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Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender? (Read 26829 times)
Rad
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Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
May 18th, 2008 at 8:12pm
 
We have a new ISP, with a new wireless router, which was placed further away from where I usually connect from.

The signal is now not as strong, and sometimes even drops.

I was thinking of getting a wireless repeater, but noticed Newegg also has a product they call a "Range extender".

Anybody know about these products? .. how they differ?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Description=wir...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Description=wir...

I basically want to plug it in halfway between the router and my laptop.
 
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Nigel Bree
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #1 - May 18th, 2008 at 9:04pm
 
I've not used any repeater-type products, but the range improvements that come from 802.11n or the new kind of intermediate products marketed by companies like Belkin as 802.11g-MIMO are pretty significant.

Normally in an all-802.11n network you have multiple antennas at both endpoints, and this is used to perform spatial multiplexing using some very sophisticated signal processing and amazingly precise position measurement.

If instead you have (say) a traditional 802.11g single-antenna receiver, you can't do that, but the multiple antennas at the sender end (which still have to fit within a very tight total transmit-power budget) can do something equally impressive, beamforming so that the signals constructively reinforce at the receiver antenna.

The problem, of course, is that many practical range limitations are mostly due to things like walls that don't just attenuate signals, they reflect and scatter them, which will probably reduce the effectiveness of things like beamforming. If you've got a problem like that with a wall, a repeater-type product which lets you "wire around" the obstacle may work better.
 
 
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MrMagoo
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #2 - May 19th, 2008 at 12:09am
 
The two products you mention do very similar things.  They just have different names because of the slightly different ways they interface with the network.  I would classify most of the products on both pages as repeaters.  Either would do what you need.

I agree with Nigel that getting to 802.11n with MIMO will significantly improver your range.  Even upgrading from 802.11g to 802.11g MIMO will help a lot.

Another option is something I would be more likely to call a range extender is something like this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122062
Basically is uses the electrical wires in the house to talk from one adapter to the next.  You get one with a Cat5 plug to hook up to your router with a network cord.  The other one can either have a Cat5 plug, or a built-in wireless component.  Depending on how many walls you are going through and how far the electrical wires have to go, this might be a better option.

There is similar equipment that does the same thing but uses phone wiring in your home instead of electrical wiring.  In many cases the phone wiring can be pushed farther and faster but the adapters are usually more expensive.  You want Home Phone Networking Alliance (HPNA) standard stuff if this is the route you decide to take.

Note that neither the electrical nor phone adapters can talk outside of the box on the side of the house.  So if you have a separate electrical box or phone network interface, that respective option won't work for you.  In other words, these options do work for neighbors in completly different houses.  Use wireless MIMO if you are in that situation.
 
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Dan Goodell
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #3 - May 19th, 2008 at 4:38pm
 
Nigel and MrMagoo,

I haven't tinkered with 802.11n.  As I understand, it can interoperate with 'g' hardware, but when used in mixed mode like that do you still get enhanced range?  IOW, assuming Rad's new wireless router came from the new ISP and is not 'n', can he still get better range without replacing the ISP's router?  Or does he have to replace the ISP's router so he has 'n' hardware at both ends?


Rad,

In your situation, I've used a dd-wrt compatible router like the Asus WL-520gU or Linksys WRT54GL, flashed with dd-wrt.  It's an inexpensive yet flexible solution.  Take a look at dd-wrt's tutorials and look at the options on configuring it as a WAP, repeater bridge, or wireless bridge.

When visiting my parents' house, I tap into the neighbor's wireless internet (with their permission, of course).  My parents are non-technical and don't have computers, so it doesn't make sense to signup with an ISP just for the occasional times my siblings or I are visiting.

The neighbor's signal is weak throughout my parents' house, but our garage is near the neighbor's property line.  I stuck a router on a shelf in the garage, with dd-wrt configured as a repeater, and it provides good coverage throughout the rest of the house.



 
 
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Nigel Bree
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #4 - May 19th, 2008 at 6:09pm
 
Dan Goodell wrote on May 19th, 2008 at 4:38pm:
when used in mixed mode like that do you still get enhanced range?  

