Review – USB Hi Gain Directional WiFi Antenna

Description of It Plugs into a USB port on your PC or Mac and enables us to pick up WiFi signals from a far greater distance than the built-in antenna. The antenna is directional, so picks up and transmits the signal in a single direction, rather than omnidirectional pick up signals equally in all directions. By restricting the signal to a single direction WiFi connections can be made over far higher distances.

Our USB High Gain WiFi Antenna
Our USB High Gain WiFi Antenna
Picking up a WiFi network at Monemvasia, Greece
Picking up a WiFi network at Monemvasia, Greece (click on this image for a full view)

 

 

How We Use It We have the antenna plugged into a USB port on a laptop running Windows 7. The antenna comes with a suction bracket so we can locate it outside the van on any smooth surface – which means a window or mirror for us as the outer surface of the van is bobbled. The panel then appears as a WiFi connection in Windows, listing out all the networks it can see. We also use the included REALTEK application to help us find networks and to get the panel pointing in the right direction. Once we’ve got a connection, we use Connectify Hotspot on our laptop to share it out (by creating a new, private WiFi connection) with our other devices.

REALTEK 11n USB Wireless LAN Utility
REALTEK 11n USB Wireless LAN Utility
What Do We Love?
  • It picks up networks from a good distance – over miles in some cases, where there’s nothing but air in the way
  • It’s pretty straightforward to use – once you’ve installed the included driver you just plug it in and you’re away
  • The bracket is flexible in terms of direction, and offers great suction power
And What’s Not so Great?
  • If you’re expecting to be able to simply hook-up to an open, free of charge network wherever you stay then you’re likely to be disappointed. German and Italy for example have enacted legislation to force all WiFi networks to be locked down. We’re having much more luck in Greece
  • The suction release mechanism on the bracket takes some serious finger strength to release when it’s on full lock-down
Our Summary The panel works reliably, grabs signals from a good distance, and is good value for money. The bracket’s strong, but fiddly to release. The big question is whether it’s fit for purpose, which depends entirely on you and how you use the Internet. If you’re willing to rely on open networks, to hunt out McDonalds, to buy a coffee to get a cafe’s WiFi code, to accept that some days you won’t get access to the Internet, often stay on campsites with WiFi, then this antenna could serve your entire Internet connection needs. We need Internet access every day, every where, so we tend to rely on 3G networks far more heavily on WiFi, typically costing us €30 a month on average. We then use the antenna for big (over 100MB) downloads/uploads and Skype calls whenever we can get a decent WiFi signal. We’ve rated the kit as 4 stars, it works, but we find 3G networks to be so much more convenient (if more expensive) that find get limited use from the antenna.
4stars
Where Can I Get It? Motorhome WiFi in the UK. They tested this equipment plus the others they sell while on a year’s tour of Europe, and know their stuff. You can get yours from this page for £59.99 as of May 2013 (we’ve no affiliation with Motorhome WiFi).

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