This article first appeared in HWM Sep 2011.
Dead spots are annoying, we won’t deny that. To work around them, there are two alternatives — either get a pair of HomePlugs, or whip out a wireless extender. The Engenius ERB9250 extender’s primary purpose is to extend your SOHO router’s Wi-Fi coverage, although it can also be deployed as a client bridge as well, which in other words, means the ERB9250 can be used to extend your wired network by connecting a network switch to the unit.
Dressed in white with two detachable antennas, the ERB9250 looks very much like your average router except that it comes with a single Ethernet port instead of the usual four. At the top of the device sits three LEDs, with dedicated indicators for the extender’s power, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi status. The latter two indicators turn solid blue when enabled, and blink when there’s network traffic. You can ignore the rest of the dummy LEDs since Engenius is using the same chassis top for the ESR9752 model.
There are two ways to attach the ERB9250 to your existing home network. If your current Access Point (AP) supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), you can simply press your router’s WPS button, followed by the one on the extender. If all goes well, the extender should replicate the router’s current wireless settings and SSID. That’s the easy way.
Alternatively, you can wire the ERB9250 to your computer to configure it, which was what we did. To access the extender’s setup page on the web browser, we assigned a static IP address to the computer’s NIC with the same network segment as the extender.
To clone our router’s SSID, we headed to the ERB9250’s Wireless page and clicked on the Site Survey button. You should see a list of available access points. To complete the cloning process, we selected our router’s SSID and keyed in the relevant encrypted WPA2 key.
For our tests, we placed a notebook approximately 28 meters away from an N-router where its Wi-Fi reach is almost out of range. The adapter’s signal strength dropped to a single bar, with a measured downlink throughput of 1.116Mbps. Next, we brought in the Engenius extender, positioned midway between the router and laptop. The notebook’s Wi-Fi signal strength bounced back up to five bars, with Windows displaying a theoretical speed of 270Mbps on the notebook.
In reality, however, we only saw a slight improvement in the downlink throughput at 5.366Mbps. Nonetheless, the Engenius ERB9250 managed to provide a viable WLAN link at a distance where signal drops are likely at longer ranges. As added icing on the cake, the wireless connection remained sustainable at a distance of approximately 35 meters away from the AP.