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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Need new router to replace LinkSys WRT54: Need more power

    I've got 3 windows PC in a small (1800 sq ft) house. All work OK with old LinkSys. But it has weak spots in my home, which never bugged me because I have Cat-5 everywhere.

    But I just got an Android tablet and it -demands- reliable WiFi. So I basically need... total no frills functionality BUT more power. IOW: no weak spots.

    I read about 'speed' and 'security' but frankly, what I care about is signal strength. Is this a metric that is measurable? Recommendations? Preferably inexpensive.

    TIA,

    ---JC

  2. #2
    WS Lounge VIP Browni's Avatar
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    Have you tried different WiFi channels? Inssider is a good pc based utility for checking local WiFi channels and I'm pretty sure a Google search will provide a suitable android equivalent.

  3. #3
    3 Star Lounger
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    While a new router may be a little better than your old router (802.11n wifi is supposed to have a little better range than 802.11g), you'll get far better results by leaving your current router as is and adding a second wifi access point in another part of the house to get more complete coverage. If you've got CAT5 everywhere, get another router and plug it into your ethernet in another room in an appropriate part of the house.

    Most people will configure the second router in "AP mode" ("Access Point") instead of "Router mode", but that isn't altogether critical. If you leave it in "Router mode" you'll end up with two networks instead of one but you can simply add both networks in your tablet.

    If you don't have ethernet where you want the second router, you can get a repeater (aka, wifi extender) instead of a second router. That receives the first router's wifi signal and retransmits it to the dark part of the house, so it doesn't need an ethernet connection to your existing network. However, speed and reliability won't be as good as a secondary router or access point that is ethernet-connected.

  4. #4
    New Lounger
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    Depending on what version of WRT54G router you have, you can get great results from installing DD-WRT firmware. Then you can fine tune the router for best results.
    Google and read up on it, if you screw up you can "brick" the router.
    Start here http://lifehacker.com/how-to-superch...-wrt-508138224

  5. #5
    3 Star Lounger
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    InSSIDer has an Android version, and WiFi Analyzer is another good tool both of which I use and would recommend. Fing (also Android) is another good tool for analysing your network, finding what's attached.

    That combination will find your not-spots.

    If you do not have CAT5 everywhere, consider using some kind of powerline extender. Early versions were a bit flaky, but have now matured. I use TP-Link AV500 to extend my WiFi range over the wiring of the house. Configuration was not as seamless as TP-Link made it seem but I am now where I want to be.

  6. #6
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    I love my Asus RT-56U which is rated as outstanding by CNET. When I bought mine it was around $135 and now $88 http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-Dual-Band.../dp/B0049YQVHE

  7. #7
    Star Lounger
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    a couple of easy options

    One very inexpensive thing you could try is to replace the stock antennas with better ones. For example I have an ancient directional antenna that radiates most of the signal to one side rather than in a circle. The "rear" of that antenna faces a second floor corner of the house where I don't need any signal, and the "front" points down to the opposite corner on the first floor. It has been working fine for perhaps 7-8 years. That specific product is made by Airlink101 and is model ASB-8DA: http://airlink101.com/products/asb-8da.php
    It took about 30 seconds to install.
    I assume that there are competitive products on the market, and there are many aftermarket antennas, including both industrial and home-built models, that you can find by doing a web search.

    Another option, at a slightly higher cost, is to use a "range extender". Mine is from a company called Amped Wireless:
    http://www.ampedwireless.com/products/sr10000.html
    and now they have even more powerful ones. It has been working fine for about 4-5 years.

    The antenna that I mentioned is attached to a WRT54G, and is pointed at the range extender that is down on the first floor. So I have one connection to an ISP, a second floor network, with a "subnetwork" on the first floor that has a different SSID.
    Works fine for all the devices around here, cost was low, installation was easy, and I did not have to build anything.

    Good luck.

  8. #8
    3 Star Lounger
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    Agree with Aczer.
    Better, longer, after-market antennae are the way to go. Best and cheapest.

