As the internet becomes a basic human need, and technology further integrates with society, the need for always-on Wi-Fi in all locations that is reliable and secure has become ever more vital. Wi-Fi extenders grab the signal from your main router and push its boundaries so that more of your house, office or backyard is covered and you can work and access the internet from wherever you happen to be sitting at the time.
A Wi-Fi extender doesn’t need to be a huge investment. For a relatively low cost, you can get an extender that will comfortably extend your internet to wherever you need to it to be.
- Number of Connected Devices
- Download Speeds
- Physical Controls
- App-Based Controls
- Available Power Outlets
- Design Versatility
- Home vs. Commercial Spaces
- The Right Price for a Cheap Wi-Fi Extender
- Warranty Policies
- Final Thoughts
Number of Connected Devices
The number of connected devices is shown by the manufacturer. It ranges from 15 to 30-40 supported devices for the cheap extenders. This is important as a family of 4 uses 4 smartphones, at least one smart TV, tablets, and laptops. This already puts a lot of pressure on such a device.
Things change when the Wi-Fi extender is used in public places. This includes coffee shops, bed, and breakfasts, hotels, etc. It means that in most cases, more than 30 people can connect to the local network. In this situation, the purchase should start based on the supported number of connected devices.
There are a few good methods to ensure the Wi-Fi extender is not overwhelmed by a large number of potential connected devices, both at home and on business premises. Users can purchase the device which supports the most devices.
Hotels can purchase Wi-Fi extenders which can support at least twice the number of rooms as many guests come with friends and family. At home, the same principles apply and to avoid network crashes, users need to purchase capable extenders that are available even at low rates.
Download speeds are also important. They signal the versatility of the device and what users can do on the internet. 300Mbps should be standard with most devices. Running at higher speeds is supported by dual-band devices. But it also means there’s a good chance higher speeds won’t be reached unless there’s a strong signal inside the home.
Those who want particularly high internet speeds and data transfer which goes both ways know about this issue too well. Gamers are in this category and many cases, they can have a limiting experience even when using Wi-Fi extenders. These users may even consider the wired option via the Ethernet port.
Physical controls are generally limited to cheap devices. But this makes them even more important. In many situations, they offer a simple manual approach to various network settings the user might need to change. This includes the capacity to use an on/off switch. Surprisingly, such a button is not supported by most devices.
Other physical characteristics include LED status lights. They are generally limited to the power status of the devices. But LED lights can also cover the following.
This light indicator shows when the device is connected to the local network. It switches on after the device is first paired with the router and it stays on whenever it is connected to the same router.
These lights are normally separated into various categories according to signal strength. There’s an LED light for a strong signal, one for good signal and one for no signal at all. These offer a quick input to whether the device is properly connected without having to go to the app or to the browser to find the right solution.
LED Wi-Fi Status
Wi-Fi status shows if the internet connection is enabled. Whenever the internet connection drops, this LED light switches off.
These status lights are not supported entirely by cheap Wi-Fi extenders. Normally, they are only rarely seen on these devices as they are characteristic of more expensive alternatives.
Apps are now used to controls these devices. Some apps are better than others and their features vary from one brand to another. Other devices come with no apps at all. But it’s important to consider these apps to make life easier and they offer an interesting perspective on the local home network.
Users may see data which they would not be able to see otherwise through the app. For example, some apps show the signal strength via graphics when the Wi-Fi is represented according to its positioning to the home router.
The closer it gets to the home router, the better the internet strength. Users have a graphic helper for their installation process. Without such an app, they need to manually test various locations of the device to see where the internet connection is reliable and where it’s not.
In some cases, non-native apps may still control Wi-Fi extenders. But users need to pay for these third-party apps to have them installed on their smartphones. Without a doubt, the best cheap Wi-Fi extenders of the future will be controlled by apps instead of the more traditional browser-based alternatives.
Available Power Outlets
Power outlets inside the home are the first limiting factor of the devices. They can seriously limit the strength of the local network signal. Some of the best solutions of the moment involve looking for a position where they can sit for a long time.
Since these devices stay in the same power outlet, users need to find an available one in their home. Unlike a home router that works with power cables, Wi-Fi Extenders directly plug into wall outlets. Practically, such a device eliminates a wall outlet from the house permanently.
Wi-Fi extenders are rarely versatile. They represent an option that is not truly made for anything else except devices such as the Linksys AC1200 which has an integrated power outlet. This means other electronics such as a desk lamp or a laptop may still be connected to the same wall outlet.
