Consumer Reports: WiFi range extenders

Consumer Reports

CONSUMER REPORTS — To anyone stuck at home with a spotty internet connection or dead zones, WiFi range extenders sound like an easy and affordable solution. Consumer Reports recently tested several and found they can cure WiFi woes, but only in certain situations.

Rich Fisco oversees electronics testing at Consumer Reports and has been working with routers and WiFi for decades. But even Fisco had issues with WiFi at his home. “We had a dead zone on the deck in my backyard where we would hang out and barbecue,” said Fisco.

He wasn’t quite sure if a WiFi extender would fix the issue or not. So, he procrastinated.

Not long after the coronavirus pandemic began, Consumer Reports started testing some products at employees’ homes, making sure to maintain strict testing protocols. So, when it came time to test WiFi extenders, Fisco realized it was the perfect opportunity to use his home as a test lab.

“Well, after I put the extender halfway between the router and the deck, I had a really good signal out there,” commented Fisco.

Two that did well in all of Consumer Reports’ tests:

  • The Nighthawk from Netgrear
  • TP-Link RE-220

One thing to keep in mind, Consumer Reports says internet speeds from the extender may be slower than you’re used to. That’s because extenders cut speeds in half.

“Getting the most from your WiFi extender relies on a lot of factors, including the speed of your internet service provider’s connection, the distance from your router to where you’re putting your WiFi extender, and the areas of your home you’re trying to cover,” explained Fisco.

For him, an extender brought WiFi to his home’s dead spot. But if you’re having issues all over your house, to see a significant improvement in your WiFi you may need a mesh network. That’s a system of two or more units that work together to blanket your home with a strong WiFi signal. But many good mesh networks cost anywhere from $200 to $500.

A less expensive mesh network recommended by Consumer Reports is the TP-Link Deco Whole Home.

Consumer Reports says one handy feature to look for when choosing a WiFi extender or router is push button WPS or WiFi Protected Setup. If both devices have it, you can link your extender to your router with just a push of a button.


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