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Wireless Range Extenders

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by OzRay, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I've long been contemplating getting a wireless range extender, as our house has a mysterious way of blocking the wireless signal from our router at around the halfway mark down our main hallway, so that one half of the house gets no signal whatsoever. My study is linked via Ethernet over powerline, which works very well and I did think of trying utilise the PC, but that didn't seem to provide any great options. Getting the Windows phone spurred me to do something, as I'd constantly jump from WiFi to 3G moving about the house.

    We couldn't move the router to a better position in the house (the ideal solution), but that would have required re-routing phone lines and whatnot, so I thought I'd get a wireless range extender to cover the other half of the house. In my usual fashion, I started researching what were considered the better wireless extenders and reading reviews on this issues involved with setup etc. In every article that I read, the response was not to bother with wireless range extenders as they worked very poorly, which wasn't what I wanted to hear, as my options were pretty limited.

    So I decided to bite the bullet regardless and ordered a wireless range extender (TP-Link TL-WA850RE) and take my chances. It arrived today and required a bit of fiddling to get it connected (the easy way didn't work - when does it?) and then more work to find a power point that was ideally located to provide signal where I needed it (our power points are always low near the floor).

    So how did it turn out? Far, far, better than I'd hoped. I now have a full signal to the furthest end of the house and it's a consistent signal all the time. It really beggars belief that there is so much negativity to this solution in tech reviews, which can easily turn people off a simple and cheap solution, to something far more complex and costly. I don't understand why so many tech pundits always appear to be seeking perfection, rather than a pragmatic approach that, more often than not, will solve many people's problems.

    So if you have contemplated getting a wireless range extender and have been put off by negative reviews, give it another thought. They do work afterall.
     
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  2. MadMarco

    MadMarco Mu-43 Veteran

    298
    Oct 30, 2014
    Guildford, England
    I bought a ZyXeL WRE2205 Wireless N300 range extender for exactly the same reason, the family room extension is a bit beyond the ISP supplied router.

    It works well for internet browsing and the for the cost (I paid £18 in a sale) you can't complain. If you are transferring lots of big files then you have to be a little bit patient, but I've got gigabit Ethernet throughout the house if I'm doing anything serious. I can now browse wireless on my mobile and tablet which was a challenge before I bought the extender.

    I'd say that with realistic expectations, you're not going to be disappointed.
     
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I wouldn't consider it for major downloads, though the main WiFi is pretty good at that judging how fast big updates come down to my wife's laptop and she can easily watch catch-up TV, but at least now I have WiFi throughout the house. However, it isn't slow, as when I browse photo heavy sites, the pages seem to download as fast as my PC. So the naysayers have really got things wrong in suggesting that wireless range extenders are bunkum.
     
  4. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    255
    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Simon
    The so-called "problem" with wireless range extenders is that they receive the transmission and then have to turn it around and retransmit it, so you effectively lose 50% bandwidth. Which is only a problem if you need the speed. For the average user they are fine.

    If you happen to have an Ethernet cable available to the other end of your house then a "better" solution is to connect a range extender device to that - I have one that works in that mode.
     
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  5. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That's what all the tech reviews keep saying, but to be brutally honest, what a household wants is to extend their ability to connect their phone, tablet or laptop to the internet throughout the house and, for this purpose, WiFi range extenders are excellent.

    A WiFi range extender is an alternative to connecting to the internet through a 3G/4G mobile account and, unless you have the luxury of an unlimited mobile data account and access to 4G, the WiFi extender is going to thrash any 3G account for speed and cost.
     
  6. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    What is often forgotten is they have much larger aerials and far more powerful transmitters most mobile devices, so while they only retransmit what signal they themselves get it's still going far greater than the majority of devices at both ends (remembering that the range extender is powered by wall plug so it doesn't have the size or power consumption problems of a wireless device).

    I personally have one that uses Ethernet over power, I can't remember what model it is though... you can't really even tell it's present in that it you never notice the signal dropping off.
     
  7. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    A couple of questions:

    Can I hardwire it to my CAT5 and create a hotspot?

    Do you know the shape of the signal it rebroadcasts? Tight directional? Wide?
     
  8. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi Mike, some devices have hotspot support built-in, or you often can install OpenWRT or DDWRT or Tomato..., or you can plug one into a dedicated PC running a firewall OS such as PFSense or Astaro (both software free for home use).

    Most devices have omni-directional antennas, but some allow you to change the antenna, or you can put a metal cooking splatter guard as a reflector behind it.
    http://www.wdrake.com/buy-splatter-guard-302633

    Barry
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
  9. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    BTW, my experience is that many houses can be well-covered by a single AP:
    a. put it close to the center of the house, and on the top floor if possible. I have mine on the ceiling in the upstairs hallway.
    b. make sure you're not competing with your neighbors on the same channel. Run a scanner such as "WiFi Analyzer" on Android (free)
    c. if you have to put it in one end of the house, consider a directional antenna or reflector (see above post)
    d. 5GHz signals give more bandwidth, and less competition with neighbors, but they have trouble penetrating walls. 2.4GHz goes further if you don't have competition.

    If you have the wiring, 2 APs at opposite ends of the house, on different channels, but the same SSID, will give great coverage with no speed degradation.

