It might be more prudent to understand the concept behind a WiFi repeater before getting to the features. All wireless networks have a specific range which can be further extended using several mechanisms. It can be accomplished by getting a booster or entirely replacing the router with a more powerful one, or by placing repeaters in strategic locations.
The network repeater, also known as a wifi range extender, is a simple device that communicates wirelessly with routers in the same way as any other user with a tablet or laptop. However, the extender then rebroadcasts this signal, effectively creating its own little network. It is mainly used to provide connectivity in areas that were hitherto unreachable.
The key is to place the extender in a strategic location. It can then simultaneously talk to the router while broadcasting into the desired area. Practical examples where such network patching comes in handy includes parking lots, garages, gardens, yards, corridors and lobbies which are part of the property but too far out to directly receive the router’s broadcast.
The extender’s range and its price are the two main factors that consumers usually focus on. Pricing depends on the manufacturer and model, and will vary based on the range and availability of some of the other features mentioned below. Look for repeaters which can enhance the network range by 50% or more. Most extenders come with indicators that show the actual range when it is being used.
One big factor that needs careful consideration is the reduction in bandwidth, because some extra throughput loss is basically unavoidable when there is an extender in the middle accepting data packets and retransmitting them. Bandwidth is further squeezed since both the router and repeater are broadcasting on the same frequency. Some of this bottleneck can be avoided by opting for a device which communicates with users and the router on different frequencies.
Most every repeater in the market today follows the IEEE 802.11n protocol and is universally compatible with any router. All the user has to do is switch it on at the desired location and let it acquire the network, same as using a laptop which is wireless-enabled. There are no implementation issues or customized settings required unless security necessitates encryption and access permissions.
The extender can also be used to set up a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. In order for this to work, it must have a USB connector that can be plugged into a tablet or laptop and hauled over to the location where multiple users need temporary access to the network. In addition to the wireless broadcast, repeaters also provide a small number of Ethernet ports for wired access.
A WiFi repeater with green features is preferred by environmentally conscious individuals and organizations. Some have power-saving mechanisms such as an on-off switch which turns off the device when it is not in use, and powers it back on only when a network request comes in. Another green feature is the packaging, which is now more likely to be made of material that is biodegradable or recycled.