Work and Wi-Fi go hand and 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 a number of great Wi-Fi extenders that are affordable and easy to set up, like the TP-Link RE220 ($30) or TP-Link AC1750 ($79). 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.
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 Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 ($450) or the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 ($220) are two of the best options in terms of speed, coverage and enhanced technologies (like support for Wi-Fi 6).
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). The two most popular mesh systems are Nest Wifi ($169+), which is owned by Google and great if you have a Google smart home, and eero ($99+), which is owned by Amazon and great if you have a smart home built around Alexa.
Get a hotspot.
A mobile hotspot is a device that takes a cellular LTE connection and converts it into a Wi-Fi signal. You can actually turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot (depending on your cellular plan), which is a great option if you’re away from home – anywhere that has cell service, but no Wi-Fi — and you need to send a work email from your laptop; simply turn your smartphone into a hotspot and connect your computer to its Wi-Fi. There are also dedicated mobile hotspots that you can buy (we recommend doing it through your phone carrier), which come with a couple of key advantages. They provide greater Wi-Fi range and bandwidth (read: can support more devices at one time), and there’s no risk of going over your cellular data limit or killing your phone’s battery.
Try moving 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 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’s 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.