The 30-Second Review

A WiFi extender is an easy way to add more Internet coverage to your home. The best will deliver fast internet speeds where you want them, without making you pay for expensive features you don't need. We researched new technology advancements, like protocols and multi-band broadcasting, and combed through over 60,000 customer reviews to find two cutting-edge WiFi extenders that you can rely on to take your internet farther.

Best Overall

One of the most advanced extenders on the market, capable of handling WiFi speeds 1,000+ Mbps. Plus, with MU-MIMO and beamforming, it gets WiFi to more devices, faster.

Best Budget

The Essentials can handle up to 300 Mbps, more than enough speed for the average user. Its features are reliable but basic, meaning some significant savings.

The Best WiFi Extender

The Netgear Nighthawk X4 ($150) is a powerhouse of an extender. It has some high-tech performance features, such as beamforming technology that locates where active devices are and focuses signal in that direction to improve reception. It also comes with MU-MIMO technology, so if you’re a household of gamers or video streamers you can all rely on a steady WiFi connection. The Nighthawk also has one of the highest link rate capacities for extenders (how quickly your device can broadcast or receive data). Capable of handling speeds up to 1,733 (on 5 GHz band), the Nighthawk can handle however much Internet you throw at it, even if its calculated in hundreds of megabits per second (Mbps).

The Netgear Essentials ($40) doesn’t dazzle with features, but to be honest, most of us don’t have or use enough Internet to need the latest advancements in WiFi technology. The Essentials masters the basics: it has an AC class rating, which is one of the most recent protocols for at-home WiFi, it has a link rate of up to 433 Mbps (on 5 GHz band). Since the average WiFi speed is about 80 Mbps, the Essentials can handle more than enough for most users. Like the X4, it has a small indicator light to let you know whether it’s in a good signal area. In exchange for basic features and a lower (but totally adequate) link rate, we can fix our WiFi dead spot for just $40.

Our Picks for the Best WiFi Extender

Best Overall

Netgear – AC2200-Nighthawk X4 WiFi Range Extender ($141)One of the fastest advanced extenders on the market, for a price.

The Netgear Nighthawk X4 is one of the most powerful WiFi extenders on the market. It has one of the fastest link rates we could find for an extender, reaching a combined speed of 2,200 Mbps for both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands. If you have Fiber Internet, or are otherwise buying Gigabit speeds, this extender is one of the few that can handle 1,000 Mbps. It won’t reach quite as high on the 2.4 GHz band (AC devices emphasize the 5.0 GHz band and let it have faster speeds at the cost of the 2.4 GHz band), but it can still reach around 600 to 700 Mbps — more than enough for most people.

Netgear-ac2200-for-WiFi-Extender

Images: Netgear

Speed comes at a priceWith extenders, there’s a strong correlation between how much speed the device can handle and how much it costs. The X4 shows it: paying for the best speeds and latest technology will cost you $150. However, U.S. consumers on average use just shy of 80 Mbps. The X4 will still work with these lower speeds, but you may be better off with our budget pick.

Additionally, the X4 has MU-MIMO technology. This means that it can handle more devices being used at the same time than an extender without this technology, making the X4 particularly good for households where multiple people are trying to use WiFi at the same time. Whether everyone is playing online video games, streaming Netflix, listening to Spotify, working from home, or all of the above, the X4 can communicate with multiple devices at the same time, instead of a trade off for which device gets Internet.

We liked that the X4 is fairly small and self-contained — its antennas are internal, so you won’t have to figure out how to best position them (on the flipside this means you can’t if you want to). It’s a plug-in device that’s about as wide as the US dollar bill, and a little bit taller. We also liked how you can see directly on the device whether it has a good connection. Positioning is important for extenders, and the X4’s glowing green, amber, or red light is a clear indicator of the connection quality. Additionally, the X4 has lights to indicate whether the extender needs to be moved closer to the router to improve performance.

Best Budget

The Netgear Essentials is basic in a great way. It’s cheap, at less than a third of the price of the Nighthawk, but if your purchased Internet Plan looks closer to 100 Mbps than 1,000 Mbps, the Essentials is more than enough machine for you. It’s rated AC750, which means it caps out at 300 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 433 Mbps on 5.0 GHz.

