As more and more of our work and leisure time is spent online, the need for a strong home WiFi network is ever increasing. Most households have many different devices competing for an internet connection including computers, TVs, Smartphones, tablets, game consoles and connected home devices. The first step in providing a good internet connection to all these devices is a fast router, but sometimes that alone is not enough to provide a fast connection throughout the home and a WiFi Booster can be the answer.
My home WiFi suffers from a dual whammy- our incoming internet connection is slow as we live a long way from the DSL hub, and our house has a unusual layout making it hard for a signal the reach throughout the entire home. We have a master bedroom on the entry level with the living areas half a floor up and and other bedrooms and office half a floor down. As you can imagine this is a nightmare for getting a strong signal throughout the house. We have a great router – the Nighthawk X6 which makes the most of our poor incoming signal to give us good connectivity on the main floor of the house where the router is located, but in the master we get a signal so poor that we often can’t even access email. I recently tested the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi Range Extender Model EX7000to see if it could solve this problem.
The Nighthawk AC1900 model EX7000 is a a dual band range extender operating on both 2.4 and 5GHz, supporting speeds up to 1900Mbps. It supports the 802.11ac networking standard for better speed and reliability than the older 802.11n, but is also backwards compatible. It can be used as a WiFi extender or in Access Point Mode (wired to the router via an ethernet cable), I tested it as an extender. It has 3 external antennas and 5 ethernet ports that can be used for devices such as TVs, printers, and game consoles if you wish to connect them via ethernet cable instead of WiFi. It also has a USB 3.0 port.
Set up is very quick and easy, especially if your router has a WPS button (as the X6 does). First you attach the 3 antennas, then plug in the extender close to your router and switch on. With WPS button set up you just press the WPS button on the extender then on the router and it connects automatically. You then repeat this for the second channel if you have both 2.4 and 5 GHZ on your router. Finally move the extender to the location you want, and check the signal strength. Indicator lights on the extender show the connection strength, for best performance they should be green for both bands. The new network name is your old name plus _2EXT (2.4GHZ) or _5EXT (5 GHZ). .
The X6 has a WPS button so set up was a breeze for me. I also repeated the set up without using the WPS, just to see how well that worked.
Using a Dual Band Extender with a Tri-Band Router
The Nighthawk X6 is a Tri-band router but the extender is a dual band, so I wasn’t sure how well these 2 would work together. In reality they work well, the X6 has a 2.4GHz band plus 2x 5GHz bands. You can use the booster to boost the 2.4GHZ band plus one of the 5GHz, the other 5GHz remains un-boosted. The X6 distributes the connections to even out usage over the 3 bands, so if the boosted bands are getting more use in some parts of the house it will naturally even things out by using the un-boosted band more in the areas where it has a good connection.
Set Up Without WPS
Instead of using the WPS button you connect to the extender network NETGEAR_EXT on a a computer, tablet or smartphone. Then launch a web browser and it will take you to the login screen for Network Genie. You need to set up an account by entering an email address and password then click “Set Up New Extender”. This is very simple: you just choose the network you wish to extend, pick which bands you want, enter your existing network password and choose your new name and password for your extended network. Although not as fast as using the WPS button, set up was still very straightforward, and only took about 5 minutes.
Testing Signal Strength
I used the free NETGEAR WiFi Analytics Android App to test the signal speed in various locations with and without the signal booster, and to help choose the optimal location for the booster. This was very useful and I’d love to see it available for iOS too for those without an Android device.
These 2 screenshots show the signal strength in the master bedroom when connected directly to the router (on left) and the same band via the booster (on right). As you can see there is a huge improvement and this translates to real life too- we can now check email, surf the web and even watch online videos in this room where before we could barely connect.
Although you can quickly set up the WiFi extender in standard extender mode you can also use the NETGEAR Genie to customize to set up to suit your situation. Many of these features are also available on the X6 Router but if you have a router without these features this is a simple way to add them. Features include the ability to connect a USB printer or USB storage device to allow access to them across the network, the ability to schedule what times your internet connection is available (useful with teenagers to stop them using their phones late at night!) and fast lane technology to improve WiFi speeds for streaming.
You can choose to boost your WiFi over a small or large area by adjusting the booster power within the app. I found using it at 100% worked best for me as I wanted to boost my signal over a large area.
I was very impressed with both how easy it was to set up, and the improvement we saw in signal strength in our previous dead spots. Our home is a huge challenge for internet connectivity with a poor incoming signal, large square footage and complex layout. There is no location you can place a router in where the signal doesn’t have to go through multiple interior and exterior walls to get to parts of the house, but the EX7000 rose to the challenge. The Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi Range Extender EX7000 has eliminated our dead spots and we now get a good signal throughout the house including the master bedroom where previously the connection was often unusable.
Price and Availability
The NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi Range Extender model EX7000 is available from Amazon, Best Buy, New Egg, Fry’s and other retailers for approximately $150. Although this isn’t cheap, it is well worth it if you have dead spots in your home in areas where you need a reliable internet connection. If you have a large house that has WiFi dead spots and struggle to get a good signal throughout the home I would definitely recommend this Nighthawk Range Extender.
- Dual Band 2.4 & 5GHz
- Five (5) 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports with auto-sensing technology
- One (1) USB 3.0 port
- Dual band WiFi up to 1900Mbps
- 700mW high-powered design for ultimate range
- Dual core 1GHz processor for max WiFi performance
- 3 external antennas for maximum signal coverage
- High-powered amplifiers and external antennas for increased range
- FastLane technology improves performance using both WiFi bands
Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).