External And Internal Components
Most range extenders feature similar components – and often a similar form factor – as what you’d expect from a wireless router or access point. Many of the hardware features that make up a range extender are comparable across devices and vendors, but there are also features that only make an appearance occasionally.
In general, it’s safe to assume that a range extender will include core components like a processor and memory (both RAM and ROM) to store and run the device’s firmware, and to handle network traffic and other device functions. As with any piece of electronics, better performance from those components is always desirable, so some attention should be paid to their specifications.
Another component always found in a wireless range extender is the radio that handle wireless communication. Dual-band range extenders that offer support for both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies will typically have a wireless chipset and one or more amplifiers for each frequency, as well as the antennas used to optimize the signal. The size and placement of the antennas often has an impact on signal strength, and can be a major selling point.
Externally, range extenders often provide at least one Ethernet port, but some models offer four to six ports for wired connectivity. USB ports are also common, though their usage can vary wildly between devices, facilitating media server functionality, file sharing or print serving. Other options available on some range extenders include audio outputs for streaming music or other I/O like eSATA.
Some range extenders have on/off buttons, though others automatically power on when you plug them in. A button to enable the WPS feature (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) is common, as is a button (typically recessed) to reset the device to factory defaults.