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2 Oct 2020

Mesh and extenders on test: boost your home wi-fi for under £20

We've put models from BT, TP-Link, Linksys and more through our test labs to find out which can improve wi-fi in the home

Working from home means a good internet connection is vital. Having to cut an all-important phone call short because of a patchy connection can be solved, and you might not have to spend much to do so.

Mesh systems and extenders are great ways to give your wi-fi the boost it needs, whether that's reaching a room on the other side of the house, like your study, or creating an overall improved network that can deal with the whole household online at once.

Browse all the best wi-fi mesh systems, extenders and routers from our tests.

Should I buy a mesh network or wi-fi extender?

There's a lot of differences between mesh networks and wi-fi extenders, notably the price.

Mesh systems are more expensive, but they're more intelligent and can handle a busy home. Extenders are cheaper, and simple, but if your wi-fi issues are only minor, they might just do the trick.

  • Buy a mesh network if:You've got a busy or large home, with lots of devices, and want a strong reliable signal in every room. You'll also often find parental controls and security settings with compatible partner apps.
  • Buy a wi-fi extender if:You have a room, or two, that doesn't get signal and you're not too bothered about the fastest speeds or having lots of people connected. Often, they're quite cheap, so will be good for those on a budget.

Struggling with a bad connection? Read our guide on five ways to speed up and fix your broadband.

Mesh networks reviewed

BT AX3700 Whole Home WiFi System (2pack), £229.99

BT's latest mesh system uses the newest technology out there; Wi-Fi 6. But it's only in the background. That said, it's tri-band, so there's plenty of space to reduce congestion if you want to connect lots of devices and it will work to optimise your devices automatically.

If you're looking for a bit more than just wi-fi, it has a partner app which allows you to apply settings such as parental controls, see who's online and create a network for guests.

Find out if this new technology puts it ahead of the competition in our BT AX3700 review.

Linksys MX5300 Wi-Fi 6, £347.99

Linksys' mesh comes at a hefty price for just one node, but it claims to handle whatever you throw a it, no matter how many devices you want to use. Plus, with Wi-Fi 6 technology, it's supposed to offer four times faster speed.

You're also able to apply QoS (which stands for Quality of Service). This means you can prioritise a certain device that you use often, such as a work laptop.

Is it a worthy investment, or will other mesh systems do the job for less? Check out the Linksys MX5300 review to find out.

Tenda Nova MW3 Whole Home Wifi System (pack of three), £59.99

Compared to big names like BT, you might not have heard of Tenda, but it's got the cheapest mesh system we've tested at just £59.99 for a three pack.

If you're looking for something simple to use, Tenda claim the nodes are already paired to each other straight out of the box. Some devices can be overly technical, but we were impressed with how easy it was to use in our testing.

Despite the budget price, Tenda promises smooth, easily extended wi-fi to every corner of your home. Is it true, or do you need to spend more for better performance? Read our full Tenda Nova MW3 review.

Wi-fi extenders reviewed

TP-Link N300 Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender TL-WA854RE, £13.25

At £13.25, the TP-Link N300 is definitely an inexpensive way to improve your home network - if it works. Although it doesn't cost much, you'll also find some basic parental controls which we don't usually see with basic extenders.

This allows you to blacklist or whitelist sites by device, so you can make sure the sites your children are able to visit are safe.

However, we often find extenders that perform poorly, and just can't offer good enough speeds or deal with any kind of stress, like a big file download.

This model only operates on 2.4GHz, which is generally slower than the 5GHz frequency. However, this doesn't necessarily mean poor speeds. See how this one compares to other extenders in our TP-Link N300 review.

Netgear EX6250, £90

Netgear's EX6250 is a bit different to other extenders we've tested, it will work seamlessly with your router to extend, which means you won't have to manually connect to it as you move around the home.

Another handy edition is an ethernet port, so you can wire a device straight to your network in a room further away from your router. This is great for demanding devices like a games console, or your work laptop.

However, it comes at a high price, around £90, which is significantly more expensive than others on the market.

Does it offer enough when it comes to speed and coverage to make our recommendation? Read our Netgear EX6250 review.

Tenda A18 Wifi Range Extender AC1200, £26.99

Tenda's A18 extender is super simple. It's easy to set up and use, although you won't find a partner app. This doesn't mean there aren't any interesting configuration settings online, though. One is an 'SSID hiding' feature, which means others can't find your wi-fi name on their device, unless you give them the name and password.

It's dual-band, so devices can be spread across 2.4GHz and 5GHz (which tend to be faster) frequencies, to reduce congestion. Tenda claims its extender will automatically choose the highest quality band and channel for your device.

See how well we thought it performed in our lab testing with our Tenda A18 review.

For more advice on getting started with mesh systems and wi-fi extenders, read our guide on extending your home wi-fi.