Work and Wi-Fi go hand in hand these days — for a lot of us, anyways — and now that the weather is nicer (and you’re tired of sitting at the same make-shift-quarantine desk) you’re likely looking for more ways to work outside. Maybe out on your porch or in a park? That means extending your home’s Wi-Fi network so you can get coverage in places you normally didn’t, or creating your own mobile Wi-Fi signal that you can take with you. Here’s what you can do.
Get a Wi-Fi extender.
A Wi-Fi extender, also known as a Wi-Fi booster, is a device that plugs into the wall and repeats the wireless signal from your router. It won’t improve the signal in areas of your home that you already get Wi-Fi, as it simply extends the signal to cover more areas of the home. The good news is that there are a number of great Wi-Fi extenders that are affordable and easy to set up, like the Rockspace Dual-Band Wi-Fi Range Extender ($35). If you have a dead zone in your house or directly near it, like a porch or a yard, and you want a low-cost way of curing it, a Wi-Fi extender might be your best bet.
The main complaint most people have with Wi-Fi extenders is that, while they are affordable, they don't exactly "extend" your home's Wi-Fi; instead, they create a separate Wi-Fi network that works with your existing Wi-Fi network. This means if you walk around your home with your smartphone or laptop, it will jump to whichever Wi-Fi network is strongest — the Wi-Fi network your router creates or the Wi-Fi network that your Wi-Fi extender is "extending." The creates a problem for people who, say have a number of Sonos speakers and want to create a multi-room system, but if you have different speakers connected to different Wi-Fi networks, you won't be able to play them all in the same system (they all have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network to play in a multi-room system).
There are Wi-Fi extenders that will extend your home's Wi-Fi without creating a separate Wi-Fi network, but they are more expensive and they usually are proprietary to your Wi-Fi service. For example, if you get Wi-Fi through Verizon Fios you can buy a Wi-Fi extender, like the Fios Extender E3200 ($200), that's specifically designed to work with the latest Fios router (and it won't work with any other router).
Upgrade your router.
If the issue is with your Wi-Fi’s speed and range, and you’re comfortable with spending a little more, you might want to think about upgrading your router. A lot of homeowners end up using the modem and router given to them by their internet service providers, of which they pay a monthly fee, which is an easy solution (they don’t have to mess with all those wires) but it actually might be the worse and more expensive option (especially in the long run).
The Linksys MR7350 Wi-Fi 6 Router is a great option in terms of speed, coverage and enhanced technologies (like support for Wi-Fi 6). If you don't know, Wi-Fi 6 is the latest and greatest technology for home Wi-Fi that you more bandwidth, space for data to move. That means more devices on your network can operate at max speed, all at once.
Get a mesh router system.
A mesh router system is a great option for people who want to cure multiple Wi-Fi dead zones in and around their home. You can think of them as a system of Wi-Fi extenders that all talk to each other and create a larger Wi-Fi throughout your home; one mesh hub plugs into your modem and then you place other hubs all-around your home. It’s a modular system so the great thing is you can scale up by getting more mesh points anytime you want.
The other big advantage of a mesh Wi-Fi network is that it creates one signal Wi-Fi network, whereas each Wi-Fi extender makes a separate network (which can complicate the user experience). Mesh routers that support the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, like Nest Wifi (if you have a Google smart home) or Amazon eero (if you have an Alexa smart home), are a bit expensive at the moment, but it's the best way to guarantee amazing connection everywhere in your space.
Get some extra cable and move your router.
This might be the easiest solution but also one you might not want to do. Routers are ugly to look at after all, which is why most of us hide them in a cabinet, under a desk or in some out-of-the-way location in our homes. The problem is that where you place the router is a huge factor in its signal quality. The signal can be halted by thick walls, pipes, large appliances and any other dense objects, which is why it is best to place them out in the open. To get better Wi-Fi on your deck, it could be as simple as buying a longer ethernet cable and an acceptance that it’s OK to see your router a few times a day.
Bonus: Get a wireless speaker that can work inside and outside.
Portable Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days, but there's a new breed of wireless speakers that have built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, like the Sonos's Roam SL or Move. The advantage of these speakers is that, when connected to Wi-Fi, they can extend your multi-room sound system outdoors, so you have the same music playing indoors and outdoors. (Also, if the speaker supports a smart assistant, like Alexa or Google Assistant, you can use your voice to request songs.) These speakers are super versatile, too, because you can use them as a traditional portable Bluetooth speaker and bring them anywhere.