Without doubts, it’s worth looking for such rare devices. But in the cheap range, they are rarely seen today. However, most users can find alternative solutions and they can work around these issues, at least with one Wi-Fi extender.
Home vs. Commercial Spaces
Installing an extender at home and installing one at the office have a few particularities. In many offices or business premises, there are multiple such devices. However, this is an opportunity for automated devices to be controlled as needed. This means a single app may control multiple Wi-Fi extenders.
Commercial premises may also have larger open spaces. This means the strength of the signal is different and in many cases better. When installing a Wi-Fi extender at home, users might face thick walls and even the inability to get any signal in spaces such as the basement, which are notorious for poor connectivity.
The Right Price for a Cheap Wi-Fi Extender
What’s the right price for a cheap Wi-Fi extender? This is a question many buyers address and which creates plenty of issues when it comes to the right purchase. If purchasing such a device at home is not a big financial investment, things are different when large businesses need to purchase them in bulk.
The features of the Wi-Fi extender are what is better when you invest more. However, they are not necessarily faster. This confusion is made by beginners. Many believe that a more expensive Wi-Fi extender is faster. But even the cheapest devices run at similar speeds as their more expensive counterparts.
Warranty policies differ with cheap Wi-Fi extenders. But they are generally set around 1 or 2 years of coverage. It must be said many users have negative experiences with the durability of Wi-Fi extenders mainly due to their notorious overheating problems. If the devices seen above have designs that benefit better cooling, other cheap alternatives overheat quickly. This is why many of these devices fail within 2 years.
Since there’s rarely a place for extended warranty policies with such affordable products, it’s worth having a look at what manufacturers offer as default. Retailers’ warranties are rare as well. But since many Wi-Fi extenders overheat, they may even cause damage to the wall power outlets as well. This is why simply looking at the length of the warranty is a good indication of what users can expect in terms of durability.
Can I Install a Wi-Fi Extender Myself?
A Wi-Fi extender can be installed without the help of a professional. Most home users can follow the step by step instructions to control the device and pair it with the router.
How Much Does a Wi-Fi Extender Last?
A Wi-Fi extender normally lasts a few years. Some users report cheap devices to start to drop connectivity after one or two years. However, the quality of the materials is what makes the difference in durability.
Where Do I Install a Wi-Fi Extender?
Finding the right location for a Wi-Fi extender is not a short process. Users need to test out various locations. But these locations are often limited by the wall outlets as extension cords are rarely recommended for these devices.
Can Multiple Wi-Fi Extenders Work Together?
Multiple Wi-Fi extenders can work together. However, all of them need to be in the network coverage area of the home router.
Will I Be Able to Watch Movies on a Wi-Fi Extender?
Movies and other data-rich downloads are supported. Most devices play YouTube and Netflix at fast speeds, at least when the signal is strong.
My Wi-Fi Extender Overheats, Should I Be Worried?
Some Wi-Fi extenders run at a higher temperature than others. In normal circumstances, this should not be a reason to worry as this is how they are made to run. In other scenarios, overheating starts to melt away the extender, especially the poorly-made designs which start to fail as a result.
Cheap Wi-Fi extenders are better than ever. Made with solid materials and with potent antennas, they can solve annoying local network coverage issues. If installed properly, they are capable to improve this coverage area by up to 3.000 square feet and with a minimum of 1.000 square feet. In general terms, the wider the coverage area, the more expensive the Wi-Fi extender is.
It’s also worth noting some of the best devices are now affordable as well. They come with various features borrowed from flagship products which are worth a quick look before making the purchase. Smartphone apps are among these features. They simplify the use of the products and they considerably improve the overall user experience.
It’s important to know that the settings made in the app are only added at the beginning. Users don’t need to log into the app and connect their Wi-Fi extender to the local network whenever they want to get online. This is done automatically.
Other cheap Wi-Fi extenders have their settings accessed traditionally, in browser-based menus. This setup is somewhat similar to the one of a network router. An access account with a password is needed to set up the device using this method.
For security purposes, it’s recommended to lock the account of the Wi-Fi extender with a password. Like any router, it may allow other users to connect to the local network if not secured. This step should not be overlooked as all data on the local network can be vulnerable.
Even personal or financial information is vulnerable to various malicious attempts if the Wi-Fi extender is not properly configured. It’s important to choose the right settings and a strong password. This information is covered in the setup manual and users need to read properly if they set up the device themselves. Most of these security settings can be made via the official app of the Wi-Fi extender or via browser-based controls.