We live in an age where more and more devices are being web enabled; be it your TV, mobile device, tablet or laptop for instance. This makes quality wireless coverage more important than ever. While routers are becoming better and more having more features allowing them to deliver higher speeds over a greater area, a lot of people on the consumer level still use the standard router provided by their ISP; me included. There is obviously no problem with this but sometimes it may not achieve complete coverage of your house and can receive interference.
There are alternatives to wireless such as power line networking. This uses your mains wiring around your house to carry the internet signal and is great at delivering high speed through wired connections. These are great and work fine unless you are wanting to use a tablet or mobile phone which have the obvious problem that they lack an Ethernet port. So what is the solution for people wanting to use wireless but still want the speed that powerline delivers?
Enter the Netgear WN1000RP WiFi booster. This small device is designed for boosting the signal put out by your router, therefore extending its theoretical range and speeds in previous wireless dead zones.
Build and Aesthetics:
The booster comes in a rather large, ‘easy to open’, clam shell packaging given the size of the device. Having lost a few fingers attempting to open the packaging, I finally did manage to get to the product inside. The box contains the device itself, a small installation guide and various other pieces of paper.
The device follows the general Netgear styling and is very similar to their power line networking kits. It is constructed with a solid feeling and glossy white plastic with the ‘Netgear’ name embossed on the front. Size wise, the booster is no larger than a standard plug in both height and width. This means that it won’t obstruct any sockets to the side of it, whether it is plugged into a wall socket or an extension. On the bottom is a small pin hole ‘Factory Reset’ button as well as a small hole for passive cooling. There are 3 indicator LEDs on the front of the device. The top one is the ‘Link rate’ LED. This indicates that there is a connection between the booster and the router. Below that is the ‘Status’ LED. This indicates that the device is powered on. Lastly is the ‘WiFi Device to Booster’ LED. This indicates that the booster is connected to a device or PC. On the side of the booster you find an on/off button and a WPS button. See later in the article for details on the WPS button.
I am no networking expert, therefore I can look at the setup from a beginner’s perspective. This is useful as a device like this should be easy to setup no matter the users background knowledge may be. The setup in theory is very simple, however in practice, some questionable wording in the manual and un-cooperative routers can make it slightly challenging at times.
The first step in the setup is the placement of the extender. Netgear recommend that you place the extender halfway between the device you want to connect to and the router, but as was the case for me, this was not possible. This simply meant that I had to move the booster slightly closer to the router. This was the simple part. Once plugged in, the status LED blinked orange before turning solid green. This indicated that the booster was ready to go.
There are two ways of setting up the router, both of which can be done either on a PC or directly on your mobile device. The first way is the most basic and the second is more complicated. I will cover the first method, first. As I mentioned before, the booster has a WPS button. This is a mainly automated process. If your router supports it and has a WPS button also, simply press the WPS button on the router and then press the WPS button on the booster within two minutes of each other. Having done this, the lights on the booster will start blinking, indicating that it is connecting. When the LEDs turn back solid, the booster is ready to connect to and will show up in the regular scan with ‘EXT’ on the end of your network name. For example; if your network was called “NetgearWN1000RP”, it will now be called “NetgearWN1000RP_EXT”. Connect to the EXT one and enter the WiFi password as you would have done. In theory, this should work fine and will get you up and running in no time. The problem I had with this using the BT HomeHub was that it would extend the public “BTOpenZone” network and not our private network. This meant that I had to perform the manual setup. A process that is a little more complex if you are new to networking but it is nothing too complicated.
Connecting manually is easy once you know how but takes a little longer. As the device is designed with mobile devices in mind, I used an iPad to configure the network. Firstly, once the device is powered, you have to search for the WiFi networks as you would normally. Having searched, you should see a device called “NETGEAR_EXT”. This is the extender and is the one you want to connect to. If you’re on an Apple device as I was, this will open the browser which allows you to configure the network. If you’re on a laptop, open your web browser and you will be re-directed to the setup page. (If it does not automatically redirect you, go to www.mywifiext.net). From here, it is simple and you just follow the steps through. First you select your router’s name in the list of networks close, enter your router’s existing password, the booster will then configure the network and you’re done. In order to connect to the booster, search for WiFi networks in your device settings and connect to the EXT network. The password will be the same as your router’s password. When your device is connected, the WiFi device to booster LED will be lit.
Testing Methodology and Results:
The best way I found to test the booster in the real world was using practical experiments. In order to test the range I am going to use an iPad and the SpeedTest app by Ookla. I tested using the exact same server each time. I am going to first test the speed of the connection, some distance away from the router, without the booster, and test the speed of the connection. I will then stand in the exact same place with the booster midway between me and the router and test again and compare the results.
The first screenshot (above) shows the test without the booster. I am stood around ten meters away from the router with around six walls between myself and the router. My Apple device showed that I had two out of three bars of signal so whilst I was still in range of the router, the signal had dropped slightly in quality. As you can see from the results, I achieved 9.21Mbps download and 2.62Mbps upload. This isn’t bad by any means but the WiFi, under ideal conditions is usually around 15Mbps so you could notice a difference when transferring large files over a network or streaming in high definition through services such as Netflix for example.
This second screenshot (above) shows the test performed using the booster. As you can see, I achieved 12Mbps down and 7Mbps up. The booster was placed approximately between me and the router. The results may not look like a huge improvement but it is an improvement nonetheless. There is a big difference between the upload speeds and a 3Mbps difference in download speeds. This brings the speed closer to what I usually see when I am stood in the same room as the router. You may be questioning whether it is worth buying the booster when you may only see a small increase in speeds however, if you have a router which doesn’t cover your entire house or you experience dead zones around your house where there is no signal at all, you will definitely need this. I was limited when testing as my router covered the entire area of my house and surrounding area. Even so, the results show that it still made a difference when moving further from the router.
More practically, when testing with TV streaming services such as 4OD and iPlayer, I was free to move around the house without a loss of bandwidth or stuttering in places where I experienced it before. This will benefit you on devices such as your phone so you can walk around and not worry about losing connection. The booster also boosted the signal across my garden and improved the signal quality in my garage.
The Netgear WN1000RP does exactly what it says on the tin. It takes your WiFi signal and it boosts it. It doesn’t try to do anything extra and fancy. It just does exactly what you want it to and it does it well. The ‘Link Rate’ LED is great as it gives you a visual indication of the signal strength which aids you when placing the booster in order to get the best results. The device doesn’t produce much heat and is completely silent. It just does its thing and doesn’t get in the way. It is something you can plug in, hide it away behind the TV and forget about or keep it on show as it is in no way ugly. One thing to bare in mind; the booster is designed for mobile devices so whilst your laptop and what not will work fine connected to it, you may not see the high speed performance you would see from a more expensive booster. The setup was relatively easy for me and I have no experience with a device such as this. I managed to work out how to do it using the manual once I had read through it a few times which means your grandma could probably set it up. The WN1000RP is very affordable at only £35.90 and is great for eliminating those dead spots around your house. A recommended buy for anyone in this situation.
The product page can be found here.