More and more, we spend hours of our day glued to our devices as we ride the subway or eat lunch or even just to relax. But few things are as frustrating as getting home after a hard day’s work only to find that your phone loses signal right where you get comfy. This is where the best WiFi extender for FiOs would come in handy.
Of course, fiber optics present a common problem for WiFi extenders in that the extender often has difficulty keeping up with the incredible speeds of fiber optic networks. More often than not, either the modem or the router will create a bottleneck, and if you get past that, the extender market is filled with cheap options that cannot keep up with fiber optic speeds.
That is why we have come up with a list of the 5 best WiFi extenders for FiOs, noting some of the more contemporary solutions to this decades-old problems. We also provide a helpful buyer’s guide to make sure you understand what the different numbers, protocols, and designations mean in the real world. Personally, we think the Netgear Orbi mesh network system is the best WiFi extender for FiOs, but some of you might need something even more powerful. Of course, you have to keep reading to find out.
1. NETGEAR Orbi Ultra-Performance Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
Netgear has been around since personal computing first started getting popular in 1996, but the company has only recently started focusing exclusively on networking and wireless products. That said, this attention to detail has paid off as the Obi mesh networking system is easily the best WiFi extender for FiOs that we saw which is why we awarded it our Editor’s Choice. To be clear, the age-old adage, “you get what you pay for” rings truer here than in most cases as this is the most expensive WiFi extender that we reviewed as well. Still, due to a combination of performance, customization, and convenience, no other option really comes close.
The Everything Extender
The best thing about the Orbi is that not only does it not have a true functional weakness, but it is also actually above average, if not the best, in every meaningful category. When it comes to speed, the Orbi uses a triband system to achieve upwards of 3000 Mbs of wireless transfer speeds. This is also a mesh WiFi extender system which means that you can actually replace your traditional modem and router altogether if you want–something that renters should appreciate. While not the broadest, the Orbi system also boasts an impressive 5000 sq ft range which is generally sufficient for a home. Finally, the 4×4 backhaul ensures that you maintain quick speed even when multiple users are on simultaneously.
2. TP-Link AC2600 Wifi Extender
For those of you who are not looking to get rid of your modem and router altogether, a more traditional format may better suit your needs. The TP-Link AC2600 presents the traditional function and design of the old-school-style WiFi extender. In this regard, it will always suffer a bit of a bottleneck with a FiOS connection, but it can still provide what amounts to functionally average speeds with a great connection all the same. On top of that, the TP-Link AC2600 is reasonably priced towards the floor of the market with the top-tier technology for its class which is impressive value. This is why we rated the TP-Link AC2600 our best traditional WiFi extender for FiOs.
Though arguably the flagship model of its class, the TP-Link AC2600 still provides some impressive baseline specs when we think of a traditional WiFi extender. For instance, the TP-Link AC2600 dominates our list with an outrageous 14000 sq ft range. For a single, traditional WiFi extender – plugged into an outlet – to provide that kind of range in rare. That said, you may find highly electromagnetic areas to still interfere with the signal. Also excelling along the classic technology, the TP-Link AC2600 comes with 4 antennae that all feature beamforming technology. This means that not only does this WiFi extender offer one of the best ranges we saw, but it also does so with pinpoint accuracy.
3. NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S WiFi Mesh Extender
Netgear makes another appearance on our list, but this time catering to a particular kind of user: the gamer. Gamers are often at least enthusiast-level consumers who are also often early adopters of new technology. They demand their hardware to be cutting edge and all the infrastructure necessary to support it to follow suit. In this case, the Nighthawk Mesh X6S offers exactly what all gamers require most of all: speed. Able to serve as a single unit or work together in a mesh network, the Nighthawk Mesh X6S is easily our best gaming WiFi extender for FiOs.
Latency is the game-killer, and the one thing that all serious gamers refuse to accept is a failure due to inferior tools. This is why the Nighthawk Mesh X6S makes it a point to lead the way with the early adoption of MU-MIMO transfer protocols to ensure that the signal remains as stable as possible. The inclusion of triband technology allows combined WiFi channel speeds of 3000 Mbs, while four ethernet ports can support up to 4000 Mbs consistent speeds. The Nighthawk Mesh X6S’ quad-core processor enables the Smart Roaming feature to maintain a secure connection even as you move from one part of your home to another. That said, if you do have an issue with a Nighthawk Mesh X6S that needs to be RMA’d, expect one a frustrating experience with difficult customer service.
4. Motorola MOCA Adapter for Ethernet Over Coax
Motorola has actually been around closing in on a century, easily making them the most experienced company on our list. However, Motorola has always focused more on general telecommunications rather than WiFi or FiOs products or services. Of course, considering the uncommon adoption of MOCAs in the first place, it makes sense our best MOCA WiFi extender for FiOs would come from Motorola. While this type of device is not a “WiFi extender” in the conventional sense, it can still provide a great boost when setup properly.
