This article was published on August 11, 2011

This little box can fix your wireless Internet dead spots

This little box can fix your wireless Internet dead spots
Brad McCarty
Story by

Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

If the beauty of wireless Internet is the freedom to work from anywhere, then then bane is wireless dead spots. Chances are, if where you live or work has more than a single room you’ve encountered them. In some cases the spots aren’t necessarily dead but maybe they’re just weaker than you’d like. In my house, it’s the master bedroom. If I want to sit up and watch Netflix, I have to make sure I’m doing it on the lowest possible settings. Anything else just doesn’t work.

I was sent a wireless range extender from Diamond the other day that promised to be the easiest way to get rid of dead spots or extend  your coverage further than it presently travels. With a simple plug it in and forget it operation, I had high hopes but I was pretty skeptical. Nevertheless, I dug in to see what I could find.

Setup of the device (model number WR300N if you’re keeping track) is fairly simple. You’ll need to plug it into the wall (it’s about the size of a normal power brick) and then run an ethernet jack to from it to your computer. Once you’ve done that, there’s a web-based GUI that you’ll use to configure the device.

What’s interesting about the WR300N is that it can work in a few different modes. It can be a standalone wireless access point, giving you wireless access where you might not have had it before. You can have it set as a wireless repeater, keeping you from having to connect to different networks. Finally you can have it as a wireless bridge. Let’s say that you have an old Xbox without a wireless connector. Just plug in the WR300N near it, then run your cable between them for Xbox Live access.

There’s an included ethernet cable in the box, as well as a CD with “utilities”. What those are, I couldn’t tell you as I didn’t need to insert the CD and my drive on my MacBook Pro is broken anyway. Other than that, there’s not much else to say about the contents because there aren’t any more.

Of course the real question is whether it works. The answer to that is that yes, it works quite well. I mistakenly set up the device as an access point at first, causing me a bit of confusion. A quick look at my settings, however, and I had things back to normal operation as a repeater.

Theoretical speed on the device is listed at 300 Mbps. Clearly, unless you’re running a network at home that will support that speed, your milage may vary. I didn’t notice any difference in connecting via the WR300N and connecting directly to my wireless router, however and transitioning between the two was seamless.

I can’t speak for the range on the WR300N other than to say that I could walk across the street from my house and still keep a signal. Obviously then it’s going to work within the house. I had carefully placed the device where I thought it would get the best range and it seemed to work without a hitch. For me, that was midway through the front part of my house, on a wall that had line-of-sight access to all of the rooms further to the side.

If I had to pick a gripe about the device, it would be its industrial design (as you can see in the image at the top of this post). It’s somewhat larger than I’d like, and being a large, black box hanging on your wall fits nobody’s definition of sleek or sexy.

Netflix in HD from my bedroom worked great. Repeated tests on different speed test sites showed that I was getting the same speeds when connecting through the WR300N that I’d get when sitting in my office. Typically speaking, in the front of the house, I lose around 30% of my speed so this is a welcome improvement.

In short, the WR300N does what it says on the box – it extends the usable range of your wireless Internet connection. For around $50, that’s a heck of a lot easier to swallow than running new cables to other wireless access points in your house. MIMO, WEP, WPA and WPA2 keep you going further while staying safe and the web-based GUI is actually quite simple to use. If you’re having slowdowns and dead spots, it’s the answer that you’ve been looking for.

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