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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wilson Electronics 4G LTE Signal Booster Review

The Wilson Electronics 4G LTE is a signal booster that takes a Verizon LTE signal from an antenna that is installed outside of a building and amplifies the signal inside so you can enjoy 4G LTE Verizon service inside. To say that this fairly industrial-looking piece of metal, wires and plastic is the humble girl at the prom is an understatement. Believe me you want to take this girl out to prom and marry her if you have even a little bit of a hard time locking in Verizon’s LTE service where you live. The Wilson Electronics 4G LTE booster is an absolute marvel of modern engineering and worth every penny if your devices struggle to hold on to a 4G signal. Jump past the break for our full Wilson Electronics 4G LTE 700 Review.

First of all, if you read this site often and the name Wilson Electronics rings a bell, there’s a reason for that. We were fortunate to review the Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G-Vback a couple of months ago. The Sleek is a cradle that you can install in your car or truck and it pulls in both 3G and 4G signals and I was throughly impressed with the Sleek 4G-V. My review is up on Android Does and we gave it full marks. The Sleek was easy to install, looks great and works better than I ever expected it to. That same kind of detail and pedigree are present in the Wilson Electronics 4G LTE.

For this review, we are going to cover both the Wilson Electronics  4G LTE 700 and the Wilson Electronics DB Pro. If you live out in the sticks, or maybe just on the wrong side of a hill, this combination will ensure that you never drop a call or miss a text message again. With Verizon’s LTE service rolling out the way it is, it is amazing just how fast and through the service is blanketing the USA. The town that I live in is an old French Settlement, and we don’t even have a stoplight. It takes me 10 minutes to drive to “town” where the one Verizon tower is. The tower is about 6 miles away and I am on the fringe of the fringe of Verizon service. Went into this a little bit more in my review of the Sleek 4G-V, but Verizon did something at the tower to ensure that I get 3G at my home address. While standing in my front yard, my Galaxy Nexus only picks up 3G, however my Samsung Galaxy S III and the Motorola Razr Maxx pick up a very weak 4G signal. Pair this weak signal with the added challenge of a metal roof and you have the perfect testing grounds for a cell booster, and let me tell you: the Wilson Electronics products really deliver the goods.

This combination will ensure that you never drop a call or miss a text message again.

The Wilson Electronics 4G LTE 700 and DB Pro combine to allow me to feel as though there was a Verizon Tower in my backyard. The improvement is really that good. We used to run outside to take phone calls and to text, now we run INSIDE and it’s a great feeling. (Not to mention that the mosquitos in Louisiana do live up to their bird-like status.)  Now to clear things up, the DB Pro (DB= Dual Band) covers the 1X/3G aspect of the signal, while the 4G LTE covers,  the umm, 4G LTE. I mistakenly thought that I would be able to use the Wilson Electronics 4G LTE 7000 as an all-in-one solution and take down my DB Pro, but it doesn’t work that way. I called Wilson tech support and they were very clear about this point: The 4G LTE only covers 4G, it doesn’t cover 3G. Why does this matter?

The way that things are in cellular now, you have to almost have a degree in radio engineering (is that even a thing?) to understand what’s going on with cellphones. To take a complicated situation and make it really simple, I will try to explain it like this: Verizon Wireless has a couple of different frequencies that it operates on. Think of the frequencies as stations on your car radio. One station does phone calls and text messages, and the other station does data. The DB Pro does the phone calls/ text messages and some data. It does 1X, 3G on Verizon and Edge, 3G and HSPA on AT&T. The 4G LTE 700 only does Verizon LTE which is data. So when I thought that the LTE would replace the DB Pro, I pulled the plug on the DB Pro thinking that I would just be able to use the 4G LTE 700 by itself. However, this meant that I was unable to make any calls and missed a ton of text messages. I also encountered the very odd situation of having full 4G bars and by phone was searching for service.

But working together, the DB Pro and the 4G LTE 700 are a match made in heaven if you have spotty service. The improvement in my experience with both Verizon and my professional development has been tremendous. The equipment that Wilson Electronics has provided me with a environment where I can use Verizon’s LTE service, and both call and text from the comfort of my living room. It wasn’t unusual for us to go across to use the neighbor’s phone to make or receive phone important phone calls, which was especially hard when I was interviewing for a job located across the country and had multiple phone interviews. As a parent, the DB Pro and the 4G LTE 700 have provided me with the piece of mind knowing that my kids can get ahold of me anytime that they might need to.

