Extending Wi-Fi 

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Like big red buses that tend to turn up in pairs, no sooner do I complete my review of a wireless extender product than a similar product turns up.

ZyXEL WRE2205 N300 Wireless Range Extender
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While a Wi-Fi home network can provide you with a range of functions including the ability to stream data between systems, it can suffer from dead spots.  These are usually created by the basic infrastructure of the building in which the network is located.  Not surprisingly some companies have developed a possible solution to deal with the problem of dead areas.  One such product is the Wireless N300 Range Extender WRE2205 from Zyxel which is made up of the main unit, Ethernet lead, software CD and two Quick Start Guides with one using illustrations and the other in text in various languages..

Described as a “Connect and Share” device, the Wireless N300 Range Extender WRE2205 (shortened to WRE2205 from now on) has the general appearance of a power adapter coloured white.  This resemblance to a power adapter is re-enforced by the fact that the unit needs to be plugged directly into an available power source in order to perform its task.  The size of the device is such that it should not block an adjacent socket if inserted in a gang socket or something similar.

Decorating the patterned front of the WRE2205 is a series of LED lights identified by appropriate icons.  Reading from the top these LED lights cover Ethernet, WPS, Power, Wireless and Signal Strength.  The front of the unit also has a button to activate the WPS feature supported by the product.  An Ethernet port is located on the right side of the unit while a power on/off switch sits on the top of the device.

When setting up this product you have a choice of approaches depending upon your current equipment.  Both methods require you to make a note of the last four characters of the MAC address.  This information is on a sticker located on the WRE2205 unit.  My less-than-useful eyes required the assistance of a magnifying glass to read these rather small characters. 

If your wireless router supports WPS then that would be the preferred method.  Those who do not have this feature on their routine will need to use the supplied Ethernet lead to link the WRE2205 to a router and then connect to the appropriate website in order to follow wizard-led instructions.

I opted for the WPS route which starts off by having to insert the WRE2205 unit into a power socket.  This will be followed by a short wait while the device sorts itself out as the various lights flicker before settling down to show just the WLAN light.  This process takes roundabout one minute to complete.  You then need to press the WPS option on your router and then the WPS button on the WRE2205 device for the necessary Wi-Fi connection to be made.

Although neither of the printed Quick Start Guides mentions this, it is best to originally set up this kit with the WRE2205 in close proximity to the connecting router.  You can then move the WRE2205 to a more appropriate location so as to widen the wireless range.  This information is provided in the User Guide on the CD.

Having set up the WRE2205 using WPS, I decided to take a look at the manual approach by logging on to the appropriate URL to check out the instructions.  I have to admit that this was a quick look as it did not take me long to confirm my original decision that WPS was the way to go.  While those with some experience should be able to handle the manual method with comfort, novice users could easily become confused by instructions that seem to expect a degree of expertise on behalf of the user.

While the layout of my flat is such that it is fine for testing the breadth of the Wi-Fi signal, it is unsuitable for checking the all-round signal as my dwelling is on one level.  In normal circumstances, relying on just my Wi-Fi router, it would be extremely unlikely that my laptop would be unable to pick up my network when being used in my back room.  After all, the router was nearly 20 metres away with at least five solid walls in the intervening gap. 

Positioning the WRE2205 in the back room was of no use as it could not communicate with my router.  However once I relocated the WRE2205 to a location approximately halfway between the router and the back room, my laptop was able to quickly establish a connection and join the network with the ability to perform all of the tasks previously available when it was linked direct to the router as the WRE2205 acts in its default repeater bridge mode.  During the various moves around my flat, the WRE2205 managed to retain its WPS settings configuration data.

The Zyxel Wireless N300 Router Extender WRE2205 does what it says on the box especially if you have WPS functionality.  It extends your wireless coverage as it allows you to connect and share.  Currently this product is available from listed at a reasonable £21.87.

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