WD is relatively new to the networking market but looks determined to make a splash. That's evident from its wireless range extender, which is designed to extend both 2.4 and 5 GHz networks. Most interesting of all to anyone that values real performance, it uses a 3x3 MIMO antenna setup. All other rivals we've seen take the simpler and cheaper 2x2 antenna route for their extenders. This potentially allows better real-world performance from wireless technology that is notoriously unpredictable in quality. See all Wi-Fi and networking reviews.
The unit itself is slightly larger than the air freshener-size units we've seen from other brands. That may be as much to create the required greater distance between the threeinternal antennae. See all Wireless router reviews.
Build quality in the hand does feel a little less solid compared to units made by Linksys and Netgear, however once on the shelf or wall this is of less concern. The unit offers a single ethernet port, gigabit-spec, to connect peripherals such as a networked printer or NAS drive, but offers no USB ports. Take a look at our review of the TP-Link TL-WN8200ND: dongle that boosts your Wi-Fi performance too.
We found the setup of this unit to really be its weakest point. First, you must manually choose between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz operation via a switch on the back of the device. So concurrent use of both wavebands is not available.
When we selected our wireless network from the list of those available the setup countdown simply hung. Each time we attempted to set up the extender (trying various routers) the countdown did not finish with a confirmation that everything was complete; a countdown clock terminated part way through the process.
More worrying, the WD range extender could not even detect the 5 GHz network on our test router (an Apple Time Capsule). We finally managed to test this extender using a WD My Net N900 as router. This time the 5 GHz band network was detected and a connection was made.
To test the speed of this range extender we placed it on the stairwell 5 metres away from our router. The tests were then carried out using a laptop on floor 1, 2 and 3.
Without the range extender connected the results were as follows ( 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz ): 56 / 60 Mb/s on floor 1, 20 / 0 Mb/s on floor 2 and 0 / 0 Mb/s on floor 3. As you can see the 5 GHz signal dropped out first on floor 2 followed by the 2.4 GHz on floor 3.
With the WD range extender turned on the results were as follows: 63 / 62 Mb/s on floor 1, 38 / 46 Mb/s on floor 2, and 16 / 18 Mb/s on floor 3.
These are by far the most impressive speed results we have seen from any range extender, beating Linksys, TP-Link and even Netgear dual-band extenders. This is very likely due to the superior 3x3 MIMO antenna configuration, giving that bit more reach than the simpler 2x2 offerings.
It is also notable that the 5 GHz band gave increased data rate than the 2.4 GHz rate on more distant floors 2 and 3. This may be due to there being high levels of 2.4 GHz interference on those floors, from neighbouring networks, while the relatively clean 5 GHz band was unimpeded.
When setting up at home it will be worthwhile experimenting whether the 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz band is best for your needs, especially since you need to make the switch manually.