Mesh Wi-Fi uses the most significant routers as opposed to Wi-Fi extenders, which use limited and specific routers. The Ookla Speed Test is a quick and easy diagnostic tool for your home network's health. Similar to a plug-in extender, a powerline extender uses two plug-in devices that pass the connection back and forth through your home's electrical wiring, which is typically a really speedy way to do it. If you can't get reliable Wi-Fi somewhere in your house, and moving the router isn't feasible, first decide where in the house the signal seems to always drop or isn't as strong as you'd like. The TP-Link RE220 is our top range extender pick -- it doesn't cost very much, it's easy to use, and it can provide a steady, workable connection with surprisingly good range. A mesh network, in contrast to an extender, uses adaptive software to use the parts of your network that are the clearest. For now, this TP-Link model has a four-star review average with over 11,000 reviews, and is currently available for less than $50. For a mesh Wi-Fi to maintain network stability, it needs several devices placed very close to each other. Speed tests. Well, for starters: Wi-Fi range extenders are the best cheap option for smaller spaces. Plus, you can still use your existing router. With multiple devices spread throughout your home, a good mesh router can sling a speedy signal from room to room, and you won't have to juggle multiple networks like you will with a range extender -- you'll just connect to the same network throughout your home (or two networks, if you're splitting the 2.4 and 5GHz bands into their own separate connections). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Get the Latest Tech News Delivered Every Day. You'll plug it in, press the WPS button to put it into Wi-Fi Protected Setup mode, and then press the WPS button on your router to pair the two together. ", Wi-Fi mesh networks are easier to set up since most come with a mobile app that provides a quick and simple way to get all the hubs working together. The other option is to install a mesh network, which provides separate router-like devices in different rooms to serve Wi-Fi all over the house. The two-piece setup with the router and a single extender would be a good fit for single-story homes, and costs $269. When I tested a few of the top models out in my home, the RE220's 5GHz band was able to sustain speeds of about 75Mbps throughout my entire test area, with a radius of about two rooms (or roughly forty feet). Netgear and TP-Link have each performed pretty well, too, though not without a couple of hiccups with certain systems. Like real estate, wireless networking is about three things: location, location, location. If your only issue is that you get some Wi-Fi sometimes, but it often drops, then placing a repeater between that space and the router to give the signal a little push is probably all you need. You'll want to move around in your home, running a few speed tests at a time in each room where your Wi-Fi connection matters. In most cases, you'll see it listed as the existing network name with "_EXT" tacked onto the end. There are many common reasons why you may experience a slow wifi connection in your house. Some newer homes may even be hardwired with Ethernet connections that offer effortless connectivity. This process is usually much more time consuming and complicated compared to a mesh network setup. On average, mesh networks can cost as much as $300, whereas a good WiFi extender can cost as little as $50. Just plug one in near your router and connect it with an Ethernet cable, then plug the other one in wherever you've got a dead zone. There are lots of free services on the web that'll let you check your speed, but the most popular (and the one I use when I'm testing routers out at home) is the Ookla Speed Test. Alternately, mesh routers are best for whole-home coverage. That might not sound like much, but it's fast and steady enough to support video chats, HD video streams, and even basic online gaming if you need it to. NETGEAR Tri-Band WiFi Mesh Extender. If you live in a large home, then a three-piece system is definitely a worthy investment. This extender have Mesh option which can be utilized by enabling one wifi name where devices can seamlessly roam between router and extender network not just by having same SSID, but it does support 802.11k which will help in seamless roaming for any device that support this protocol. Mesh Wi-Fi Vs Traditional Wi-Fi Routers: Which is better? They're perfect for larger homes, simple to set up, and offer easy central management. This type of configuration, however, would be just fine for immobile devices like a wireless desktop computer. However, mesh networks tend to be much more expensive than repeaters and they require several devices around the house. Mesh WiFi is faster and more efficient at delivering a WiFi signal than a range extender. And the best model I've tested thus far is the TP-Link RE220, which can be had for as little as $30 or less -- if you can find it in stock. A wireless range extender could be considered an in-place upgrade since all you have to do is attach the extender to your existing network to broaden the Wi-Fi signal and extend the range. The Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi 6 Mesh Extender (EAX80) isn’t your average extender: this is a Wi-Fi 6 model, using the latest wireless standard. One thing to keep in mind as you shop: Software makes a huge difference with these things, because mesh routers are constantly using algorithms to calculate the best way to route your connection depending on where you are in your home. You've got lots of good mesh router options right now, though. The Samsung SmartThings WiFi is a combination mesh system and home automation hub that will bring speedy close-range Wi-Fi to all corners of your home. Get smart home reviews and ratings, video reviews, buying guides, prices and comparisons from CNET. Gauging the size