Ever have problems getting a reliable cellphone signal? Are you experiencing a lot of dropped calls? That has been my frustrating situation (0 - 2 bars average) for almost a year in my home-office duplex (only two miles from a tower on the ridge, but my place is at the bottom of the valley among the trees). All this time, I’d been searching for a reasonable solution, and even considered getting an AT&T 3G MicroCell (uses a mini-cell tower to re-route cellphone service through my MediaCom broadband Internet connection), but I didn’t want to pay the initial $199.99 purchase price plus $20/month for a required 12-month period. Instead, I finally found a better candidate at Macworld 2011 which works with any of my cell signals.
zBoost by Wi-Ex (www.wi-ex.com) is described as the leading provider of consumer cell phone signal boosters for the home and office. They showcased their home and office solutions in San Francisco on January 26, 2011, illustrating their ability to help iPhone, iPad, smartphone, connected devices and mobile phone users with dropped calls and slow data. I was particularly interested in the zBoost-SOHO (small office/home office) and zBoost-METRO (urban single-story unit), both of which (according to independent testing) can increase data speed by as much as 180% or almost 3x as fast, which significantly improves performance for my iPhone4 and Mi-Fi.
I have tested both units which feature dual-band (800 and 1900 MHz frequencies) cellphone signalboosting, a one-light (power) base unit (5” x 7” x 1.25”, 9oz.) with antenna (about 10 times more power than my cellphone or Mi-Fi), power supply, 50 feet of RG-59 satellite-type coaxial cable, separate signal antenna, and mounting hardware. My experience yielded the following results:
- METRO YX540 ($299.99 retail): using a flat square window-mount antenna (7.25” x 5.5” x 2.25”), this unit will cover about 1,500 square feet -- it took about 10 minutes to unpack, glance at the directions, and setup (base unit and suction-cupped window antenna must be at least 8 horizontal feet apart) -- my signal strength is now 2-3 bars.
- SOHO YX545 ($399.99 retail): using a 15” vertical wire antenna, this unit will cover over 3,000 square feet -- it took about an hour to unpack, study the directions, and setup (base unit and external antenna must be at least 15 vertical feet apart) -- my signal strength is now 4-5 bars.
Mounting the flat METRO light-weight antenna on my window (facing the nearest cell tower) was a no-brainer, but the trees were giving it problems in getting a good signal (I tried the same unit in a different house with no trees and got excellent results). Mounting the vertical wire antenna (also light-weight) on my corner gutter was a bit more challenging, not to mention how securing the coaxial cable for best appearance was rather time-consuming (this did avoid most of my tree obstruction and is getting a consistently strong signal). I did learn to change my iPhone to “airplane mode” and back when I get home so it will capture the zBoost unit (the closest “tower”), which it seems not to do automatically.
The beauty of both of these units is that neither a cradle, cable or other connection to the cell device is needed since it uses existing wireless technology. Not only that, but more than one device can be used at the same time, such as my AT&T iPhone4, my Verizon Mi-Fi unit, my friend’s Samsung Android phone, a customer’s Blackberry, a visitor’s 3G iPad2, and others . . . ALL at the same time, and with no monthly fee! Not only have these repeaters all but eliminated any dropped calls, but have also extended my device’s battery life by not continually searching for a better signal. They work with all CDMA, TDMA, GSM, and high speed 3G technologies except cellphones using Nextel/iDEN, 4G or 2100MHz.
Other types of antennas and accessories can also be added for omni- or uni-directional use for special circumstances. Flat “through window” cables are available to reduce crimping possibilities during installation. Pricing can be arranged direct from Wi-Ex at 30% of retail, or street prices from Radio Shack, Amazon and others of a similar discount. Other repeaters are also available which can be tailored to almost any low-signal situation.
Wi-Ex manufactures and distributes the zBoost line of cell phone signal extenders for the home, office or car. They were awarded a 2007 and 2010 Consumer Electronics Association Innovations Honoree by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). They also were selected as a finalist for the 2007 and 2009 CTIA Emerging Technologies (E-Tech) Award. As the leader, zBoost has more awards, more sales and more locations than all their competitors combined.
I made the right decision in choosing the zBoost Repeater (the SOHO YZ545 is my favorite for my situation). This device has given me reliable cellphone service in virtually any situation (assuming the electricity is on), and provides me dependable Internet service via my Verizon Mi-Fi unit when MediaCom cable is disrupted. The METRO YX540 is a good unit for an apartment, particularly when mounting an external antenna is not practical, and when other obstructions (like trees) are not an issue. The zBoost units are an excellent solution which I now use every day, and highly recommend!!!