By Nate Adcock on Fri, 05/04/2012
My WiFi point of presence is in my basement. That's where the internet service provider installer guy had to put it. I mostly work 2 floors above that level, so getting a steady WiFi signal with all the interference in my neighborhood is somewhat a dicey proposition. My router was provided by the service company, so it's not exactly standard or easily configured (though I have tweaked on it a bit). I have been looking for a way to boost my upstairs WiFi reception for years, and didn't want to fuss with repeaters, or adding another AP. I think I may have finally found one of the easiest and cheapest ways to solve this problem. The Mohu Bounce...
The Bounce is essentially a WiFi focusing device. Made of high-impact plastic, and looking like an alien probe--saw something like it hovering over Manhattan once--the lightweight Bounce snugs right on top of most WiFi wireless antennae types. It really is quite simple to set up. You remove it from the box, install it on the rabbit ear or ears (need 2 for dual antenna models), and position it with the sleeker, more pointed end facing toward the direction where you are trying to boost or focus your signal the most.
In my case, I need to boost my signal upwards and towards the front of my house, so it was trickier finding an optimal position. The Mohu gadget does act like a top-weight on the antenna, and I would find that it had drooped down to a non-optimal position. The position that worked out the best was a few degrees off the vertical, tilted slightly away from my front door.
When I started my testing, I considered my WiFi signal strength on average. In the basement and first floor, of course I do not have any signal problems worth mentioning, but I seldom get more than a few bars in the upstairs rooms, especially my small office at the front of the house (the AP is not only 3 floors down, but also the other side). I often suffer signal and connection degradation and performance issues. I was skeptical that a weirdly shaped piece of plastic would make much difference through load-bearing walls. I was pleasantly surprised. I have rarely noted a drop below 4 bars on my upstairs computer since using the Bounce, and my iPad also gets markedly better reception as well.
So to illustrate what the overall effect was during my testing, I posted up a short YouTube video to demonstrate both the general performance of my iPad WiFi with and without the device attached to my AP (from my top floor office). Since I see most impact when viewing online You Tube clips, I used that as my use case. Without the Bounce, I would see an occasional strong signal, but a degradation was apparent as I moved the device around the upstairs rooms, and video clips would get choppy. I definitely didn't note this as much with the Bounce on duty. Not only did I get a consistently stronger signal upstairs, I could walk across the street to my neighbor's yard and still not lose a bar!
The Verdict: At first pretty skeptical about the Mohu Bounce, but after using it for a week, I cannot deny that it helps. You can grab it from the online store for $24.99 here. It looks weird, but so did Winston Churchill, and he saved the free world! If you need to add WiFi oomph to an area of your house, go get and try a Bounce (or 2)!
General WiFI performance tips: I have played around a bit with WiFi over the years and figured I would throw in a few generic tips that might also help you get better performance from your local wireless if you are having problems...
1. Place WiFi as close to the center point of your home as possible for best coverage. Walls, electrical, other wireless devices and electronics all can interfere, so keep your AP away as much as possible from these problem areas.
2. Upgrade your firmware or even get a newer router/AP if possible. Latest WiFi devices offer superior performance and security over older models, especially any that support the latest wireless N standards.
3. Turn off encryption if you can. When people hear me say this they freak out, but I don't mean do your online taxes on that same connection. What I really mean: Set up a second WiFi router for totally non-private data usage--streaming music or AirPlay, etc--why encrypt the traffic? Encryption adds overhead, and sometimes problems, but of course for any kind of use than the basic examples I gave (ANYTHING involving login/password), you must encrypt. Of course, if you live at the South Pole or some super remote area...you could probably do anything you want then. I have an older router I use for testing and streaming music in my house for example. It doesn't connect to the internet or any but a few devices. I leave encryption off in that case.
4. Boost your signal. Some AP makers offer high-gain antennae that are similar in price (but mostly more expensive) compared to the Bounce. I would recommend that you just go grab a Mohu Bounce...