Wireless technology has made connecting to the internet more convenient than ever. If you're like most people, your home network includes desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – all connected wirelessly through one router. Even high-quality routers have a limited range, though, and there are sometimes dead spots in parts of your home.
So what should you do if your wireless signal doesn't reach every corner of your home? The answer is to implement a Wi-Fi booster, also referred to as a Wi-Fi repeater or extender, in your home network. A Wi-Fi booster connects to your current wireless network and then repeats that signal, increasing your wireless range significantly.
When you strategically place the wireless repeater at the edge of your internet's dead zone, the booster bounces the signal to the rest of your home. Some boosters make this process easy with buttons that automatically pair the booster with the router and help you find the best location to place the booster.
You would think there would be hundreds of Wi-Fi boosters on the market, but the selection is somewhat small. Our favorites are the Netgear AC1200, the Hawking HW2R1 and the ZyXEL WAP3205. These are the best range extenders in terms of features, design and product support. We have written articles on Wi-Fi boosters to help you make an informed decision.
There are a number of things to look for in Wi-Fi boosters. Security is a big issue in home networking, but there's not much to fear here. Generally, you don't need to worry about how secure a Wi-Fi booster is, as, in most cases, it carries over the protection your router offers. We looked at three main criteria in our Wi-Fi extender reviews: features, design and support.
Wi-Fi boosters are used to increase your wireless network's range, so it makes sense that the first thing you want to look for is how much a booster will increase your range. Wi-Fi extenders increase your current wireless network's range by harnessing the signal and rebroadcasting it. By bouncing and repeating the signal, you should be able to access the internet in all of your current dead spots.
Signal status lights are a must, as these lights let you know if the extender is even working and how strong the signal is. The indicator lights help you find the best location for your Wi-Fi booster. On the back of most boosters, you will find at least one Ethernet port, but the best Wi-Fi range extenders have up to five ports.
Compatibility is an important feature to remember when purchasing a Wi-Fi extender. If the device isn't compatible with your current router, then it won't work. You shouldn't have a problem if your router is fairly new and at least has 802.11b/g/n technology. Some boosters support the latest 802.11ac technology and can access the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bandwidths simultaneously to cut down on the internet congestion that can take place if your tech-savvy family is using a lot of wireless devices at the same time.
Making the choice to purchase a Wi-Fi booster is easy, but what you want to look for is an extender that makes it easy to connect to your router. Our favorites are those with a setup button. One push and the Wi-Fi booster automatically couples with your wireless router. You may have to go through further steps to customize your connection, but the Wi-Fi repeater begins to broadcast your router's signal.
Many boosters are equipped with optimal coverage indicators, which allow you to place the wireless repeater in a position that maximizes the coverage. To save energy and increase efficiency, we also like those units with a power button to turn them on and off and the ability to remotely manage the connection.
Help & Support
Not all of the Wi-Fi boosters on the market have an automatic setup button, and those that do may not always work. The best Wi-Fi boosters have excellent help and support backing them up. Live chat, an included warranty and a direct phone number are some of the things to look for. The majority of manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, but some offer as much as a three-year warranty.
If you've been battling with internet dead zones around your house, now is the time to invest in a Wi-Fi booster. Not only will your wireless range double, but you will have the freedom to roam to all corners of your home, wireless device in hand, completely connected.