When dealing with wireless routers, there’s always going to be the issue with range and signal strength. Walls, distance and other variables will hinder your signal quality and you’ll find yourself looking at ways to improve your signal.
You can buy high gain antenna’s to boost your signal if they fit your model and if you’re willing to try it, you can upgrade your router’s firmware with DD-WRT or Tomato and totally amp up your signal like that. But upgrading that firmware doesn’t come with guarantees and should something go wrong, you’re basically looking at a expensive paper weight sitting on your desk.
So that’s where this Linksys wireless range extender comes in. The advantage that is has is that you don’t need to physically connect it to your network/router. You just plug it into the wall and mount it wherever you want, and should you decide to move your router around, you can always just unplug the extender and plug it into a different wall outlet.
We installed this for a client and after seeing it in action, we can now chime in with our opinion. The router that it’s connected to is a Linksys WRT54G2.
The first thing that you’ll notice when you look at info for this product is the frustration of users who try to install it. The Amazon page is full with complaints and you’ll find more message boards with people pulling out their hair trying to install it. And yes, a store owner told us that people return this product because they can’t figure out how to get it to work.
And yes, it’s true. The cd that Linksys sends you and the insructions are basically useless. I’ll repeat it, it’s basically useless. This range extender has an “Auto Config” button that is supposed to make the machine automatically detect your network and connect to it. Easy right? Well no. The auto config button is only usefull if you have an unsecured network. If your network is not protected, the auto config button will have the extender detect your network and connect to it, but I’m sure that an unsecured network is the last thing you want when you are extending your range.
So, here’s where the pain comes in. You have to start by disabling your wireless security, then plug the extender into an outlet that is very close to your router so that you are sure that it picks up the signal. Now, you are going to press and hold the auto config button for about 1 minute until the lights stop blinking and both become blue. Now, the extender is on your network, but you are still unsecured.
Then follows the part where you log into your router’s admin page, set your security, followed by logging into the extender’s admin page and setting the same security settings. Now you can unplug it, and take it to an area where the signal start to get low and plug it into the wall there. It should now be doubling your signal range. It sounds easy, but when the extender is on a different subnet than your router, you are going to have to mess with static ip’s and the regular user won’t know this.
– “Easiest Solution”. If you don’t want to mess with firmware updates or make custom high gain antenna’s, this might be your easiest solution. You buy it in the store, it plugs into the wall, it only needs to be configured once but that set up can be a pain if you don’t know what you are doing.
– Mounting options. You can plug it directly into a plug, or you can mount it on a wall, and place it high somewhere where your signal might be better. That’s the key though, placing it somewhere where it can connect to the router’s signal without much interference.
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– Auto-config. The Auto-config button does half the job for you, but again, your network will still need securing.
– Bad installation instructions. It would have been great if Linksys made better instructions for this thing and a lot of people would have been saved a lot of time, energy and anger when trying to install. People with networking knowledge will know what to do if they have to put static ip’s and change subnets, but the average home user will not be able to do this.
– Auto-config. The good part was that it does half the job for you. The bad part is that you have to disable your security at the beginning and you’ll have to manually configure your security on both devices again.
– Speed decrease. As you might expect, you are not going to get the same speed when connected to the extender compared to when connected to the router itself. You’ll have a slower connection when connected to the extender so keep that in mind when surfing.
– Dropped connections. If you lay the extender down, the connection will keep dropping. Make sure it stays upright, plugged into the wall or mounted against a wall. The red light is a bad sign.
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I think this depends a little on your installation experience. If you had trouble installing it, you probably got frustrated and started to hate the thing before even using it. The slower speeds and occassional drops are dissapointing but when placed correctl, you should be able to extend your range nicely.
The price (225 guilders when we bought it) was a bit steep, and the instructions are very dissapointing for those that need them. All in all, it does the job but we weren’t blown away by it. If you really need to extend your range, and you don’t want to mess with antenna’s and firmware updates, you can give this a try. Just be sure you know how to install it, or get someone to help you with it (like us for example), and don’t be dissapointed when you experience a slightly slower connection when connected to the device instead of the router.