Computer networks are a little more complicated than just an Internet connection and the computer. There are routers, bridges, access points, switches, adapters, signal boosters etc which all count as network peripherals. A networking problem that occurs with networks distributed over large areas, is dropping or weak signal. The piece of networking equipment to deal with that issue is a wireless repeater. Read on, for an in-depth look at the idea behind such a device and some wireless repeater reviews, to understand how to choose a good repeater.
When it comes to a computer network, apart from connection speed, a key characteristic is signal strength. Without a strong enough signal, you can have the best router or Internet service in the world but the devices surrounding your router will not be able to connect properly. Signal strength will change with distance, the more the distance between the emitting device and the computer, the weaker the signal.
So for large homes or spaces, how can one ensure a strong and complete wireless signal for computers and other devices to pick up and connect to? Enter the wireless signal repeater, which is a piece of networking equipment, designed to accept an incoming weak wireless signal and repeat its pattern or boost its strength, such that a much stronger signal is emitted.
Repeaters are useful in up and down locations, where the router is on one floor and the computers on the top floor receive a weak signal. Placing a repeater at a convenient halfway point, can extend your wireless network's range to that upper region of the house as well. An important point, when it comes to the functioning of wireless repeaters, is that they should be placed within range of the emitting device or another repeater. This means the repeater should receive a moderately OK signal to repeat or extend it in the first place.
Wireless repeaters are also called range expanders or range extenders and require no wiring or connection to the router. The existing network settings and details present on your router or access point (type of security, password, network name) should be inserted or setup on the range expander, but nowadays, range expanders are smart enough to automatically acclimatize themselves with the existing settings.
So how to buy wireless repeaters or what features make up a good repeater? The following are 3 key points to look for:
- Compatibility with existing network devices is a major factor. There are no official standards or specifications for wireless repeaters, which means no promise that a repeater will work with any network. Try to go in for the same brand, for e.g. if you have a Linksys router, opt for a Linksys brand repeater.
- The repeater should support the wireless network standard of your network. This means if your network uses 802.11 n for transmission, then your repeater should be capable of supporting that standard.
- Check, if the repeater has built-in Ethernet ports to allow for a wired connection. This is useful for troubleshooting or error solving, when a wired connection is needed.
Top 3 Wireless Repeater Models
Armed with what to look for, here are some of the best repeaters or range extenders in today's market:
I. Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander (WRE54G)
- Place in range of existing router or access point and signal is repeated
- Auto configuration feature allows easy setup, just power on and press config button
- Works in 2.4 Ghz band, compatible with 802.11 g and b standards
- Will not work with wireless 802.11 n standard
- Price: $95
II. NETGEAR WN2000RPT - Universal WiFi Range Extender
- Use the Push 'N' Connect button to connect to existing wireless network
- LED display indicates the optimum spot for repeater placement
- Works in 2.4 GHz band, compatible with 802.11 n/g/b networks
- Comes with 4 Ethernet ports for wired connections
- Price: $70 (Approximate)
III. D-Link Wireless N Range Extender (DAP-1360)
- Choose between access point, bridge and repeater mode of functioning
- 1 built-in LAN or Ethernet port
- Will work with both wireless N and wireless G networks
- WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup™) feature present
- Price: Between $70 - $100
IV. Hawking Technology Hi-Gain™ Wireless-300N Dual Radio Smart Repeater (HW2R1)
- Works in 2.4 GHz band, compatible with wireless N, B, G networks
- Suitable for use in marine docks and RV parks to pick up existing network signals
- Less than 1 minute setup and configuration of network
- Dual Wi-Fi radios, one for receiving and one for rebroadcasting
- Price: $160
V. ASUS WL-330N3G
- 6 multiple modes of functioning include router, access point, repeater, hotspot
- Very compact and portable for on-the-go use
- Simple config with browser allows for quick and easy setup
- Works in 2.4 GHz band, will work with 802.11 n wireless standard only
- Price: $70 (approximate)
Buying a repeater to extend your network's range is often the solution to most weak signal problems, unless it is a device issue. Hopefully the above wireless repeater reviews has made your search for the ideal repeater, a little easier.