Wifi Extender Guide: Netgear, BT, & Belkin boosters
When you sign up for broadband, you don’t really think about whether your connection will reach every part of your home. You pay enough for it, so you should be able to get anywhere you like while you’re in the house, right? The world of home broadband isn’t always so kind, as many of us have come to appreciate. Fear not, however - we at Selectra are here to help, and this article will hopefully serve to eradicate your WiFi woes.
What is a WiFi range extender?
We’ve all been there: you get your home set up with a broadband connection - your new provider has promised you the world -, the setup process has been a bit of a pain but it’s done now and everyone gradually sets about connecting their devices. You connect your laptop, sat on the floor in front of the router; the kids get home, connect their phones and saunter off to their rooms; you grab your laptop again and take it to the living room to do a bit of online shopping on the sofa. It’s only then that the penny drops.
Someone’s internet is dropping - perhaps it’s yours, perhaps the kids are barking on the landing. There’s somewhere your WiFi signal doesn’t reach, and the urge to tear your router from its socket and hurl it from a second-story window bubbles worryingly under a beleaguered expression.
These parts of your home are sometimes called ‘dead zones’ or ‘dead spots’ - we’re not sure if this is because it’s where your connection goes dead or the murderous streak being in one can produce. They also often go by ‘black spots’.
Unfortunately, most houses have dead zones. Here are the main reasons you might not be able to connect in certain parts of your home:
- Your router is poorly positioned.
- Your home is particularly big.
- Thick (usually external) walls are not letting the signal through - this is often the case with homes that have undergone extensions and there are rooms lying outside the old outer walls of the house.
If there are dead spots in your home for the first reason, you can resolve the issue quickly and easily yourself. It may not have occurred to you at the time, but you can get much better coverage i) if your router is positioned centrally within your home, ii) if it’s elevated rather than on the floor, and iii) if there’s nothing major obstructing the signal that can be helped. It’s common sense: if your router is lying on the floor in one corner of your home, the signal has got a long way to travel (and a few walls to pass through) to reach the opposite corner upstairs.
If trying to position your router better does nothing for its cursed dead zones, don’t worry - there is a solution. It is for this exact purpose that WiFi range extenders, sometimes called WiFi boosters, exist. These are simple and pretty affordable gadgets which can, as their nickname suggests, give your signal a boost in the areas where it needs it. They do this by capturing the signal and rebroadcasting it to areas that are blocked or too far away.
Pay attention to your device settings!When using a WiFi booster, pay attention to the settings on your device. If you’re connected to the main router and move to a part of the house that gets its connection from the booster, you may (depending on your extender - there are swanky ones that do this automatically) have to disconnect from the main hub and reconnect with a booster.
WiFi extenders: the main players
Many of the major providers supply their own WiFi extenders, putting their own spin on them and giving them fancy names, but there are also independent manufacturers selling them. Those looking for a boost have a wealth of options to choose from. Your provider will (of course) tell you that it’s best to use their own WiFi booster with the router they’ve provided you - this isn’t necessarily true, and we suggest you shop around. Here we’re going to take a look at this niche sector’s big hitters:
Netgear WiFi extenders
Netgear is, in the main, an online IT accessory shop which supplies, among its other products, over two dozen WiFi extenders designed for different needs. Their range includes boosters to meet the needs of:
- Small to medium homes,
- Medium to large homes,
- Large homes, and
- Very large homes.
Netgear also produces the Orbi Outdoor Satellite, which is designed to extend your connection from your home to the outdoors - be it your garden, garage, an annexe or barn. Here’s a selection of Netgear’s extenders that cover the full spectrum of needs you may have from your connection boost:
|WiFi Booster for Mobile||AC750 WiFi Range Extender||Nighthawk AX8 8-Stream Extender||Orbi Outdoor Satellite|
|Designed to improve signal strength for mobiles & tablets||Capable of extending speeds up to 750 Mbps||Capable of extending speeds up to 6 Gbps||Extends all speeds through exterior walls to the outdoors|
|No ethernet or USB ports||Ethernet port included||Easy setup with the Nighthawk App||Weather-resistant|
|Seamless network (indoor & outdoor)|
As you might expect, we’ve ordered these from left to right (least expensive to most expensive) according to which you’d need the bigger your house. Bear in mind that the pricing we’ve quoted is based on the RRP, taken where possible from the Netgear website. In the UK, the price you’ll find them for may vary slightly.
Be careful where you buy from!Avoid buying from the US and having your booster shipped over to the UK - you may find that when it arrives the plug socket that your extender needs is not a UK one...
The two on the right, of course, seem extortionately expensive, and we would only recommend them for households needing to extend hyperfast speeds (for this the Nighthawk Extender) or who use WiFi a lot outside the main building of their home, i.e. in the garden or annexe (the Orbi Outdoor Satellite for this).
TP-Link WiFi extender
TP-Link is another provider focused on niche accessories like WiFi extenders and routers. Its latest generation of extenders is built to be used with anything up to the fastest broadband speeds available on the market. The latest model is called the AV2000 Gigabit Powerline ac WiFi Kit - catchy, we know. Here’s a summary of its features:
- Meets a demand of up to 2,000 Mbps bandwidth*, allowing for intensive usage (streaming, gaming, etc.) across various devices.
