guides > hardware

WiFi Boosters

08 Nov, 2020 | 3 min read

If you’re experiencing poor internet connectivity in your home, there are three type of hardware that you can consider to improve your situation. Each comes with their pros and their cons, so it’s worth thinking about which might be suitable.

USB WiFi Adapter

This is a dongle that plugs directly into a USB port on your device. The idea is that the dongle is a much more powerful version of the WiFi receiver built into your laptop. They can create a stronger connection with your router, and therefore give you a stronger, more stable connection.

It is worth bearing in mind that these can only plug into one device at a time, so if there are multiple people in your house struggling with internet speeds, this might not be the right solution.

Examples of this type of hardware include the REAFOO USB WiFi Adapter, and the TP-Link AC600 Archer T2U. You can also get much more low-profile ones, such as the TP-Link Archer T3U, but bear in mind that the benefit of an external dongle comes from the much larger antennae, so if you’re trying to boost your connectivity (rather than, for example resolve a broken one) you might not see a huge difference.

WiFi Range Extender

This type of device is designed to be plugged into a mains socket at a mid-way point between your router and your device. It’s the most common type of booster used, and is usually easy to set up. Unlike the USB adapter, multiple users can benefit from one range extender, which makes it a more logical choice for family homes.

These extenders vary in price considerably, from the relatively affordable TP-Link N300, to the BrosTrend AC1200. There are a couple of differences in terms of what you get for your money. Typically, the main difference is the banding - in this case the difference between the “300” and the “1200”. Essentially, this number shows the maximum speed that the device will pass though. The higher the number, in theory the faster internet speeds you’ll get from using it. Bear in mind that just because something is marketed as giving you “up to 800MBps” it doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll get. But if you think multiple people will benefit from the device, the higher numbers are likely to give you better performance.

Another thing to bear in mind when using this kind of device, is that some of them extend the range of the existing WiFi, and others create a new network based on that signal. There is no performance difference to either of these, it’s just worth remembering for some you might have to connect to a new network. It will explain whether or not you have to do this in the instructions that come with the device.

Powerline adapters

These work a little differently to the Range Extenders. Powerline adapters come in a set of at least two. One part plugs into the mains near your router, and runs a physical cable from the router to the box. The other part you plug into a mains socket in whatever room of the house you need the WiFi connection. It creates a “clone” WiFi network between your device and the closest adapter. The benefit of this is that you can create a series of “mini-networks” throughout your house, that are each unobstructed by walls or other points of interference.

An example of this type of adapter is the TP-Link 2 Port Powerline. It comes as a “starter kit” with the main adapter and one extender, or a “3 pack” with the main adapter and two extenders.

So, which one should I get?

That depends on your situation. Typically, the WiFi Range Extenders (Option 2) are the best bet - they allow multiple people to benefit, and are straightforward to set up and use. For houses with especially thick walls, or that have a larger floor plan / greater distance between the router and the devices, you might want to consider the powerline adapter (Option 3).

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