Cool gifts for geeks, 2011: Smartphones and accessories

Presenting the gems that will enhance your smartphones during the holidays.

Page 5 of 20

Cel-Fi RS1 Cellular Repeater, by Nextivity

I am a huge fan of using cellular repeaters to solve residential cellular coverage problems - you know, you've only got one bar and both call quality and data throughput, to say nothing of battery life, both suffer. A repeater is a simple, transparent solution to the problem. Once installed, it's literally forgotten and just works - more bars with no monthly bills or changes to service plans.

The big problem with most repeaters, though, is the installation. The typical requirement is to install a remote antenna, ideally outdoors, that connects to an indoor electronics box that connects to another box of indoor electronics with an integral antenna over a coaxial cable - meaning major installation expense for that length of coax, if you or your significant other have any appreciation for aesthetics and/or safety, anyway. That's a big limitation to this otherwise valuable approach to solving the cellular coverage challenge.

Until now. The Cel-Fi Cellular Indoor Coverage Solution with Intelliboost requires no coax! The link between the two is wireless, using spectrum at 5GHz. Simply mount the Window Unit near a window (duh), and the Coverage Unit near the interior of the house. That's it. There are enough indicators to troubleshoot a problem if you have one, most likely either no visibility of carrier signals or too much or too little range between the two units.

I tried the RS1 using a T-Mobile Windfire S handset (reviewed in this article), and, well, I have poor T-Mobile 3G coverage at my house. The Wildfire S could not pick up 3G at all until I installed the Cel-Fi gear. All of a sudden, I got 3G, and a noticeable improvement in data speeds. OK, I didn't always get maximum signal strength as I walked around the house, but 3G working at all was quite a feat.

The bad news - they don't have a version for Verizon users yet - this is for T-Mobile, AT&T, and UMTS/HSPA carriers only. But still, there's a lot of people out there who could use a product like this, and the very easy installation is a landmark achievement for this type of product.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars
Price: $525 (list); get a $100 discount by entering "5BARS" when ordering directly from the company
Reviewed by C.J. Mathias

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