Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Deals & Shopping

Soup up your sluggish Wi-Fi

Slow-loading Web pages. Email freeze ups. Stuttering music and video streams. These are signs your tablet, smartphone or game system is struggling, at the "fringe" of your home modem/router's Wi-Fi radio range. And in dire need of a Wi-Fi-signal extender.

Worst laid plans: In theory, for best signal propagation, that Internet modem/router should have been centrally installed on an upper floor. But lazy installers never challenge when you suggest setting up the thing in a basement home office. Nor do they warn that other household gadgets (microwave ovens, cordless phones) and structural features (metal studs, brick walls) could slow the Wi-Fi signal down to a pitiful crawl.

Home on the range extender: Visit an office supply store, and you'll discover an aisle's worth of wireless-range extenders that promise to expand your home network to hard-to-reach areas. The D-Link DAP-1320 (under $50) is a particularly attractive, affordable example. And it's easy to install if your modem/router boasts an active WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button.

Once linked, with green light showing, you can move the DAP-1320 to the edge of your strong signal zone and extend its reach, though at a somewhat reduced speed.

What to do if your modem router is lacking WPS? You gotta go into a networked computer's settings and enter a D-Link passcode. Still pretty simple, but not stupid-proof. Enter the code carefully, and do a reset before using the device with a different router.

In my abode, with a recent (802.11n) router/modem on the first floor and a DAP-1320 relay station newly installed one flight up, I was able to get a previously cranky Nintendo Wii-U game system running smoothly on the second floor. I also improved my iPad signal reception up on the third floor from one bar (without the DAP-1320) to two. Enough to load Web pages and stream music, but not stream Netflix videos reliably.

A better solution: Actiontec, supplier of modem/routers for Verizon FIOS (among others), has just introduced a more robust, reliable solution for expanding Wi-Fi coverage, the WCB3000NK01 Actiontec Dual-Band Wireless Network Extender and Ethernet Over Coax Adapter Kit. Get it from Amazon for $146.85.

MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) is a new tech standard for piggybacking Internet service on the same coaxial cable that carries your cable TV signals.

The Actiontec Extender kit comes with two accessory MoCA-to-Wi-Fi network adapters. One is connected to your primary modem/router and a nearby cable line. The other adapter and Extender are then set up in a different room where you also have a cable connection.

Alternatively . . . if you've been smart enough to run an Ethernet line from the modem/router to another home location, you can attach the core Actiontec WCB3000N unit (soon available alone for $99) at the other end of that Ethernet line with no accessory pieces necessary.

In either scenario, the connection is often automatic and the performance upgrade stupendous. The Dual-Band Extender boosts fringe reception up to 3 bars and at the maximum streaming speed your Internet service provider promised!

And a tablet or smartphone treats both, overlapping router Wi-Fi zones as one and the same.

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