Netgerar-ac750-for-WiFi-Extender

Images: Netgear

Like the X4 it’s a plug-in device, so you won’t need to clear shelf space to find it a home. Also it’s pretty tiny, just larger than a credit card. Even though it’s smaller, it still has many of the same indicator lights as the X4. One light changes color to demonstrate the connection strength to the router, and another demonstrates the strength to your computer or WiFi device. You’ll be able to tell at a glance if you’re in a good signal area, or if your WiFi troubles have to do with the router or the extender.

You’ll be giving up the high tech features, like MU-MIMO and beamforming, but if you don’t think you’ll need these you shouldn’t have to pay for them. But keep in mind, if you end up purchasing a larger Internet package down the road, you may have to upgrade.

Nighthawk X4 Essentials
Price $150 $40
Link Rate 2200 750
2.4 GHz Link Rate Up to 450 Mbps 300 Mbps
5.0 GHz Link Rate Up to 1733 Mbps 433 Mbps
Mu-MIMO Yes No
Beamforming Yes No
Number of Ports 1 1
Type Plug-in Plug-in
Adjusted Star Rating 4.1 4
% of 5-star reviews 73% 59%
% of 1-star Reviews 11% 15%

*Sources: Small Net Builder and PCMag

Did You Know?

You’ll Need to Configure Your Extender

You’ll need to choose whether your extender communicates with the router on 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz. It’ll then use the other band to send WiFi to your devices. Using 2.4 GHz for router communications leaves the less crowded 5.0 GHz band open for your computer or smartphone, but it is more susceptible to interference (blame your microwave). If you’re having a hard time establishing a strong connection, you might need to dedicate the 5.0 GHz band for extender-router communications instead.

It’s Important to Choose the Right Spot for Your Extender

Just as finding the right spot for your router is important, you’ll want to take some time to find the right spot for your extender, too. All of our top picks have indicator lights that make it easy to see if they’re in a strong signal area. Contrary to what you might think (or hope), the extender can’t just be popped into the room with the weakest signal. These devices are repeaters -- they receive a signal on one band and transmit it on the other. Placed in a weak signal area, they’ll pick up that weak signal, and transmit it just as weakly. Instead, you’ll want to find an area with strong signal. This is usually about halfway between the router and the area of the house you’re having trouble getting WiFi in. The extender will pick up a strong signal, and pass it along.

Also, keep in mind that a WiFi extender doesn’t give you seamless coverage across your house. Instead, you’ll have your WiFi network based from your router and you’ll have a network based from the extender, with a separate name and password. As you leave your router’s network zone, your internet will drop off and then reconnect to the extender’s network zone. You probably won’t notice this unless you’re actively streaming a video as you walk down the hallway, but it can be inconvenient depending on how frequently you need to travel between zones.

A WiFi Extender Isn’t Always the Right Choice

If you’re having trouble getting a strong WiFi signal across your house, we’ll be honest, a WiFi extender is not going to be the right option for many people. WiFi extenders are best for people who already have a high-quality router, but have a small area in their home where the reception is weak, inconsistent, or nonexistent.

On the other hand, if you’re setting up your home WiFi system for the first time, or if you’re looking to update your WiFi system to the latest specifications, you might want to take a look at a WiFi mesh system. Mesh systems are starting to become more popular for people with large or complex homes. They consist of at least two router-like devices that you spread evenly throughout your home, so that you have consistent WiFi coverage, no matter where you go. They are more expensive than a simple extender, usually around $300 for a starter kit of three units, but can be cheaper than a high-quality router that needs an accessory extender.

Powerline adapters are another option. The receiving adapter plugs into the wall near the router, and uses a cord to plug into the router itself. The broadcasting adapter plugs into any socket in your dead or weak WiFi zone. Together, they transmit the WiFi signal from the router, through the electrical cabling already in your home, and broadcast it into the weak zone. They can be straightforward to use, but users report that how successful they are at actually broadcasting a good signal largely depends on what kind of wiring your house has, and how old it is.

The Best WiFi Extender: Summed Up