Paying for fast internet speeds doesn’t mean a thing without a good home Wi-Fi network. And often, a single router isn’t strong enough to provide a stable connection throughout your entire house. Fortunately, a Wi-Fi range extender is a simple solution that can make a big difference.
This is where a Wi-Fi range extender can come in handy. A range extender, or Wi-Fi signal booster, is a compact, plug-in device that uses built-in Wi-Fi radios and antennas to pair wirelessly with your router. Plug one in near the edge of your router’s wireless range and pair it with the network, and it’ll start rebroadcasting the signal farther out into your home. All of today’s top models are less expensive than upgrading to a full-fledged mesh router with its own range-extending satellite devices, they’re a cinch to set up, they’ll work no matter what brand of router you’re using and in most cases it’s easy to give them the same SSID and password as your original router. That creates a single, seamless connection that you won’t need to think about too much.
You’ve got lots of options to choose from, and I’ve spent the past few years regularly testing them out to find the best of the bunch. For the previous two years, I ran those tests out of my own home (read more about how we test Wi-Fi routers). For 2022, I’ve moved things back to the CNET Smart Home, a much larger 5,800-square-foot multistory house in rural Kentucky. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve thrown at these things yet — and after weeks of tests, my data identified the range extenders that reigned supreme. Let’s get right to them.
Wi-Fi extender test results
TP-Link makes some of the most popular picks in the range extender category, with a fairly wide variety of options to choose from at various price points. If you’re buying one in 2022, I think you should put the TP-Link RE605X right at the top of your list. At $100, it’s far from the most affordable extender on the market (keep reading for the value picks), but with a highly capable AX1800 design, full support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 speeds and features, adjustable antennas and a helpful, easy-to-use control app with strong reviews on both Android and iOS, it’s about as well-rounded as range extenders get.
The performance is particularly sharp, too. In my tests at the CNET Smart Home, an RE605X in the basement was able to extend the router’s signal from upstairs just fine, giving my upload and download speeds a significant boost in every room I tested. Throughout the entire 5,800-square-foot-home, among all the extenders I tested, the RE605X delivered the fastest average upload speeds to both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices, the fastest average download speeds to Wi-Fi 6 devices and the second fastest average download speeds to Wi-Fi 5 devices.
By default, the extender puts out its own separate network when you first pair it with your router, and that network will use the same password as your original network, and the same SSID with “-EXT” added to the end. That’s better than extenders that put out an unsecured network by default — and if you use the app to delete that “-EXT” bit, it’ll automatically sync up with your original network and work invisibly to keep you better connected, which is ideal. All of that makes this extender an easy recommendation.
TP-Link took the top spot in 2022, but the Linksys RE7310 was very close behind it, and would be almost equally as good on most home networks. In the CNET Smart Home, where we have a fiber internet plan with uploads and downloads of up to 150Mbps, the RE7310 returned average Wi-Fi 6 downloads throughout the entire multistory house of 132Mbps. That’s only 4Mbps behind that top pick from TP-Link. As for the uploads, Linksys finished with an average whole-home speed to my Wi-Fi 6 test device of 124Mbps. That’s only 2Mbps behind TP-Link.
The only thing keeping me from saying that the two finished in a virtual tie is that the RE7310 was slightly less impressive with earlier-gen Wi-Fi 5 devices, particularly with respect to upload speeds. Still, the performance was solid across the board, and strong enough for me to take video calls in the Smart Home’s basement dead zones, something I would have struggled with using just the single router I ran my tests on. It’s a bit bulky-looking, but the RE7310 is the best Linksys range extender I’ve tested yet, and it’s an especially great pick if you can catch it on sale (right now, the best price I’m seeing is $98 on eBay).
Also, keep an eye out for the Linksys RE7350, which features a nearly identical design and specs. Earlier this year, it was on sale for $20 less than the RE7310 at Best Buy, which is a pretty good deal given the specs. I haven’t tested that variant out just yet, but I’ll update this post when I have, and I’ll keep an eye out for another sale, too.
It was never the speed leader in my tests, but it was never too far behind — and at $65, the D-Link EaglePro AI costs a lot less than the top picks listed here. That’s a good deal, especially on a Wi-Fi 6 model that boasts a newly designed control app on Android and iOS, plus adjustable antennas and a design that automatically syncs up with your router to put out a single, unified network as soon as you first set the thing up. I even appreciate the touch of color with those pale blue accents, a nice break from boring white plastic.
