Wi-Fi boosters offer an affordable, effect means of boosting the signal of your home wireless network with minimal effort – with even the least tech-savvy users being able to get one up and running. Before picking up a booster for your network, there are a number of considerations that need to be made when selecting which one to purchase.
This is the purpose of this article – to look at these considerations prior to buying a Wi-Fi signal booster – in order to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to speed and range, as well as the best compatibility with both your network and your Wi-Fi enabled devices.
The first Wi-Fi standard – IEEE 802.11 – launched way back in 1997, and today is all-but obsolete. Since this early standard, a total of 5 others have since been releases – these are A, B, G, N and the latest standard, AC.
When selecting which Wi-Fi signal booster to buy it’s important to look at which of these standards a particular device supports, as there’s no point forking out for a booster that supports an older, slower standard. At this point it is also worth checking to see which of these standards your router supports – as if it doesn’t support at least N, it’s time to replace it before doing anything else.
If you’re router does however support N or above, then you should be fine – just be aware that there’s no point spending more to get a booster that supports the latest standards if your router doesn’t, as your router will act as a bottle neck, limiting the overall speed of your network to those of the standard it supports.
2. Single-Band or Dual-Band
With the advent of the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard came the introduction of dual-band support – that is support for devices over 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands – with former being the band historically used, and the latter being the more recent. Generally speaking, the 2.4 GHz band offers longer range – whilst the 5 GHz band offers faster speeds.
That being said, when it comes to home-use, the range offered by the 5 GHz band will be sufficient, and considering the increased speeds it offers, along with the fact that this band tends to suffer less from interference due to fewer devices running over it, a dual-band extender that supports 5 GHz has a lot to offer one that doesn’t.
If your router supports dual-band, then it’s best to go with a extender that does too. If it doesn’t however, then you may again want to look at upgrading your router to one that does, as the benefit of the faster 5 GHz band, specifically for intensive bandwidth tasks, is certainly worth the upgrade.
3. Security Standards
To guarantee the safety and security of your personal information and network, it’s important that you opt for a signal booster that supports the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access protocol – currently WPA2-SPK (AES). This is essential, not only for security, but to prevent others from accessing your network and leeching off of your internet connection – something that could potentially slow the speed of your internet down significantly.
As with Wi-Fi standards – if you’re using an older router, there is a good chance that it may not support this security protocol. If this indeed the case, upgrading your existing router is an absolute must, and should again be the first thing you do before investing in a Wi-Fi booster.
4. Easy Setup
Not everyone is tech-savvy, and if you fall into this category you’re going to want an extender that is easy to setup and configure. Most modern boosters work right out of the box – thanks to their support of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) – making the process of connecting your new booster to your network no more complicated than plugging it in and pressing a button.
Even with WPS, there are some potential pitfalls – some boosters take your network’s existing SSID, instead of creating a new one – which can cause issues, as you’ll essentially have two network access points with the same name. There are also some extenders that are less plug-and-play than others, so you’ll want to do your research before deciding on which one is right for you – especially when it comes to ease of setup.
5. Data Transfer Speed
The speeds offered by a Wi-Fi booster are increasingly important given the wide range of broadband-intensive tasks the average home user now has, such as 4K media streaming and online gaming, which require high data transfer speeds to prevent lag.
If you just use the internet to browse the web, you should be fine with a booster rated for AC750 – offering speeds of up to 750 Mbps – however, if you use the internet for some of the high-intensive tasks previously stated, you’re going to want to look at boosters that are rated for AC1900, which offers speeds of up to 1900 Mbps, or above.
Another thing to look for – particularly if you’re considering a dual-band booster – is whether or not a particular device supports technology like Netgear’sFastLane. This technology combines both bands to ensure the best possible speeds for your Wi-Fi enabled devices, and is particularly useful when using a mix of devices operating over different bands.
6. Price Range
When it comes to price, network range extenders don’t have to be expensive – with some of the best Wi-Fi booster priced at under £50. Sure, at the very top-end you’re likely to find more in the way of features and functionality, but if you’re sole purpose for purchasing such a device is to extend the range of your Wi-Fi, many of these pricier options are going to be unnecessary.
They can even come much cheaper than this – with a wide range of Wi-Fi boosters under £30 on the market – however, at this price, don’t expect much in the way of future-proofing, as many of the boosters in this bracket tend to be graded AC750 of less. This means that the speeds they offer are on the slow side – with speeds of only up to 750 Mbps – which with today’s broadband-intense tasksis unlikely to cut it.
So there we have it – our 6 considerations when choosing a Wi-Fi booster. Before making any decision it’s important to do your research – and just like most things, selecting a Wi-Fi extender is no exception to this.
The very first thing is to find out how your home network is setup – the standards and bands it supports, as well as the limitations of your router – as these are all key factors when picking the right booster.