Increasing WiFi Range
That old chestnut of a question that asks “How long is a piece of string?” could well be adapted to apply to the WiFi signal in your WLAN. “How wide is the range of your WiFi?” The answer will depend on the circumstances regarding the layout of your home and the surrounding environment. Distances and signal strengths could be affected by the number, thickness and constitution of walls and other blockages plus household applications. As a result your wireless local area network (WLAN) could struggle to cope with the environment and might benefit from a range extender such as the NETGEAR Nighthawk™ X4 WiFi Range Extender.
As well as acting in the capacity of a range extender, this NETGEAR product can also perform the duties of an access point by creating a new WiFi hotspot using a wired Ethernet connection. This product consists of the model EX7300 range extender and a small Quick Start booklet. Combining a colour scheme of off-white and grey, the range extender has the appearance of a model tower and that is built on a standard 3-pin plug. With overall dimensions of 161 x 81.4 x 44.5mm (H x D x W), the range extender has vents running around all its sides so that there should be no issues regarding over-heating.
Protruding from the rear of the unit, at the base, is the three-pin plug element which needs to be inserted into an appropriate vacant power socket. However this extender does not include a pass-through facility ensuring you do not lose out on a power socket. The front face of this range extender houses LED indicators for Router Link, Router Arrow, Client Arrow, Client Link. Power and WPS. Arranged on the left side of the unit are buttons for power on/off and activating the WPS facility plus a slider for switching between Extender and Access Point mode. There is also a small hole for reverting to a factory reset.
Located on the base of the unit is an Ethernet port for connecting a wired device to your existing WLAN. While the positioning of this port should be fine for those with power sockets in convenient places, those of us with just skirting board mounted power sockets could struggle to gain access to the port unless an extension lead is added to the set up giving you more freedom.
As usual with other devices of this type, close proximity between the range extender and the host WiFi router is a requirement for the initial set up procedure of this product. Generally I would advice a distance of around three or four feet for the process listed in the supplied Quick Start booklet.
There is a short delay after plugging the range extender into an appropriate power socket as the power light flickers green while various tests are carried out. According to the instructions this can take up to 100 seconds – in my case just 80 seconds were required. When connecting to an existing WiFi network, there is a choice of methods either using WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) or using the NETGEAR Installation assistant.
I opted for the former which involved pressing the WPS button on the range extender and my router. There was then a short wait as the connection was established. The process was slightly worrying as the WPS LED on the range extender stopped flashing for around 25 seconds before a solid green light appeared. This break between a flashing and solid light was not mentioned in the Quick Start. Those whose router supports dual band operation will need to carry out this process twice.
You can then move the range extender to a location where it can pick up a signal from the router and boost it towards other areas outside the normal range of your WiFi router. The Router Link LED will provide an indication as to the suitability of the selected location. A green light will indicate best, amber meaning good and red poor. No light will mean no connection is available.
When connecting WiFi enabled devices to the extender signal you will find new network names. These names will be based on the original network name with an appropriate addition. You can select from _2GEXT or _5GEXT depending upon the network band. These networks will be protected by the same password as the host router.
Apart from the design features regarding the lack of pass-through facility and positioning on the Ethernet port on the base of the unit plus the unexplained wait during the initial set-up procedure, I found this range extender to be easy to use. It can stream data simultaneously to multiple devices plus take advantage of FastLane technology to improve performance. Currently the Nighthawk X4 WiFi Range Extender is listed on Amazon.co.uk priced at £102.
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