Speed-wise, the EaglePro AI brought up the rear in my tests, but it was still able to return average download speeds of 114Mbps for Wi-Fi 6 devices and 112Mbps for Wi-Fi 5 devices across every room I tested it in, which is terrific for a multistory home with a 150Mbps fiber plan. Uploads were lower, including a somewhat concerning single-digit average of just 8Mbps to Wi-Fi 5 devices in the home’s most difficult dead zone, but I can forgive that given that the 5,800-square-foot Smart Home is a lot bigger than this AX1500 extender was designed to cover. If your home is any smaller than that then the EaglePro AI should do just fine, and it’ll save you some cash, too.
Other extenders worth considering
At $35, the TP-Link RE220 was the least expensive range extender during my first run of at-home tests in 2020, but that didn’t stop it from outperforming everything else I tested at every turn. This Wi-Fi extender is fast, it’s reliable, it works with just about every Wi-Fi router out there and it’s easy to use. And, as of writing this, it costs even less than I paid for it — down to less than $25 on Amazon.
Plug it in and press the WPS button to pair it with your home network, and it’ll begin broadcasting its own networks on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Both offered steady Wi-Fi speeds throughout my home, including average download speeds on the 5GHz band of at least 75Mbps in every room access point I tested, along with strong upload speeds. The RE220 never once dropped my connection, and its speeds were consistent across multiple days of tests during both daytime and evening hours.
It’s a little long in the tooth at this point, and it won’t wow you with Wi-Fi 6 speeds, but the strong ease of use and the steady, dependable level of performance it offers mean it’s still an absolute steal. It’s not as fast as the top models I’ve tested in the years since, and I haven’t had a chance to retest it at the CNET Smart Home just yet — but it’s still a great choice if you want to boost the signal from the Wi-Fi router to a back room that sits beyond the router’s reach, but you’d like to pay as little as possible to get the job done.
TP-Link and Linksys each put in strong performances during this latest round of tests, but it was arguably Asus that led the way with the RP-AX56, a Wi-Fi 6 range extender that retails for $100. However, a poor approach to device security keeps me from recommending it.
Let’s start with the good. The RP-AX56 finished in a virtual tie with TP-Link for the fastest average download speeds to my Wi-Fi 6 test laptop, and it led all range extenders when I reran my tests with a Wi-Fi 5 iPad Air 2. On top of that, the RP-AX56 delivered the fastest average download speeds to both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 devices in the CNET Smart Home’s basement guest bedroom, which was the most persistent dead zone throughout my tests.
That said, the RP-AX56 requires a bit of futzing. After I first paired it with the router, it put out its own, separate Wi-Fi network with a generic name and no password at all. That’s something you’ll want to change immediately, but on iOS the 1.5-star reviewed Asus extender app doesn’t offer a quick option for changing the SSID and password. Instead, you’ll need to enter the extender’s IP address into a browser bar and log in using its default admin credentials — and by the way, those credentials were username: admin and password: admin. So, yeah, you’ll want to change those, too.
Once you’ve done that, you can change the SSID and password to match your router, at which point the extender will work seamlessly within your existing network. Still, that’s a pretty low level of default security for a plug-and-play device that most people won’t want to futz with at all. I’ll keep an eye out for updates on this one — if Asus makes some changes to the app and to the default settings, the RP-AX56 could jump right up into the top picks.
Last year’s top pick, the RE505X is just a slightly less powerful version of the RE605X that costs a bit less. I wasn’t able to retest it at the CNET Smart Home yet, but I’ll update this post when I get the chance. For now, I think performance-minded users will be glad they spent up for the better upload speeds of the RE605X or the Linksys RE7310, and value-minded users will likely be better served with the less expensive D-Link EaglePro AI and TP-Link RE220 range extenders.
That leaves the RE505X as a bit of a middle child at this point, but I’d pounce on it if the price dropped substantially below its current price of $90, as it was an extremely capable and consistent performer in my 2021 tests.
As soon as you plug the Netgear Nighthawk X4S range extender in and pair it with your router, it’ll start working with your router to put out a single, unified network, one that automatically routes your device between the router and extender as needed. That’s great, and the extender offers a well-featured app for quick controls, too.
