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Wireless Range Extender 101

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.

Interior shot of a Linksys RE6500 showing 1) antenna jacks, 2) heat sink for processor, 3) Ethernet switch ports, 4) power input and WPS button, 5) 3.5 mm audio port, 6) transformers, 7) memory, and 8) radio chipset. The router’s reset button and flash a

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.

  • 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