Today's topic is Wi-Fi extenders.
I've spent the last few weeks trying to optimize my network in my new house. I have a few rooms wired but most of the house still requires Wi-Fi. Moreover, a few devices exclusively require Wi-Fi. With more than 8 IP cameras, a half dozen airplay speakers, and various mobile devices, the wireless network in my house is heavily congested. Hence, I looked into Wi-Fi extenders.
I ended up getting two wifi extenders to see if I could improve my network situation: An Edimax EW-7238RPD Universal Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender and
The Edimax is a dual band extender which works with both 2.4 and 5 GHZ bands whereas the ON Network N300 is strictly a 2.4 GHz extender. The N300 seems to be a rebadged Netgear WN3000RP.
My main Wi-Fi Router is a TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750) dual band 802.11AC Gigabit router. Overall, it is a very good router with excellent range and throughput.
As you can see (using various tools), the Archer C7 support 1300 Mbps (80MHz width) in 5GHz and 450 MBps (40MHz width) at 2.4 Ghz.
Neither of these extenders perform better than the TP-Link Archer C7.
The ON Network N300 tops out at 300 Mbps. The Edimax, to my surprise, only tops out at 150 Mbps yet it is rated at 300 Mbps. The Edimax's advertising is a bit deceiving and it is my fault for not reading the fine print. Edimax advertise the EW-7238RPD at 300 Mbps (when you account for both bands).
Taken from their product page. I feel a bit deceived that I am not getting 300 Mbps on a single band. I understand that I won't get the speed (450 Mbps) from my Archer C7 but 150 Mbps is cutting it low for a 802.11n device.
The actual speed of the Edimax is 150 Mbps. Hence, my dissapointment.
So how do they perform? This is a bit hard to quantify and test. I have a three story house and my main router is in the middle floor. The basement houses the ON Network N300 and the top floor is handled by the Edimax. I tried various testing and various floors and at different ranges; behind walls and in adjoining rooms. The ON Network actually perform the best as I could easily get 60% signal from the farthest reach of my house.
Testing about 40 feet away, the N300 was giving a healthy 145 Mbps.
In the real world, using iperf, I was indeed seeing 7.5 Mbits/sec. This was good enough for one computer to stream 1080p content from youtube or Netflix.
Netflix requires 5-7 Mbps for 1080p streaming. Edimax struggled quite a bit.
I only tested the 5GHz channel of the Edimax as that is the justification for buying it. On 2.4 GHz, I was better off just using my router which has excellent range. The Edimax gave me an average throughput averaging 54. Mbps even at 5GHz at an average distance.
iperf showed a disappointing rate and I could see frames dropping while watching video.
It was only when I was right next to the Edimax that I got decent throughput of 150 Mbps.
Both extenders use standard web browser interfaces. There is really nothing to write home about. They both do the job. Both have easy WPS set-up.
I would have to say the N300 is a better deal. Even though it doesn't support 5GHz, it was a better extender with far better range. Unfortunately, I could really do with out both of them. My TP-Link Archer C7 has a very good range. Instead of using wifi repeaters, I think I'll be better off hard wiring to ethernet to another Wi-Fi router running bridge mode. With extenders, you are effectively only getting half the throughput. It has to connect to the router wireless and it will compete with the other devices that are concurrently using the same spectrum as the source wi-fi.