Now that we finally have a hot summer, the idea of keeping a weather eye on Facebook, Twitter et al from a hammock in the garden looks increasingly attractive. To do that, many people will need to extend the range of their Wi-Fi connections. I've been looking at the Fritz!WLAN Repeater N/G, which does the job for 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.
The Repeater N/G is from AVM, Germany-based maker of the well-regarded Fritz!Box wireless routers. It can be used with any Wi-Fi router, supports WEP, WPA and WPA 2 encryption, and costs £88.16 from Amazon UK.
The hardware itself is a small (73mm by 24.5mm by 10.5mm), light (150g) black plastic unit with a European plug moulded onto the back and a 15-by-7-pixel LED touchscreen on the front. Connecting the Repeater N/G to your Wi-Fi router is simplest if the router supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) — we had a Fritz!Box 7270, which, with the latest firmware installed, is WPS-compliant. Then it's simply a matter of plugging in the repeater, pressing a circle icon on the touchscreen, and holding down the 'WLAN' button on the Fritz!Box for about six seconds. The Repeater N/G then takes on the router's wireless settings and signals a successful connection via an antenna icon on the touchscreen.
If the WPS method isn't available, Windows users can download a Configuration Wizard from AVM's web site, which will walk you through the installation. Otherwise, you'll need to do the operation manually, a process described in this PDF.
Once it's up and running, you can do basic management tasks via the on-device touchscreen, although the icons aren't the most intuitive. You're better off using the web-based management interface, which is accessed via http://fritz.repeater. Among the settings is an option for the repeater to go to sleep and wake up at certain times. In operation, it's a low-power device, consuming about 4.5W. Does it work? In a word, yes: a notebook in an outhouse separated from the host router by a patio and a couple of brick walls got a signal boost from a flaky 30 percent or so to a solid 70 percent or more.
The Repeater N/G doesn't just do range extension: you can also use it to output computer-based music to a stereo system (via digital and analogue audio connectors) or FM radios (via a built-in UHF transmitter). This feature is something of a gimmick, and is only available for Windows-based systems: beyond verifying that it works, I didn't use it.
This isn't the cheapest way to do Wi-Fi range extension, but it's convenient — particularly if you're a Windows user.