A Wi-Fi booster is a device that is designed specifically to offer users a simple and effective way of increasing the range of their home wireless network, making them a great choice for those looking to extend the range with minimal effort. Before selecting a wireless booster there are a number of factors that you should take into account and consider before making a purchase.
These considerations are exactly what this article was written to address, taking a closer look at these to arm you with everything you’ll need to make an informed decision on which Wi-Fi booster you decide to purchase.
Single or Dual-Band
Dual-band was first introduced with the 802.11n standard, offering support over 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands – with the first of these being the band that has been historically used, whilst the second being the more recent of the two. Generally, the 2.4 GHz band tends to offer longer range, while the 5 GHz provides faster data transfer speeds.
The simplest way to decide on whether to opt for a dual-band Wi-Fi booster or not is to find out if your current router supports it. If it doesn’t, you may want to skip the booster and upgrade your router instead, as the benefit in terms performance that 5 GHz offers, as well as the likely increase in the range offered by a newer model, could be enough on its own to solve your wireless network range issues.
Standards and Compatibility
Launched back in 1997, IEEE 802.11 was the first Wi-Fi standard – a standard that today is obsolete. Since then, there have been 5 newer standards released – these being A, B, G, N and the most recent standard, AC.
Which standards a Wi-Fi booster supports is an incredibly important factor in selecting the right booster, as there isn’t much point purchasing one that supports standards your existing router doesn’t.
You’ll want to check which of these standards your router supports at this point, and if it doesn’t offer support for at least N, you’ll want to upgrade to a newer model before anything else. If it offers support for N or above it should be up to the job, however, remember that its capabilities, or lack of, will ultimately be a bottle neck for your wireless network.
Data Transfer Speeds
The ways in which we use the internet today has changed significantly, with more of us using broadband-intensive services such as online gaming and 4K media streaming – both of which require high data transfer speeds to prevent lag.
If your internet usage is limited to lower broadband tasks, such as simple web browsing and emails, you will likely find an AC750-rated, cheap Wi-Fi booster, sufficient. However, if you use your internet for these intense tasks you’re going to need a booster that is rated AC1900 or higher, offering data transfer speeds of 1900 Mbps and higher.
Another thing that is worth looking out for, particularly if you’re thinking of purchasing a dual-band booster, is whether a device supports technology like FastLane from Netgear. This technology works to combine bands to provide the best possible speeds across each of them, a feature that is particularly useful when using several different Wi-Fi enabled devices operating over both bands.
With any wireless network security is critical, making it an important to consider which security standard a Wi-Fi booster supports before making a purchase as if a particular booster doesn’t support the latest WPA2-SPK (AES) protocol you should look at an alternative device that does. This is not only essential for the security of your personal data but also to prevent your neighbours from leeching off your internet connection, something which will significantly lower download speeds.
Just like Wi-Fi standards, if your router is on the old side there is a good likelihood that it might not support the latest security standard. If indeed this is the case, switching out your current router for a newer model is an absolute must, and should be the first thing you do before investing in a Wi-Fi booster.
Ease of Setup
We’re not all tech buffs, and if that statement includes you, you’re going to want to choose a Wi-Fi booster that offers simple, plug-and-play setup and configuration. When looking at the range of boosters on the market, you’ll notice that most offer support for W-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), a feature that makes it possible to connect the booster to your existing wireless network with the press of a button.
There are however some issues you should be aware of when setting up a booster, even via WPS. One of these is that some devices will take you existing network SSID, rather than creating a new one, which can cause conflict issues with certain devices. It’s also worth noting that some boosters are less plug-and-play than others, so be sure to do some reading up on how easy a Wi-Fi booster is to setup before making a purchase.
Thankfully, devices offered by more well-known brands – such as Netgear, TP-Link and Linksys – provide a wealth of support documentation and benefit from community support, making any problems you might encounter easy to resolve.
There you have it, our list of 5 things to consider when choosing a new Wi-Fi booster for your home wireless network. As with any purchase, it’s important to do your research before parting with your cash, taking the time to look at the full range of features and functionality a booster offers, as well its value for money.
The first step is to learn about your existing home network setup, including the bands and Wi-Fi standards it supports, and the limitations of your current router, as these factors are key in deciding which range extender is best suited to both your needs and those of your network.