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7 Reasons to Avoid a New Wireless Range Extender Today

Overview of Wireless Range Extenders

Before diving into why you may want to avoid range extenders, let‘s provide some background on what they are and how they work. A wireless range extender, also called a Wi-Fi repeater or booster, is a device that aims to expand the coverage area of your existing Wi-Fi network. It works by receiving the wireless signals from your router, amplifying them, and then rebroadcasting them further into areas with weak or no signal, essentially filling in dead zones.

Many range extenders provide a bandwidth around 300 Mbps and cover up to 1500 square feet. They connect to your network wirelessly, without the need for extra ethernet cabling. Many also include ethernet ports to connect wired devices to the extended network. Overall, when positioned properly, range extenders seem like an easy and affordable way to spread your Wi-Fi into those hard-to-reach corners of your home.

However, there are some significant downsides to range extenders that make them a poor choice in many homes.

7 Drawbacks of Wireless Range Extenders

1. Bandwidth Gets Cut in Half

One major limitation is that range extenders operate on a single radio band, typically 2.4 GHz. That radio has to handle communicating back to the router as well as sending the amplified signal out to connected devices. This leads to the available bandwidth getting split between those two tasks.

So if your main router connection provides 100 Mbps of bandwidth, that will get halved to just 50 Mbps covering your extended network. And with more devices connected, each device’s share decreases even further. This leads to slower speeds that can impact activities like streaming HD videos.

2. More Interference and Slower Speeds

Repeating Wi-Fi signals on the same band also causes more interference, congestion, and slower internet speeds throughout your home. The repeater has to compete with and overlap your router‘s native signals, creating disruptive interference even in areas covered by the router alone. Having two competing signals on one frequency spectrum clogs things up for your devices‘ radios.

3. Spotty Connectivity and Dead Zones Persist

Connecting wirelessly back to the main router, interference, and weaker rebroadcasted signals can altogether result in spotty connectivity and dead zones popping back up, even right near the extended range. Devices may connect intermittently or get stuck trying to switch between the main and extended networks.

4. Difficult Setup Process

Installing a range extender isn’t always straightforward. Determining the optimal location and adjusting the configuration requires patience and multiple rounds of testing signals in different rooms. Connecting wired devices also means pulling ethernet cables through walls and ceilings to the repeater‘s location.

5. Compatibility Issues

Today‘s range extenders support the latest AC standards, but if your router is a much older model, there could be wireless incompatibilities leading to communication issues between the devices.

6. Multiple Network Names

When connecting to an extended network from the main one, your device has to switch between those distinct networks. This means you‘ll see different SSIDs and have to manually connect to each one as you move around. Devices may also struggle with automatically switching to the best connection.

7. Security Risks

Finally, some security risks come with range extenders too. Having an additional wireless access point opens up more attack surfaces for potential intruders. Monitoring another device also gives you more to keep track of and update when security patches are released.

As you can see from all these drawbacks, wireless range extenders often introduce more issues than they resolve. Next let‘s look at better solutions for expanding your home Wi-Fi coverage.

Alternatives to Range Extenders

Rather than settle for a subpar signal extension from a basic range extender, consider these alternative options for upgrading your home network with better wireless coverage.

Mesh Wi-Fi Systems

Mesh systems are the gold standard if you want seamless, high-performance Wi-Fi throughout large homes. Mesh kits include multiple access points called nodes that work together to blanket everywhere with strong connectivity through optimized automatic routing.

Leading mesh systems today feature the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology. Wi-Fi 6 supports faster top speeds, more simultaneous device connections, and increased range compared to Wi-Fi 5. Models like the TP-Link Deco X90 support over 200 devices and cover homes up to 6,500 square feet.

Dedicated wireless backhaul connections between nodes prevent traffic congestion, keeping speeds consistently fast. And everything connects to one unified network name for smooth roaming room-to-room without any manual connecting and reconnecting. EASY & CLEAR READABILITY HERE

Wireless Access Points

For expanding Wi-Fi into one problem area rather than the whole home, a standalone wireless access point can also help provide enhanced range and connectivity. Wireless access points connect into your existing wired network and can broadcast Wi-Fi signals to supplement your main router‘s coverage zone.

Models like the TP-Link EAP660 HD provide Wi-Fi 6 speed up to 1,800 Mbps on the 5 GHz band plus wired LAN ports for expanding available connections. While not a mesh system, access points do allow some basic signal hand-off roaming within their coverage area. And they avoid reductions in bandwidth coming from a repeater setup.

Powerline Wi-Fi Range Extenders

If you don‘t need true mesh networking or dedicated access points, another alternative is a powerline Wi-Fi extender kit. This type of signal booster wirelessly connects to your router to grab the internet connection and then passes networking through your home‘s electrical lines!

The key advantage versus regular wireless extenders is that by transmitting data through powerline cables rather than Wi-Fi, there‘s no rebroadcasting the wireless signal which would degrade performance. So you get improved speeds and range for the extended network without as much bandwidth loss or interference.

The Bottom Line

While great in concept for eliminating dead zones, wireless range extenders often create more problems than they‘re worth once installed in homes. Limited bandwidth, extra interference, spotty connections, tough setup and confusing multi-network situations make them less than ideal Wi-Fi expansion solutions in many cases.

Newer mesh systems and wireless access points utilize advanced technologies like Wi-Fi 6 to provide whole home or focused area coverage with faster speeds, less disruption, and smoother roaming connectivity. Before resorting to a basic signal repeater, consider whether an upgrade to one of these alternatives makes more sense for your home.