    But do not buy antenna that has cable. Buy the one that can directly attach and replace the stock antenna(e). [The cable, albeit short, decreases the antenna gain quite a bit.]

    Your house is 1800 sq. ft. Even a long narrow house, 10x180, the longest side is still only 180 ft. So it is not wifi power output or reach issue. I suspect it is dead spot issue.
    WRT54G router has 2 antennae. The strongest antenna power output and longest reach are when the two antennae vertical and parallel to each other. Adjust the router pointing direction could help.

    Because power and reach is not a problem, try adjust the slant angles of each antennae to eliminate dead spots ... just like adjusting TV rabbit ears. And longer antennae help too.

    Wifi signal strength meters help to detect dead spots. A laptop with wifi can do the same trick, by moving the laptop around. A tablet or cell phone can also be a dead spot detector, using its, though rudimentary, strength meter.

    In another case, it is interference (as in my case) from other wifi signals. You can see them on your tablet wifi settings page. In this case, you also need to change the WRT54 channel numbers, so not to conflict with the strongest interfering wifi signal(s).
    In my case, only few spots get the interference. Changing channels completely eliminate the assumed 'dead spots' (which really are areas where your wifi is weakest while the interfering signal is the strongest).

  9. #9
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    Yes, I agree with the suggestions of scaisson, and you may very likely find that you do not need to replace your router at all; the fix may be as simple as modifying it with better antennae, or even just moving it to a different location in the building.
    Sometimes small changes are enough to eliminate dead spots.

  10. #10
    WS Lounge VIP Coochin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suntower View Post
    I've got 3 windows PC in a small (1800 sq ft) house. All work OK with old LinkSys. But it has weak spots in my home, which never bugged me because I have Cat-5 everywhere.

    But I just got an Android tablet and it -demands- reliable WiFi. So I basically need... total no frills functionality BUT more power. IOW: no weak spots.

    I read about 'speed' and 'security' but frankly, what I care about is signal strength. Is this a metric that is measurable? Recommendations? Preferably inexpensive.

    TIA,

    ---JC
    Probably one (or maybe two) "range extenders" should fit your needs.

    "WiFi Range Extenders" have been available for several years now, and most of the better brand-name units have improved significantly during the past eighteen months or so.

    E.g.: TP-Link TL-WA850RE, Netgear WN3000RP, amongst others.

    Since you house is quite small I wonder if something to do with its construction is interfering with your WLAN (AKA "WiFi") signal? I am very familiar with the WRT54G router, having used one myself for a couple of years, and have helped several customers who had the WRT54G (or very similar). These routers have reasonably good signal-strength.

    A common problem is that many buildings constructed during about the past 40-or-so years have some kind of insulation inside the walls. Most often the insulation material is sandwiched between aluminium foil sheets, or otherwise held in place using a metal mesh. Usually only the exterior walls are insulated, but sometimes internal walls are insulated as well. The metal foil or mesh acts as a barrier to, and weakens, the wireless signal.

    In an extreme case a customer had their wireless router sitting on top of their desktop PC tower which was on the floor under their desk. Their desk had metal panels on the sides and back. Another customer had their router in a cupboard beside a "document stacker" which had wire shelves. Yet another had the router on top of a metal filing cabinet along with a "ghetto-blaster" radio (metal speaker grilles, and internal printed circuit board).

    Often better signal coverage can be obtained simply by moving the router out towards the middle of the room it is in. If the router is in a corner of the room then signal-strength can be weakened by the signal having to pass through walls at too-sharp an angle.

    HTH
    Computer Consultant/Technician since 1998 (first PC was Atari 1040STE in 1988).
    Most common computing error is EBKAC: Error Between Keyboard And Chairback
    AMD FX8120 (8-core @ 3.1GHz) CPU, Gigabyte GA-990FXA-D3 motherboard, 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1866MHz RAM, ATI-AMD Radeon HD6770 PCI-E VGA, 480GB Kingston SSD, 2TB Seagate SATA3.0 HDD, ASUS DVD/RW.

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