Yes, you do. Essentially, in a mixed network the N equipment can't spatially multiplex, but the multiple antennas and enhanced signal-processing capability of the N base station does help with the single-antenna G equipment (as the lower-spec G-MIMO base stations that only implement part of the N spec do too).

Dan Goodell wrote on May 19th, 2008 at 4:38pm:
can he still get better range without replacing the ISP's router?Or does he have to replace the ISP's router so he has 'n' hardware at both ends?

Well, it's really best to start putting in N routers from now if you can. You get the immediate range boost while you're still using the G devices in things like notebooks that are hard/expensive to replace, and as you age out those devices you can replace them with N clients and can get the full benefit.

It's really a question of what gives you get the best bang for the buck over the lifetime of the equipment. Spending money on a G repeater is all very well, but that repeater won't be of any really use if you have N gear, and while I can't speak for the North American market it's already only about NZD$30 to have an N adapter in the lowest-end Dell notebooks down here - so N-equipped clients are at the right price point already. Indeed, I just had to replace The Wife's notebook yesterday and went with with an N-equipped one. So, I'd expect a repeater to have a pretty limited useful shelf life, making it better IMO to spend the bucks on the router instead.

But I'd also have to back the recommendation for the WRT54G, I should have thought of that - Rad being the tinkering type I'd say that he'd really enjoy the experience of getting into the low-level detail, and those learning experiences DON'T have a limited shelf life!
 
 
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Rad
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #5 - May 19th, 2008 at 9:48pm
 
Quote:
But I'd also have to back the recommendation for the WRT54G, I should have thought of that - Rad being the tinkering type I'd say that he'd really enjoy the experience of getting into the low-level detail, and those learning experiences DON'T have a limited shelf life!  

Thanks. You guys rock. I will study the dd-wrt's tutorials .. I like that kinda stuff.

Been having trouble with my eyes. Not sure what's the problem. Been reading lots of legal stuff last week (for court). Feel like sandpaper in my eyes. Only thing that helps is closing them. Hard to do for long.

The main house router is incorporated into the same box that provides TV + phone, so is not replacable. It is G.
 
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #6 - May 19th, 2008 at 10:41pm
 
I picked up a WAP54G recently from a friend that couldn't get a signal to appear on the wireless network settings page. 

The device connected fine, but the signal strength would appear as 0%

That being said, I had recently heard from a friend that they put a "hacked" firmware on a WRT54G box known as "Tomato"

I figured if there was a hack for the WRT54G, there should be one for the WAP54G as well.

Some quick Googling brought me to http://www.linksysinfo.org/index.php where I found a butt-load of info on most of the Linksys products.

I settled on the "MustDie" firmware hack, as it gave the option to boost the antenna signal from 22 mW all the way to 84mW!!!

I started out with only a small amount of boost, and it seemed to help.  I decided that since I got it for free, I might as well see what 84 mW would do. 

I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!!

After I upped it all the way, I was able to get a signal from the WAP over 300 ft. away...through a basement wall, two interior walls, and a garage wall!!!

I let it run over night, and came back to my lair with the idea that it would probably be too hot to touch (I was worried as all heck that it would catch fire in the middle of the night), but it was still near the same ambient temp. that it was after only a few minutes of running.

If you can get one cheap, you should go that route.
 
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Nigel Bree
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #7 - May 20th, 2008 at 12:32am
 
Rad wrote on May 19th, 2008 at 9:48pm:
The main house router is incorporated into the same box that provides TV + phone, so is not replacable

Oh, right, Cable TV. I keep forgetting about that since there's none of that pretty much anywhere in the world outside the US. Anyway, if the cable router provides a wired Ethernet connection as well as an 802.11G one, then you could still run the second wireless router through the wireless connection in the first, so you actually do have lotsa options.

Just don't get into boosting the gain if you live in a city; it's not neighborly.
 
 
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LoTGoD
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #8 - May 20th, 2008 at 1:12pm
 
Quote:
Just don't get into boosting the gain if you live in a city; it's not neighborly.  