    Barry
     
  10. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I don't know if the range extenders are capable of doing this, not the cheap ones anyway. From what I've read, most people kludge a wireless router to get this functionality, but it's not a completely simple task to set up. This was an option for me, but none of my old routers could be configured this way, as they wouldn't accept the necessary firmware.
     
  11. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That's if your house has been provided with power points and phone connections in the appropriate places, mine wasn't. ;)
     
  12. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    My alarm guy ran several CAT5e drops for me for ~$75USD each, including the wire and wall plates.
    If you don't have power, some AP's can use PoE, where the network switch or a PoE injector provides power through the ethernet cable.
    That's how I got mine on a ceiling.

    (I realize this is all a lot more trouble than installing a repeater, but I'm in IT anyways.)

    Barry
     
  13. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    255
    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Simon
    The TP-Link one above doesn't, but there are some that do. Things to check for are that it has a wired Ethernet port and that it supports "AP mode" (or Access Point). I have a cheap one that looks a bit like this http://www.amazon.com/TopStilwell-Plug-White-Portable-Wireless/dp/B00T06GA72 that does support that mode. Set it up with the same SSID as your main WiFi but on a different channel.

    The only issue you tend to get with having multiple WiFi routers/repeaters is that some devices seem to be really good at hanging on to their connection rather than changing to a stronger source - although for Android at least I know you can get an app for that!
     
  14. PeeBee

    PeeBee Mu-43 Top Veteran

    656
    Sep 17, 2012
    UK
    The first job I did to my house when I bought it in the late 90's was to rewire including power, CAT5 and telephone points. It was great in the days of desktop PC's with modems, but not so relevant these days with wi-fi and cordless phones.

    My router is centrally located on the ground floor and provides adequate wi-fi coverage to all rooms apart from my son's bedroom. I solved that problem using a Netgear wifi extender. One thing that caught me out though is that I'd set up some time restrictions based on mac addresses to stop him staying up too late on his games consoles on school nights. Since the router was seeing the mac of the extender and not the end device, it allowed the traffic to bypass the filters. I've reconfigured the rules to whitelist instead of blacklist, so now he just uses his phone's data connection to stay up all night on message and social media apps - doh!
     
  15. woof

    woof Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Oct 18, 2011
    The present.
    Let me also put a plug in for something called mocha which is tcp/ip over catv coax. It can run over coax at the same time as cable but i personally use it over an unused catv coax drop. Basically the adapters convert ethernet to catv coax and back. My main router is up in my office on the second floor. I use a coax drop that terminates in the basement as the backbone. This then is connected to a router via another mocha adapter and the router is running as a a wireless access point- this is often referred to as bridge mode. The basement ap gives better coverage for the far corner of the house so the downstairs is actually better served by the ap in the basement. Additionally, i split out the ethernet in the basement and connected the blueray to it directly. This gives me a hard wired connection to my machine which acts as my plex server. As a result streaming high def content works really well without compromises in term of location of storage, etc.
     
  16. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    Thanks for that woof. When I built my house c.1990 I wired it with coax to "future proof" it. :doh:
     
  17. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    621
    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    We use a Netgear Trek N300 travel router / range extender / wireless bridge device at the gallery where I work. We use it in its range extender mode with its own SSID. It has worked very very well. I can connect to the main router via wired Ethernet as well as via WiFi. Wired might give better performance, but it wasn't a practical option for us and the needs didn't mandate the ultimate in speed.

    Moving our main DSL Modem and Router/AP was not a practical solution. Our main computers and print servers (its a photographer's art gallery and I deal with image files and printing large canvases (up to 44x120") need to stay on Gigabit Ethernet (wired) and are all at the very front of the building on the second floor. Our framing and shipping dept is on the first floor at the very back of the building and WiFi from the main AP doesn't make it that far.

    The only issue we've had is when I bring the shipping dept. notebook (Win8.1) up to my studio to do the periodic software updates. I can always "smell" the extender's signal and remains connected to it even though the signal strength is somewhat weak and the data rate is low. I have to remember to manually switch to the main WiFi AP before beginning any downloads. Since the main WiFi signal doesn't exist back in the shipping dept, the notebook always switches back automatically.
     
  18. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I know a few who did something similar, even later on, and one was talking about doing the same only about five years ago. I recommended them saving money and using Ethernet over powerline and WiFi, but I think they went ahead and wired the house anyway.

    In our previous place, the WiFi covered the entire house and then some (the router location must have been ideal), but as I said, in our new place the WiFi was a big problem. So I got a pair of Netcomm Ethernet over powerline adapters so my main PC could be directly connected to the router and the performance is amazing. If the Netcomm adapter had also had WiFi, I would have had the perfect solution.

    From what I've been reading about WiFi, there are developments afoot that should improve performance significantly (somewhat like those cordless phones that can apparently have a range of up to 5-10km), so wiring up a house nowadays for internet doesn't seem warranted. And if mobile broadband such as 4G, 5G and whatever comes after that becomes affordable, everything will be on mobile broadband.
     
  19. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    I get unlimited 0G here at no cost with no chance to upgrade at any price. :D
     
  20. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Yep, there are many spots around where we live where copper wire is the only form of 'modern' communication with the external world (with exciting 36K broadband, if that).