 Working together, the DB Pro and the 4G LTE 700 are a match made in heaven if you have spotty service.

Installation of both the DB Pro and the 4G LTE 700 were pretty straight forward. Find a place on the outside where to mount the plastic directional antenna. Run the cable inside the house. Plug the cable into the unit. Find a place inside to mount the antenna, run cable to the unit. Plug in the unit.

That’s the very simple version.

There’s a couple of things that you need to keep in mind before you actually start installing anything. The outside antenna needs to installed somewhere that receives a bar or two of service. That might mean going up on your roof and failing around like an idiot, looking for bars on your phone. Most Android phones have an “about” screen in the settings that give the signal strength as a number.

Once you have a signal locked in you can think about where you are going to put the antenna that’s inside. The inside antenna and the outside antenna are a lot like my parents. They work best when they are far apart from each other. The antennas should have a sufficient amount of vertical or horizontal space between them. This prevents the inside antenna from interfering with the outside antenna. Now find a place in the middle where you can install the unit, and don’t forget the power outlet. It sounds complicated, but the guys at Wilson are more than happy to help you out via email or on the phone. They can guide you to the perfect installation.

I chose not to go up on my roof because the only place I could mount the antenna is very close to where the electrical lines come into the house and I didn’t want to get close to the power lines. What I chose to do is go to Lowes and get a couple of TV masts poles. They come in 4 foot sections and fit into one another. I also got a bag of quick set cement and dug a hole. So basically I have a 12 foot pole in my back yard. I attached the antennas to the pole and ran the cables under my house and up into the living room.

Installation inside was easy, I just found an outlet and plugged the two units in. The panels are white and square and blend into the room. There wasn’t really a good way to hide the cables, but it’s a minor point. After looking at the setup, I ended up moving all the cables and the antennas into the space in the attic. The units are plugged in inside the attic, the antennas are pointed down into the living space under.  Aside from digging a hole in the middle of a Louisiana summer, installation took less than an hour.

The issue of grounding was brought up, and I got this answer from Broc Jenkins, Technical Support Manager:

The only thing that would need to be grounded would be the lightning surge protector (if installed). If you have a surge protector installed with a signal booster system, then it will need to be grounded by running a 12 gauge copper wire (solid or braided) from the surge protector to a ground. If no surge protector is installed, then nothing will need to be grounded.

Both units have adjustable gain on them. This allows you to adjust the ‘intensity’ of the signal being boosted inside and the home and the signal back to the tower itself. The gain adjustments allow for less than ideal installations, sometimes no matter what the situation you just can get the vertical or horizontal separation that you need to ensure the maximum amount of coverage inside. The units also have sophisticated circuitry that prevents feedback to the tower, and you don’t want that! (Verizon doesn’t want it either!) Setting the proper gain can be a pain, but Wilson provided a built-in test mode that makes finding the proper level of gain a breeze. When you first plug in the DB Pro or 4G LTE 700 the units go into a test mode for 15 minutes. This test mode allows you to find the highest level of gain you can use without causing the signal to falter. Basically you start at the highest gain and turn the dial back until the red light goes away. It’s that simple. Once you set it up, you can forget it and it works silently in the background.

One thing that to keep in mind is that DB Pro uses the usual cables for running satellite tv, RG-6 which is very much widely available and low-loss. It is provided in the kit that I got, and it also is easy to find. The 4G LTE 700 requires a type of cable that I am not familiar with, what I do know is that this cable is very thick and also very heavy. It’s something to keep in mind when running the cable inside the home. The standard holes that you may have drilled already are not going to be large enough to accommodate the larger cables.

The engineers at Wilson Electronics have put together quite a package here and they really understand the ins and outs of the business of boosting cellphone signals. Their products are not cheap, you really do get what you pay for, and I cannot recommend them enough. Their products simply work, and if you do encounter a problem, a real live human answers the phone! If you struggle with weak signals, be it in your car, or your home there is a solution for you from Wilson.

Purchase: DB Pro 
Purchase: 4G LTE 700
Purchase: Sleek 4G-V