Best wi-fi extenders and powerline adapters
As we use more and more ‘connected devices’ in our everyday life, we rely on being online with a fast and reliable connection.
A dropped wireless signal during your favourite Netflix TV show is annoying and frustrating, so you need to ensure that we have the strongest wireless signal as possible.
An easy and affordable solution is to use a wi-fi extender or powerline adapter. We explain exactly what they are and highlight the differences between the two product types, so you can be sure you have the right device for the job and your budget.
What is a wi-fi extender?
A wi-fi extender (or wi-fi booster) is used to amplify and repeat the wireless signal from your router to expand its coverage. It helps to rebroadcast the signal to where the wi-fi may be weak or non-existent. However, it must be noted that using an extender can also drag down your network performance, because of the limitations of the hardware.
The extender should be placed in a central location, not far from the main router, and ideally halfway between the router and the intended wireless devices. If you place it in a position where the wi-fi is already weak, the extender simply broadcasts the same weak signal
- Better wireless speed over a wider range
- Compact size, easy to set up
- Extenders offer the same level of security as a wireless router
- Ideal for those on a budget; it’s cheaper than a new router or mesh system
- The extender must be in range of your existing wireless network
- Single band extenders, that only use the 2.4GHz frequency, lose 50% of their bandwidth due to receiving and transmitting the wireless signal on the same channel.
- Not ideal for bandwidth hungry devices
What is a powerline adapter?
A powerline adapter is another possible solution for extending your home wi-fi. Under the right circumstances, they can be the easiest solution, too - powerline adaptors are pretty much plug-and-play.
A powerline adapter, also known as HomePlugs, are typically sold and installed in pairs. You connect one to a plug socket next to your router, and the other to a plug socket elsewhere in your home. Your home internet signal is piggybacked along your home's electrical wiring.
The second powerline adapter may let you connect devices by ethernet cable only, or by wi-fi, too.
There's one major caveat, however; powerline adapters won't work in every house - their success will depend on the state of the electrical wiring in the property. There's no easy way for most of us to ascertain that so it may be a case of trying them out and accepting that they may not work to your satisfaction.
- Easy to set up and install, especially if you move house
- Compact size
- It uses existing electrical wiring
- Ideal for those on a budget; it’s cheaper than a new router or a wi-fi system
- Powerline networking is dependent on the quality of electrical wiring. In older homes, older wiring may not support the connection
- The distance between the power outlets can impact performance
- The wiring is also susceptible to electrical interference from everyday items, such as microwaves and vacuums.
We've rounded some of the wi-fi extenders that really impressed in our tough tests below.