...to expand the range of your in-home WiFi network.
I should have known; the two buzz words are on the box: "universal" and "easy" …neither of which apply to this benign looking lump of plastic. The rationale for even buying this item was to get a better signal to the DSL connection for my bonus room satellite receiver and desktop PC.
The first thing you need to know: this range extender will *not* amplify the original signal and this is key to placing the unit in your home. Think of this extender as a "repeater"; it will repeat, or relay, essentially the same quality of signal it receives. You want to place the extender in a strong reception area allowing it to relay a high quality signal to that "niche" in your home where WiFi reception is poor.
Now, if you have a Mac …well, forget the "universal" part of it. We have a mix of Mac's and PC's in my home …so I decided to try the Mac first. While the AirPort wireless feature of my Mac Mini found this wall wart quite easily and connection from the computer to the WN3000RP was effortless …that's where the "easy" part ended. According to the very sketchy directions, once a computer …any computer on your net, apparently, as there is no distinction between a PC or Mac …when any computer makes contact with the extender you simply fire up your web browser and, presto!, you are magically taken to the Set Up Wizard. The instructions further tell you that, like a good Eagle Scout helping the little old lady across the street, so the "Wizard" will glide you through the rest of the setup. The rest of the setup, taken care of oh so effortlessly by the "Wizard", entails getting your wireless router and the extender to get to know each other. Right.
The Mac found the extender just fine making contact immediately. Opening Firefox I was greeted by ...my home page …not the "Setup Wizard" the instructions said. I double checked the status of the contact between the Mac and extender and it was good. I tried manually loading http://www.mywifiext.net, which apparently is where the "Wizard" lives, to no avail; it would not connect. I tried numerous times all with the same dead end result. A quick search of the net found *many* folks in the same boat trying to make contact with the elusive Wizard. So then I let my Windows-powered netbook have a go. Got contact between extender and netbook no sweat, even got the Setup Wizard when I opened Firefox …and then it got a little fuzzy with some terminology. Like what is a "security passphrase"?? Not a pass word …a phrase. Next to the block where the passphrase goes is a cryptic button labeled "generate". Of course nothing in the brief manual describes what any of this means or if you even need a passphrase; so I left it blank. The SSID and WEP codes were all familiar to me and I managed to stumble through. I was in the home stretch and made it through four of the five steps the Wizard has you do; the last one being, you guessed it, connecting to www.mywifiext.net. And just like before it simply dead-ended …nothing …browser timed out. Tried three or four times …nothing. So I quit the setup program. But the thing works …despite never completing the 5th step. In your "available network" selections on your computer you'll find the extender listed with "_EXT" tacked on. The Wizard defaults to naming it whatever your router is called plus the "_EXT" tacked on …so mine looks like "2WIRE123_EXT" for my DSL setup. Simply connect to this network and you are now going through the extender.
Rising along the learning curve. There is a User Manual for the extender …available only online at the NetGear support site (http://support.netgear.com) and it is much more thorough in scope than the lame installation guide in the box; get it and print it first. I'm not gonna guarantee it's going to make your installation easier but there is a more thorough explanation of the *not* so easy installation procedure. If you are not far along the learning curve with networking ...wired or wireless …not familiar with all the jargon and what it means …then installing this piece of hardware can be arduous at best and down right frustrating at worst; I thought more than a few times about returning it. This networking stuff reminds me of the bad old days of Windows and all the garbage and technical jim-crackery you had to go through just to install some simple hardware ….like maybe that "hot" 56K modem. The extender is designed to sync easily to wireless routers that support WSP (WiFi Protected Setup). Unfortunately if you are subscribing to AT&T DSL, their routers do not support WSP and you must use the WEP setup instructions which are a little more "manual" in nature.
The end result was, after a bit more work and some well-placed expletives, I was able to get the upstairs PC to connect and it now has a full-strength signal and maximum bit rate. Once this thing is up and running it is very unobtrusive and works quite well. Only because I'm an ornery coot when it comes to this kind of stuff did I have success. But this "easy installation ….universal WiFi range extender" is about as far from "universal" or "easy" as the dark side of the moon …IMHO.
I would recommend this to a friend *only* if they had a slightly advanced knowledge of computer operations and wifi/network connections. Or they're just ornery.