While we often think of a WiFi extender as a device that will allow us to get a great signal even in the most remote corners of our homes, the truth is that we generally have four, maybe five, places where we generally use our phones at home. As such, most of the time the issue may not necessarily be that we are unable to provide coverage to the areas where we need it but that the arrangement it is set up with inherent dead zones. The incredibly consistent signal connection maintained by the Motorola MOCA adapter allows you to position your router in the best place possible, rather than have it located near a device that needs to be hardwired. It is worth noting that the MOCA device will not always work across carriers due to the coaxial connection, so make sure the Motorola is compatible with your ISP.
5. TP-Link AV2000 Powerline WiFi Extender Adapter
TP-Link makes another appearance on our list, except this time it is with a far more evolved form of extending your WiFi signal. The TP-Link AV2000 Powerline is, as the name states, a powerline form that allows you to run your internet directly through the powerlines in your home. This offers one of the most convenient options, though it does come with some notable limitations. Mainly, this device offers an easier way to provide Ethernet connections around your home with the WiFi extending functions as a bonus – not the other way around. This does place some strict wireless speed limitations, but casual users are unlikely to notice too much.
An Alternative Solution
Not all powerline adapters provide a WiFi hub, so the 300 Mbs may seem a bit meager, but it is more than about half the other powerline hubs offer as is. On the plus side, if you have a device that can plug into the ethernet port, you will get consistent and stable speeds of 1000 Mbs preventing the bottleneck that FiOs often suffers. Even better, this is one of the easiest WiFi extender systems to install with its HomePlug AV2 and surprisingly nice app to control the system. It also offers built-in protection with included 128-bit AES encryption, though the range of a given hub does not extend beyond the room.
Choosing the Best WiFi Extender for FiOs: Buyer’s Guide
While they may all seem to work under a similar principle, the difference between the type of WiFi booster you use will impact a fair number of qualities concerning the performance as well as the ease of use. For instance, WiFi mesh extenders will generally provide the best overall performance but can be a bit more in-depth when it comes to setting them up.
On the flip side, both extenders and repeaters are fairly easy to set up on a physical level but can take a bit more time and effort to get set up from a software or compatibility perspective. On top of everything else, each of these different types of WiFi boosters will ultimately provide better or worse signal boosting in the first place.
Extender – This is the standard WiFi booster and works pretty much like people expect this general product category to work. The router sends out a wireless signal throughout your home which the WiFi extender picks up. This signal is then amplified and rebroadcast from the extender also using a wireless format.
The result is that the WiFi extender is treated as a subsidiary device that most systems treat as a separate entry point. This means that you will need to configure the WiFi extender with your router as well as with your devices connected to it. This can lead to a fair number of incompatibilities or incongruencies of signal if you are not both careful and precise.
Mesh – This is the newest form of WiFi extenders and is not actually a traditional extender in any real way. A traditional WiFi extender takes the original signal and amplifies it, but still functions as a standalone point of connection. The WiFi mesh extenders, on the other hand, are basically hardwired to your wireless network and act like a swarm of miniature routers on their own.
Keep in mind, this means that each hub of the WiFi mesh extending network will need its own hardline connection – whether through the actual modem/router device or through the hardline ethernet connection to the port in your home. This is by far the most effective form of WiFi extender with the fewest dead spots, the longest ranges, the fastest speeds, but it also costs the most money. In fact, the average WiFi mesh extender networks will often cost five to six times what a single WiFi extender does – though the entire network usually comes with at least 3 signal hubs as well.
Repeater – WiFi repeaters are the dinosaurs in the WiFi booster market as is noted by their flaws. Specifically, unlike the more advanced WiFi extender, the WiFi repeater does not amplify the signal it receives nor does it scan various channels and bands that the router might not have either. Ultimately, a WiFi repeater takes the signal as it is received and rebroadcasts it similar to a WiFi extender.
However, if the original WiFi signal is weak, the subsequent rebroadcast signal will be just as weak as the original. On top of that, the way that WiFi repeaters functions increase the likelihood of dropped signals or increased latency – even well above and beyond what a WiFi extender might do. That said, these are easily the least expensive option with “good” ones able to be had for under $30 – if you can stand the inconvenience.
MoCA – This one is beginning to push the boundaries of a WiFi extender as it does not actually provide wireless signals at all and instead transmits through a hard line coaxial connection. That said, this is easily one of the best ways to increase your internet speeds throughout your household and can be used to achieve gigabyte level speeds. Of course, all of the devices that support your network need to also be able to achieve these maximum speeds or else a bottleneck will occur.
Still, the MOCA device will not actually provide a better WiFi signal as much as it will allow your router to work better on its own. Essentially, the MOCA device will provide a direct, hardline internet connection to any device that has a coaxial input. This allows those particular devices to receive significantly quicker transfer speeds and free up your router to handle wireless devices exclusively – rather than also running your hardline ethernet connection as well.
