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The Best Portable Wi-Fi Extenders for Travel in 2021

By Dave Dean Accessories6 Comments

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Great news! The hotel has free Wi-Fi! Bad news! Your room gets one bar of signal if you hang your laptop out the window and hold your tongue in just the right position. Oh well, who doesn’t love waiting twenty minutes for Instagram to load, anyway?

We’ve been using Wi-Fi range extenders, also known as Wi-Fi boosters, for years. They’re an easy way of getting faster internet while traveling, or connecting to networks your laptop or phone can’t even usually see.

Many are small enough to fit in your pocket, and they often make all the difference between usable Wi-Fi and endless frustration.

Best Overall: Netgear AC1900
  • Size: 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Type: AC1900
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz
  • Supports: Windows, macOS
  • Range: Moderate

Sale
Best on a Budget: TP-Link Archer T3U
  • Size: 1.6 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Type: AC1300
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz
  • Supports: Windows, macOS
  • Range: Moderate

Best for Minimalists: Glam Hobby OURLINK AC600
  • Size: 0.9 x 0.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Type: AC600
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz
  • Supports: Windows, Linux, MacOS
  • Range: Low

Best for Maximum Range: Techkey Wireless USB
  • Size: 6.1 x 4.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Type: AC1200
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz
  • Supports: Windows, older MacOS
  • Range: Long

Best Multi-Purpose: RAVPower FileHub
  • Size: 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.0 inches
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Type: AC750
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz (limited)
  • Supports: All Wi-Fi devices
  • Range: Moderate

Sale
Best for Portable Range: Netgear EX6120
  • Size: 7.0 x 5.6 x 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 10.7 ounces
  • Type: AC1200
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz
  • Supports: All Wi-Fi devices
  • Range: Long

Best for RV and Campervan Owners: Alfa Camp Kit 2
  • Size: 20.1 x 7.1 x 2.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Type: 802.11n
  • Bands: 2.4Ghz
  • Supports: All Wi-Fi devices
  • Range: Long

There are options for every kind of traveler, whether you just want faster Wi-Fi on your laptop to get work done, or have several devices to connect to that weak signal from the router down the hall.

Even if you’re traveling in an RV or campervan and need a way to boost the Wi-Fi at campgrounds and RV parks, we’ve got you covered there as well.

There are two main ways of boosting the Wi-Fi signal in your hotel or other accommodation: a USB Wi-Fi adapter that plugs directly into your laptop, or a standalone gadget that can be used by several devices at once. There are pros and cons to both, depending on your situation, and we’ll cover those off below.

Laptop USB Wi-Fi Adapters

USB Wi-Fi range extenders plug into a laptop and are designed to improve the connection for that computer only. That said, if you’re running Windows, you can use a piece of software called Connectify Hotspot to share your boosted connection with other devices as well.

Almost every model we’ve found is still using the older USB-A plug. If your laptop only has USB C sockets, you’ll need an adapter like this as well. Welcome to dongle life.

This type of Wi-Fi booster is typically quite a bit smaller than the standalone versions, but even then, there’s a bit of a trade-off between the size of the gadget and the wireless range you can expect to get out of it.

They’ll all give you an improved connection, but in general the bigger the antenna, the better your signal will be.

Best Overall: Netgear AC1900 

NETGEAR AC1900 Wi-Fi USB 3.0 Adapter for Desktop PC | Dual Band Wifi Stick for Wireless internet (A7000-10000S)

Extended range and stronger, faster connections are the most important aspects of any Wi-Fi booster that you’re going to travel with, but they aren’t the only ones. It needs to be durable and easily portable as well: bulky, flimsy accessories are no use to anyone on the road.

That’s why we’ve chosen the Netgear AC1900 as our top overall USB Wi-Fi adapter pick for travelers. This compact dual-band device is 4.7 inches long and 1.8 inches wide, and weighs just 2.4 ounces. It’s not the smallest you’ll find, but still fits easily in a laptop sleeve or day bag, and the extra size is put to very good use.

With a top cover that extends out to act as an antenna but folds down for better portability, this adapter boosts your signal to the point where you can detect networks up up to 200 feet away. Put simply, it helps provide better Wi-Fi in thick-walled hotels, rural AirBnbs, and anywhere else that radio waves fear to tread.

