We first heard of BearExtender back in January
, when it released its n3 for Macs. That $45 extender from Berkeley grad Roland Saekow impressed our friends at TUAW
and seemed like a right old bargain for those who operate on the very edges of WiFi range.
Now there's a PC version, aptly and cunningly titled BearExtender PC. It too is a $45 ($44.97 to be exact) 802.11n
adapter and it looks much the same as its fruitier brethren. It's a reasonably small capsule, about the size of an Altoids tin but thinner and, naturally, proudly displaying a 2dBi gain antenna, which thankfully pivots and rotates in all sorts of directions.
It has a miniUSB connector on the bottom, coming with two cables of differing lengths that you can select from depending on how far away from a host port this will be situated. On the back is a clip to attach it to your monitor, but that easily comes off if you're not feeling it.
Install and testing
Installation is easy: there's a CD containing drivers for XP, Vista, and Windows 7, which take all of a minute to deploy. After that you plug the thing in to your next available USB port and wait for the little blue light to start blinking. Surf's up.
The clip on the back of the device makes it easy to perch it atop an LCD, but of course when it's attached thusly the lid on your laptop won't latch. We could certainly see removing that altogether and using a little adhesive-backed Velcro to stick it onto your display instead, which sounds like a fun and simple DIY project. Unfortunately there's no getting around that USB cable.
For testing we headed out into the wilds, the frigid and frozen wasteland that has become our back yard. With our trusty Linksys
WRT54G in the basement next to the cable modem we get great signal inside, but in the summertime we're lucky if there's much left 60 feet from the house. Surprisingly, in the 20 degree F temperatures and humidity-free air we're seeing lately, signal range has seen something of a boost.