German AVM invests heavily in this, and makes a whole series of network products called Fritz that are extra easy to connect to each other. But they also work as stand-alone gadgets in regular networks.
The Fritz Wlan Repeater is built as a homeplug device, that is, as a box that you plug directly into the two. And it’s not a stupid solution. It still needs power, and once in place in the outlet, it is comfortably out of the way. The box also has an audio jack, and can be connected directly to the stereo if you want to stream music through it, as well as a built-in fm transmitter for analog radios.
Giant pixels in rows
The Fritz Wlan Repeater has a slightly odd display consisting of 7 x 15 red diodes on one surface, where three areas are also pressure sensitive. Sure, it looks pretty fun when flashing symbols and IP numbers roll by in half-decimeter-sized numbers, but it’s not particularly practical. You need the manual at hand to understand the symbols and the touch function is questionable.
Fortunately, you don’t need to use it very much. Configuration takes place either with a program you can download from the manufacturer’s website or in a web interface. You can access the latter if you connect to the access point that the Fritz Wlan Repeater opens the first time you plug it in.
It should also be possible to connect with wpa, but we can’t get that to work despite attempts with several computers and several routers. It is somewhere here that the problems begin. We plug the repeater into a wall outlet where we start to see with a laptop that the signal from the Wi-Fi network is weak. Then it turns out to be too weak for Fritz.
Can’t handle the keys
Well, we move the box a little closer and try again, and then find the network. But it can’t connect to, because it uses an encryption key that Fritz doesn’t support – wep64 with five character key. The only thing that works for the repeater in that mode seems to be the ten character hex key, which our wifi doesn’t have set up. Also a second network with wpa2-psk could not be connected to, as the key format was again “wrong”.
Once after a lot of swearing, dropped connections and frustrating reboots we manage to connect to a fully open network (the only option we got to work) the box finally does what it’s supposed to. A weak network becomes stronger and the outer limit of where you can connect is extended. However, not significantly. We already mentioned that our laptop had significantly better reception, and at most the network range increased by about a third.
It does not save the Fritz Wlan Repeater. If you can connect with a computer to a normally set up wireless network, then a repeater must be able to do the same. This box makes bizarre and unnecessary demands on the network, has an insanely complicated and noisy configuration (if you enter the wrong password, you can’t even undo it, you have to do a factory reset on the box) and doesn’t give us that much extra range that we can handle bother us It doesn’t have to be this difficult, nor should it be.
Plus: Works after all. The audio functions.
Minus: Poor support for encryption formats and keys. Unstable when configuring.
Award: (4 out of 10)
Protocol: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n.
Network: Wi-Fi 2.4 and 5 GHz.
Transfer rate: Up to 300 Mbit/s.
Connections: Audio out, mini uhf.
Other: FM transmitter.
Size: 7.6 x 10.1 x 4 cm.
Weight: 139 grams.
Approx price: 1000 crowns.
Plus: Works after all. The audio functions
Minus: Poor support for encryption formats and keys. Unstable when configuring
Award: (4 out of 10)