Despite the fact that this article ostensibly covers the best WiFi extender for FiOS, the range of the booster is not the most important factor unless you are trying to cover an extremely wide range of area. Instead, the speed of the WiFi extender is generally more important since you likely spend most of your time in a handful of spots around your home. So long as the WiFi booster can provide a solid signal to these few spots, the total range will rarely come into play. The speed of the WiFi extender, on the other hand, will always play an important role in the quality of the device. Consider that placing a WiFi extender right next to your favorite seat in the living room will feel futile if the WiFi extender significantly slows down your connection.
The speed of a WiFi booster will often be given in an “AC XXXX” rating where the “Xs” are numbers. This can range anywhere from 500 to 2200 and represents the theoretical maximum speed that the WiFi extender can achieve in megabits–so an AC500 WiFi booster will top out at 500 Mb/s. Take note that megabits only represent a quarter of the megabytes that we are so commonly used to such that a 500 Mb/s, or megabits, connection translates into a 125 MB/s, or megabytes, connection. The letters represent the WiFi extender’s standard with AC being the highest consumer-grade standard. These days, most devices with an AC standard are also backward compatible with other standards like B, G, and N. However, an older standard will create a bottleneck for transfer speeds that no WiFi extender can overcome.
Outside of the type and speed of the WiFi extender, the range is the next most important consideration unless you are trying to cover a larger area. Keep in mind that the coverage of a WiFi extender is radial in three dimensions, so you will likely provide coverage to parts of the house that will never receive it. That said, it is better for your home to have extra WiFi coverage that is unused than too little WiFi coverage when you really need it. Another thing to consider is how many stories your home is and which ones need the additional WiFi coverage.
Due to the fact that pipes, ducts, insulation, and electrical wiring are often contained in the walls and partitions of the house, each floor above the first will generate significant electromagnetic interference which is generally more responsible for a poor signal than anything else. This interference can be overcome, but it requires a particularly strong signal to do so–the strength of which is generally rated by the WiFi extender’s range. As such, if you find your signal gets weaker when you go upstairs or even if there are numerous walls between one side of your home and the other, look for a WiFi extender with a range larger than the area of your home so the signal can punch through the interference in your home.
The bands of a WiFi booster are the same as for a router and are based on the frequency of the wireless signal transmitted. There are only two major frequencies used for consumer-grade wireless data transfer and they are 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz. It is worth noting that these different frequencies actually provide different benefits rather than the newest or biggest one simply being better. This is because how frequencies interact with matter, specifically, the more energetic the signal – or the higher the frequency – the more likely it is to interact with matter. In the real world, this means that the higher the frequency of the signal, the more likely physical barriers and other electromagnetic interference are to impede it.
On the flip side, the higher the frequency, the higher the energetic output which allows for more information to be carried on the signal. As such, if you are looking for a WiFi extender, a 5Ghz signal will require more points of extension than a 2.4 GHz signal will. Since most ISPs, as well as 3rd-party hardware manufacturers, are moving towards a completely 5Ghz standard, you will likely need more WiFi extenders or more powerful WiFi extenders than you might have 10 years ago. Thankfully, this does mean that the increased speeds you have become accustomed to over that period of time will not fall either.
Another element to the bands of a WiFi extender relates to the sheer number of bands that the device can maintain. For a traditional WiFi extender, this is generally fairly easy to identify as it will be based on the number of antennae the WiFi extender has. However, the newer mesh WiFi extender networks do not usually have antennae, so it can be a bit difficult to tell from a glance how many different bands the device can support. It is also worth noting that different user devices will require more or fewer bands with the general numbers following: 1 band for a smartphone, 2 bands for a tablet, 3 bands for a laptop, and 4 bands to a PCIe-enabled desktop.
This is generally not that big of a deal unless you are using an outdated router or modem. Basically, all wireless internet devices have some form of protective encryption built into them, but there are numerous protocols. The older protocols are still kept within newer devices to ensure universal compatibility, but it cannot account for the inherent flaws of these older protocols. The three WiFi security protocols are in ascending order, WEP, WAP, and WAP2 with WAP2 being the newest and most advanced. If you ever see an advertisement on a device marketing AES encryption, it is running a WAP2 security protocol.
Keep in mind, it is unlikely that you will be able to find a WiFi extender that does not use WAP2 these days, though there may still be some older routers that use the older security protocols. A WiFi extender cannot offer its own security protocol to protect the entire network, but it is at least backward compatible with the older security protocols. If your router is not at least running WAP security protocols, you should consider upgrading the router before you look into a WiFi extender.
So, what is the best WiFi extender to buy?
As we can see, the Netgear Orbi offers the best all-around experience for most people. Granted, if you live in an exceptionally large space or have ridiculously high latency demands, you may need something different like the TP-Link AC2600 for the former and the Nighthawk Mesh X6S for the latter.
Still, when you consider how easy it is to not only set up the Orbi but also change or customize it as well, the casual user will fall in love with its convenience – especially its possible integration with other smart home devices. The fact that it also has a solid range of 5000 sq ft and speeds of up to 3000 Mbs across a tri-channel network only gives substance to the impressive flash.