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Wireless Range Extender 101

Software And Firmware

Many modern hardware devices have embedded software, commonly known as firmware, which allows the manufacturer to patch bugs or add features. Some common examples of firmware you may be familiar with are cellular phone ROMs and your motherboard's BIOS. In most cases, firmware is read-only to the device, and specific steps must be followed in order to perform an upgrade. The read-only nature of firmware provides a layer of security by helping ensure malicious code doesn’t get applied to the device. Firmware updates should be handled with care, as misapplied firmware updates are a common reason for device failure (known as bricking).

In general, the biggest difference between a wireless range extender and a wireless router or access point is its firmware, as this determines the capabilities that are enabled on the device and ultimately drives the hardware. Unfortunately, firmware is rarely interchangeable between devices, so don’t plan on applying a router firmware to your range extender anytime soon.

For the adventurous types there is an open-source firmware alternative for Wi-Fi routers, which is beginning to offer support for range extender hardware. DD-WRT is a Linux distribution designed for use on wireless networking hardware. A list of supported devices is maintained on the project website, so check there in order to determine if your hardware is supported. If you’d prefer to re-purpose an old router to perform range extender duties, DD-WRT offers comparable functionality. Be aware that flashing a custom firmware to your device could potentially void your warranty.

  • 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