of the building is an important step in deciding which device to buy. Mesh … A powerline adapter requires two outlets, plugged into the mains of your home. There's a bit of a mesh router renaissance underway these days, with lots of new, second-wave options hitting the market. Each hub acts more like a separate router rather than repeating the signal. Wi-Fi extenders are focused on solving a problem spot than as an all-round home solution. The Netgear EX7500 Wi-Fi Range Extender (left) and Google Nest Mesh System are two of the ways you can boost your wireless internet signal at home. Another range-extending option worth thinking about is to go with a powerline extender. Whereas a WiFi repeater relies on a wireless connection to receive a signal, a WiFi extender utilizes a wired connection. Medium-sized homes might want to consider stepping up to the three-piece version, which costs $349. Perhaps you've become painfully familiar with those limitations -- including the spots where the signal drops off and your device can't hold a speedy connection. Best WiFi Routers, Mesh Systems, And Extenders: TP-Link vs Linksys vs Netgear Orbi vs Google WiFi vs Eero Pro Kimberly Alt Updated: November 23, 2020 8 Comments To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. If you're dealing with dead zones, your home network might be ready for some new hardware. What can you do? The best systems will always know when to connect directly to the router and when it's better to route your connection through one of the satellites, but others with less sophisticated software might get tripped up and route you incorrectly, which can needlessly slow your connection down. In this case, there's no compelling reason to upgrade the entire Wi-Fi network with new mesh devices. Whichever you choose to go with, range extenders and mesh extenders will only put out a network signal that's as strong as the incoming wireless signal from the router, minus whatever penalty you're paying for connecting at a distance. So should I get a Wi-Fi extender? With a Wi-Fi range extender, you will have to juggle between different networks when you go from one point of your home to another. The hubs are already programmed to work with one another, so it's usually as simple as powering them on and setting up network settings like a password. If there's already a network in place, devices called repeaters duplicate the signal, extending it beyond the base router's area of operation. If you're seeing speeds that are less than half of what you get when you're close to the router, then that's an area where you might be able to shore things up (and if those close-range speeds aren't close to what your internet plan allows, then you should call your provider). When you aren't feeling well and you go to the doctor, that doctor will start by asking you questions and running tests to figure out what's wrong. You're working, you're homeschooling your kids, you're video chatting with friends and family, you're binge-watching Queer Eye -- and you're pushing your home's Wi-Fi network to the limit. For example, if your home has three floors and several bedrooms, and your downstairs router just isn't capable of penetrating the walls and other obstructions throughout the home, it might be easier to upgrade the network with a mesh system so that a room on all floors can have its own Wi-Fi "hub. It will work with any wireless router but will likely work best with a new Wi-Fi 6 router and Wi-Fi 6 devices. In my tests, the brands that do the best job of routing your connection with drops or slow-downs are Google, Eero and Asus. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion. The best bet is to take a look at your speed test data and find the room closest to your dead zone with a strong signal from the router. If you've just got one or two rooms where the connection isn't usable, then a simple Wi-Fi range extender might be all you need. All things considered, aside from cost, a mesh network is very often the best way to go since it's almost guaranteed that a quality system can provide Wi-Fi for almost any sized home. A good Wi-Fi extender might cost just $50 USD while a mesh Wi-Fi system can set you back as much as $300. This approach is great if your house isn't very big, and it's inexpensive when compared to mesh Wi-Fi systems. A WiFi range extender, also known as WiFi booster or WiFi repeater, is a relatively simple device that connects to your existing network and features two WiFi radios.One of the two radios listens to your router, and the other one rebroadcasts what the first one hears. Wi-Fi extender (or range extender) is often compared to a mesh network, either way, both help you be as mobile as Wi-Fi intended man to be instead of having to stay stuck to one place in one room with the most signals. © 2020 CNET, A RED VENTURES COMPANY. We like Google's Nest Wifi the best for its fast, steady connection, impressive range, and sophisticated software. Why Does My Wi-Fi Connection Keep Dropping? There's a huge difference in price between a wireless extender and a mesh system Wi-Fi. Side note: While our Deco M3 (3-pack) uses mesh satellites that look similar … If you have a coaxial cable running through your home, that will suffice. Overall, I was most impressed with Google's Nest Wifi, which absolutely aced my tests as I wandered from room to room running speed tests. For example, if your router is hidden beneath a desk in your basement, chances are slim that it can reach outside to your garage; moving it to the main floor, or at least away from the desk obstruction, might be enough. If that doesn't work, upgrading to a long-range router or replacing the router's antennas might be less expensive. The reason for this discrepancy is the simple fact that WiFi extenders are simply an add-on to your existing network setup whereas mesh networks are an entirely new network setup that require multiple new devices to be placed around your home. NETGEAR AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender & Linksys Velop Tri-band Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System. Mesh devices are useful in that there's usually a few of them that are purchased at once, and so long as the hubs are close enough to each other to communicate, each of them can provide a full Wi-Fi signal in each room they're placed. That'll ensure that the extender is able to put out the best possible network, and that it'll be able to cover your dead zone. If you're using a phone, disable cellular while you run this test. Nest Wifi doesn't support the newest, fastest Wi-Fi 6 connections, but it's still plenty fast, and as steady and reliable as mesh routers come. Most of these mesh kits come with a hefty price tag, and your standard router coupled with an extra access point or extender might still be enough to improve your existing network. Number of devices. Many of them cost a lot less than in previous years, but you should still expect to pay at least $160 for a decent system, and hundreds more than that for something top-of-the-line. The 9 Best Mesh Wi-Fi Network Systems of 2020, The 5 Best Powerline Network Adapters of 2020, The 9 Best 802.11ac Wi-Fi Wireless Routers of 2020, Everything You Need to Build a Wireless Network, How to Fix It When There's No Internet Connection. Let's suppose, for some reason, that you're spending a lot more time at home these days. At this point, you'll want to run through the basics. Since most mesh networks use centralized management like this, they also make it easy to create guest networks, block devices from connecting to the internet, run internet speed tests, and related tasks. Mesh setups can have three or more hubs, which might be a lot of technology to have sitting around various places. How do you choose which is best for you home? If you have several Wi-Fi dead zones or live in a multiple-storey home, it’s worth upgrading to a Wi-Fi mesh system. Most of today's options also include signal strength indicators on the device or in the app that'll let you know if you've picked a good spot -- make sure to pay attention to those. I haven't tested extenders like these recently, but I'll update this post once I have some good data to share. That's the same diagnostic approach you need to take when you're trying to improve the quality of your home network. In short, powerline adapters can extend wired connectivity to all parts of the home using the house’s existing electrical circuitry, whilst Wi-Fi mesh systems extend wireless coverage to all parts of the home to allow for more portable connectivity for smaller devices like tablets and iPhones. That's terrific performance for the price, especially if it means the difference between a steady connection and no connection at all. ... Wi-Fi Range Extender vs. Powerline extenders can also be a nice option if you have pesky physical obstructions in between your router and your dead zone that would stress the wireless connection between the router and the extender. We have a handful of recommendations, including Amazon's Eero and the AC1200 version of Netgear's Orbi, as well as the Asus ZenWiFi AX as a worthy upgrade pick. If you really want to be ready for the future, both Netgear and Linksys have mesh systems with support for WiFi 6. However, mesh Wi-Fi is more stable than Wi-Fi extender. Michael Heine is a CompTIA-certified writer, editor, and Network Engineer with 25+ years' experience working in the television, defense, ISP, telecommunications, and education industries. However, it's also easy for a mesh system to be more than you need in a smaller home. Since a repeater relies on an existing network that you already have to repeat the signal, it's the only thing that you need to buy, whereas a mesh network is its own entire system, replacing your existing network. Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. They are all part of a single wireless network, and share the same SSID and password. Two of the biggest drawbacks to wireless mesh networking are … That'll ensure that the range extender or mesh point is able to put out the best possible network, and that it'll be able to cover your dead zone. It won't boost your existing home network per se -- instead, it'll use that connection with your router to broadcast its own network. We delete comments that violate our policy, which we encourage you to read. Just keep in mind that location matters a lot with these things, because they can only put out a network that's as strong as the incoming wireless signal from the router. Also, make sure you're connected to your home network while you do this, preferably from whatever device you use online the most. While a range extender leaves you with multiple Wi-Fi networks to deal with, a standard mesh system such as the eero, Netgear Orbi or Nest Wi-Fi by Google, simply replaces the original network with one that automatically knows whether to connect via either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. A mesh router will allow you to connect you to a single network. And keep an eye out for sales -- in past months, I've seen those systems marked down to as low as $199 and $299, respectively. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. The main benefit of using a router vs mesh or even an extender is that the router costs significantly less (ranging from $20 and up, versus $45 or so for a WiFi extender, and compared to $150ish for each mesh / beacon added). In my tests, the RE220 was able to boost the speeds in this back bathroom from single digits up to about 80Mbps. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission. You've got a lot of options, but the best that I've tested is the TP-Link RE220, a plug-in extender that you can find online at various retail outlets for about $35, if not less. In fact, most plug-in models won't connect much faster than 50Mbps, and they'll only offer enough range to cover a couple of rooms at best. Discuss: Mesh router vs. Wi-Fi range extender: Which is best for your home network. Just double-check that your router has a WPS button (almost all do) and you'll be fine. If you have a home office that's far from the router, for instance, then placing either a plug-in range extender or a mesh router's satellite in the room and wiring your computer to it can guarantee speeds that are faster and steadier than what you'd get if you tried to connect wirelessly from afar. It can be used in two ways. If you’re living in a home with multiple occupants, there are clear advantages to going with Mesh Wi-Fi systems like the Amazon Eero, Netgear Orbi and TP-Link Deco. From there, it's just a matter of finding the right hardware for the job. 6 streaming services you can give as gifts (including Disney Plus), Great gifts you can still get in time for Christmas, Watch Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max, starting Christmas Day. You might not need to buy a repeater or a mesh system if you can manage to just move the router to a better location. A good WiFi Router helps in distributing the wireless broadband signals to different electronic gadgets like Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops and Computer PCs etc…. Another downside to mesh networks is that you have multiple devices positioned throughout your house. It didn't make much difference upstairs, but that third Eero device, located downstairs, had a huge impact on signal strength in the CNET Smart Home's basement (blue is bad, green is good, and yellow is best here -- look for the boost in the basement when that third device comes into play). Might be worth a try. If none of that works, then it's time to start evaluating your hardware needs. With a repeater setup, all you need is the router, which you already have, and the repeater. The Netgear EAX20 is a large router-shaped Wi-Fi 6 mesh extender priced around $150. You might, however, be able to purchase a mesh network with just two separate hubs to bring the price down. Do you need a brand-new mesh router, or will a simple Wi-Fi range extender suffice? Mesh Networking For the rest of us, mesh Wi-Fi is exactly what we're looking for. Running them is really easy. That's the quick overview, but here's how I got here. Range extenders like these are typically designed to work no matter what kind of router you're using. Also, since repeaters make you build a new network from the extender, you might have to manually switch to the extender's network when you're within range, which isn't always something you want to do when you're just walking through your house. If you want, you can repeat this process at different times of day. One last thing worth remembering: Wireless speeds are all well and good, but a wired, Ethernet connection will always give you speeds that are as fast as possible. Since a repeater relies on an existing network that you already have to repeat the signal, it's the only thing that you need to buy, whereas a mesh network is its own entire system, replacing your existing network. There are a couple of massive improvements that help mesh networks achieve far better results. A mesh network is designed to be a more seamless experience than a Wi-Fi extender. A mesh router with its own, dedicated range extenders will do an even better job of spreading a speedy Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. Nest Wifi doesn't support the newest, fastest Wi-Fi 6 connections, but it's still plenty fast, and as steady and reliable as mesh routers come. Mesh Wi-Fi networks are very easy to set up, and are good for: Extending your Wi-Fi to your whole home or bigger offices. You might also be able to eke out small speed improvements by repositioning the antennas. WiFi range extenders in practice: There's a lot to think about as you work to upgrade your home network, so here's a quick rundown of what you should know. When we tested that 3-piece Eero setup at the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home, we placed the second satellite down in the basement and measured the signal strength throughout the entire house. A WiFi extender is essentially like a small hub that can physically be placed in between both your router and your PC to take the WiFi signal from your router and extend it out to a longer distance. Since they can work with routers from a different manufacturer (i.e., you can use a Linksys extender with a TP-Link router), you have to manually configure the extender to connect with the main router. The most popular choices are mesh networks and WiFi extenders, as the latter three fall under the WiFi extender family. Or a Wi-Fi mesh like Google Wifi? A mesh network includes separate hubs placed around the house that communicate with each other to provide Wi-Fi within range of each of the hubs. Hi @alcat,. In other words, WiFi extenders, WiFi adapters, and WiFi boosters are almost the same thing, but with slightly different functionalities. When you're done, average those download speed results in each room to get a sense of where your connection is and isn't up to snuff. Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. Nest is nice, but Eero, another option with strong software chops, is currently offering three-piece setups for $249, which is about $100 less than Nest's 3-piece system. Range extenders like these are a cinch to use. If your problem is bigger than a single room where you can't connect -- say, an entire floor where your speeds are spotty -- then your best move is almost certainly to upgrade to a mesh router. Range extenders, on the other hand, are often confusing to set up. Try moving the router to a different spot (out in the open is best, preferably as high up and as centrally located as possible). Some routers and homes just aren't built to provide Wi-Fi throughout the whole building. A good powerline extender will use your home's wiring like a shortcut to get around obstacles like those. And don't worry too much about the brand. 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