The main problem is that this model doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, but still typically costs more than $100. It features a tri-band design that’s quite fancy by range extender standards, and the performance was better than every other Wi-Fi 5 range extender I’ve tested. Even so, it couldn’t quite keep up with the dual-band Wi-Fi 6 models I tested, and it costs more than some of them, to boot. If you catch it on sale for less than $100, it might be worth a look, but in most cases, I think Wi-Fi 6 is worth prioritizing at this point.
Another strong model from my 2021 tests, the D-Link DAP-X1870 is an excellent performer that does a great job of creating a single, unified network as soon as you pair it with your router. That keeps things easy, but at a retail price of $120, it feels a bit too expensive here in 2022.
Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to catch it on sale. As of writing this, Amazon has it listed for a much more reasonable $79, though I’d probably stick with the $23 TP-Link RE220 if I were just looking for the best value pick. I’ll keep an eye out for any other good sales and update this post as I spot them, and I’ll give this post an update when I’ve had a chance to retest the DAP-X1870 at the CNET Smart Home to see how it stacks up against the newest models, too.
How we test Wi-Fi extenders and signal boosters
Like a lot of people, I spent much of the past two years working from home, and that included my yearly roundup of range extender tests. I’ve put dozens of extenders through my controlled tests by this point, and that’s generated a lot of useful data for comparison purposes.
Now, in 2022, I’m happy to say that we’re back testing gadgets at the CNET Smart Home, a 5,800-square-foot multistory home in the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky, that we use as a living lab. It’s a much better environment for testing wireless devices at range than my somewhat cramped, shotgun-style house — and with more ground to cover, it’s a much bigger challenge for these extenders.
Testing Wi-Fi range extenders in the CNET Smart Home
The CNET Smart Home has a fiber internet connection with matching upload and download speeds of up to 150Mbps. That’s a far cry from the gigabit connections more and more of us have access to (not to mention the new, blazing-fast multi-gig internet plans emerging in some parts of the country). However, it’s in line with the average internet speed in the US, which makes it a great place to test how home networking products will work for the average consumer.
For my purposes, I started by setting up a router in the Smart Home’s laundry room, which is where the modem is set up. I went with the Netgear R6700AX, a perfectly decent model I reviewed last year. It offered reliable performance but limited range when I tested it — and that’s exactly what I wanted for these range extender tests.
Sure enough, the router was able to deliver strong speeds on the home’s main floor, but as soon as I headed down to the basement level, speeds started to fall. That includes single-digit upload speeds in the bourbon room and the mud room. (Yes, the Smart Home has a bourbon room that the previous owners used to age their own barrels. We don’t have any barrels of our own, but it smells amazing in there. Kentucky, folks!)
Running the range test
With my control speeds established, it was time to start adding in the range boosters and seeing which ones improved things the best. Pairing each one with the router only required me to plug it in nearby and press the WPS button on both devices — after that, I relocated them downstairs, to the basement rec room, which was the farthest point from the router that still had a decent signal and speeds. Whenever you’re using a Wi-Fi range extender, that’s typically the best place to put it: just shy of the edge of your router’s range, where it will still receive a strong enough signal to put out a strong signal of its own. The best way to find that spot? Grab your phone or laptop and run some speed tests.
In the end, I ran a total of at least 96 speed tests for each extender, two rounds of 24 tests to find its average speeds to a Wi-Fi 5 client device (an iPad Air 2 from 2015) and another two rounds of 24 tests to check its speeds to a Wi-Fi 6 client device (a 2021 Lenovo ThinkPad laptop). In each case, I started the first round of tests with a fresh connection in the laundry room, closest to the router, and then started the second round of tests with a fresh connection in the mud room, farthest from the router. With each test, I logged the client device’s download speed, its upload speed and the latency of the connection.
Wi-Fi extender test results for 2022
Ready to see how the range extenders did in terms of upload and download speeds? Let’s take a look.
On the left, this first set of graphs shows you the average download speeds by room for each extender I tested. On the right, you’re looking at the average upload speeds. All of these speeds are to my Wi-Fi 6 test device, a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop from 2021.
So what jumps out? First, all five of these extenders did a decent job of boosting speeds in those last four rooms, down in the basement. With all of them, I had a faster connection throughout the house than I had when I connected through the router alone. The D-Link EaglePro AI struggled a bit with upload speeds in the basement, but still kept things above a minimum of 20Mbps or so.
That was with a Wi-Fi 6 device, though. How did the performance look with an older Wi-Fi 5 device from several years ago?
