Many of you have read my review of the Solwise WiFi Booster Kit back in April. In fact given Trev the Portly Partners’ enthusiastic activity on social media I would be surprised if you missed it! It’s been one of most popular reviews and a most useful bit of kit too. I wish I’d bought one ages ago instead of waiting for the opportunity to review one. It’s already saved us plenty in WiFi costs and I expect that will continue throughout the summer.
Talking of the summer I am excited to have the chance to evaluate two more products from Solwise, both of which are designed to pick up even weaker signals than even the impressive kit we reviewed. They do the same thing but what they can do it with differs, so lets take a look.
First up is the Outdoor USB Panel Antenna
This connects to your computer or suitable router via USB like the Patriot that was in the kit we reviewed. A driver and utility disk is included but this won’t be needed if it’s paired directly with the Solwise router. Two jubilee clips are included for mounting on a suitable mast but I’m thinking that stout cable ties might be as effective. I have already bought his Vision Plus mast to give more height to our existing kit and the antenna should fix to that just fine.
This is a directional antenna so to perform to it’s potential it needs to be aligned correctly. Rotating the unit on the mast with semi-tight cable ties may be the way to go and I’m looking at ways to make alignment easier and avoid the sort of faffing associated trying to align a satellite dish manually for example. I’m sure many have seen that carry on on site!
I’ve already had a play with this at home and whilst the environment is completely different to it’s intended use the results gave a clear indication of it’s potential once on site. First though I’ll explain my set up at home to put the results in to context.
My router – a BT Hub Version 4 - sits in the lounge of our flat and in the same room Speedtest.net reports speeds of anything up to 72 Mbps download through Wi-Fi.
My laptop is situated in the ‘office’ also known as the dining room, spare room, Legs Down HQ and caravan paraphernalia storage area! It's two rooms down along the hall from the lounge and there I can expect around 8-12 Mbps download. Nothing like the speeds several walls and a few metres away in the lounge but still something many could only dream of!
With the antenna connected via USB and driver installed results were certainly interesting. Having the antenna laying flat on it’s back on the floor made little difference to download speed. However, positioning the unit upright and directing in roughly towards the BT router speeds improved to 28 Mbps. Up to three times faster than without. Three minor adjustments to the antennas direction brought speeds progressively up to 32 Mbps – and this was still through several brick walls.
Now, as I said this in no way simulating it’s intended use but it does show two things – it’s potential power in picking up weak signals and the importance of correct alignment to achieve the best results. I’m very much looking forward to trying this out on site and paired with the Solwise router that we already have as part of the kit reviewed in April.
In addition we will also be looking at the Outdoor Panel Antenna.
This has an N-type connector and a bracket at the rear for wall mounting if you wish. For those of us that already have the kit that I reviewed however, this can directly replace the omnidirectional unit included in that kit – shown here in action.
Again, this device though is directional – so to work correctly and pick up weaker signals it needs to be aligned accurately. And again, I will be looking at ways to make this easier.
We will be having a thorough look at both devices throughout the summer with a written and hopefully video review to follow.
For those of you that have read enough and are already interested, the USB Panel Antenna is available for a little over £40 HERE. If you have the Patriot Wi-Fi Booster Kit then the Outdoor Panel Antenna is an excellent value upgrade at a little over £20 and you can see that HERE.