At home we’ve always had a nasty problem: The wireless connection works fine just about anywhere but not where we need it — the room my mother’s computer resides in. Since this room is just about the only room in the entire house we can’t plug cables, wireless was the only option.
Now, after trying a few different things (changing antennas, adapters etc.) I’ve given her a repeater for Mother’s Day. Take this as a little review, if you must.
The product I bought is the AVM Fritz!WLAN Repeater N/G, which promises easy, secure and fast setup and use. The repeater goes for about 70 Euros at Amazon, so it’s definitively more expensive than just buying a second WRT54GL and use it to bridge wireless connections.
AVM’s Fritz! repeater is a rather bulky plug for a power outlet, according to the relatively sparse guide you have to place it somewhere between the access point and the client it should serve. Sure thing, plugged the thing in.
First boot took about 2 minutes, since you have to wait for the new wireless network “AVM Fritz!WLAN Repeater” to appear and connect to it. Everything after is a piece of cake: Select the access point you want to repeat, give the passwords etc. and you’re good to go.
By default the repeater makes the SSID it repeats it’s own (which is questionable, but at least configurable). If you want to assign a static IP to the repeater you’re in for a bad surprise: You can’t. At least not in the repeater itself, you have to create a static lease on your DHCP server.
Just to give you an idea of the connection:
Before implementing the repeater in our network, my Mum’s connection was mere 20-30%, losing contact to the AP every few minutes (whenever a car passed by, the wind blew or some poltergeist would feel annoyed). Now, the repeater itself has a nice connection of 60-80% to the AP and serves my Mum’s computer with a strength of 85-98% which is exactly what we were aiming for. Since it’s a B/G network, connection goes up and down from 48MBit/s to 54MBit/s and vice versa at random, there are no connection drops though.
There are some useless gimmicks in the repeater: You can use it as a shortwave radio transmitter to broadcast your local music collection to radios accross the network (something that only works with Windows). Haven’t used it, won’t use it. Instead of implementing stuff like that, AVM should polish the interface and give it some advanced options for people who have to manage networks a little bit more restrictively.
Nice touch: The repeater can go to sleep/wake up at given time periods, unfortunately only fixed times, there’s no support for scenarios like “go to sleep x minutes after there’s no client”. So, our repeater goes down 20:30 and wakes up 05:00.
Booting time after the initial setup is acceptable. Settings are remembered across power-on/-off. The performance boost the repeater gives our B/G network at home is definitively notable. But is the device worth 70 Euros?
Personally, I think it is not worth the money. You can get all features by simply buying another WRT54GL for ~40-50 Euros. AVM’s repeater does not have any outstanding features that would justify the price tag. Quite the opposite: The lack of fine-grained control over the repeater makes it a bad choice for people who really want to get the most out of their wireless connection. For people who just want to get stuff moving quickly, it may be the right choice, though.