They’re not worth the hassle, so buy this instead.
Corbin Davenport / Review Geek
In this day and age, dealing with unreliable internet or a shoddy Wi-Fi connection is one of the most frustrating things ever. If you have a large house or too many internet users, you might consider a Wi-Fi range extender but don’t do it.
Several scenarios or issues could lead to a poor Wi-Fi experience, whether that’s multiple people streaming TV and gaming, rooms too far away from the router, or a signal that can’t reliably make it out to your garage or back patio.
I understand the frustration and have tried range extenders, but honestly, they suck. It leads to a poor experience, adds another network name to your home that further limits bandwidth, and they’re not worth the hassle. Here’s why you shouldn’t buy one, or if you already did, throw it away and get an upgrade that’ll actually help.
What Is a Wi-Fi Range Extender?
You’ll see terms like “Wi-Fi extender,” “booster,” and “repeater,” which are all similar yet work a bit differently. To make things more confusing, most brands use one, two, or all three of those “names” on the same product.
A Wi-Fi Range Extender is the most common and affordable option. So, how does it work? It’s a mini router you can strategically plug into any outlet throughout your home or in the garage to try and extend your Wi-Fi range.
A range extender tries to boost your existing signal throughout the house. They work by picking up your current router’s WiFi signal, then take advantage of extra antennas to shoot Wi-Fi far and wide past the initial reach. Well, they try, at least. Sure, some have an Ethernet port for a solid wired connection that works, but that defeats the purpose of Wi-Fi for most.
If you’re considering a Wi-Fi range extender to try and improve your home internet situation, you’re better off getting a Mesh system, or it’s likely time to upgrade your router.
Wi-Fi Range Extender vs. Mesh Network?
Jason Montoya / Review Geek
A Wi-Fi range extender is completely different from a Mesh Wi-Fi system, even if they seem the same at first glance. An extender is usually the first choice for users because they’re cheap devices, and you won’t have to buy all new gear. Instead, you add a booster to select rooms.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems use similar add-on units you’ll place around your house instead of a single router, which is why many confuse the two. The way the system works, however, is vastly different.
With Mesh, you’ll get two or more finely tuned satellite add-ons that all run the same software, deliver a more robust connection, and have fewer dropouts, all of which run as a single unified network.
Installing a Wi-Fi Mesh network in your home means you have a system that’s designed to work together, while a Wi-Fi range extender is more like adding a cheap band-aid to the situation.
Why Wi-Fi Range Extenders Aren’t Worth It
Corbin Davenport / Review Geek
When you add a range extender to your Wi-Fi network, it’ll do several different things. For one, the extender has its own name and password, which is another thing to remember. Plus, you’ll have to set up and reconnect every device again to the new extender. Yes, you can change the name to use the same SSID, but that’s still not ideal.
Even worse, now you have your original Wi-Fi network and the extender fighting for bandwidth, which slows performance. You’ll likely experience Wi-Fi interference, and your devices might frequently bounce between the two networks, which isn’t a good experience. Imagine that with 2-3 extenders offering 2.4 or 5GHz bands, giving you countless different Wi-Fi systems under one roof. It’s a nightmare.
Another big problem is the location. Most people add a Wi-Fi range extender to that upstairs corner room office, the garage, or the basement where Wi-Fi already struggled. The extender will have the same trouble connecting as your devices, and you’ll experience terrible results.
The extender transmits another wireless signal, which could be slower and more unreliable than the original speed coming from your router. When you connect to your new Wi-Fi range extender on a TV or laptop, you’ll see 3-4 bars on your device that the connection is strong. But a connection and the actual speed it delivers are two different things.
You’ll likely end up connected to an extender that keeps dropping the connection, fails, or has the same lag and stuttering issues as before.
Even if you can find a decent spot in the middle of your home to extend the signal, you’ll still deal with the problems mentioned above with a frustrating setup, multiple networks clogging bandwidth, frequent dropouts, and interference.
What to Buy Instead
Jordan Gloor / Review Geek
So, what should you do instead of dealing with multiple networks, unstable connections, and average-at-best speeds? There are two great ways to improve your home Wi-Fi without trying a cheap range extender.
Both options are more expensive but worth it in the long run. You can buy a newer and faster Wi-Fi router, preferably one with the new Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) technology, or even the latest Wi-Fi 7 router.
Another excellent option is to buy a whole-home Mesh Wi-Fi system. Again, Mesh operates similarly to extenders by placing multiple devices throughout your home. Thankfully, they’re more stable, designed to work together and yield excellent results. Here are a few solid options.
Netgear Nighthawk RS700
Netgear’s first Wi-Fi 7 router features speeds up to 19Gbps and a maximum range of 3,500 square feet. It’s a significant upgrade over existing routers.