Wireless range extenders offer a convenient way to extend the reach of your existing network, hitting additional wired and wireless clients. Each of the devices we reviewed will meet that need to varying degrees, and also offer some other features you may find useful.
When you're considering your range extender choices, it's important to first determine what features are most important to you. If gaming or streaming HD video are part of your daily routine, you'll likely want to focus on performance. Music lovers may prefer a model that either offers media server capabilities or can stream audio from their media player.
From a performance point of view, the clear winner was Linksys' RE6500. In addition to boasting the best average speeds, it also had the top throughput in our testing, pushing 157.79 Mb/s from five feet away. Add this performance to a package that supports wireless music streaming, and we're big fans. The two downsides we saw were the RE6500's lack of a USB port and its minimal configuration options. But for most consumers, those aren't huge areas of concern.The REA20 from Amped Wireless came in slightly behind Linksys' offering in our performance testing, with a maximum throughput of 112.68 Mb/s at five feet. On average, though, it demonstrated comparable or better speeds to those of the Linksys RE6500 when using 5GHz. The REA20 did suffer somewhat on the 2.4GHz side, averaging around 20 percent less throughput than Linksys' competitor.
In terms of features, the REA20 was the top AC1200 range extender we tested. There were areas where Amped Wireless fell short, like USB port speed and media server capabilities. But the management interface for setting up and configuring a wireless network were far above those offered by the other contenders.
Both the D-Link DAP-1650 and the Netgear EX6200 took it on the chin in our performance testing, averaging 12 Mb/s and 10.5 Mb/s on 2.4GHz, and 39.45 Mb/s and 36.9 Mb/s on 5GHz. This performance hit could be explained by the fact that both the DAP-1650 and the EX6200 offer media server capabilities, which require a large amount of resources. Our testing of the Netgear EX6200 produced some severe performance issues with the latest firmware (V18.104.22.168_1.1.98). Rolling back to firmware version V22.214.171.124_1.1.90 under the guidance of Netgear support resulted in more consistent performance.Clearly, you shouldn't expect to reach the 1200 Mb/s speeds that vendors suggest you can hit with their range extenders, but upwards of 100 Mb/s is fairly reasonable, considering the hurdles a range extender has to negotiate when sending traffic back and forth between a wireless router and a client. Nonetheless, we're certainly looking forward to seeing 802.11ac devices mature, and we're excited about the future of wireless networking in general.
Amped Wireless REA20
MORE: All Networking Content