Our house is too large for a single Wi-Fi router to cover. Well, actually it is not that large but it is shaped as a quite elongated rectangle and has a lot of concrete walls and a big fireplace, with loads of nice Wi-Fi disrupting metal in it, sitting in the middle of the transmission path between my modem and where I usually sit and watch TV or read books.
Thus a couple of years ago invested in, what I though was the simplest solution, a NETGEAR WN3000RP Wi-Fi extender. This worked and it was quite simple to put in place but it had some drawbacks. First of all the extended network became quite a bit slower. That was of course to be expected since any packet had to jump between two Wi-Fi routers. But you also had to place the extender at or near the edge of the main routers range, otherwise it wouldn’t really extend much.
Since I had to put the extender inside the range of the existing network I still had to place it behind some walls and obstacles so I really did not get optimal signal strength even with the extender. In addition to that, and to my surprise, the extended network always operated on the same channel as the existing one. I expected the extended network to be on a different channel. Now both routers competed for the same frequency space. Exactly what in this soup that was the culprit I do not know but the end result was that the extended network was usable for basic things but it was quite unreliable and frequently just hang up for a few seconds before it got going again. My new Windows 8 tablet seems to be much more sensitive to these oddities as well and frequently tells me that I have “limited connection” to internet.
Just to add to the unnecessary issues, if the main network went down for any reason, for instance if I rebooted the modem, the extender didn’t reconnect but just sat there waiting for me to enter the Wi-Fi security key again.
So yesterday I unhooked the old extender, hopefully for good, and replaced it with a XAVN2001 PowerLine 200 model. Unlike the old extender this one doesn’t really extend the existing Wi-Fi network but connects to my PowerLine wired network and creates a new Wi-Fi network where it’s connected. This means that the packets no longer have to jump between two Wi-Fi networks. I also have full control over the settings of this network, including the channel, so I can make sure that they do not interfere with each other. In my case the extender is set to channel 6 and the main modem to channel 11 which gives plenty of space between them.
I’m also not limited by the range of the existing network but can create a new Wi-Fi network anywhere I have an electrical wall socket. So I plugged it in on the mezzanine overlooking the living room. So far it works great. Installing it was a breeze. just plop it in, bring up the NETGEAR Genie software, which was already installed on my PC since it came with my modem and it is the same that is used on most NETGEAR hardware now), click configure on the dialog that pops up when it auto detected the new PowerLine node, enter the settings you want and you’re done.
I now have, not only network coverage but, really full strength network coverage all over the house and the speed and latency is pretty much the same (as in good) regardless of where I am in the house. With a fairly reasonable price tag of 49 Euros for the PowerLine extender version I would say that this was a good investment.