I used NetStumbler to see the other access points in my area, and chose a channel as far away from the majority as possible

Wink
 
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Brian
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #9 - May 20th, 2008 at 4:24pm
 
LoTGoD wrote on May 19th, 2008 at 10:41pm:
I settled on the "MustDie" firmware hack,

LoTGoD,

Do you have a download link? The one I found was "dead."
 
 
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LoTGoD
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #10 - May 20th, 2008 at 9:55pm
 
I almost forgot where I got it from!!
Found it on the last page of the MustDie thread...
http://www.linksysinfo.org/forums/showthread.php?t=32048&highlight=mustdie

Here is the direct link, but I suggest you read the entire thread first.
http://rapidshare.com/files/95588148/MustDie_2.07_r1.zip

Also, here is the Linksys 2.07 firmware that your WAP54G has to be on before you can use must die.
ftp://ftp.linksys.com/pub/network/WAP54Gv2_fw207.zip
 
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #11 - May 20th, 2008 at 10:13pm
 
Thanks. I've downloaded the files.

I don't have a real need for it at present but I'll try it when it's time to buy my next wireless router.
 
 
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Dan Goodell
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #12 - May 21st, 2008 at 3:09am
 
Nigel,

You stated that even in mixed mode "the multiple antennas and enhanced signal-processing capability of the N base station does help (improve range)."  But Rad's situation is the reverse--a 'g' base station that he can't replace.  Is there any advantage to using 'n' adapters in his laptops (or desktops)?  Granted, if your laptop doesn't have either, you may as well buy 'n' for future-proofing, but would there be any benefit to replacing a functioning 'g' adapter with an 'n' for use with a 'g' base station?


Brian,

LoTGoD's post is of interest if you have a WAP54G lying around (which, coincidentally, I do), but I wouldn't suggest going out and buying one.  It's an AP only, and does not have the built-in ethernet switches like popular home routers.  (And that's assuming you're going to buy 'g', which as Nigel says, may not be economically sensible anymore.)

One reason I like the dd-wrt firmware is because it provides the flexibility to reconfigure the device as a router, AP, repeater, etc., so I don't have to invest in those specific types of devices.  If I need an AP or repeater, I can configure the box that way and hang it on my router, but if I later move it somewhere else I can reconfigure it back to a router.

The advantage of the WRT54GL is that Linksys used open source firmware, so lots of third-party firmware alternatives have become available.  (Beware: this does not apply to the standard WRT54G, which has been crippled with limited ram.)

However, because of the higher price of the GL model, I've switched to using dd-wrt on the less expensive Asus WL-520gU with very good results.  (I also like the form factor of the Asus, which easily lends itself to wall mounting.)

But my real favorite was dd-wrt on the Buffalo WHR-HP-G54.  This is like the Linksys but with a power amplifier for the antenna.  I had outstanding results with those units.  Unfortunately, ongoing legal issues forced Buffalo to withdraw those routers from the US market, although I hear it's still being sold outside the US.


 
 
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #13 - May 21st, 2008 at 4:23am
 
Dan,

I made a mistake. I have a Linksys WAG54G. I have no range or signal strength issues but I was interested in that firmware on a theoretical basis.

I have a Linksys WRT54GS, not being used anymore.

Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 is not available in Australia.
 
 
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Nigel Bree
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Re: Wireless Repeater vs Range Extender?
Reply #14 - May 22nd, 2008 at 4:38pm
 
Dan Goodell wrote on May 21st, 2008 at 3:09am:
Is there any advantage to using 'n' adapters in his laptops

I don't (yet) have real-world experience on that combo to say unequivocally; it definitely should do in principle, but it's hard to be certain whether it's to a significant degree since the quality of implementation of equipment for laptops is very highly variable (e.g. how much signal-processing capability the card has, how good the firmware is, antenna arrangement) . Once the wife's replacement machine arrives in about three weeks (the lowest-end Dell Inspiron 1525 sold in our market, but with the N adapter upgrade) arrives I will be able to try some simple tests though.

I can't do a properly controlled apples-to-apples comparison of otherwise similar models but hopefully I'll be able to do some side-by-side comparisons to see if there's enough of a range difference to make a difference you can really notice (if you need to do fine measurement to tell the difference that'd be a negative result in my book).
 
 
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