since these devices do not need a lot of bandwidth to start with.

It plugs into the wall socket as a whole and, based on the pictures, it leaves enough space to plug something else in next to it. It also has one ethernet port so you can wire in a device directly.

Netgear has sold a LOT of these extenders and overall people are very happy with them – an affordable and generally reliable choice.

ASUS Dual-Band AC1900 Repeater

Asus has a reputation for making stuff that looks awesome and also works pretty well. They are a top-tier computer equipment manufacturer, but the way they style their devices may not be to everyone’s taste. They make the kind of equipment that feeds into the futuristic, sci-fi gamer demographic. Of course Asus does make pedestrian-looking stuff as well. This is however not one of those times. This cube-looking thing could fit into the decor of any spy-thriller or pulp-Sci-Fi movie. Black and red are the edgy cool colors these days and the Asus repeater has both in spades. Do I like the way it looks? I’d lean towards yes, but this is clearly a case of either liking it or not.

This is near the top of the Wireless AC speed range with a combined speed of 1.9Gbps. It’s a big unit with five gigabit ethernet ports. Obviously it is meant to be set on a flat surface such as a desk or table. There is also a USB 3.0 port that can be used to add storage to your network. All the antennas are internal and in total there are seven of them. Four receivers and four senders.

One of the nice things about this unit it that you can use it on other modes than simply being a repeater. You can also use it as a dedicated access point or as a media bridge. Asus has also included a few nice touches. For example, you can switch off the led lights. That’s actually pretty important if you are using it in, for example, a home theater where the lights may be a distraction. Only the front lights can be switched off, though.

The snag comes, it seems, from dodgy firmware. Some users have complained about bugs in the built-in software. Asus is aware of the issue, so I presume that it will be fixed with a simple update. The specific problem has to do with the access point mode, so if you have no intention of using that particular functionality it could be an option. Still, until I had a good reason to think that Asus had ironed out the bugs I’d probably look at something else.

Belkin N300 Dual Band Wireless N Range Extender

This extender from Belkin is about as generic as they get. It looks generic, it is a low-end 300Mbps unit, and it is just about the cheapest brand name extender that I have seen so far. As brands go though, Belkin has a pretty good reputation. I have actually owned some Belkin gear over the years and it was generally a nice experience.

The Belkin is very small and unobtrusive; for many people that’s a good thing. This is the sort of product that I envision being used in a guest house or other place where you don’t want to put things that are too expensive if they get lost or broken.

This is a dual-band unit that operates over both 2.4 Ghz and 5Ghz bands, but it is only a Wireless A and N unit, so no high-speed AC bandwidth here. At this price that is sort of a given, though. The truth is that, unless lots of devices are connecting up, 300Mbps is plenty for most uses and the fact that you could buy a whole bunch of these for the price of a single AC extender also has to be taken into account.

Now for the ugly stuff. I see a lot of complaints about build quality; specifically, the use of cheap capacitors leading to premature device failure. A few buyers had the savvy to remove the faulty capacitor and replace it with a better quality one, but the average user will just throw out their “dead” device. Now, I know this is a cheap product, but not so cheap that I would feel comfortable just throwing the money away. For only a few dollars more you can get something that will last, so for this particular case my conclusion has to be – stay away.

Reviews Conclusion

There’s living in the Cloud and then there is literally living in a cloud of WiFi data. Having good internet and network access certainly is the way to live. Once you have extended your router’s reach to every nook of your house you’ll not only enjoy better YouTube streaming, but more possibilities for home automation devices that can now all work together to make your life easier and more convenient. There’s no reason to wait, just pick up your favorite booster and improve your WiFi signal the minute you plug it in. These devices really work.