We use an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station in our home to wirelessly pipe our 20 Mbps FiOS all over the place. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi signal degrades pretty quickly when moving from one side of the house to the other. And that’s a shame since the AEBS supports both the faster speeds and greater range offered by 802.11n. The situation is mildly annoying, meaning that I want to address it, but it’s not that high on the priority list. Sometimes a solution just falls in your lap, however, and SlashGear might have just dropped one on me.
The BearExtender n3 USB Wi-Fi adapter gets a quick review and although it’s Mac-only — and specifically 32-bit Mac-only — this $45 peripheral might do the trick. Once plugged into a Mac, the n3 becomes the active Wi-Fi connection, effectively disabling the integrated AirPort radio inside your computer. There’s an external antenna and clip to use with the n3, so it could be a little unwieldy if you’re moving around with your laptop. But that’s the price you pay for vastly improved connectivity. SlashGear was able to nearly double the distance between a Mac and router with the n3.
It’s not a perfect solution by a long shot — aside from the missing 64-bit drivers, the n3 only uses the 2.4 GHz frequency for Wi-Fi. If you have multiple wireless networks like I do, it’s often preferable to separate some by frequency if you can use 5 GHz as well. That reduces the potential for interference between devices and the network they’re connecting too. The other downside is that the n3 will use up a USB port, which are often scarce on Mac notebooks.
Ideally, I’m probably better off with a longer-term solution like another access point, but I’m strongly considering the addition of a BearExtender. Since my MacBook doesn’t run Snow Leopard in 64-bit, there’s no driver issue. And Barb’s iMac is all the way on the other side of the house — yes, I keep the router next to me in my home office ;) — so her computer would surely benefit from a solution like this. She’s constantly dealing with signal degradation and she has a few USB ports to spare on the back of her iMac.
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