Best Wi-Fi Boosters of 2018

Rebecca Armstrong ·
Phones & Networking Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent over 100 hours rigorously testing range extenders to find the best way to give your Wi-Fi a boost. Our best overall pick, the TP-Link RE450, performed better than every other extender across five tests. Its useful signal strength indicator, Gigabit Ethernet port and easy WPS setup make it an ideal extension for your network. At about half the price for similar performance, the TP-Link RE305 is a great value as well.

Best Overall
TP-Link RE450
The TP-Link RE450 performed better than the rest of the range extenders we tested, matching or improving connection speeds in most test runs.
View on
Best Value
TP-Link RE305
The TP-Link RE305 is one of the cheapest Wi-Fi extenders we tested, and its stellar performance makes it a great deal if you don’t need a Gigabit Ethernet port.
View on
Best Desktop Extender
Netgear EX6200
The Netgear EX6200 is a great desktop Wi-Fi range extender. It features five Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections and lays flat or stands upright.
View on
Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Price
Tested Performance
Range Extending Specs
Design Features
150-Foot Line of Sight Test
100-Foot Line of Sight Test
Multi-Floor Test 1
Multi-Floor Test 2
Multi-Floor Test 3
Wireless standard
Dual-band and WPS Compatibility
Access Point Mode
Ethernet Ports
Separate Band Lights
Signal Strength Indicator
Form Factor
Warranty
$39.99 Wal-Mart
5 4.9 4.5 4.5
105
92
95
109
101%
AC1200
1 Fast
Wall Plug
2 Years
$71.26 Amazon
3.8 5 4.6 5
100
98
103
107
102%
AC1750
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
2 Years
$84.99 MihaweStore.com
2.5 4.5 5 5
96
100
46
112
103%
AC2600
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
2 Years
$99.99 Newegg
3.9 2.9 4.5 4.9
55
89
61
62
25%
AC1200
5 Gigabit
Desktop
1 Year
$85.59 Amazon
4.1 3.1 4.8 1.9
58
62
64
72
61%
AC1900
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
1 Year
$69.99 Wal-Mart
4.4 2.6 4.6 3.1
52
66
63
49
37%
AC1750
5 Gigabit
Desktop
1 Year
$38.99 GreenHomeFair
5 1.6 3.5 4.1
42
32
48
38
Failed
AC1200
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
2 Years
$69.99 Newegg
4.1 0.5 4.5 3.1
13
8
8
12
7%
AC1200
1 Fast
Wall Plug
1 Year
$99.99 Newegg
4.1 0.4 4.5 3.6
7
9
8
9
8%
AC1200
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
1 Year
$75.95 Amazon
3.8 0.3 4.6 3.6
5
5
6
6
6%
AC1750
1 Gigabit
Wall Plug
1 Year
Best Overall
In our tests, the TP-Link RE450 performed better than any other extender. On average, it captured and rebroadcast 100% of the original network signal to our test laptop.
The RE450 is an AC1750 device capable of speeds up to 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz frequency and 1,300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band for a combined max throughput of 1,750 Mbps. Most household internet subscriptions don’t need Gigabit-speed networking equipment, but its compatibility with superfast connection speeds is a bonus. The TP-Link RE450 is also extremely easy to position and set up, thanks to its helpful signal strength indicator and WPS connection option. Its easy to navigate instructions, companion app and front-facing status LEDs make it an accessible upgrade for any level of tech savvy, from total beginner to professional. Though a great device, the TP-Link RE450 isn’t aesthetically pleasing. It follows a similar form factor to many high-speed, wall-plug range extenders, but it’s large for a wall-plug device, and extremely top-heavy. Both factors make it easy to knock out of place.
Pros
  • Best extending performance
  • Signal strength indicator
  • Easy setup
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Easily knocked over
  • Top heavy
-
Read the full review
Best Value
The TP-Link RE305 performed almost as well as our top pick in testing, but it costs half the price. It’s a great value for a Wi-Fi signal booster, but the lack of a Gigabit Ethernet port limits its usefulness for fast wired connections or as a wireless access point.
The RE305 is a wall plug extender with two adjustable antennas, one on either side of the device’s body. Its front is blank, with status lights and the WPS button sitting at the top of the device. This isn’t the best placement, as it’s more difficult to see the status lights from a distance. If you use the extender on a bottom outlet and plug something else in above it, it blocks the light. It’s simple to set up with either WPS or manual options, and its signal strength indicator and status lights for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connection bands make it easy to see exactly if it’s working correctly. With the two frequency bands, the TP-Link RE305 can sustain AC1200 speeds, and it’s compatible with any Wi-Fi router or access point. TP-Link also has a useful smartphone app that allows you to remotely access and manage your network.
