Wi-Fi Range Extenders | Boating Magazine

WiFi Range Extenders Review

Create a bridge to your local network to get more Wi-Fi range for your boat

Netgear EX6100 Range Extender
$80; amazon.com

This dual-band Wi-Fi bridge works on both a 2.4 GHz and 5G router. Plug it into any 110-volt outlet between your router and the areas of weak signals. We’d suggest plugging it into an outdoor outlet, near a window, to bridge the Wi-Fi signal to a “backyard boat” in a nearby waterway. The device is not waterproof.

Application: Install between the outer range of a household router and the dockside Wi-Fi client receiver. It can also be connected to the Rogue Wave Ethernet cable, which enables wireless connectivity.

Connecting: Easy to connect, requiring no technical service, the device’s setup depended upon it being located near the Wi-Fi router. Then, it retained the setup information as we disconnected and booted it up outdoors, from 30 feet away.

Technical Support: Speaking to a human technical support agent was preceded by five minutes of robo-talk during which I registered my product. One minute later, I was speaking with a technical assistant. A couple of technical questions were quickly answered; Netgear is quickly supporting its product.

Overland Test Range: 651 feet

Notes: This device would be ideal for bridging a signal to a backyard boat.

Wave WiFi Rogue Wave
$350 (Wi-Fi only); wavewifi.com

The Rogue Wave has been around longer than other devices and its design and construction are sleeker, but it does not have an internal local Wi-Fi network like The Wirie AP+ does. Its transmitter is more powerful than The Wirie AP+’s but does not support the faster N network system. It’s ­waterproof and corrosion resistant.

Application: Install on vessel mast to receive shore-based Wi-Fi signals.

Connecting: Like The Wirie AP+, our device connected quickly and easily once we resolved local hardware ­issues unrelated to the device. Simple directions enabled us to quickly name the device and enter local­ ­network passwords. After disconnecting the device, it rebooted and connected automatically.

Technical Support: Technical support was instantaneous. The same people who take Rogue Wave orders solve your installation problems. But, as noted, we didn’t have any.

Overland Test Range: 1,046 feet

Notes: It gave us our longest range. Connecting the device’s Ethernet to a wireless router or the Netgear Wi-Fi extender’s Ethernet port creates a powerful long-range network on board. Be sure to use the included silicone gasket to seal the Ethernet cable port, or use silicone.

The Wirie AP+
$399 (Wi-Fi only); thewirie.com

Advertised to reach over miles, it allows connection of any number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and burns only 500 milliamperes (mA) at 12 volts, meaning it can run 24/7 without draining house batteries. Its newer transmitter is not as powerful as the Rogue Wave’s, but it supports the newer, faster N network. It is waterproof and corrosion resistant.

Application: Install on vessel mast to receive shore-based Wi-Fi signals.

Connecting: It took only a few moments to assemble the device and then only 15 minutes to connect it to 12-volt power following the two-page instructions. We named our system, set a password and then disconnected from power and the local area network to mount the device where we wanted it. It booted up and connected automatically every time thereafter.

Technical Support: We didn’t need technical service since our hookup was easy, but we called anyway and left an anonymous message. The call was returned less than 10 minutes later by the company owner and engineer.

Overland Test Range: 740 feet

Notes: The system is powerful and easy to set up. Technical support was fast; the answers to our questions were clear and useful.

Do you want more Wi-Fi range for your boat? Well, you’re the client, and to get what you want, you need to create a bridge to your local network.

Most modern marinas boast a powerful local network using commercial routers and a high-gain antenna, such as the Shakespeare 5248, but if you’re moored at the network’s outskirts, you may have a problem. Or if you’re one of those lucky backyard boaters, getting your house Wi-Fi to the dock isn’t easy either. We tested these Wi-Fi range extenders to solve your problems.

How We Tested
Connecting
We took each system out of the box and studied the manual to make Wi-Fi connections. Then we followed directions to connect them to Wi-Fi, while keeping an eye on the clock.

Technical Support
We contacted each technical support service, gauging the ease with which we received answers to our questions.

Overland Test Range
Range is completely dependent on line of sight and uncontrollable variables like radio interference and atmospheric conditions at the moment. A Wi-Fi range extender may reach out 10 miles one day and only 1,000 feet in other conditions. We moved away from our home Wi-Fi hub, measuring the distance we could receive Wi-Fi signals as we moved down the street. Our home router was behind a concrete block wall. Because these were not line-of-sight distances, as one would have on open water, we didn’t expect our devices to reach their potential range. But our test made a good relative gauge of how well each device pulls in a signal.

Final Note
Though our tests gave us impressive neighborhood range, and convinced us these router bridges were well worth the investment, we didn’t experience the full benefit that we might find on open water in direct line of sight of a Wi-Fi signal. Both The Wirie AP+ and Rogue Wave users boast working Wi-Fi ranges of miles, not fractions of miles.

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