Wi-Fi Extender Buying Guide

When you have a hard time getting a wireless signal in your home, you might try a Wi-Fi extender instead of running cords all over your house or apartment. A Wi-Fi extender is a simple device that you plug into an outlet. It then detects the signal produced by your router and amplifies it to provide you with better service throughout your home. You'll also find extenders that let you connect your tablet, laptop or desktop computer via a USB cable.

Types of Wi-Fi Extenders

One thing you might notice when looking at Wi-Fi extenders is that most tend to look similar or exactly alike. The biggest difference between most models is that some are standalone models and others feature a plug in design. With a plug in extender, you'll receive a small device that has two or three prongs on the back. You'll plug the extender into an outlet several feet or more away from your modem.

Standalone extenders look like small boxes and usually have small feet on the bottom and one or more antennas on the top. You can adjust those antennas to enjoy a better signal. With standalone models, you can either set the extender right next to your modem or in another room. You'll need to ensure that the included power cord plugs into the back of the device and into a nearby outlet.

Pay Attention to

Size

Size may not matter to you, but many people who rent or own their own homes will care about the size of the extender. Compact designs are much smaller and designed to plug into an outlet. As the cord is larger and may take up your entire outlet, you may want a table top model that uses just one portion of your outlet and sits on any flat surface like a dresser or shelf.

Signal strength

A traditional extender boosts or amplifies a wireless signal to reach other areas of a home. If you have a larger home or one with a more unusual layout, you may need an amplifier kit. These kits come with an extender that you plug into an outlet and another device that you plug into your computer to detect the signal produced by the extender.

USB ports

USB ports are especially important if you have a home office or do any work from home. That port lets you connect your printer to the extender. You can then transmit printing jobs, even if your printer does not detect your computer. USB ports also let you use the extender with an external hard drive or a flash drive.

Connection ease

Find out how quickly and easily you can connect that extender to your router or modem and computer before buying. Some require that you have the network key and password for your Internet connection, but others will find and amplify a signal automatically.

Compatibility

Older modems typically use the 802.11n standard put in place by the nation's regulating agency. That agency switched to a standard of 802.11ac in recent years. Those that use the newer standard may cost a little more but usually do a better job of boosting that speed.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Linksys

As one of the top manufacturers of computer and Internet products, it's not surprising that Linksys is also responsible for some of the top Wi-Fi extenders. Its extenders are small and compact but can double the signal of your wireless Internet connection to help everyone in the house use that signal without slowing each other down. Several of its extenders come with removable antennas and external ports too.

D-Link

Though D-Link Wi-Fi extenders lack the external ports and removable antennas found on other devices, its extenders provide the powerful boost that you need. It uses a dual-band frequency that detects and identifies the available wireless connections in your home in seconds and then amplifies that signal so that all devices in your home can read it.

Amped Wireless

While the Wi-Fi extenders produced by Amped Wireless are a little larger than those from other companies, its best selling REA20 model features three external removable antennas. You can use all three to get a signal for a larger home or remove one or two to boost the signal for a smaller space. It also features both a USB and Ethernet port for connecting to your computer or other devices.

Belkin

If you have a Belkin modem or router, you might consider purchasing one of the Wi-Fi extenders from the same company. The FDK1106 extender has an almost futuristic design with a sleek black case and sloped sides, which will look at home in a contemporary space. One of the other popular models from Belkin is the FDK1122, which is one the smaller size, features two antennas and plugs into any outlet.

Netgear

Those looking to boost their Wi-Fi signal without spending a lot of extra money will appreciate the models from Netgear. These models cost around $50 to $100, which is less than the cost of buying a new modem. Most feature extra ports on the backs and sides that let you plug your computer right into the extender or to connect the extender to your modem.