|Name||Wi-Fi Range Extender: Cisco Linksys RE1000|
|At a glance:||Compact, well-designed 802.11n Wi-Fi repeater for 2.4GHz ,Easy to set up, with good performance and WPA2 wireless security,Brightly lit logo can’t be turned off|
|Summary:||Nicely designed and with good performance, the RE1000 can sort out your Wi-Fi blackspots with ease.|
Wi-Fi is wonderfully convenient compared to cabled networking, but often the signal doesn’t reach every corner of your house and you experience poor performance and even connection drop-outs.
Luckily, there are ways of making Wi-Fi go further, using a repeater. This is a simpler method than the hacky Wireless Distribution System (WDS) method, and performs better too. WDS is hard to set up, and tends to only work on devices from the same manufacturer.
Furthermore, WDS with a single-radio access point will slash performance in half and you can’t use rotating key security such as WPA2, only the easily crackable WEP.
In comparison, a repeater like the neatly designed and compact Linksys RE1000 provides additional reach for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi while maintaining performance and WPA2-secured connectivity.
The main drawback to repeaters is that you have to use the same SSID for them as your main Wi-Fi access point. The RE1000 is no exception and after set up, I saw the same Test SSID on both my main access point and the repeater. They do have different Basic SSIDs (their MAC addresses) however and it was possible to tell the two apart using those.
Setting up the RE1000 is a no-brainer: power it up – the RE1000 can be plugged straight into a wall mains socket or you can use a lead – follow the instructions provided on a CD, and make the repeater join your main network through Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) by pressing a button or using a PIN.
The RE1000 has a built-in web admin interface that’s similar to other Linksys products, and reasonably straightforward. About the only thing I missed was the ability to select Wi-Fi channels manually but the RE1000 did good automatic site surveys and picked ones without interference.
After that’s done, find a spot towards the area you want better coverage for. To work well, the RE1000 needs a reasonably strong signal from the main access point; Linksys recommends three to five bars signal strength.
Plugged in, the RE1000 is totally quiet but the brightly lit Cisco logo can’t be turned off, which is annoying. It also runs hot.
I placed the RE1000 upstairs in my house, roughly fifteen metres away from the main access point. With four bars on the RE1000, I saw -30 to -35dBm close to the repeater. Moving a further five metres away into another room, the signal strength was a very usable -55 to -60dBm.
Without the RE1000, the signal fluctuates between -75 and -85dBm. This makes for poor performance and as the noise level is roughly -90dBm, occasional disconnects.
The Broadcom chipset and dual 3.5dBi gain aerials inside the RE1000 boosted the signal about eight times and lifted it well above the noise level which translated into a tripling of performance.
Whereas before I’d get around 10Mbit/s throughput, files flew along at 30-35Mbit/s wirelessly and via the single 100Mbit/s Ethernet port on the RE1000. My Wi-Fi network is 802.11n, which the RE1000 supports along with b/g.
To squeeze some extra speed out of the repeater, make sure you configure it manually to enable automatic 20 and 40MHz bandwidth selection. This bumped up the nominal link speed from 130Mbit/s to 300Mbit/s and as the repeater supports the Wireless Multimedia quality of service setting, I could watch HD films upstairs over Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, the RE1000 doesn’t support 5GHz Wi-Fi which provides better performance but with a much shorter range and wall penetration than 2.4GHz. Cisco tells me that a 5GHz repeater is in the works.
While the RE1000 isn’t the cheapest wireless repeater, it performs well, is easy to set up and the discreet design blends into the background of any home.