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How we test wireless routers and extenders

By Jon Barrow

Discover how we assess wireless routers and extenders in our test lab. Only the cream of the crop earn our prestigious Best Buy award.

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What makes a Best Buy wireless router or wi-fi extender?

Which? tests wireless routers and wi-fi extenders so that you know which one will give you the best wi-fi signal in your home.

We put all the big-brand wireless routers and extenders through their paces so that we can help you choose one that's quick to transfer data, easy to use and offers decent signal strength.

Each router and wi-fi extender is subjected to the same set of gruelling tests so that we can compare them blow-for-blow. This means that we can answer your important, no-nonsense questions with confidence and give you a verdict you can trust. We’ll answer key questions about:

  • How quickly does it transfer data?
  • Is it easy to set up?
  • Does it create a secure connection?
  • And most importantly, should I buy it?

Head straight to our wireless router and extender reviews - or read on to find out more about how we test to answer each of these questions.

How quickly does it transfer data?

We test how quickly data is transferred between the computer and a laptop in various locations in a house. To do this we copy 500MB of mixed data files and 5GB of large video files and time how long it takes to transfer.

We start by running this test in the same room as the router, then move to a room medium distance, and then lastly upstairs at a long range distance - this shows whether the router is capable of sending a decent signal across your house.

To highlight the wi-fi strength and coverage differences, we've created a comparison tool below. It shows the contrast between a router and a Wi-fi system transmitting a 5GHz connection (use the arrows in the middle of the image to compare). Warmer colours equal better wireless coverage and strength.

Is it easy to set up?

Wireless routers or extenders can sometimes be tricky to set up, so we assess how easy it is to get each device out of the box and up and running.

We note what instructions come with the router or extender and then assess how easy it is to set up for a beginner and whether it has more technical settings for advanced users.

We also rate how easy it is to set up a local network and apply parental controls.  

Does it create a secure connection?

It's crucial to make sure that your wireless network is secure to prevent strangers from hopping on to your wireless network. In order to secure your network, you'll need to create a password for it.

The best wireless routers or extenders we've tested will ensure that your network is secured as part of the initial set-up process. We penalise devices that allow you to set up your wireless network but don't help you to secure it as a default. We award extra marks for routers or extenders that make it easy to set up security features.

70%The score a wireless router or wi-fi extender needs to earn Best Buy status

Should I buy it?

We give each router and wi-fi extender a total test score, so you can easily compare which are the best and worst.

In each review we summarise what we thought of the router so that you can quickly get the information you need to decide which router is best for you.

The score for each router is made up of a combination of the elements in the test. We don't take price into consideration - most routers supplied by your provider will be included for free as part of the broadband package.

The score is broken down as follows:

  • 60% performance
  • 15% ease of use
  • 15% privacy
  • 10% features

A router or wi-fi extender needs to score 70% or more in our tests to earn our Best Buy recommendation. Models that score 45% or less are labelled a Don't Buy as a warning to avoid them.

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