Wi-Fire Long-range Wi-Fi Adapter
Company: hField Technologies
The number of wireless adapters on the market can make your head spin. They all connect to a USB port in your computer and piggyback on whatever Wi-Fi signal they can reach. Many claim to be long-range. The Wi-Fire says it can pick up a signal 1,000 feet away.
If you have a laptop, you can drive around your neighborhood and see how this works from your AirPort menu. Every few feet you’ll see the list of available connections expand or contract depending on how many of your neighbors have Internet connections. Of course, most of the time these connections will be (as they should be) password protected, so they won’t get you on the Internet. You wouldn’t want to intrude on your neighbor’s privacy anyway, would you?
But if you’re on your patio or in the parking lot of a publicly available wireless connection, the issue shifts away from whether you’ll get a connection (of course you will) to how strong that connection will be. What good is a connection if it goes to lunch every five minutes?
hField Technologies’ Wi-Fire directional antenna can be turned this way and that and is designed with circuitry that, the company claims, will amplify the signal from base stations in the area. This definitely seems to be the case with the one I evaluated.
I use Macs in my house but keep an old PC in the shed out back. Typically, if I wanted to use the computer in the shed to get on the Internet, I’d take my Linksys Wireless G Adapter out there and plug it into a USB port. Sure, it worked. But when I did the same thing with the Wi-Fire, I repeatedly got a much stronger connection.
In part, the improvement is probably attributable to the fact that the antenna is omnidirectional. The antenna is a skinny palm-sized rectangle (wider than a Snickers bar and as thick as two Hershey Bars, for those who know their sweets). It has a USB cable attached to the rectangle. This means you can plug the adapter into a USB port and, because of the cable, you can then turn the antenna 360 degrees until you find the strongest signal.
The Wi-Fire works with Macs and Windows machines. The software that came with mine was out of date but a quick visit to hField’s website produced the latest version. It installed effortlessly and immediately produced a list of available connections from internet providers in my area along with a bar graph showing the strongest to the weakest.
The Wi-Fire comes with a little stand (I call it the Lunar Lander) that connects to the top of your laptop. It works but the “feet” on mine kept falling off. Not a big deal because you can sit the antenna almost anywhere but in a pot of soup and it will work.