More rooms, more problems
We got an unique opportunity to enlarge our apartment by merging it to the small flat next door. After a bit of renovation we got ourselves a spacious home to live in, but the room layout is a bit of a maze. Since this is an old apartment house with solid concrete walls it turned out to be a challenge to cover all the rooms with decent Wi-Fi. The new rooms we got by merging are behind so many corners that they were literally a dead zone. This was a bit of a problem as the new room was supposed to serve as a home office.
I started to solve the issue by looking at mesh Wi-Fi systems, but tri-band solutions like the Netgear Orbi are quite expensive, and I just spent a lot of money on renovation. There are reasonably priced two channel mesh systems, but I felt that either I do this as cheap as possible, or invest considerably for the best possible tech.
Next I started to eye on the range extenders / repeaters on the market. Top of the line devices cost more than 100 euros or dollars - not much less than the cheapest mesh systems. But then a local retailer had a sale for TP-Link RE200 for just 22.90€. I just had to see how a device so cheap could actually work.
Nice little soapbox
The RE200 has a nice and glossy white appearance that does not catch your eye. It is connected straight to the wall socket. Despite the compact size it may block the socket next to it, case they come in pairs like they do where I live.
Inside the RE200 there actually is pretty decent hardware. The AC750 connectivity (300+433mbps) is powered by a MediaTek SoC, 64 megabytes of RAM, three antennas and it even had a 100Mbps LAN-connectivity. The LAN can be utilized for running the device in Access Point -mode, or you can hard wire devices from the extender for a more robust connection.
The installation is a snap by using the Tether smartphone app (iOS, Android) or a web interface. After 5 minutes of tinkering I was online and extending my WiFi. For the price the RE200 has surprisingly rich configuration options, including possibilities to shut down the LED-lights or even the whole device during inactive night time.
How does it work?
All the technical details are of course interesting, but the main point of this kind of device is that how does it actually work?. Now after a couple of days of testing and fine tuning the settings I can say that it really does and it actually works very well!
The biggest positive surprise is the range, as the device is about the size of a smartphone so the three antennas are miniature size as well. First of all, it successfully extends my Wi-Fi range so that it now covers the whole apartment. The RE200 can push the signal through a concrete wall in addition to two closed wooden doors. The extender covers the room that it is installed to and every room around it through single concrete wall. In fact it just about covers the whole apartment as I am able to place the device quite close to the center of it – the actual router resides in one of the corners and I am not able to relocate it unless I do some serious cable work around the house.
The RE200 is only a AC750 device, but in my case that is enough the best available affordable broadband is only 50-100Mbps. I use the High Speed Mode so that the router and the extended are connecting via the 5GHz Wi-Fi link and the extender broadcasts 2.4GHz for even better wall penetration. I get about 95% of the maximum speed on the extender AP in comparison to the actual router, tested in close range. Since I am not about to stream 4K video or to participate in eSports tournaments, this is totally sufficient in my scenario. The extended connection is perfectly adequate for office work, web surfing, social media or streaming 1080p video.
Price considering, I am very happy with the RE200. It is a sleek looking device with good range and sufficient performance. It was easy to configure while also having plenty of options for my personal purposes. I will keep on monitoring on how reliable it is on the long run and posting updates to this thread. Based on the first few days I can warmly recommend the RE200. If you need higher networking performance, then you can look into the big brother TP-Link RE450, that offers external antennas and AC1750 connectivity.
With the recent firmware update the RE200 is also compatible with the TP-Link OneMesh -system. Most likely I will be keeping an eye for Archer C6 router offers to try it out. When the price is right it is actually possible to build a real mesh network with a budget of 80$ or 80€. This is definitely something I want to see for myself.