Eero makes extending WiFi range easy, but at a hefty price


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/01/eero-makes-extending-wifi-rang.html


#2

Just get a homeplug wifi base-station and put it where you need it. TP link (amongst others) makes them and you can pick one up for about 1/10 of the cost of the eero kit. It has to run with a different ssid from your main wifi, but if your laptop/tablet/phone will switch to the strongest signal automatically this isn’t a problem.


#3

I’ve found that explaining wifi extension to customers is difficult.

“Is the one with more antennae better?”

“This one is so much bigger than that one.”

“Will this work? My home is X square feet.”

I’ve found it’s helpful to frame it with a Lion King analogy,

“These use radio waves, and radio waves are just a special form of light, and everything the light touches, is your kingdom.”

More often than not, you want your extenders to be in rooms rather than hallways. External antennae are annoying to me not because I don’t think they have a utility, but because I haven’t come across anything in user manuals that I’ve seen that tells you how to best position them and what kind of directionality they have.

God I need to get back into ham radio.


#4

Just buy several inexpensive $40 routers that are compatible with DD-WRT, and you can set them up in a mesh network and save yourself several hundred dollars, more than enough to pay for the time to google and follow a how to guide for flashing the routers and another for setting up the mesh network on them.

Eta: or just use one router, and increase the wifi signal strength in DD-WRT settings, which should work in many cases where the signal is almost but not quite strong enough to reach all parts of the building.


#5

Ubiquiti APs are cheaper at $99, accept POE, and are far louder than these.


#6

Sounds cheaper to buy a smaller house.


#7

Just screw it. It’s not that the data can’t make it to you, it’s that you’re too good for the data. Now put on a song about girl power or something and dance around the living room until you knock over a lamp.


#8

Seems to me there’s a lot of voodoo surrounding this sort of thing. “My wifi isn’t working, it must be due to the magical blocking properties of Spanish plaster” ?! Really? I say, just break out the cat5 cable and be done with it.

I think I still have the “Windsurfer” I once constructed when I was living in an apartment where the Internet provided by the landlord came by way of a router from the unit across the alley. Looking back, I would bet it was probably a pretty dodgy router.


#9

To add 1 more better option; AirPort Extreme and as many $99 airport express’ you need. It even has shiny interfaces that are app accessible. So, easier than dd-wrt (which I like a lots as well) and cheaper than this no-name hardware.


#10

Uh–these don’t replace your modem, so that ~$80.00 really shouldn’t be factored in for comparison.

I do like the idea of a mesh network, though–as much as there are cheaper alternatives, they require more futzing around and often require network switching (which, even with devices that handle switching to the strongest signal automatically, is often finicky as hell) or “range extenders” (which is what you’d get by adding airport expresses) that cut your throughput ~ in half.

Still… in a world of very powerful and full featured $60.00 routers – the price needs to come WAY down.


#11

I love me some Ubiquiti APs, but they do need a central controller computer to get them configured, and the setup itself isn’t exactly “plug and play.” I mean, they’ve been out and updating the hardware and software for years but I still have to run a series of CLI commands to get the controller to run without having to be logged into a user account all the time.


#12

Unless wifi extenders are much more expensive in the US than in the UK (unlikely I’d have thought), there are many, many cheaper products out there which do 95% of the same job.
For £15 you can pick up this netgear one.

Personally I just have cat5 running throughout the house. No deadspots, and full speed for every computer.


#13

Those are neat but they seem pretty expensive for what they do.

I use and would recommend Ubiquiti Access Points. The standard ones are $69 and have an effective range of radius 400 feet and the Long Range ones are $99 and have a range of radius 600 feet. Most homes won’t need more than one but you can use as many as you like in a mesh. They have more features than any consumer and most businesses would ever need.

If all you want to do is extend the range of your existing WiFi in your home TP link makes a $20 plug and play extender that just plugs into a wall socket. For the price of the Eero units you could put an extender in every room of your house.


#14

If those LinkSys prices are the best comparables you can come up with, I think you’re not a very good shopper or you really like those particularly expensive LinkSys models (whatever they are).


#15

Me too–for proper computers that stay put like God intended–but it’s the smart phones and laptops that get ya, always with their moving around and whatnot.


#16

[quote=“ActionAbe, post:3, topic:84551, full:true”]External antennae are annoying to me not because I don’t think they have a utility, but because I haven’t come across anything in user manuals that I’ve seen that tells you how to best position them and what kind of directionality they have.

God I need to get back into ham radio.
[/quote]

Ham operator here! Here’s what I’ve learned about wifi antennas. A truly omnidirectional (called “isotropic”) antenna, with 0 dB gain, doesn’t really exist. The little vertical antennas inside plastic, like you typically see, are usually a half-wave dipole. This gives 2-3 dB of gain in the direction perpendicular to the axis of the antenna. This effect is, however, uniform all 360 degrees around this axis, which is why it’s called an omnidirectional antenna. So, that means you ordinarily orient them straight up and down, since most living spaces spread out horizontally more so than vertically. Just keep in mind that the signal is likely to be weak if you are directly above or below an antenna that’s oriented this way. Since most APs have two antennas, you can try turning one of them 90 degrees if you’ve got a station “in the nulls”.

You can also buy omnis with higher gain figures, typically about 6-9 dB. The price you pay for this is a narrower beam angle (i.e. more narrowly horizontal coverage), so it’s important to avoid this type of antenna if you’re trying to cover multiple stories.

The other type of wifi antenna you’ll sometimes see is a patch antenna. The ones installed internally, on APs that don’t have external antenna connections, are commonly of this type (so you have to open up the case if you want to know how they’re oriented). Patch antennas take the form of a small planar section (typically a square) that has a preferred direction of radiation perpendicular to this plane. In other words, they have a front and a back. You usually get somewhere around 5-10 dB of gain concentrated towards the front of the antenna.

There are also highly directional antennas, such as Yagis, but these are only used for point-to-point links.

All of these are available in 2.4ghz as well as 5ghz variants. Patch antennas are common on 5ghz. (There are some retrofit kits available on Ebay that let you replace the internal 5ghz patch antennas common on dual-band APs with additional external antenna connectors!)


#17

Timely discussion for me, the kids hate my wifi. Problem is the house is virtually a Faraday cage, most of the walls and ceilings are plaster on expanded steel mesh. I already have a WRT54GL, but I thought it was pretty obsolete as far as wifi speed. Isn’t that the hardware for the DD-WRT? I’m currently running Tomato.


#18

I’d say HomePlug or some other powerline networking device, as @william_mcilhag suggests.

Lots of different router models can run DD-WRT, actually. The WRT54GL is still being sold, but it’s now obsolete.


#19

Physics, not voodoo; plaster walls are often based on a wire mesh, so a Faraday cage. Our external walls are like this, our radio reception is terrible.

If you get an Asus router from before they were caught by the FCC understating their power you can get a signal through practically anything, and run Tomato on it.


#20

I bought a TP-link set of powerline devices last year, with a network plug not wireless. It was OK when it worked, but it was not dependable. And wireless would be preferable.