Pros
  • Great extending performance
  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
Cons
  • Fast Ethernet Port
  • Status lights on top
-
Read the full review
Best Desktop Extender
The Netgear EX6200’s adjustable antennas and optional vertical mount make it a great option if you need more placement flexibility than a wall-plug offers.
The Netgear EX6200 is a striking device. Its triangular ventilation holes and black and red color scheme make it look edgier than other extenders, though not particularly ostentatious. It’s also much more flexible when it comes to extender placement, as it doesn’t sit directly on an outlet. It comes with an optional vertical mount base and two adjustable antennas, giving you a wealth of configuration options to find the best setup for your network. The only disadvantage to this form factor is that it’s much larger than most wall-plug extenders. Because of its bulk, however, it houses more Gigabit Ethernet ports than wall plugs. It has five ports for linking wired connections to end devices. Plus, you can connect the EX6200 to your router directly via Ethernet and use it as a wireless access point. In addition to its striking design, the EX6200 is the best desktop range extender we tested. It's a dual-banded device that reaches up to AC1200 speeds using both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. Equipped with high-gain external antennas and a 700 mW amplifier, it extends your existing Wi-Fi network while keeping up with simultaneous high-traffic connections, thanks to its MU-MIMO technology. In our tests, setting up the EX6200 was slightly more frustrating than with other models, as its WPS function did not work.
Pros
  • Five Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Directional antennas
  • Sits vertically or horizontally
Cons
  • Larger than wall plug extenders
  • 90 days of tech support
  • WPS did not work in testing
-
Read the full review
Best Low-Profile Wall Plug
The Linksys RE7000 uses internal antennas and MU-MIMO technology to boost your Wi-Fi network up to 10,000 square feet. It looks much sleeker, cleaner and unobtrusive than most of the extenders we tested.
The RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900 Wi-Fi range extender is a wall-plug style device with a minimalist design. It has a single status light on the front that works as both a power and WPS indicator. One side holds the WPS and reset buttons, and the bottom features a Gigabit Ethernet with a small status light. You can use this port to connect to a router to use the RE7000 as a wired access point. Unlike many other products we tested, the Linksys extender doesn’t have a built-in signal quality indicator. Therefore, setup and placement are a little more difficult, even though Linksys does have a spot finder web application.
Pros
  • Simple design
Cons
  • Doesn’t have separate band lights
-
Read the full review
Best Individual Band Control
The Motorola MX1200 Wi-Fi extender was the only product we tested with a hardware 2.4/5 GHz band switch, which is extra convenient.
This extender is a sleek wall-plug style extender that uses internal antennas, so it doesn’t look like a bug. The front face displays five signal indicator lights that help find the perfect placement for your extender. The bottom of the device hosts a WPS button, unlabeled reset button, host band switch, Gigabit Ethernet port and a power switch. We found the space a little crowded, especially when the Ethernet port is in use. With WPS, setting up the Motorola was simple, and its directions for both WPS and manual setup options were comprehensive and useful. Its performance was not the best we tested, but it captured and broadcast an average of 40% of the original signal for all but one of the test runs, which was the most difficult of the five tests.
Pros
  • Nondescript design
Cons
  • Failed one multi-floor test
-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We’ve reviewed Wi-Fi boosters since 2012. For this round of evaluations, we spent over 100 hours on hands-on testing alone, not to mention the hours of research we conducted to choose the top ten contenders for our side-by-side comparison. Our team is made of tech geeks and home networking gurus who prefer the strongest internet connections, and we’re dedicated to helping you avoid Wi-Fi dead zones.

