The Perfect Gadget for the Person With a Big House

By Alexis C. Madrigal
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2011 Year in Review bug
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In the competition between sliced bread and every other invention in the world, I usually come down on the side of sliced bread. After all, it makes sandwich artistry easier and I do love a good sandwich. However, when you match up Wi-Fi against sliced bread, Wi-Fi is clearly superior. It has untethered all of our gadgets, not just from ethernet cables, but from cell phone networks that would like to overcharge us for data. Wi-Fi makes every single modern device better, not to mention allowing the creation of a new and (to my mind) superior communal work culture.

But nothing is perfect and Wi-Fi has one key defect. It does not reach into every single nook and cranny of a large house. Now, I've never actually lived in a large house, but I can imagine how frustrating this would be. It's not a big problem, but you would encounter it each and every day. Luckily, there is a solution, one promoted by our own Jim Fallows. The Wi-Fi range extender. He recommends a Belkin Dual-Band Range Extender. I'll let him tell you about his experience:

The extender works by taking your existing Wi-Fi signal and re-propagating it to cover more of the house. Our existing dual-band router now sends out two signals, which I'll call Network1 and Network2. Nerds will know that one is 2.4GHz and one is 5GHz. The extender creates two new Wi-Fi signals, let's say Network1_xt and Network2_xt, which are broadcast from its new location. You just need to place it close enough to the original router to receive its signal -- and close enough to the now-uncovered areas to extend coverage to them.

Less than five minutes after I opened the box, no joke, the new gizmo was running*, and the two new networks extended coverage to all parts of our house. Now I have even fewer excuses for being so behind on email! Our original Wi-Fi router is also by Belkin, but the specs say that the extender should work with Linksys or other routers that produce a normal signal. Specifically, it requires an 802.11a/b/g/n router with 2.4GHz and/or 5GHz bands. That means: any mainstream Wi-Fi.

There may be other extenders that are cheaper or have some other feature; I didn't take the time for systematic research. I saw this on sale and decided to give it a try. Many people already use similar systems. But in case you'd been wondering whether they actually worked, I wanted to report that this one did, for me.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/12/the-perfect-gadget-for-the-person-with-a-big-house/250125/