Ry Crist, an associate editor for CNET, the consumer-electronics website. He specializes in smart and automated home electronics products and systems. CNET.com
Your home Wi-Fi connection has become even more of a lifeline this year, whether it’s for work, shopping, entertainment or chats. Here are some of the best devices to improve your Wi-Fi performance and extend its range…
For houses and apartments up to 1,800 square feet. If your router is more than a few years old, consider replacing it with one that has the most recent version of Wi-Fi technology—Wi-Fi 5, the standard nowadays. My favorite economically priced router: D-Link DIR-867 offers one of the fastest download/upload speeds of any Wi-Fi 5 router—better than many higher-priced models—and reduces lag time even when multiple devices are streaming. $115.
Alternative: Next-generation Wi-Fi 6 routers offer faster speeds than Wi-Fi 5 and maintain more stable connections in densely furnished spaces and between rooms with thick walls. Currently, only a few devices, such as iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, can take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 enhancements, but more compatible devices will be available in 2021. Meanwhile, most devices will function at Wi-Fi 5 level performance with Wi-Fi 6 routers. My favorite: TP-Link Archer AX6000 has eight antennas and surpasses the speed of typical Wi-Fi 5 routers by as much as 40%. $300.
For larger homes up to two stories and/or if you have a dead zone. Expand the range of your Wi-Fi in a particular room or area by adding an extender. It’s a small, low-cost device with an internal antenna that plugs into any electrical socket and functions like a bridge, capturing the signal from your router and rebroadcasting it. My favorite extender: TP-Link RE220 takes less than a minute to set up and wirelessly connects with almost any router, extending the range to as much as 3,200 square feet. $30.
For homes with more than two stories and/or multiple dead zones. Consider a mesh network, which replaces your router and extender with a set of small devices that include powerful internal antennas. You hook up one to your modem and place the others around your home. Unlike multiple extenders, whose Wi-Fi signals weaken as you add more, each mesh network device boosts the signal, so you get the same signal strength and speed everywhere. My favorite: eero Wi-Fi mesh system includes three devices and provides an ultra-reliable Internet connection. $249 for a basic three-pack that reaches up to 5,000 square feet plus $99 for each additional unit.