How We Tested

We spent over 100 hours testing Wi-Fi range extenders in a variety of configurations throughout our office and lab space. We created five test runs throughout our building including a 100-foot line-of-sight test, a 150-foot line-of-sight test and three different multi-floor setups. Both straight runs were conducted in the hallway of our building with no obstructions between the router and laptop, with the extender placed halfway between the two. The three multi-level setups tested the extenders’ performance in a more house-like setting, with floors and walls between each device. During these tests, we also rated the products’ ease of setup and use, helpful features and design.

We started each trial by taking a baseline measurement of the network’s performance using Ixia’s IxChariot, as you can only boost the Wi-Fi you have, and network speeds fluctuate. We then connected the extender and ran the speed test five times, removed the top and bottom results and averaged the remaining scores. After collecting all 50 measurements for each product (five tests requiring five baseline measurements and five test measurements each), we compared the extenders’ results to their corresponding baseline measurements to see what percentage of the available signal was captured and rebroadcast.

Should You Buy A Wi-Fi Extender?

With ever-evolving improvements in networking tech, Wi-Fi extenders are almost obsolete. When we spoke with Phil Michas, owner of SLC Tech Authority in Salt Lake City, Utah, he told us, “At this time I would recommend a ‘mesh’ network to encompass whole-home signal coverage.” He cited the extenders’ limitations and the advances in concurrent technology as his reasons. “Wi-Fi extenders are connected via wireless connection, so speeds and coverage will flux.” Traditional routers have wider ranges and stronger signals than before, and residential mesh routers are steadily becoming cheaper and more accessible.

Router Placement

Repositioning your router, or even the antennas on your router, can make a difference to your Wi-Fi coverage. If your router has internal antennas, make sure the router itself is standing vertically for the best range. It’s also best if you place your router in a central location, without major obstructions between it and the places you most use the Internet, such as walls with metal running through them (as in a kitchen or bathroom). Other wireless signals also affect your Wi-Fi. Devices using similar frequencies, such as microwaves, baby monitors, wireless security systems or even your neighbor’s Wi-Fi network, can congest the channel and affect your connection.

If repositioning your router doesn’t do the trick, and if your router is an older model, replacing it may also improve your network performance. Since a home network is limited by the slowest part of that network, a router upgrade could give your Wi-Fi a necessary boost.

How to Choose a Wi-Fi Extender

Even with available mesh systems and improved networking tech, range extenders are still an inexpensive option to get Wi-Fi into that one corner of the house that always has weak signal. Here are a few things to look for when purchasing an extender for your network.

Price
The best Wi-Fi extenders we tested cost between $40 and $80. Many products available for less than $40 use previous-standard wireless n technology, which we do not recommend. Devices more than $80 usually have faster advertised speeds, but the added cost is usually not worth the extra potential performance.

Compatibility
A network is only as fast as its slowest link, so buy a Wi-Fi extender on the same wireless standard as your router. For example, if your router advertises AC1750 speeds, an extender that can also reach AC1750 speeds works much better for you than something with N300 speeds.

You also want to check the frequencies the extender can use. Every product we tested, and almost any device on the wireless ac standard, support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.

Type of Extender
There are two main types of Wi-Fi boosters: range extenders and repeaters. These two names are used interchangeably, but they technically describe different technologies. All the products we tested are range extenders. These capture an existing Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcast it as a separate network. The downside is that you must sign in and out of networks to get the best Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, and many extenders only boost half or less of your existing signal. Repeaters also capture your existing signal, but they don’t create a separate network. They work more like amplifiers to boost your signal further than it would normally reach.

Placing Your Extender
The placement of your booster is paramount to its successful operation. To effectively boost your Wi-Fi signal, place your extender in an area that has both a decent signal from the router and is within range of your dead zones. The sweet spot is about halfway between the two. Placing an extender in an area with an already-weak signal doesn’t improve the signal at all, it simply pushes that weakened signal further. Placing it closer to the router where there is a stronger signal to amplify generally increases the quality of the Wi-Fi at your target location.

Many Wi-Fi extenders have built-in signal strength indicators that tell you the quality of signal received from your router. Some also display the quality of connection between the extender and a connected device, so you know your extended network reaches where you need it.