Three Things to Know Before You Buy a WiFi Extender

Working from home? Here’s how to get more from your WiFi.

African american young woman using laptop working or studying online
Make the most out of your home office with these WiFi extenders.Getty Images

It’s a problem as old as time, assuming that your concept of “time” only goes back as far as the period where WiFi was ubiquitous but not yet perfected: your WiFi doesn’t reach somewhere it really needs to reach. The worst-case scenario would be your home office, but almost as bad are the many corners of a modern house where you might really like to be connected to the internet, like a bathroom, backyard or garage.

Luckily, there are solutions, and some of those solutions can substantially improve your entire home internet setup. They’re worth doing even if your WiFi coverage is adequate. If it’s not currently adequate? These solutions can be lifesavers. Not literally, of course, though it may feel that way sometimes.

Mesh Networks

NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
Multiple routers communicate to keep your WiFi running smoothly in every corner of your home.Amazon

The best choice for a WiFi network, provided you live in a place bigger than a studio or small apartment, is a mesh network. Mesh networks first came around a few years back: they consist of multiple routers scattered around your house and property. One of those routers plugs right into your modem, the same way any router does, but the other ones can be anywhere. All they need is to be plugged into a power outlet. Each of these routers communicate with each other, creating one huge network. You won’t need multiple network names or passwords, because these multiple devices team up, like Voltron. These systems typically come in a three-pack, and while they do cost more than typical routers, they often come with all kinds of other features besides providing amazing coverage such as apps that make wrangling with your WiFi network actually easy, which you can’t say for normal routers. Plus, you can always add units as needed.

Upgraded Routers

Google WiFi System
This option comes with a one-year warranty.Amazon

Mesh networks are great, but they’re not cheap. So if you don’t need quite as much coverage consider just replacing your router with a new, upgraded model. Google WiFi has faster, better coverage built in and will broadcast up to 1,500 square feet. Another great feature: It comes with an app that makes wrangling with your WiFi network actually easy, which you can’t say for normal routers. Plus, you can always add units as needed if you move to a larger home or office space.

Speed vs. Coverage

TP-Link Extender
This one connects up to eight devices.Amazon

If you’re not a power user and want a quick, affordable fix, go for a classic “repeater” WiFi extender like this TP-Link model. These extenders don’t replace your existing router. Instead you plug them into a power outlet and they’ll work alongside your existing router, grabbing the signal and sending it out. One thing to note: A classic WiFi extender will result in slightly slower internet speeds compared with a mesh network or your regular router.