This weekend, the Mrs. and I headed out to Abilene to visit her grandparents, who live out by the lake. Last year when we visited them, I was really annoyed to discover that I had literally no service at their house. I could walk a ways down the road and get maybe one bar, but overall, any cell phone use was completely futile. This year, in preparation, I secured a Wilson Electronics SignalBoost from a friend, ready to brave the isolation with at least a few bars, hopefully.
Upon arriving at grandma’s house, I was actually pleased to see that AT&T is indeed living up to its ‘more bars in more places’ promise, and I had at least 1-2 bars throughout most of the house, up to 4 in some places. However, I still wanted to see if the Wilson Electronics SignalBoost would get that up to full (and maybe, just maybe, upgrade me from EDGE to HSDPA).
The SignalBoost is a pretty easy setup, with a 12″ metal antenna, with a magnet on the end, and a grey amplifier box, roughly the size of my Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The antenna plugs into the amplifier, which is then powered via miniUSB. In the package, you get a USB wall and car charger, and you can also plug the miniUSB cord straight into your laptop for power, if needed. The amplifier sports a single indicator light, which shows either red, yellow, or green. Red, obviously, means it isn’t getting a signal, whereas green means you should be rocking and rolling.
Unfortunately for me, the unit showed yellow 80% of the time. The 20% that it showed green, however, this thing was a monster. My signal would jump from 2 bars to full, right in front of my eyes, and held through several phone calls and *lots* of data downloads (email, RSS, etc). Beautiful. So, for the most part, the thing works as promised. The yellow light, however, became a thorn in my side for the trip.
The included documentation only says that a yellow light means the cell site is being overloaded, and so the amplifier is shut down, until 1000 ft from the area. That’s it. There’s no suggestions as to how you might move from yellow to green, or how to prevent the yellow light. Nothing. So, 80% of the time, this SignalBoost thing was completely worthless.
Amazon lists the Wilson Electronics SignalBoost at $229.99 (though it’s out of stock, as well). Is it worth that? If you can figure out the yellow light situation, absolutely. Admittedly, I did *not* call Wilson’s tech support, to give them a chance to work out what was wrong. Now that I’m home, the unit is going back, as I’ve no use for it here.