Wi-Fi Adapter Doubles Wireless Range on Macs


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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