After years of shoddy WiFi into our converted garage, I finally gave up power-line networking and replaced it with a WiFi range extender.
Until today, I had a couple of cheap Netgear power-line networking cubes, one plugged into our Time Warner/Spectrum-provided modem/router, the other plugged into a separate Netgear WiFi router (again, the cheap kind) in the converted garage, where I would have worked a lot more if it had dependable WiFi.
After the minimum amount of research, I headed to Fry’s to get a WiFi range extender. They didn’t have the cheapest Netgear box, which was $15 on Amazon. They did have the more expensive models, and I figured it would be a good idea to get one that handled 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz signals, since our modem/router outputs both of those frequencies, even though my laptop, older and bargain-basement prices as it is, doesn’t support 5 GHz WiFi.
I like Netgear. I’ve been buying their routers for years, and they always work. The power-line networking boxes, which I bought years ago refurbished at Fry’s
I was willing to spend a few extra bucks to take home Netgear’s EX3700 model AC750 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender at Fry’s.
But the price at Fry’s was $50, and the same item from Amazon was $30. I was willing to pay a $5 premium for the privilege of picking up the box at my local store. $10 would have been painful. But $20? AKA a 60 percent markup over Amazon. I couldn’t do it. I ordered from Amazon, waited two days for it to be delivered via Prime.
The box did come. The item is small. It comes with a small instruction booklet, and after trying and failing to wirelessly connect to the WiFi range extender in order to set it up, I used an Ethernet cable to complete the setup.
After creating a Netgear account, connecting the WiFi range extender to my existing modem/router and setting up the range extender with its own named connections for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, the setup was complete.
I then placed the WiFi range extender on an outlet near the house’s back door (you can see it in the picture above with a power-failure emergency light in the plug above it).
I took the laptop to the back “office.” I had a great signal, and the WiFi worked.
I didn’t do any benchmarks yet. I’ve heard that WiFi range extenders cut your speed in half, but compared to nothing, half is more than good enough.
I didn’t make a huge investment in power-line networking. I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the technology or my particular electrical wiring, but it never worked that well. It might be good for short runs, but in those cases you can just use WiFi. So if you don’t want WiFi to be part of the solution and you need networking without wiring Ethernet to the location, power-line networking is a solution.
But for a long run on old wiring, you may have results similar to mine.
Maybe the more expensive power-line networking hardware works better. I don’t know.
It would probably be “easier” for me to move the entire modem/router to a location where I can get better WiFi coverage to the house and the converted garage, but I’m worried that I would worsen the signal in the part of the house farthest from the modem. And I would need to find a good spot for the gear that has a place for it to sit, a free electrical outlet and a cable connection. In our small 1940s house, that’s easier said than done.
So the WiFi range extender, with its only requirement being a free electrical plug, is the ideal solution.
Netgear is pushing a new WiFi solution called Orbi, which features a main unit and a “satellite” unit that together cover an entire large home without the speed loss of other devices that expand the range of an existing WiFi network. It is a mesh-networking solution with three frequency bands that is designed to speed up the network on all sides.
I’d love one of these systems, but the pull to spend $30 instead of $300 is too great.