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Consumer Reports: Extending your Wi-Fi range while working from home

Posted at 8:36 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 09:36:31-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF CONSUMER REPORTS) — So many people are working from home right now and add to that a lot of kids doing online learning. So, what can you do to make sure everyone has access to your Wi-Fi?

When you've got your family all over the house trying to get online, you might have thought about getting a Wi-Fi range extender to help with dead zones or spotty internet signals. They sound like an easy and affordable solution. But Consumer Reports recently tested some and found that they can help in certain situations but not all of them.

Rich Fisco oversees electronics testing at Consumer Reports and has been working with routers and Wi-Fi for decades. But even Rich had issues with Wi-Fi at his home.

“We had a dead zone on the deck in my backyard where we would hang out and barbecue,” Fisco said.

Rich wasn’t quite sure if a Wi-Fi extender would fix the issue or not. So, he procrastinated. Not long after the coronavirus pandemic began, CR started testing some products at employees’ homes – making sure to maintain strict testing protocols.

So, when it came time for CR to test Wi-Fi extenders, Rich realized it was the perfect opportunity to use his home as a test lab.

“Well, after I put the extender halfway between the router and the deck, I had a really good signal out there,” he said.

Two that did well in all of CR’s tests: The Nighthawk from Netgear and a less expensive option, a model from TP-Link. One thing to keep in mind – CR says internet speeds from the extender may be slower than you’re used to. That’s because extenders cut speeds in half.

“Getting the most from your Wi-Fi extender relies on a lot of factors, including the speed of your internet service provider’s connection, the distance from your router to where you’re putting your Wi-Fi extender, and the areas of your home you’re trying to cover,” Fisco said.

For Rich, an extender brought Wi-Fi to his home’s dead spot. But if you’re having issues all over your home, to see a significant improvement in your Wi-Fi, you may need a mesh network. That’s a system of two or more units that work together to blanket your home with a strong Wi-Fi signal. But many good mesh networks cost anywhere from $200 to $500. A less expensive mesh network recommended by CR, is the TP-Link Deco Whole Home.

Consumer Reports says if you are going to get a Wi-Fi extender or router, look for ones that have push button WPS or Wi-Fi Protected Setup. If both devices have it, you can link or connect your extender to your router with just the push of a button.