- Delivers internet speeds of up to 1,200 Mbps - faster than any provider offers at the time of writing, so you won’t have to worry about your router not keeping up with your hyperfast deal.
- WiFi Auto-Sync - automatically configures other extenders to your network by uniformly synchronising settings such as the SSID, password, WiFi schedule and LED schedule across all connected devices.
- ‘Plug, Pair and Play’ - lets you set up your network in minutes.
- Easy management - gives you control of your network through a web interface, the user-friendly tpPLC utility and the tpPLC app for mobile.
*For an explanation on the difference between broadband speed and bandwidth, see our Broadband Speed Test page.
This latest extender can be bought for around £125 online (about the going rate for a good quality extender), so if you can get one for free from your provider we wouldn’t try to sway you to go for it. If, however, you’re in the market for quality and don’t mind forking out for it, you could do a lot worse - product reviews are particularly positive on Amazon for this latest model.
Belkin WiFi extender
Belkin is a reasonably well-known supplier of Wi-Fi routers and extenders. If a lot of the products named up to now have seemed to you a bit more expensive than you’d expected - you only want to extend your basic broadband package’s reach, after all - you might have finally arrived at what you came looking for. Belkin’s latest basic extender, the N600 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Range Extender, costs £29.99 and comes with the features:
- Dual-band speed: 300 Mbps (2.4GHz) + 300 Mbps (5GHz).
- Easy setup using a browser via your smartphone, tablet or computer to install.
- External antennas to extend the range of your coverage.
- Compact design - doesn’t take up much room around the plug socket or look intrusive.
- ‘Crossband technology’ sends data continuously, switching between bands to give you the fastest speed.
- Compatible with both G and N wireless technology devices.
What’s the difference between ‘G’ and ‘N’ devices, you ask?Wireless-G and Wireless-N refer to 802.11g and 802.11n routers. Still lost? 802.11g routers have been the standard router offered by providers for a number of years, capable of transmitting 54 Mbps speeds which could cope with those offered by most providers’ fastest deals. They are now on their way out of use, to be replaced by 802.11n, whose maximum transmission rate is as high as 900 Mbps(!). This brings its capacity up to the standard of the fastest broadband speeds on the market and will keep it relevant for a few years to come.
Argos WiFi extenders
Belkin’s offer is not the only budget booster available. Those looking to shop around a little more in the lower price bracket will want to know about the range offered by budget high-street retailer Argos. They offer boosters from a number of brands, including a few we’ve already mentioned - here they are:
The cheapest ones we’ve found, which are all rated highly by Argos reviewers, are the following:
|TP-Link 300 Mbps Extender||BT Essentials Wi-Fi Extender 300||Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Extender|
|Data transfer rate of up to 300 Mbps||Data transfer rate of up to 300 Mbps||Data transfer rate of up to 300 Mbps|
|Wireless B, G & N compatible||Wireless A, B, G & N compatible||Wireless A, B, G & N compatible|
|Pressing the WPS button on your router & the button on the extender connects them in 2 minutes.||Plug & play lets you set up quickly and easily.||Push ‘n’ Connect using the WPS button on your router to connect quickly and easily.|
You see, it doesn’t have to cost the world to stretch your signal into every nook and cranny of your home, and it’s as simple as popping to the shops to collect it and plugging it in the same day. For the price, we’d say any of these is worth the try if you’re frustrated with a bad connection or slow internet in a certain part of your home. Any of them could be a mega cheap answer to your problems!
BT WiFi extender
BT promises wall-to-wall coverage in every room of your house with its new Wi-Fi Discs. These discs, BT says, work with your Smart Hub to reach every part of your home regardless of its shape or size. The discs work with your hub so that devices connect automatically to whichever signal is strongest, without interruption, as you move around your house.
Subscribers to BT Complete Wi-Fi - which you can find out about in our BT broadband page - are now sent the new Smart Hub and one Wi-Fi Disc when they sign up. There is an app to help you manage your network, which you can also use to work out where to put your disc and check the strength of your signal in every room of your house. BT are so confident of it that, if you don’t get a strong signal in every room, you’ll receive two more discs free of charge.
Sky WiFi extender
Sky’s extenders are called Sky Q Wireless Boosters, and they come included when you sign up to the Sky Q Experience. If you’re not subscribed to the Sky Q Experience, you can pick one up for a cool £100 - at this price, it may be worth looking into Sky Q after all! Sky’s boosters can be connected to your Sky devices with the click of a button (the WPS button on your device, to be specific), so you at least won’t have to worry about a lengthy setup process. You can then manage your connection using the Sky Q app.
Virgin WiFi extender
Virgin Media broadband customers also have Virgin’s own WiFi boosters to use, which they promote in their Intelligent WiFi service. Virgin claims that Intelligent WiFi can adapt to the number of people and devices that are online around your home and even optimise itself to resolve WiFi issues before you even feel the effects. Full House TV customers and above can use the Virgin Media Connect App to scan their home for black spots and, if they find them, order a Virgin WiFi Booster for no extra charge to improve their signal.