Linksys WRE54G Wireless-G Range Expander review
Range performance is still a frustrating Achilles heel for wireless networks in a country where brick walls are the norm and signals are routinely blocked by metal joists. This is where Linksys’ Wireless-G Range Expander fits in. It’s specifically designed to rebroadcast your WLAN over a wider area.
The Range Expander is small and neat, with a single, robust aerial and a design clearly meant for wall mounting. When it comes to installation, simply plug the Range Expander into a power socket near your access point and hold down the Auto configuration button for a few seconds. After that, two LEDs on the top illuminate blue to indicate successful association. The automatic setup won’t work if your WLAN uses encryption, though, as the Range Expander can’t automatically detect your key. Instead, you’ll need to temporarily disable encryption while you set up the Range Expander.
Once it’s associated with your AP, you can use the supplied utility to tweak settings. However, this works only with networks in the 192.168.1.x range. Settings can also be accessed via a web browser and the default IP address of 192.168.1.240. Here, the simple setup screen allows you to manually configure IP addresses, change the SSID, channel and the MAC address of the remote access point, or turn off SSID broadcast. WEP can also be turned on here, but WPA isn’t supported.
To test performance, we associated the Range Expander with a Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G router with SpeedBooster. However, the Expander doesn’t support Afterburner, so extended range access was limited to regular 802.11g. We put the Expander near the back door of our office, then took a Centrino notebook into the courtyard where the wireless network was weak. A test 200MB file copy from a desktop system attached via wired Ethernet to the WRT54GS router took 346 seconds, but with the Range Expander in between this was 208 seconds.
According to online forums, the Range Expander can be picky about firmware combinations, but we had no problems during testing. We couldn’t, however, get it to work with a U.S. Robotics WLAN router. However, if you already own Linksys Wireless-G equipment, the Range Expander is an easy way to improve signal strength at longer distances.