Review: EnGenius ERB9250 Wi-Fi Range Extender - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

January 25, 2011

In one room -- directly below the router room and 15 feet along the same wall -- the 210MB file transfer actually took about 20 percent longer with the ESR-9850 in place than with the Netgear router. But when we took the test into the poorest-performing room, on the other side of the house -- and the other side of the furnace and central furnace pipes -- the EnGenius router moved the file across the network about three times faster than the Netgear box: in 2 minutes versus 6 minutes. This was despite similar RSSI readings with the two routers, which suggests at least the possibility that some other factor was at play. Still, results were similar in later repetitions of the same tests.

In other tests of coverage beyond the house's walls, the EnGenius router did not appear to deliver markedly better range than other routers we have had in place in this facility, including the Netgear Draft N router.

The next step was adding the EnGenius range extender to see what impact it would have on the continued wide differences in network performance from one location in the house to another.

The good news is that the ERB9250 was just as easy to install as the company promised - at least when using the EnGenius router. You plug it in, press the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button on the router and then press the corresponding WPS button on the ERB9250. The device finds the network and configures itself automatically. Once the orange WAN light glows steadily on the range extender - as it did within a few seconds in our first attempt at setting it up - the process is complete. WPS is a standard that many vendors' router products use, so setup should be just as easy with those products, though we were not able to test this.

We positioned the ERB9250, as EnGenius recommends, midway between the router and the dead zone, which in this case we considered to be the upper-floor room with poor (but not the worst) coverage. It would also be closer than the router to the worst coverage area on the lower level. We then repeated the same tests, with somewhat disappointing results.

The RSSI readings in the upstairs room were a little better. Windows now reported 'Excellent' as opposed to the usual 'Good' connection, and Web surfing seemed marginally brisker. But results from the file transfer test were almost identical. The same was true in other locations around the house, including in the worst-coverage area downstairs. Although in that room, again, RSSI readings were slightly better and high-bit-rate streaming video performance notably better.

Conclusions

The EnGenius ESR-9850 did seem to deliver better performance than an our older Netgear Draft N router. In our facility, adding the range extender did not significantly improve coverage in areas with relatively weak signal strength.

Experimentation with positioning of the range extender might produce more improvements, but we're guessing the reason for the disappointing results has to do with the reasons for poor signal strength in this kind of environment - namely obstructions and other interferers rather than purely distance.

In other environments with different coverage challenges than ours - open concept offices with fewer interferers and more pure range issues, for example - the ERB9250 might produce more marked results.

The trouble is, you won't know without testing it in your own environment. Our recommendation: Buy from a local bricks-and-mortar dealer if you can, and make sure you can return the product for a full refund if it doesn't deliver worthwhile results.

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