The Netgear AC1900 ships with a magnetic stand that lets you place it on your desk or somewhere else with better coverage, rather than having it hanging out the side of your laptop. The stand is a bit bulky to travel with (although you could if you wanted to,) but is ideal for when you return home.

Compatible with Windows and macOS, with fast speeds, good range, and a sensible antenna design that helps prevent it getting damaged in transit, the Netgear AC1900 is the best USB Wi-Fi booster for travel.

Pros
  • Fast dual-band 1900Mbps support
  • Portable
  • Good range
  • Magnetic stand for flexible placement
Cons
  • Netgear drivers can be unstable on Windows
Buy on Amazon

Best on a Budget: TP-Link Archer T3U

TP-Link AC1300 USB WiFi Adapter(Archer T3U)- 2.4G/5G Dual Band Wireless Network Adapter for PC Desktop, MU-MIMO WiFi Dongle, USB 3.0, Supports Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, XP/Mac OS X 10.9-10.14

Just want a small USB Wi-Fi extender that doesn’t cost much, but still gives a better network connection and longer range than your laptop’s wireless card? Check out the TP-Link Archer T3U.

This compact adapter packs a lot of punch for its size. At 1.6 inches long and under an inch wide, it’s a sensible size for travel: small enough to just slip into your pocket, but not so tiny that you’ll easily misplace it on the road.

For travelers, it’s a good compromise between the extra bulk of adapters with separate aerials and tiny versions that barely protrude out of the USB port but have limited range. There’s official Windows and macOS support, and you can get it working on most Linux distributions with a bit of work.

It’s a dual-band AC1300 model, with speeds of up to 867Mbps on the 5GHz band and 400Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Even though it doesn’t have extendable antennas, it still provides decent longer-range connections thanks to its beamforming support.

Wherever the router is located, as long as it also supports beamforming, you’ll get a stronger, better-optimized signal than you otherwise would.

While you’ll get better range and stronger connections with the Netgear AC1900 mentioned above, the T3U still works well and is a fraction of the cost. All in all, it’s one of those useful little accessories that does exactly what you’d expect, at a price you can afford.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Useful size and weight for travel
  • Dual-band support
Cons
  • Moderate range
  • No official Linux support
Buy on Amazon

Best for Minimalists: Glam Hobby OURLINK AC600

OURLiNK 600Mbps AC600 Dual Band USB WiFi Dongle & Wireless Network Adapter for Laptop/Desktop Computer - Backward Compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n Products (2.4 GHz 150Mbps, 5GHz 433Mbps)

If you travel light or plan to use your range extender all the time, you need one that’s small enough to be left plugged into your laptop. Several companies offer stubby Wi-Fi boosters like this, but the OURLINK AC 600 has a few extra features at a very competitive price.

It has better compatibility than many more-expensive USB range extenders, with support for 2.4 and 5Ghz networks on a variety of Windows, Mac OS, and Linux versions.

The size is the main drawcard, of course, as it only protrudes a few millimetres beyond the edge of the laptop and can be left permanently connected. It’s so small, in fact, that we’d recommend leaving it plugged in: it’d be very easy to lose otherwise.

The only reason this booster wasn’t our overall pick is that due to that small size, it simply doesn’t have the range of larger models. It’s better than the Wi-Fi card in your laptop, but you’ll still struggle with weak connections from time to time.

Pros
  • Tiny
  • Very inexpensive
  • Dual-band support
Cons
  • Doesn’t have the range of larger models
Buy on Amazon

Best for Maximum Range: Techkey Wireless USB

USB WiFi Adapter 1200Mbps Techkey Wireless Network Adapter USB 3.0 WiFi 802.11 ac with Dual Band 2.42GHz/300Mbps/5.8GHz/866Mbps 5dBi High Gain Antenna for Desktop Laptop Windows XP/7-10/ Mac OS

If you’re after a booster that dramatically extends your Wi-Fi range without taking up ridiculous amounts of room in your bag, pick up this Techkey model.

