Review: Wi-Ex zBoost SOHO-YX545 Signal Booster
One of the cooler, more useful things we ran into at MacWorld last month was a cell signal booster from a company called Wi-Ex. The zBoost SOHO-YX545 is one of three different options the company has to choose from for home and office usage. Other products the company offers can be used for travel and international use. This isn’t the hardest review we’ve ever had to do. Set-up is easy, the product does as advertised, and for most people, the results are enough to justify the price tag.
About The zBoost YX545
The zBoost SOHO was designed for the home or small office consumers who may have signal issues where they reside. The zBoost extends cell zones for multiple users with devices that operate on a 800 and 1900 MHz frequency, but will not work for those using Nextel/iDEN, 4G, or 2100MHz networks. With the zBoost, you’ll give yourself the ability to increase your indoor signal coverage by up to 3,000 sq ft. The main objective of the SOHO is to decrease the amount of dropped or missed calls and increase the power and speed voice and data transmission. This unit retails for $399 and can be purchased directly through WiEx. The company also has other home models available for $299 and $249, which will cover a lesser area.
As I mentioned above, initial set-up of the zBoost is painfully easy. There’s no programming or any obscene technical knowledge needed. Instead, all you’ve got to do is travel around your home or office, find the strongest signal point, and place the signal antenna there. You can place the signal antenna indoors or outdoors and the package comes with a mounting kit, so you will be able to screw in the antenna to the side of your home, windowsill, or wall. After placing the antenna in the strongest signal location, all that remains is powering on the signal booster it self. Of course, you want to position the booster in an area relatively close to where you’ve been experiencing signal trouble, so Wi-Ex has provided with a very long, 50-ft coaxial cable.
We’ve been using the zBoost in my home for just about two weeks now. In my home, we have a plethora of service providers, so this was set to be a pretty in-depth testing phase from the very beginning. Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T all reside in my home and all three providers network frequencies are compatible with the zBoost. Prior to installation, signal strength and penetration hadn’t really been a problem, but there were a certain few dead zones around the house. In the kitchen, in the basement, and in some areas upstairs, we’d notice a signal drop-off. Drop calls were never a huge issue, but sometimes, call quality suffered because of the lack of signal.
I was personally most excited to see how signal strength, call quality, and data transfer speeds would improve when in the basement of our home. After all, we do have a massive 1080P TV set down there, so I’d like to think that I spend a good amount of my time there. On average, we saw an increase of one or two signal bars in almost every area of the house. The zBoost was extremely beneficial to the basement in particular. Data speeds didn’t increase dramatically, but call quality went from poor to almost outstanding. In areas of our kitchen where we experienced complete dead zones, we were able to stand for minutes without dropping calls. A steady 4-to-5 bars is now the norm in our house, instead of the 1-to-2 bars we would experience in a few areas.
The Bottom Line
The WiEx zBoost SOHO has been great for us. A few of us in the house rely heavily on our cell phones for business related communications, so the ability to extend our Cell Zone to places where we weren’t able to hold a signal before is extremely beneficial. The zBoost is a great product for consumers who live under trees and have signal issues, or live on a city street where signal doesn’t penetrate as well as it does in the suburbs. The $399 price tag may be a little bit steep for those who aren’t experiencing that many issues. However, as I mentioned above, there are a couple of alternatives at much cheaper price points that could be beneficial to those not willing to spend the $399 on the SOHO.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the zBoost and what it’s done for our home and would almost certainly invest in any new products WiEx has to release in the future.