What You Need to Know About Wi-Fi Extenders
- What Is A Wi-Fi Extender?
- How Far Will A Wi-Fi Extender Work?
- What If My Wi-Fi Extender Does Not Extend Far Enough?
Anyone who has ever had a wireless connection set up at home has probably experienced problems with their internet. It’s either your internet is intermittent, your modem is acting up, or the main network in your location got busted.
Whatever the reason may be, what’s really unfortunate is the fact that there is nothing you can do when your internet woes are caused by external factors. This is often the case when the fibre optic cables are damaged or there was a problem in rolling out the connection.
If this happens, your only option is to contact your service provider and hope that they can fix the problem right away. Fortunately, internet connection problems within your premises can be remedied. One way you can fix a spotty connection is by using a Wi-Fi extender.
What’s a Wi-Fi extender, you ask? Here’s everything you should know.
What is a Wi-Fi Extender?
A Wi-Fi extender is an external networking device that you can use to, as the name suggests, “extend” your Wi-Fi signal from your wireless router. It is also referred to by several names such as Range Extender or Wi-Fi Booster.
It comes in many shapes in sizes, but what’s common about the device is that it either has a dedicated power cable or is plugged into a power outlet and it usually has antennae sprouting from the side.
How does it work?
The main purpose of a Wi-Fi Extender is to act as a bridge connecting your wireless router and the Wi-Fi signal, then transmitting it to its immediate surroundings and boost the Wi-Fi coverage area and internet speeds.
But there’s something you have to keep in mind. A Wi-Fi Extender is only able to boost the signal based on the current strength of your network and where the device is placed. This means that anything placed far from the Wi-Fi network will only be able to boost the signal strength that is immediately available to it.
If the network, for example, only has one bar of signal on the spot where the Wi-Fi Extender is positioned, only that one bar of coverage will be improved.
Typical, Wi-Fi routers have a 360-degree coverage area, but there are factors that may affect the signal strengths, which is beyond your control. As a result, your Wi-Fi Extender is only able to pick up the signal that your router has.
Wi-Fi Extenders come in two types. The first one is something that looks like a smaller Wi-Fi router and is sometimes referred to as a “desktop extender.” It comes with a dedicated power cable and bulky, so it requires a wider space within your premises. With its size, this type offers other features like Ethernet ports and is more likely to boost higher speeds.
It’s a little different from the smaller “powerline” Wi-Fi Extender that you need to plug into a power outlet. Since it’s not as large as the “desktop” type, you can’t expect this device to include Ethernet ports but it doesn’t mean that it’s not as effective.
Just to let you know, Wi-Fi Extenders are not cheap. You have to really know what will be most suitable for your needs before buying one so you can be sure that you are getting your money’s worth.
Setting Up a Wi-Fi Extender
So you’ve decided to get a Wi-Fi Extender for your place. Now, how do you set it up in the most ideal position? Truth is that there are different ways to do so.
The easiest way to set up a Wi-Fi Extender depends on you having a router and a Wi-Fi Extender that is WPS or Wi-Fi Protected Setup-compatible. If you do, there should be a button on both devices that you only need to press so they can connect with each other automatically.
However, this may not be possible if you have a low-end router or one with old technology. If this is the case, you will need to manually connect your Wi-Fi Extender to your home network the same way you would a wireless device.
For older devices, this means creating a duplicate Wi-Fi access point where you can also connect your wireless devices that need signal boosting.
Other Wi-Fi Extenders have a uniform access point within your premises, which means your devices will have to be configured to automatically connect to the router and the booster the moment you go out of range.
When it comes to positioning, you have to pay attention to where the Extender is placed regardless if it’s a desktop type or a powerline type. It should not be too far from the router where it only picks up one bar of signal nor too close to the router that it totally defeats the purpose of the device.
The best spot would be halfway between the wireless router (where the extender still manages to pick up several bars of signal) and from the spot in your house where devices are unable to get reception.
What is a Mesh Network?
A Mesh Network, meanwhile, is an improved version of the Wi-Fi Extender. It has the same purpose as a booster but instead of boosting signals from a solitary wireless router, the Mesh Network powers up the signal strengths of several wireless routers interconnected to a single network.
With a Mesh Network, there is a whole system of mini-routers throughout your house. This happens because wireless routers and Wi-Fi Extenders usually have different networks. What the Mesh Network does is weave all of these together so it’s easier to improve the signal of your connection.
But to ensure that there is no disconnect in the system, you have to make sure that there are enough of these mini-routers or nodes smartly positioned inside the house to eliminate black spots.
Among these nodes, there is a designated primary node that you connect to your modem. They are often more expensive than Wi-Fi Extenders and are often branded depending on the manufacturer that produced them.
Mesh Networks are ideal for large spaces such as a huge house, an office floor, or an entire building. But their setup process is also simplified and more user-friendly compared to the Wi-Fi Extenders you see in the market these days.
What are my best options for a Wi-Fi Extender?
Again, choosing the next WiFi Extender for your place requires the consideration of several factors — cost, coverage, and form. Taking these into account, here are some of your best options for a WiFi Extender:
D-Link N300 WiFi Range Extender - Affordable, straightforward connection, and compatible with other wireless router brands.
Linksys RE6700 - Powerline-type with a dual-band feature. It comes with a pass-through plug on the front, so you don’t need to plug it into your power outlet.
Netgear EX6200 - Desktop-type with five Gigabit Ethernet ports
- TP-Link RE590T - A WiFi router that comes with a 4.3-inch touchscreen for a more convenient central management. It also features three external antennas for a better boost to your signal.