The 5dBi antenna means a strong, reliable signal, and you’ll be able to connect to networks you can’t even see with your laptop’s internal card. While the aerial is reasonably long, it’s lightweight, and you can detach it for easier portability.

Supporting 2.4 and 5Ghz networks, on Windows, older MacOS versions and, with some effort, Linux, it’s a simple, low-cost way of getting noticeably-stronger Wi-Fi signal.

There’s even a plastic cap to cover the exposed USB port when it’s not connected. For a gadget that’s likely to spend much of its life sitting in a daypack or suitcase, that’s a useful touch.

Pros
  • Good price
  • Great range
  • Dual-band
Cons
  • The extra range comes with extra size
Buy on Amazon

Multi-Device Wi-Fi Boosters

As the name suggests, multi-device boosters improve the connection then share it with whatever Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets you’re traveling with. They work in a few different ways, but typically have a browser-based admin section where you can choose between all the networks the device can see, and provide the login details.

The device then rebroadcasts that network, either under the same name or a different one that you provide, and you connect your other devices to it. It’s a pretty straightforward process, especially after you’ve done it once or twice.

Since these boosters aren’t plugged into a laptop, they need their own power source. Some have an internal battery, while some plug into the wall or a 12v accessory socket. They’re bigger and heavier than the laptop-based versions above, but have more features and flexibility as a result.

Best Multi-Purpose: RAVPower FileHub

RAVPower FileHub

The bigger and heavier a gadget gets, the more useful it needs to be to justify its place in your bag. The RAVPower FileHub ticks a lot of boxes for travelers, and is one of the handiest accessories we’ve used in recent years.

When boosting your Wi-Fi signal, you have a few options, with the most useful being bridge mode. This takes an existing 2.4Ghz network and rebroadcasts it with a stronger signal under a different name. From there, you just connect your devices to the new network, and you’re good to go.

You’ve can also plug a network cable into the FileHub and use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which can be handy in older hotel rooms or those that charge for Wi-Fi but let you use wired internet for free (weirdly, that’s still a thing in some places.)

The lack of an external antenna limits its range somewhat, although that’s mitigated by the 6700mAh battery inside. Since it doesn’t need to be connected to a power source to work, you can put it wherever gets the best reception, even if that’s beside the door, on the balcony, or halfway down the hallway.

If you’re out and about, you can use the FileHub as a portable battery for your phone or other gadgets instead, although it only has a paltry 2.5W output. It has plenty of other features as well, including acting as a media server, backing up SD cards, and more.

We’ve reviewed the RAVPower Filehub in detail, but suffice to say, it’s a reliable and extremely useful travel accessory.

Pros
  • Good value
  • Multi-purpose, with useful features for travel
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Doesn’t have the range of extenders with antennas
  • Would benefit from being a bit lighter
  • Doesn’t bridge 5Ghz networks

Best for Portable Range: Netgear EX6120

NETGEAR Wi-Fi Range Extender EX6120 - Coverage Up to 1500 Sq Ft and 25 Devices with AC1200 Dual Band Wireless Signal Booster & Repeater (Up to 1200Mbps Speed), and Compact Wall Plug Design

If you don’t need a multifunction device or you just want better range than what the RavPower can provide, go for the Netgear EX6120 instead. The company makes a few similar models, but the EX6120 offers the best mix of price and features for most travelers.

It’s not the smallest range extender on the market, but the size and weight remain appropriate for all but the most minimalist travelers. The EX6120 has a North American plug built-in, and plugs directly into a wall outlet (via a travel adapter if you need one.)

A pair of fold-up antennas means you’ll get noticeably better range than most other travel-sized Wi-Fi boosters, and there’s dual-band support (2.4 and 5Ghz) to help avoid congested airwaves. You can choose between sharing the existing Wi-Fi network under its current name or a different one, whichever you prefer.

As with the Ravpower, you can connect a wired network cable and share that connection wirelessly if needed, and the AC750 works with pretty much any laptop, phone, or other Wi-Fi-enabled device you’re likely to travel with.

