Cool gifts for geeks, 2011: Home and office gear

Presenting the gems in your home or office environment.

Page 7 of 14

Universal WiFi Range Extender (WN3000RP), by Netgear 

This device aims to extend the range of your existing Wi-Fi network, to help reach rooms where the existing coverage is weak or non-existent. The unit plugs in about halfway between your existing router and the room that you want to fill up with wireless to create a secondary network. Once connected, the network should relay your data from the clients down to the router and then out to the Internet. 

Setup was moderately easy - newbies might have some difficulty, but the instructions do a pretty good job of explaining what to do. Basically, you plug in the range extender, and then connect to its own internal WiFi network with a Mac or PC via the browser. A software wizard then runs you through the rest, you tell the extender what the SSID and password is for your router, and then the software does the rest, communicating with the router and then setting up a secondary network with the same name, but an "_EXT" extension. In a sense, it creates the second network (fortunately, you can give it the same password). This was slightly different from a Cisco/Linksys range extender that I tested earlier in the year, which used the same SSID (and possibly created some more problems later). 

Another strange issue occurred after using the extender - my Internet broadband bandwidth dropped significantly, but it's possible that was just a small glitch - after disconnecting and reconnecting, I was able to get most of my bandwidth back (and it could have just been a temporary glitch with the service provider). I still have some doubts about whether giving up some bandwidth (because of the relay occurring) is worth the extended range (because I could just relocate the router), we'll see how it goes. I definitely preferred this approach for setup compared with the Cisco/Linksys version. Another nice feature is that if you don't want to use this device as a range extender, you can use it as a wireless bridge to connect non-wireless Internet devices (shocking! Some of those still exist!) to your wireless network. 

This may not be the first choice on your list for a holiday gift, but it certainly can solve Wi-Fi connection issues for homes where you aren't currently getting good Wi-Fi and you don't feel like or want to relocate the router (I'm a masochist for projects like that, anyway). 

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $66.53 (Amazon)
Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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