Sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest impact. It may not scream “hot-ticket item”, but after using D-Link’s Wireless Range Extender ( D-Link DAP-1320), it’s clear how this device could greatly improve a home’s wireless network.
As you might have guessed, it extends the range of your current wireless network to places that may be far away from the router. In my house, the router is in a bedroom at one end and there are multiple devices (my PS3, Xbox, iPad, Android phone, etc.) that suffer in the living room from poor connection. It’s physics–you put a wall in front of a signal, it diminishes.
I used to think the only way to fix that was to get a stronger router. A big box with multiple antennae sticking out of it. But when I think of those routers, I think of the tooling around required to configure it and the agony of changing info on multiple internet-connected devices to recognize it.
So seeing this tiny, inconspicuous device caught me by surprise. No ports, no antennae–just something that looked like the business end of a charger. It weighs about 72 grams, and has three noticeable features. On the back, two prongs that plug into any wall socket. On the front, an LED that lets you know when it’s connected. Finally, on the left side, there’s a synchronization button.
Its simplicity in design is reflected in its operation. It wants the setup to be easy – hence giving you simple diagrams. If your existing router supports a Wi-Fi protected setup, the Range Extender connects with a push of a button. My router didn’t support WPS, so I had to manually connect. That may sound like the exact technical pain-in-the-ass that I wanted to avoid with a more complex router – but the only effort I had expended to this point was plugging it into the wall. No cables, no desk space or wall mounting.
I could even use my iPad’s browser to configure the network. As I mentioned, the instructions were very clear. I connected to the network the Range Extender creates and logged into a site. The site let me change the name of that network and its password to my existing network name and password.
Now I had, effectively, two wireless networks in my house in under 10 minutes. Since both had the same name and password, my devices connected to whichever signal was stronger. My PS3, for example, used to connect with a signal strength of 60%. With the Extender, the new signal strength was 100%. The PlayStation is a bad example as PSN is notorious for its constant dropouts/connectivity issues and annoying system updates. While the latter problem was solved (updates took a few minutes, rather than half an hour), the connectivity issues were still present. Something I don’t blame the Range Extender for because my iPad, Xbox and Galaxy Nexus had no issues.
Using Speedtest.net’s application before installation, I noticed that my phone pulled down 1.9 Mbps in the living room. After installation, it jumped to 18 Mbps. Numbers aside, Netflix loaded faster and in better resolution, YouTube started instantaneously and FaceTime never dropped a call.
Perhaps that’s what I love most about this little tool. It just worked. It helped solve an annoyance without changing the way I used my technology. If you live in a small apartment or close quarters, you’re not going to get this device. But if you are constantly struggling for consistent signal strength between floors, D-Link’s Wireless Range Extender would be a tiny blessing.
It sells for $49.99 at retailers like Best Buy, Futureshop and London Drugs.
Tags: DAP-1320, iPad, Range Extender, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, wireless networks