Walking into any home today and you’ll easily count more than ten things that are in different rooms and all connect to the home network. From connected light bulbs to the doorbell, we’re adding more and more devices to our wireless network. We’re also adding them in places where we traditionally wouldn’t be using our laptops or gaming consoles aka devices before the smart home.
Take our home for example, the home router is located at one end of the house, the Foxtel is near that, as is the TV, game console and where we normally sit to use our computers. Never a problem with Wi-Fi range. We did however recently add Philips Hue globes into our bedside lamps and they are at the other end of the house.
When you go to bed at night the last thing you want to deal with is a lamp that won’t turn off. Sometimes closing the bedroom door is enough to hinder the wifi to that room and as a result the lights are left on and unable to work. For the same reason, a security camera at the front or back of the house could be out of range and look good as a deterrent but actually not able to record the crook breaking into your home. We also had a Chromecast in the bedroom which would be patchy or have long long buffering periods when in use.
Enter the Wi-Fi range extenders. These are products which need to be in range of your existing Wi-Fi and will then balloon it out again from it’s location. Think of two circles overlapping slightly and that’s what the Wi-Fi range map would look like when in use.
The issue with Wi-Fi range extenders of the past was that it would create it’s own network, so if you main network name was EFTM, it would be EFTM-ext. So you would need to make sure you are connected to one or the other, and in the world of smart things, you’d need to consciously make that decision so they work best.
The latest from Netgear known as the X4S, solves a couple of issues in our household. Firstly, we can control our growing list of smart accessories in the home with a wider range now. Secondly, we can also do it without thinking about which Wi-Fi network we connect the device to. They are one and the same, it is a single network powered by multiple devices to control the many. Similar to a restaurant serving out of one kitchen with many Chefs, we don’t care who is preparing the meal as long as it gets here!
In a world where the NBN receives a lot of attention when it comes to the internet in our homes, we need to make sure we blame the right thing when our connection isn’t working, and for many of us – it is the internal network that since the days of originally buying a router we simple forgot about.
Setting up the Netgear X4S was what made us want to publish this review so quickly. It will take you longer to read this article than it will to setup the device, including the unboxing.
You’ll need to use your smartphone or laptop to assess your home network, don’t try and setup the extender in the poor bedroom, put it in the one that at least receives two bars. You want the product to be able to hold onto the existing network and rebroadcast at the same time. If you put it into the room where the connectivity is poor you’re not going to have a good experience.
Finding a powerpoint for the product might have been my biggest challenge, it’s a large-ish device which means it sits fine in a double power point but not very well on a power board. Plugging it in and waiting a minute for it to turn on gives you some time to read what else is happening on EFTM. After a minute or two you press the WPS button on the X4S, walk over to your home router and do the same. Wait a few more minutes and you’re done.
Walk into that room with the poor Wi-Fi connection and comment here about how it is now… full bars I assume. Now, with us we did dig into the settings to see if we could tweak the product a little, we did, we setup the X4S to rebroadcast the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, ran a firmware update, and followed some config advice on the settings of our router to improve the performance. We also appreciated the ability to turn off the LEDs on the X4S if it were in a room where it could bother someone.
We genuinely wish we could write more about it but sometimes a simple product only needs a few words, it just works.
The Netgear X4S range extender will be available from February 7th for $279 RRP.