Things get interesting here — you can see a greater gulf between download and upload performance, as well as some more distinct weak spots and dead zones throughout the house. Each of the five extenders struggled to keep uploads speedy in the upstairs dinette, for instance. With Wi-Fi 6, we barely saw any issues there at all, save for the Netgear Nighthawk X4S.
Meanwhile, in the basement, our top picks from TP-Link and Linksys (as well as the high-performing Asus RP-AX56) were each able to keep download speeds above 100Mbps, which is great. Uploads were another story, as all of the extenders struggled. None of them failed to deliver a usable upload connection outright, though the D-Link EaglePro AI came close with single-digit upload speeds in the basement’s farthest reaches.
Another key takeaway from these tests is that Wi-Fi 6 delivers some of its most noticeable speed boosts on the upload side of things. If you’re looking to make lots of video calls, upload lots of large files to the web or anything else requiring sturdy upload performance, then upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 hardware should be high on your list of priorities (assuming you haven’t already made the jump).
Affordable Wi-Fi booster picks
For my first batch of range extender tests a few years back, I tested four bargain-priced models to see which one offered the most bang for the buck. It was the start of the pandemic and people were scrambling to bolster their home networks — I wanted to be sure we could point them to a good, budget-friendly pick that would do the best job as a signal booster offering an extra room’s worth of coverage in a pinch.
In the end, the aforementioned TP-Link RE220 was the runaway winner. Currently available for $25 or less, it remains a solid value pick.
I’ve separated these four models from the other six because the test setup was different in 2020 and it wouldn’t be fair to make direct comparisons with those results. You’ve already read about the TP-Link RE220, but here are my takeaways from the other three I tested:
D-Link DAP-1620: This was the only range extender that ever managed to hit triple digits during my 2020 tests, with an average speed of 104Mbps in my bedroom during evening hours. Setup was just as simple as what I experienced with TP-Link, too. I was able to stream HD video, browse the web and make video calls on the extender’s network without any issue.
Network speeds were inconsistent though — and much slower in daytime hours, with a bigger dropoff than I saw with TP-Link. The device also dropped my connection at one point during my speed tests. On top of that, the app was too finicky for my tastes, refusing to let me log in and tweak settings with the supplied device password, something that ultimately forced me to reset the device. That’s too much hassle for me to recommend outright, especially since it’s currently selling for around $70. We have seen prices dip as low as $30, making it a potential alternate to the TP-Link RE220 when you can find it on sale.
Netgear EX3700: It’s a dated-looking device and it wasn’t a strong performer in my tests. The 2.4GHz band was able to sustain workable speeds between 30 and 40Mbps throughout most of my home, which was strong enough to stream video with minimal buffering, or to hold a quick video call with a slight delay. But the 5GHz band was surprisingly weak, often dropping into single digits with only a single wall separating my PC or connected device from the range extender.
I wasn’t a fan of the web interface, as it seemed more interested in getting me to register for the warranty (and opt in to marketing emails) than in actually offering me any sort of control over the connection. WPS button-based setup lets you skip all of that, which is helpful, and some outlets now have it listed for less than $40, but even so, this is one you can safely pass by.
Linksys RE6350: My speeds were consistent with the RE6350 — they just weren’t fast.
By default, the device automatically steers you between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but with download speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 35Mbps throughout all of my tests over multiple days, it might as well just default to the slower 2.4GHz band. The device supports automatic firmware upgrades, which is great, but you can’t use the Linksys Wi-Fi app to tweak settings — instead, you’ll have to log in via the web portal.
On top of all that, the RE6350 seemed to be the least stable of all the extenders I tested in 2020, with more than one dropped connection during my tests. With a list price of around $60 it has just too many negatives and not enough value for me to recommend it, though right now you can pick it up for just $21 at Amazon, making it a bit of a more competitive value.
Other things to consider
Aside from my speed tests, I made sure to stream video on each extender’s network, and I made several video calls while connected through each one. I also spent time playing with each extender’s settings. You shouldn’t expect much, but most will at least make it easy to change the extension network’s name or password. Some include app controls with extra features, too.
My top pick, the TP-Link RE605X, makes it easy to tweak settings via TP-Link’s Tether app on an Android or iOS device. Again, the features make for slim pickings, but you can check signal strength or turn on High-Speed Mode, which dedicates the 2.4GHz band for traffic from the router to the range extender, leaving the 5GHz free for your normal Wi-Fi network traffic. That mode actually wasn’t as fast as sharing the 5GHz band like normal when I tested it out, because those incoming 2.4GHz speeds are limited, but it still might be a useful option in some situations.
