Amped Wireless R10000G Router and Smart Repeater hands-on
When we opened the pair of boxes from Amped, we were expecting these devices to have a gravitas befitting such a fêted device. It was almost a disappointment to learn they're as light, if not lighter than most of the networking gear we've seen. Two Ethernet cables dangle from each unit out of the box, one bearing a "Plug into Modem" tag, the other reading "Plug into PC." Power users may feel patronized, but it's clear the company has taken the time to ensure no one's left out here.
The installation menu is flawlessly designed, easing you through the process with little fuss. Compared to some routers we've reviewed this year, the modest effort to make a potentially tedious setup process painless bodes well for the outfit's attention to detail. In under five minutes, we were up and running, slurping down internet from all over the house.
We began with a simple enough question: in real-world conditions, can the device actually serve enough internet to blanket 10,000 square feet? The company supplies a WiFi analytics tool for Android, so in the same way you'd go hunting for metal on a beach, we went hunting for a signal. For the purposes of this test, we compared the signal to what we got from BT's branded HomeHub 3.0, a Technicolor / GigaSet router that comfortably covers around 2,000 square feet.
The R10000G was available as a discoverable network 115 feet from our front door, but didn't offer up any tangible connection until we'd moved within 55 feet of the base station. All in all, we managed to get around 8,000 square feet of good coverage before it became too flaky to use. Given that it was passing through five walls followed by an extra 31 feet outdoors, we could get signal around three times as far as the stock BT router.
For our second test, we installed the Smart Repeater in a house across the street, with roughly 150 feet separating the two devices. It took a little prodding to get the Repeater to connect, but once we had a connection, we were able to cover the street in broadband. During the few hours we spent testing this, we could stand and surf (okay, tweet) from the middle of the street without ever switching to cellphone data. We won't lie: there's something immensely satisfying (albeit dangerous) about knowing that you could watch web video out in the middle of the road. If you've got a big back yard, the last thing you want is to be trapped inside because of a weak network extender, but that, too, is something you shouldn't have to fret about.
For our final test, we took the gear off to a secret location: a disused Victorian courthouse and prison that's been turned into a private home. Including the cell block, there's living space of around 8,000 square feet, littered with heavy brick walls, lead-lined doors and maze-like construction. The only place the residents can latch onto a WiFi signal is the room as where their Huawei HG521 router is situated. To be clear, this test isn't in response to any claim Amped is making; it just seemed to us that a home so unfriendly to WiFi would be a telling place to put this robust gear through its paces.
We set up the R10000G in the study, at which point the internet was instantly able to penetrate all of the rooms on that side of the cell block -- previously unheard of in this house. It roughly covered around 4,000 square feet, including all of the various offices and the courthouse. However, the signal wouldn't travel beyond the cell block, so we decided to place the repeater at the farthest end of the building to see if we couldn't use it to break through the barrier. It was able to scan for the router and register it with around 60 percent signal strength, but despite repeated attempts, it simply refused to connect. The steel and iron bars, lead-lined doors and walls that encircle the wing simply too strong even for world-class kit like this.
There's something satisfying about tech that's made with care and does its job well. In this case, we're not going to gloss over the fact that the router and repeater will set you back a combined $260 -- it's a hefty commitment, to be sure. But for those of you who require constant connectivity, or have to make do with a home that isn't WiFi-friendly, then the little extra you'll pay up front will more than compensate for all the mindless web surfing you'll enjoy thereafter.