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How to buy the best router or wi-fi extender

Routers and wi-fi extenders explained

By Ryan Shaw

Article 1 of 4

If your home wi-fi network is super slow, then it may be worth upgrading or replacing your wireless router.

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

What makes a good wireless router?

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.

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If you've been with the same provider for years, though, you could be left using a piece of equipment that's long been superseded. Newer customers could be getting sent better routers than yours, so it's worth phoning your ISP to see if you can get a free upgrade.

If you want to move to another ISP after your broadband contract has expired, it’s worth identifying what models your prospective ISP is offering before signing up.

Additionally, 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.

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