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In this article, you will first analyze what are the most important factors to consider before purchasing a WiFi repeater. And then we will showcase the best products currently on the market.
What is a WiFi repeater
A WiFi repeater or range extender is a small device that can extend the coverage of the WiFi network. WiFi repeaters come in very different shapes and prices. The basic models are small square devices that connect to the power outlet, while the more expensive products look like routers and are equipped with antennas and added functionalities. On the other hand, most routers can also be set to work as a range extender.
How to choose the best WiFi repeater
Supported frequency bands
To choose the best router for your needs, the first essential factor to evaluate is definitely the compatibility of the range extender with the router’s WiFi class and frequencies. The most common frequencies are 2.4 and 5GHz. The former has a wider range, but a lower data transfer speed. The 5Ghz frequency has a more limited range but is characterized by better stability and connection speed.
So, if a router is dual-band, the WiFi repeater will also have to be dual-band to take advantage of both frequencies.
WiFi classes and transfer speed
Another feature is the range of supported WiFi classes. These take advantage of frequency bands and differ in data transfer rates. As a rule of thumb, it is a good thing if the WiFi repeater supports the IEEE 802.11n protocol for a 2.4GHz network and the 802.11ac frequency for a 5GHz network.
The data transfer rate indicates the volume of data that the range extender can handle at the same time. However, the maximum speed indicated in a repeater’s spec sheet will always be lower than the actual speed. In fact, the WiFi repeater uses about half the band to receive the WiFi signal and the other half to retransmit it.
Range extenders can cover different functions. Of course, even the cheap ones, can function decently as a WiFi signal repeater. In this case, they just receive the signal from the router and retransmit it to extend its operating range.
In addition, many range extenders function as access points. In other words, they are able to turn a wired network into a wireless network. This functionality may be very convenient if you want to add wireless capabilities to an old modem that doesn’t support WiFi.
Finally, the best high-end WiFi repeaters can function as a bridge. This means that you can connect several wired devices to the repeater which, via WiFi connectivity, will make them accessible over the network.
Another criterion for choosing the best WiFi repeater is the number of antennas present. These antennas can be more or less numerous, obviously affecting the performance of the product. As a rule of thumb, WiFi repeaters with external antennas guarantee a better signal and stability.
Ports and Inputs
Range extenders may or may not have inputs for wired connection to other devices. The cheapest models do not have any ports and only function as a repeater. The devices that also function as an access point or bridge must necessarily have an adequate number of inputs. The most important one is the network port or LAN port, commonly called Ethernet.
Where to place the WiFi repeater
The positioning of the WiFi repeater is a key aspect to take into account when buying the device. In fact, you have to consider that the repeater receives and transmits the signal that’s already there, in other words, if the signal it receives is weak, so will be the retransmitted signal. Thus we recommend placing the repeater in a central area where the signal has medium power.
WiFi repeater or mesh network?
Mesh networks are conceptually different than the traditional ones with only one centralized router. With the mesh network, all network nodes (mesh routers) actively participate in sorting and processing data, as well as covering a certain area. The result is a mesh network (hence the name), where each mesh unit contributes to the operations of the network itself. This type of network are much more flexible and functional than the classic one and is recommended for those who want to cover a fairly large area, most of the time on different floors, with a powerful and well-distributed WiFi connection. For smaller environments, the choice of a traditional WiFi router+repeater architecture still guarantees solid performance.
Best WiFi Repeater: our choices
In our list of devices, we tried to cover different price ranges, that correspond to different functions and performance.
Netgear WiFi Range Extender N300
We start our list with Netgear’s entry-level product, the N300 range extender. This device, although it has a really affordable and competitive price, guarantees excellent functionality, connection stability, and signal coverage. The maximum declared data transfer rate is 300Mbps and is equipped with two fully adjustable external antennas.
In addition, this WiFi repeater can operate as an access point, thanks to the LAN socket with integrated Fast Ethernet technology. Unless you need added functions this product is a best buy.
Among the entry-level products, we have this TP-Link WA855RE, maybe the best price/quality WiFi repeater. This product is very compact, has two external antennas and is compatible with all WiFi routers in circulation. It also sports MiMo technology, with a maximum transmission speed of up to 300Mbps.
In addition, the TP-Link WA855RE range extender can also function as an access point, taking advantage of its Fast Ethernet port. The initial configuration is very simple (via the WPS button) and you can remotely access a control panel to monitor its operations. Great product for those who want a quality device, without spending a fortune.
Going up one step, we find the D-Link DAP-1610 range extender. This WiFi repeater features two external antennas and declares a data transfer rate of up to 1200 Mbps. This is a dual-band range extender that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n and ac WiFi classes.
Thanks to the WPS button, the device is plug and play. To access and manage the settings, simply download the QRS mobile app for iOS and Android. Very compact and discreet, it can also be used as an access point thanks to the built-in LAN port.
Netgear EX6150 AC1200
If you are willing to spend a little more, the Netgear EX6150 could be the best WiFi repeater for you. As the name suggests, this range extender declares a transfer rate of up to 1200Mbps and supports the ac internet class. The two external antennas provide an excellent signal range with MiMo technology.
A very compact product, that has a LAN port for added access point functionality. And the built-in LAN port supports Gigabit Ethernet technology, for faster data transmission (than Fast Ethernet). A high-quality product, that combines solid performance at a reasonable price.
AVM FRITZ! 1750E
This range extender has a declared data transfer rate of 1750Mbps and supports the ac WiFi class. In fact, the total transfer speed measures 1300Mbps at 5Ghz and 450Mbps at 2.4GHz, which work simultaneously.
It has a built-in Gigabit Ethernet LAN port and can function as an access point. The initial configuration is quick and intuitive thanks to the WPS button. The AVM FRITZ! 1750E mounts six antennas that, although internally mounted, offer excellent stability and fluidity of connection.