It’s also worth noting that setting a range extender up is about as painless as it gets. Most support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, which is a universal protocol that wireless networking devices can use to connect with each other. Just plug the range extender in, wait for it to boot up, press the extender’s WPS button and then press the WPS button on your router within 2 minutes. Voila, connected.
It’s also worth making sure that your range extender includes at least one Ethernet port (almost all of them do). If you can directly connect your wired device (like a smart TV), then you’ll enjoy speeds that are as fast as possible.
Wi-Fi Range Extender FAQs
Got questions? Look me up on Twitter (@rycrist) or send a message straight to my inbox by clicking the little envelope icon on my CNET profile page. In the meantime, I’ll post answers to any commonly asked questions below.
How effective are Wi-Fi range extenders?
Plug-in range extenders like these can help boost your speeds when you’re connecting far from the router, but they can only do so much. The actual speed boost will depend on a multitude of different factors, including the layout of your home, the type of router you’re using, the type of device you’re trying to connect with and your internet plan’s speeds.
If your home’s internet connection offers top speeds of 100Mbps or higher, then a decent, well-placed range extender should be able to boost your download speeds in a dead zone or when you’re in range by at least 50Mbps, if not 100Mbps. That’s enough to browse the web or stream video online. Upload boosts are typically a little lower, but should still be enough to ensure that you can make a video call or upload a file to the cloud.
Do Wi-Fi extenders slow down your Wi-Fi?
Most range extenders will put out their own separate network — usually the name of your original network with “_EXT” added to the end, or something like that. Having a separate network like that under the same roof as your main network could potentially cause a small amount of interference, but I haven’t seen any noticeable slowdowns on my main network during any of these tests. And, in most cases, you can rename the extender’s network and password to match your main network, at which point you’ll have a single, seamless network that automatically passes your connection back and forth as you move throughout your home.
That said, keep an eye out for client devices (phones, laptops and so on) that automatically connect to whichever network offers the best signal at the time. If you’ve used a device like that on both your main network and the extender’s network, then it’s possible that your device will jump from one to the other without you realizing it. For instance, if your laptop is on your main network and you move a bit closer to the extender than the router, then your laptop might lose its connection and jump over to the range extender’s network for the stronger signal strength, even though the speeds on that extender network might be slower.
Is a Wi-Fi extender better than a mesh router?
In most cases, no. If you’re living in a larger home or if you need speeds that are reliably faster than 100Mbps at range, then it’s probably worth it to go ahead and upgrade to a mesh router with its own range-extending satellite devices. You’ve got more options than ever these days, and just about all of them would likely outperform a stand-alone router paired with a plug-in range extender like the ones tested here.
Wi-Fi extenders are better suited for situations where you’ve just got a single room or maybe two where you’d like speeds to be slightly higher. They won’t work miracles, but in a situation like that, they’ll get the job done.
Where should I put my Wi-Fi extender?
The best approach is to plug the extender in somewhere close to the dead zone you’re trying to fix, but not within that dead zone. That’s because you need the extender to have a decent connection with your router in order to put out a worthwhile signal of its own.
To find a good spot, grab your phone or laptop, connect to your home network, and run some internet speed tests in various spots that are adjacent to the dead zone in question. Once you’ve found a spot near the dead zone that still hits usable upload and download speeds (preferably at least 50% of whatever you’re able to hit up close to the router), then you’re probably in a good location.
How do I know if I need a range extender?
Plug-in range extenders are a good fit when you need to boost the signal in a single dead zone. If you have more than one dead zone in your home where the speeds plummet, then you might be better off just upgrading to a good mesh router (we’ve got plenty of recommendations there, too).
The best way to figure out how many dead zones you’re dealing with is to grab your phone or a laptop and run some speed tests in each room where you need to use the internet. Start with a fresh connection to your network in the same room as the router, and then pull up a good speed-testing site (I like the Ookla speed test). Run at least three speed tests in the room, jot the download and upload results down for each one, then move to the next room and repeat.
Once you have average speeds for each room, look for spots where your speeds fall below 30% of whatever ISP speeds you’re paying for each month. Those are the rooms that could use a boost — if it’s just one (or two that are close together), then a single range extender might be all you need. If there are more than one, then maybe mesh is the way to go.
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