Pros
  • Excellent range
  • Dual-band
  • Plugs directly into the wall
Cons
  • Larger than some other range extenders
Buy on Amazon

Best for RV & Campervan Owners: Alfa Camp Kit 2

ALFA Network WiFi CampPro 2v2 (Version 2) Universal WiFi/Internet Range Extender Kit for Caravan/Motorhome, Boat, RV

When you’re traveling around in an RV or campervan, you’re in a different Wi-Fi situation to most travelers. You’re not limited by the size and weight of your gadgets in the same way, but can often find yourself hundreds of feet from the nearest router, with trees, buildings, and other vehicles in the way.

Range and reliability are the key factors, and that’s where the Alfa Camp Kit 2 comes in. Alfa has been making good long-range Wi-Fi extenders for years, and many RV owners had been making creative solutions using the company’s gear.

It’s now released all the key components in a single kit, letting you get set up with long-range Wi-Fi for all your devices in a few minutes.

The kit includes an Asus R36A Wi-Fi repeater, a Tube-U(N) receiver, a weatherproof 9dBi aerial, and the cabling to connect it all together. It comes with a couple of cable ties for mounting the aerial, but you may wish to use suction cups or similar for quicker attaching/detaching when changing locations.

It’s powered from a standard 12v accessory socket, and customers have reported being able to connect to networks 400+ feet away using this setup. It works in much the same way as other multi-device repeaters, boosting the existing signal and rebroadcasting it under a different network name.

Reasonably priced and straightforward to use, this is an excellent budget option for getting much better Wi-Fi range in RV parks and campgrounds without a huge amount of effort.

Note: If you’re looking to boost your cell signal in your RV instead of (or as well as) your Wi-Fi, we’ve got a detailed guide to doing that too!

Pros
  • All-in-one kit makes setup quick and easy
  • Reasonably priced
  • Lets you connect multiple devices to networks hundreds of feet away
Cons
  • Most people will need separate mounts for the outside of the RV
Buy on Amazon

Main image via Shutterstock, other images via Amazon.

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Why are you calling normal network card/adapter as a extender?
    Even that it’s connected via USB it’s still just a normal network card/adapter.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      The focus of the article (and the site) is on travelers. While the USB models are indeed external versions of a standard network card, they’ve often got bigger aerials and higher power output than internal versions in laptops and mobile devices.

      As a result, the reason most travelers are interested in them is to extend the useful range of the wireless network they’re trying to connect to, hence calling them Wi-Fi extenders or range extenders. Feel free to call them something else if you’d prefer.

  2. Avatar

    I understand but you should still call things with their right name. If people read this article and go to store ask wifi extender they will get different product what they expect. You would’t call better flashlight as light extender if it’s brighter than your old one.

    “Your wireless router can’t do everything, and Wi-Fi dead spots are unavoidable in most homes. The quickest solution to wireless coverage woes is to add a Wi-Fi extender, which is a specialized repeater that boosts the wireless coverage to those portions of your home that your router just can’t reach.”

    ” A WiFi repeater or extender is used to extend the coverage area of your WiFi network. It works by receiving your existing WiFi signal, amplifying it and then transmitting the boosted signal. With a WiFi repeater you can effectively double the coverage area of your WiFi network – reaching far corners of your home or office, different floors, or even extend coverage to your yard.”

    Why to use something what already mean something else? Better word for them would be example just be a network adapter.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      If the average traveler is searching for something to extend the range of the wireless network in their hotel, they’re not going to be looking for a “network adapter” even if that’s the generic name for the gadget that will do the job.

      I’m aiming to provide useful information to the people looking for it, so I’ll continue to call these things wifi extenders, wifi boosters, range extenders, or something similar, since they are the most useful terms to convey the value that a traveler will get from them. As I say, feel free to call them something else if you like.

  3. Avatar

    Dear Dave,

    I would like to ask a quick question regarding the wifi extender, as most of the hotel nowadays required a webpage login access to the internet, do those models you suggested above will have this function available? for example, if a direct connection from a PC, once you connected to the hotel wifi, the hotel webpage will pop up and ask for your user name and password, not sure if I connected with the wifi extender and the extender can do the same to allow internet connection. thank you for your help.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      The ones that plug directly into your laptop work just like the one inside it, so you’ll have no problem with hotel login pages.

      Some of the standalone ones also have a mechanism for logging into these captive or portal pages as well, but not all.

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