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Wireless Reviews

Extender intro

Introduction

Dual-band extenders, as their name implies, have the ability to extend both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz vs. the single-band extenders we looked at that just extend 2.4GHz. Within that category, there are differences however. The RE2000 we tested is what is called "Selectable" dual-band, which basically means you can choose either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, but not both at the same time. The RE2000 v2, which is scheduled to ship in late December, will be simultaneous dual-band. All of our other dual-band extenders in this roundup are concurrent / simultaneous dual band.

For the sake of the review, I wanted to look at all dual-band extenders, even if it means revisiting the RE2000 that was featured in the single-band N300 roundup. Below is the list of the dual-band extenders we tested. (Prices shown are as of the review date. Click on the price to get the latest Amazon pricing.)

Product Price Firmware Chipset FCC ID Dual band spec
Linksys RE2000 $77 1.0.01, build 7 Ralink RT6856 (processor) + Ralink RT5592 XU8TEW737HREQ87-RE2000 Selectable dual band
Edimax EW-7238RPD $50 1.14 Realtek RTL8196CS (processor) + Realtek RTL8192DR NDD9572381208 Concurrent dual band
Amped Wireless SR20000G $140 v2.5.2.39 Realtek RTL8198 (processor) + RTL8192DR + Realtek RTL8192CE ZTT-SR20000G Concurrent dual band
NETGEAR WN2500RP $99 V1.0.0.30_1.0.58 Broadcom BCM5358UB0 (processor & 2.4 GHz radio) + Broadcom BCM43236B (5 GHz radio) PY311300171 Concurrent dual band
NETGEAR WN3500RP $129 V1.0.0.18_1.0.59 Broadcom BCM5358UB0 (processor & 2.4 GHz radio) + Broadcom BCM43236B (5 GHz radio) PY312300208 Concurrent dual band
Table 1: The Products Tested

Inside and Features

As the table shows, the five extenders use four different devices from three chipset vendors. I'm not including internal pictures of each extender, but the FCC product search links are above if you'd like to take a look for yourself.

The single band extenders we looked at were all just basic extenders, with an Ethernet port if you wanted to use it as a bridge (the D-Link DAP-1320 has no Ethernet). In the dual-band arena, we see some additional features for a bit more differentiation but with higher price tags.

For instance, the Amped Wireless SR20000G is the only extender with Gigabit ports, and five of them, no less. The NETGEAR WN2500RP has a built-in four-port 10/100 switch. And both the Amped Wireless SR20000G and the NETGEAR WN3500RP have USB ports for media and printer sharing. The Amped also supports four SSID's on each band.

The WN3500RP has an audio-out port for AirPlay music streaming, a nice touch to bring audio to a hard-to-reach area. And lastly, both the WN2500RP and WN3500RP incorporate what NETGEAR calls "Fast-Lane" technology. This essentially lets you use one band to communicate from the extender to the router and the other band to communicate from the client to the extender, getting rid of the half throughput penalty that plagues extenders.

All extenders, except for the Linksys RE2000, offer an Extender SSID. The Extender SSID lets you specify a different SSID for the extender so you can know which device you are connected to. That's important because the extender will be sitting at the edge of your wireless good zone where it can still get good throughput back to the router. You don't want to be connected to the extender and getting half the throughput that you see using an extender when you are in your good wireless coverage area.

Results - 2.4GHz Bridge

You can see the nitty gritty details of our testing process in How We Test Wireless Extenders. An important thing to note is that we weren't going for top throughput and the test results don't represent the highest throughput you can get from these products. Instead, we focused on tests that were free of interference from neighboring networks and that provided an accurate measure of relative performance. This required that we reduce the signal from the router being extended so that we could keep our "dead spot" within the confines of my home and away from interference from the other networks in my overcrowded 2.4 GHz airspace.

On 2.4 GHz, we were working with roughly 42 Mbps downlink and 56 Mbps uplink throughput available for the extender to pass along. Note that those are throughput numbers measured using the test laptop at the extender location.

For each device, I tested performance at the Ethernet port, essentially using it as a bridge, before going on to extender testing. Let's see how the devices rank used as bridges.

2.4GHz Wired Downlink Results

2.4 GHz Wired Downlink Results

You can see that on downlink, the Amped Wireless SR20000G is out front with double the throughput of the next closest extender and almost double the throughput of my laptop. The others all come in fairly close to each other, with the exception of the Edimax. Now let's look at uplink.

2.4GHz Wired Uplink Results

2.4GHz Wired Uplink Results

On uplink the Amped Wireless SR20000G is the clear winner again, with a better showing than the 56 Mbps I saw with my laptop. The NETGEAR WN3500RP does close the gap slightly. There is a rather wide variation here among extenders.

More Wireless

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