How can we fix weak wifi signals on streaming devices? By this we mean anything that is used to stream movies, videos or on demand or catch up TV services. This could include devices like the following:
- Apple TV boxes
- Amazon Fire TV sticks
- Netflix and Hulu Devices
- nVidia Shield TV
- Roku Streaming Devices
- Generic Set top boxes
- Now TV Box (for UK users)
These devices are surging in popularity, with this article reporting that around one in five American consumers have ditched traditional cable TV in favour of these more portable on demand devices which can access streaming services by Netflix, Amazon and others.
Most of these devices use wifi and can therefore be susceptible to poor wifi signals. This is further exacerbated by the fact that video and film streaming does tend to use a lot of bandwidth, especially if streaming in higher resolution like 1080p and 4K. This means if the wifi signal is unreliable or drops out in certain parts of the home, buffering will likely result and the user experience will suffer.
The Problem of Weak Wifi
Streaming and other wifi devices often work fine for many even for higher bandwidth HD streaming. Router and device technology has improved over the years yet wifi coverage still varies from house to house. Some people will have no problems even far away from the router whilst others will struggle with wifi dropouts even in the next room to the router.
It all depends on lots of different factors like router and device hardware, the structure of the house (wall thickness, size etc) and number of people using the internet for example. Wifi signals will always somewhat weaken and degrade over distance as well as it is built into how EMF waves operate – see our article on why wifi drops out.
Wifi is also prone to network congestion if a lot of devices are trying to connect wirelessly at the same time, especially for higher bandwidth activities like streaming. They all have to share the same “space” and also wait for the router to process their traffic demands one device at a time, as opposed to wired connections which can send and receive data simultaneously in both directions.
This can lead to congestion and buffering if there are a lot of users in a house at peak times. Dual band wifi has somewhat helped to alleviate this by spreading wireless traffic out over two separate RF spaces or bands (2.4 and 5GHz), and newer streaming devices are often equipped with this feature. Wifi technology is about to take a further leap with the incoming 802.11ax standard, which is designed to further help with traffic management on crowded wireless networks.
However full roll out of this will probably take a few years and until then buffering is still a problem for some using streaming devices on wifi. What solutions are there to solve the problem of weak wifi in the home?
Powerline Products as a Solution
Powerline Adapter products are an excellent home networking solution to the the problem of weak wifi. They use the house’s existing electrical circuitry to deliver wired internet connections to any room and the home, allowing you to extract the most out of your internet connection, exactly what is needed for higher bandwidth activities like streaming.
Powerline Adapter kits consist of two plugs, one of which is connected to your router, the other to your device, and the two plugs then communicate through the house’s existing electrical wiring to deliver a strong, reliable signal to the device. This is often an excellent alternative to the often inconsistent and unreliable wifi signals, especially in larger houses where you are a long way from the router.
TheTP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.
They are an ingenious and underutilized home networking solution to the problem of weak wifi and one major advantage is that they are no nonsense plug and play devices with little or no setup required; an excellent alternative to the old fashioned way of drilling holes in walls and floors to feed ethernet cables through to different parts of the house.
Of course not all streaming devices have wired connectivity, like the more modern TV sticks, in which case wireless powerline adapters are also available which deliver a cloned wireless access point at the receiving end as well as wired ports. We will cover these in more detail below.
Powerline products are an excellent way of expanding connectivity to all parts of the home and allowing streaming devices to be used even at some distance from the router. When used correctly they can solve the problem of weak wifi and deadspots round the home. Let’s look at how to find the right powerline product for your streaming device.
Finding the Right Powerline Product
There are quite a few different models of powerline adapters, some with wireless functionality and some without. Here is a quick step by step guide for finding the right powerline adapter product for your streaming device.
We focus mainly on the TP Link brand models, though others are available and we will link to them at the bottom. We will embed our Product Comparison Table so you can see at a glance all the different models by features so you can view the ones you need.
Step 1 – Is Your Streaming Device Wired or Wireless?
The first step is identifying what connectivity options your streaming device has – wired only, wifi only or both. Wired connections are preferable for delivering maximum possible bandwidth to a device.
Some streaming devices, like Roku and Apple TV boxes, of course have ethernet ports as well as wifi, making standard wired powerline adapter models the obvious choice. These will deliver the strongest connection to your router.
Some of the smaller streaming devices like the TV sticks of course only have wifi, in which case you will need a wireless powerline adapter to create a cloned access point closer to the device which it can then pick up instead of the further away signal from the main router.
Step 2 – How Many Devices Do You Want to Connect?
This is another consideration for wired streaming devices at least. There are powerline adapter models with one, two or three ethernet ports depending on what you need to connect up. See the table below. For wireless this doesn’t matter; once you have your cloned wireless access point you can connect multiple devices to it without any issues.
Also if you are planning to use multiple streaming devices, but in separate rooms, then you will need to create a powerline adapter network, with multiple powerline adapters all connected together on a single (or separate) powerline networks. This is very possible and easy to do; see our article on creating powerline networks across the same electrical circuitry.
Step 3 – Bandwidth Requirements
A related minor consideration to this is bandwidth requirements. If you intend to connect several streaming devices to one or even multiple powerline adapters, then bandwidth demands obviously go up. You can compare transfer speeds in the table below.
However, even the entry level TP Link models offer transfer speeds of up to 500 mbps, which is faster than most internet packages anyway, so mostly you don’t need to worry about this. If you are lucky enough to have a gigabit internet package, then you may want to go for one of the gigabit powerline adapters, capable of transfer speeds up to 1000 mbps. Most users will be fine with the standard models.
Step 4 – Passthrough or Not?
Pretty self explanatory – some adapters come with a passthrough or integrated plug socket so you don’t lost the plug socket you are using them for. This is handy if you are running short on plug sockets – you can plug a device into the adapter itself and then plug the adapter into the wall. More basic models are a little cheaper but don’t have this feature.
Step 5 – Choose Your Model
Once you have the answer to these questions, you can select a powerline adapter model for your streaming device based on the connection options it has and what your bandwidth needs are. We have a product comparison table which breaks down all the TP Link powerline products by feature and functionality so you can find the exact product you need.
- Click here for Standard Powerline Adapters
- Click here for Wireless Powerline Adapters
- Click here for our Product Comparison Table that breaks down the wired and wireless TP Link models for you to compare and find the one you need.
- Click here for Wifi Mesh Systems. These offer a broader solution if weak wifi is more of a general problem around the home.