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Wireless Range Extender 101

Frequencies

By definition, the 802.11ac standard improves range and bandwidth by offering dual-band support, beamforming and improved performance over its predecessors. (You can get more information on the technical aspects of 802.11ac in our story on 802.11ac-capable routers.) Just remember that optimal performance on ac's 5GHz band requires a strong signal, which limits range compared to 2.4GHz. A potential solution to this conundrum is to implement an 802.11ac-capable wireless range extender, which will expand the reach of your network to the dark corners of your home.

Note

802.11ac-enabled routers come in various speed ratings determined by the Mb/s transmission of the combined 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies.

802.11ac range extenders support 2.4 and 5GHz, both for connecting to existing wireless networks and ensuring client connectivity. In most cases, range extenders pass network traffic using the wireless client's band – 2.4GHz devices naturally go through the 2.4GHz connection and 5GHz clients through a 5GHz link to the router (though in some cases you can configure the range extender to use one band or clients and the other for connectivity back to the router). 802.11ac range extenders, like wireless routers and other Wi-Fi hardware, are marketed based on their advertised data rates. AC750 devices support 300Mb/s through 2.4GHz and 433Mb/s using the 5GHz signal, while AC1200 offers 300Mb/s for 2.4GHz and 867 Mb/s on 5GHz, though actual data rates are a fraction of those advertised rates.

802.11ac Speed Ratings

Type2.4GHz Mb/s5GHz Mb/s
AC600150433
AC750300450
AC1000300650
AC1200300867
AC1300450867
AC1450450975
AC16003001300
AC17504501300
AC19006001300
  • James Mason
    I bought a media bridge for my bitcoin miners so I could put them in the kitchen where it's cooler and there is more free outlets and also it's on a different circuit than the rest of my apartment. Of course I only spent like $40 on it because bitcoin mining isn't super internet intensive. These extenders are more expensive than alot of routers though, so they don't exactly seem worth it.
    Reply
  • coolitic
    The future will have twisted radio waves and/or pCell technology.
    Reply
  • wtfxxxgp
    I still see the relative value of the smaller, outlet-based units. These are useful because of one main issue: ease of use. The only real short-coming is that they require all parts of your house to be on the same circuit, which in some cases is not the case. I don't want a long story just to be able to get internet or network access to every room in my house - I want a simple solution that works and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg. My experience with a unit I bought has been amazing - I do not know why I kept forking out money on USB-based wi-fi dongles for my gaming PC in the past. It took me literally 2 minutes to connect my PC to my network in a "wired" fashion and my ping and stability since doing that has been outstanding. I highly recommend those units, especially if you have more than 1 PC that requires networking in your house, and you want to be able to go to any room with a wi-fi-reliant device and get a strong wi-fi signal. No hectic cables, no fuss, no insane costs and the best part is, if you move, they move.
    Reply
  • LostAlone
    I still see the relative value of the smaller, outlet-based units. These are useful because of one main issue: ease of use. The only real short-coming is that they require all parts of your house to be on the same circuit, which in some cases is not the case. I don't want a long story just to be able to get internet or network access to every room in my house - I want a simple solution that works and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg. My experience with a unit I bought has been amazing - I do not know why I kept forking out money on USB-based wi-fi dongles for my gaming PC in the past. It took me literally 2 minutes to connect my PC to my network in a "wired" fashion and my ping and stability since doing that has been outstanding. I highly recommend those units, especially if you have more than 1 PC that requires networking in your house, and you want to be able to go to any room with a wi-fi-reliant device and get a strong wi-fi signal. No hectic cables, no fuss, no insane costs and the best part is, if you move, they move.

    I absolutely agree with this. Powerline adapters are amazing things, a substantially better answer than wifi for a lot of typical stuff like media streaming and reasonably high-traffic internet use. They aren't without their problems (our ones needs the occasional reset) but they really are a better answer in so many homes where wifi is spotty.
    Reply
  • bliq
    I still see the relative value of the smaller, outlet-based units. These are useful because of one main issue: ease of use. The only real short-coming is that they require all parts of your house to be on the same circuit, which in some cases is not the case. I don't want a long story just to be able to get internet or network access to every room in my house - I want a simple solution that works and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg. My experience with a unit I bought has been amazing - I do not know why I kept forking out money on USB-based wi-fi dongles for my gaming PC in the past. It took me literally 2 minutes to connect my PC to my network in a "wired" fashion and my ping and stability since doing that has been outstanding. I highly recommend those units, especially if you have more than 1 PC that requires networking in your house, and you want to be able to go to any room with a wi-fi-reliant device and get a strong wi-fi signal. No hectic cables, no fuss, no insane costs and the best part is, if you move, they move.

    I absolutely agree with this. Powerline adapters are amazing things, a substantially better answer than wifi for a lot of typical stuff like media streaming and reasonably high-traffic internet use. They aren't without their problems (our ones needs the occasional reset) but they really are a better answer in so many homes where wifi is spotty.

    we actually use a PLN kit that has a 802.11N access point on the remote side built into the remote side plug. I think it cost $29. works perfectly (although our new router has such good range I don't actually think we need it anymore).
    Reply
  • Rookie_MIB
    I just picked up an Amped wireless range extender, and I have to admit, it's a pretty effective piece. I was having intermittent signals in the back of the facility (we use Square card readers with cellphones for CC transactions...) and the device would go offline since it was pretty far from the front router (about 200ft away).

    Put in one of the 'high power' extenders in (broadcasts at 600mw (!!!!) and actually placed it right beside the existing router, and have 70% signal strength all the way to the back now. Pretty darn impressive.
    Reply
  • melanfred
    I purchased a Netgear pair of Powerline + Access Point. This was a great solution. The Netgear boxes are small and unobtrusive, and I can get > 20 Mbps at the farthest reaches of my house. No problems with Roku, the signal is strong and consistent. Very little resetting needed,maybe once every 3 months, I reset the access point. The pair only cost $70, this was a much better solution than a WiFi extender. Just place the units about 40 feet apart, preferably on the same circuit. A light will change color to show you if you are connected at the highest speed.
    Reply
  • Travis Hershberger
    Range extenders can be a good solution in a home where you only need a single one to get good coverage over the entire property. They absolutely kill performance when more than a single one is used, each extender is going to cut throughput by half. Add the fact of current WiFi standards all being half-duplex and you get abysmal performance real quick.
    Reply