Not necessarily a huge upgrade to an existing Wi-Fi 6 setup, but a good way to increase your reach and improve speeds
- Easy to use and configure
- Significant speed increases in some locations
- Works seamlessly with OneMesh routers
- Not always faster than direct router connection
- Doesn’t work with Deco mesh devices
Frankly, anyone looking to cover their whole home in Wi-Fi has never had so much choice. A single Wi-Fi 6 router might suffice for many homes, and for those it doesn’t there are some excellent mesh systems in both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 varieties.
What’s more, if you just need to stretch your network to a distant back bedroom or home office, you can still find wireless extenders and Powerline kits to get you connected there.
TP-Link RE505X Range Extender review: What do you get for the money?
This is very much the case with the TP-Link RE505X. It’s one of the first wireless extenders to support 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6, making it the ideal add-on to a next-gen router such as TP-Link’s own budget AX20 or high-end AX90, the value-packed D-Link EXO AX1800 or the superb Asus RT-AX88U.
However, when used with one of TP-Link’s OneMesh routers, including the aforementioned models, it can also work as part of a mesh system, giving you decent, seamless connectivity anywhere around your home. Note that for technical (and possibly commercial) reasons, OneMesh isn’t interoperable with TP-Link’s Deco lineup of mesh routers and extenders, so don’t try to mix and match your mesh.
The RE505X is a dual antenna, dual-band extender, supporting speeds of up to 300Mbits/sec over 801.11n on the 2.4GHz band, and up to 1,200Mbits/sec over 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) on the 5GHz band. If you don’t own a Wi-Fi 6 router, it will also work with older 802.11n and 802.11ac equipment, although you’d probably want to upgrade your router first.
It also has a single Gigabit Ethernet port, meaning it will double up as a wireless access point if you want to connect a desktop PC, smart TV, NAS or games console that way.
TP-Link RE505X Range Extender review: How easy is it to set up?
The design is pretty simple. The whole unit plugs into the wall and there are four LED indicators at the front: a power LED indicator that blinks green during startup then glows blue once the extender is up and running; a signal LED; and two LEDs for 2.4GHz and 5GHz connectivity.
The signal LED is the most important as you can use it to gauge the best power socket in which to use the RE505X. When it glows solid blue you know you’ve got a good connection to the router, while a red glow means your connection is shaky. If there’s no glow at all, you’re out of range.
I set up the RE505X with a TP-Link AX90 router the manufacturer provided for testing using TP-Link’s Tether app. You just plug the extender into a socket near the router, run the app’s Add Device wizard, connect to the extender’s default Wi-Fi network, then select the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks you want to extend.
After that, you simply leave the app for a minute or so to do its thing, then unplug the extender and plug it in as near as you can to wherever it is that you’re trying to stretch your connection to. It’s worth trying a couple of different locations to get the best balance of signal strength and connection speed, but that’s about all there is to it.
TP-Link RE505X Range Extender review: How well does it work?
One of the biggest issues testing the RE505X with the AX90 router is that the latter is already quite effective at spreading Wi-Fi around the house. To give you some idea, my normal setup based around TP-Link’s Deco M5 mesh system struggles in the further reaches and upper floor of our 1950s detached house. Transferring files to and from a NAS attached to the main unit, I get downstream speeds of 13.1MB/sec in the kitchen/diner on the opposite side of the ground floor, and upstream speeds of 10.1MB/sec. In the office upstairs, those speeds switch to 12.9MB/sec and 14MB/sec respectively.
With the mesh system unplugged and the AX90 up and running, the speeds in the kitchen/diner rise immediately to 54.6MB/sec and 16.7MB/sec, while the speeds in the upstairs office reach 43.9MB/sec and 19.9MB/sec. These are megabytes rather than megabits I’m talking about, so it works out at up to 436.6Mbits/sec across the house, which is easily enough for copying large files across the network, let alone spreading internet connectivity to every room.
However, the RE505X still manages to add some extra value. While speeds in the kitchen are actually a little slower than when connected directly to the AX90, at 36.5MB/sec and 12.92MB/sec, those in the upstairs bedroom are an improvement, at 50.7MB/sec and 31.6MB/sec. If you need to boost your connection speeds in a specific area of your house, the RE505X might well be able to help you do it.
It also proved effective at getting an internet connection to places where it’s usually slow, if available at all. There’s a patch of decking outside the rear of the house where my internet connection gets crushed down to 14.8MB/sec downstream and 0.6MB/sec upstream. Even with the AX90 router, I could only get 3.2MB/sec downstream and 0.87MB/sec upstream. With the RE505X in place in a nearby socket, I was able to boost this to 3.6MB/sec and 0.9MB/sec. That’s hardly a night and day difference, but it is a difference, nonetheless.
The other advantage over competitor extenders is that, with a OneMesh router such as the AX90, you get hassle-free, seamless connectivity no matter which device you’re connected to, with no need to manually switch connections as you move between rooms.
What’s more, there’s enough bandwidth and low enough latency involved to run some fairly demanding applications, such as streaming games from the desktop PC in the upstairs office to the relatively weedy business laptop I use in the kitchen/diner below. Barring some very sporadic macro blocking and a couple of jerky moments early on, I was comfortably able to go rally racing in DIRT 5 and explore ancient Greece in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.
This has never been an option with my previous mesh Wi-Fi setup, and even the AX90 couldn’t handle it alone. With the AX90 and RE505X dream team? No problems, although it helps that both the laptop and desktop involved were kitted out with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
READ NEXT: Best powerline adapters
TP-Link RE505X Range Extender review: Should you buy one?
As I mentioned right at the top of this review, anyone looking to cover their home in Wi-FI already has a lot of choice. In some homes, a Wi-Fi 6 router is going to be enough for most applications, while in others a Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 mesh setup will be a better investment, particularly as you can grow it later.
What the RE505X does, however, is give you one more credible option that’s ideal for getting you really fast Wi-Fi into a remote corner of the house, and at £56 it’s a very affordable way to extend the reach of an existing Wi-Fi 6 router, particularly if it’s in a TP-Link OneMesh lineup.