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8 September 2021

How to buy the best wi-fi router or extender

If your home wi-fi network is super slow, then it may be worth upgrading or replacing your wi-fi router or extender.
Martin Pratt
How to buy

Routers hardly inspire the same excitement as a new smartphone or tablet. As the brain of your home network, though, they're incredibly important.

Similarly, devices that allow you to boost or extend your wi-fi may not get your heart racing. But both items are equally important in distributing a strong and reliable wireless connection around your home.

Granted, not everyone needs top-of-the-range performance that comes with the latest and greatest gear, and there’s no need to pay for features or tools that you'll likely never use. But, if you have several family members trying to stream Netflix, surf the internet, or use Skype with relatives overseas all at the same time, upgrading or replacing your existing wireless products can make a world of difference.

Head to our wi-fi router and extender reviews - or read on for more expert advice.

Wi-fi routers and extenders explained

The best routers help you get the most out of your internet connection. They're fast enough that you won't experience any slowdown even if your whole family is online at the same time. And they're powerful enough that they can transmit their signal throughout even the biggest houses.

Routers should also be easy to use. Most of us don't want to have to fiddle around with lots of cables when setting them up, or be forced to navigate through long menus offering dozens of different options. We just want to plug our router in and get online. The best models let you do exactly that.

How much do I need to spend for a good router, mesh network or extender?

Most people will get a router from their ISP when they enter a broadband contract, so the cost will be factored into your monthly payments. If you want to purchase a third party router, we've uncovered Best Buys for under £100.

Mesh networks – a 'whole home' solution for boosting wi-fi, can be more expensive. If you're struggling with bad wi-fi, speak to your broadband provider to see if they can find a solution. If not, a mesh network could be worth the investment, especially if you live in a big home. You can find Best Buys for under £200.

A far cheaper solution to weak wi-fi, especially if it's only in one area of the home, is a wi-fi extender. You can pick these up for a little over £10, and we've found Best Buys for less than £50.

Do I still need my original ISP router?

Sometimes you will and sometimes you won't. It all depends which router you buy. 

All our router reviews highlight whether they have a built-in modem in the tech specs. If it does then you won't need any other devices and you can connect your new router through the cable that comes through the wall in the same you connected your ISP (internet service provider) router.

If it doesn't have a built-in modem then you will need to connect your new router to your ISP router.

Broadband Router

Need to replace or upgrade your existing router?

Most people get their router sent to them by their Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you've been with the same provider for years, though, you could be left using a piece of equipment that's long been superseded. In May 2021, we discovered a range of older routers that could be insecure. If you're in this situation it's worth 

phoning your ISP to see if you can get a free upgrade. 

If your contract with your provider has expired, switching to a new provider should afford you the latest kit. Read our guide to the best and worst broadband providers to see how yours stacks up, and check the best broadband prices to see how much you could save.

Alternatively, ISPs don’t always provide the best-performing routers around. For tech-savvy users, a third-party router could provide performance upgrades, plus added functionality to make your wireless network more efficient.

For more details on the differences between routers, see our expert advice on ISP-supplied and third-party routers.

Want to boost your wi-fi?

If you live in a large or multi-storey home, you may have wi-fi ‘black spots’. These are areas of your home that the wireless signal from your router isn’t able to reach.  

To access the internet throughout all areas of your home, you'll need a device to increase or spread the wireless signal. Most products on the market have the same effect, but go about it in a different way. Ultimately, they pick up your existing wireless signal from your router, then redistribute it.  

There are a couple of different options available to boost your wi-fi, but your choice depends on the environment where the network will be. The options could be a more powerful router, a wi-fi extender, a powerline adaptor or a wi-fi system. Every home is different, and each of these types of devices has advantages and disadvantages. With our expert advice, we’ll help you make the best decision.

To ensure you have the right device to suit the job and your budget, see our advice on wi-fi extenders and powerline adaptors, plus wi-fi systems and mesh networks.

Where to buy a wi-fi router or extender?

When buying a wi-fi router or extender, make sure you're handing your money over to a reputable seller. Check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our advice on shopping online

Amazon, Currys PC World, Argos and Screwfix are some of the most searched-for wi-fi router and extender retailers at the time of writing. We’ve included links to these retailers handpicked because of their stock availability, best value price or warranty options. 

  • Amazon – stocks a wide range of wi-fi extenders and routers at competitive prices, with some models priced at less than £10.  If you're on Prime you can get free delivery on some orders but make sure you check the listing carefully – some tech products may not be UK models. 
  • Currys PC World – sells a mixture of wi-fi routers and extenders from brands including Netgear, TP-link and Google. Prices start at around £15 for basic models and go up to around £500. Currys offers free delivery on all orders and if you find the product cheaper elsewhere, it promises to match or beat the price. 
  • Argos – offers a reasonable selection of wi-fi routers and extenders. You can get same day in-store collection at selected Sainsbury's stores and if you collect Nectar points, you'll get 2 for every £1 you spend. Argos also scores highly in our annual retailer survey for tech appliances. 
  • Screwfix – if you opt for a wi-fi extender or router from Screwfix you can get free delivery for orders over £50 or click and collect in-store within 48 hours. If you're not happy with your model you can also get an exchange or refund within 30 days.