With the muddle of ratification of official 802.11n wireless standards still causing many to stick with their ‘g’ rated equipment, the issue of range remains, for some, unresolved. But one solution that neatly sidesteps the urgency of greater range that 802.11n will bring is the wireless extender, and with the asking price of this particular model it could prove to be a wise investment.
The theory is this: assuming you have a location where the wireless signal is weak in certain areas, or not reaching them at all, you position the extender roughly half way between the source and the target area. Then it picks up the wireless signal and rebroadcasts it with greater strength. Thus the problems of not being able to wirelessly access the Internet or other network resources are overcome.
It works, too. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Before you can unleash the extender onto your network, there’s some simple setup work to do. Hawking, to its credit, makes this immensely straightforward by bothering to include a well thought through, accurate and easy-to-follow step-by-step instruction guide. Whether using a Windows PC or a Mac, it’s a breeze to get going.
Basically, you start by connecting the extender directly to your network hub (a cable is included), and run the setup software on one of the machines on your network. By following some simple steps you then choose the network you want to rebroadcast, assign an IP address if necessary, add in the requisite security and allow the extender to reboot itself.
Once that job is done, the extender can then be unplugged, its supplied antenna attached, and then it can be positioned. You need a mains supply for it, but that’s the extent of the wiring subsequently involved.
So plugged in, switched on and ready, we took our laptop and gave it a test. We positioned our machine where we usually struggle to receive a signal from our wireless network, two floors above. And while we had to try one or two different placements of the Wireless-G Range Extender before we got a result, our laptop then detected the signal, hooked on, and we found that the signal had strengthened threefold. This made a real difference to our network speeds and we were happy with the results.
So while the hardware may feel a little hollow, and while the thought of having another electronic device permanently switched on isn’t thrilling, this little device works a treat. It should prove a useful bridge for those with limited wireless networks who aren’t ready to take a gamble on pre-N wi-fi equipment.