Wow, an extended wireless network that truly works!
In the early days of a home wireless network, the available hardware was expensive, the included software was finicky, and file transfers were slow. Modern wireless networking is nearly a complete opposite of this. There have been improvements in the wireless networking hardware for greater range and speed and improvements in the software to increase user friendliness and reduce the need for an instruction manual or technical support. These improvements have been so effective at expanding the wireless install base that I now believe that a modem or router outage would create louder family complaints than that of defective refrigerator or TV.
My time with JCG’s router and wireless repeater showed me that creating a large wireless network is not only quick to complete, but cost-effective, too.
Both items came in a very basic packaging. The router was packaged with the usual AC adapter and Ethernet cable. Nothing was packaged with the repeater except for the unit itself.
The router is pretty plain looking and feels hollow. It sports three large antennae that are rotatable to nearly any position. The repeater has a form and function similar to some of the original Apple Airport Express routers back years ago: An odd-shaped “wall wart” that may block multiple outlets when installed.
The AC Adapter for the router has a very short cable. Make sure to map out a line-conditioned extension cable if the router is going to be mounted on a ceiling or on top of a shelving unit. During my test installation, I noted that the status LEDs were a little dim and were cut into the unit casing so that the router’s status could only be seen if standing over the router or if the router was mounter vertically on a wall. This was only a minor annoyance, but I felt it worth mentioning.
Since the repeater plugs directly into the wall and is designed to extend an existing network, a single outlet is taken up by the unit and no additional cables are needed. Just in case, though, the repeater does have a single Ethernet port to connect a wired device, or perhaps an additional switch depending on your own intended network setup.
During my initial setup (before pairing the router and repeater), both devices powered on and I was able to walk in and out of my house with my tablet and phone, testing good signal strength in a wide area for both separate wireless sources.
Once I determined that my wireless ranges successfully overlapped with maximal property coverage, I then moved on to setting up the repeater function. Ideally, once the two pieces of hardware were connected to each other, any other home devices that moved between fields would not show an interruption of network connection.
Right from factory defaults, the wireless router and repeater each listed the network identifier of the other device, and the pack-in instruction card was pretty straightforward on how to join the two devices in a non-WPS connection. For those interested, attempting to setup a pairing with a WPS connection worked just fine, too, but since I do not traditionally use WPS, I quickly changed back to connecting the router repeater with WPA2 passphrases.
Once the wireless network was fully configured, speed and signal tests confirmed that I was able to achieve ISP upstream and downstream maximums for that particular area and price package (30Mb down/3Mb up). Netflix and Hulu streaming worked excellently no matter where I was in the house, be it the second floor, ground floor, or basement. I then walked outside and attempted to try catching up on my subscribed YouTube channels (and a little bit of Feedly RSS). This test worked so well, and at such an extended range that I am still considering turning down the antennae power to shrink the spheres of wireless range.
As of this writing, both pieces of hardware have been set up in a semi-permanent replacement of some existing hardware. Between all of the configuring and testing, the extended network has been up and running for about three weeks and no ill effects or crashes have been noted. I will continue to use the network and keep an eye out for trouble. Should anything fail, I will come back and update this review, but for now, the equipment is working very well.
Speaking from past experience, wireless repeaters or wireless network expanders (depending on how a manufacturer chooses to market a particular accessory) never work well. Until I worked with this JCG model, I had never seen an extended home network that maintained a consistent, fast connection. I want to give a hearty thank you to this manufacturer for getting it right the first time.
As I close this review, I do want to warn our readers that the included device manuals are not the best. There are a couple spots of iffy English present and a few undefined or poorly described options in the built-in HTML interfaces on both the router and repeater. I wouldn’t worry too much, though. As long as the person performing the install has had even a little experience with setting up a wireless network, these grammar and software issues are only minor annoyances. And, again, these units are not fancy to look at, but to reiterate my most positive point: THEY REALLY WORK.
This hardware pair is a good buy for a user that needs to cover a lot of wireless range and maintain great speed, without breaking the bank.