If you live in a rural or wooded area (or even in urban areas surrounded by tall buildings), chances are you’ve had to roam the house to look for the best spot to place your phone for a phone call or your data card for the fastest speeds. Your solutions in the past have usually been really expensive wireless repeaters. Now, ARC Wireless plans to change that with their Freedom Antenna, available as low as $32.
The Freedom Antenna is able to be used on all carriers and most phones that have an external antenna port and claims to “Increase your Cell Phone Reception 8 Times.” Unfortunately, my BlackBerry did not have an external port, but my Verizon UM150 EVDO card was compatible. ARC Wireless has a wide variety of adapters for many phones, so check out their list here and make sure your phone is compatible first.
On first glance, there isn’t anything special looking about the Freedom Antenna. Just a simple black frame about the size of a checkbook with a cord coming out. The front has an open grill where you can see what looks like copper on the inside that gathers the signal. The Freedom Antenna is directional, so you must point it towards the cell tower.
The UM150 is hooked up to a Cradlepoint CTR350 router on the second floor of a house surrounded by trees for about a quarter of mile. Even though the trees get in the way, we still get anywhere from 2-3 bars on the card. With the antenna plugged in, the consistently saw 3 bars. In the basement of doom, however, we only saw one bar where our data card saw 0-1 bars; a far cry from the company’s “8 times” claim. Then again, on a CDMA network, bars aren’t all that matter. What really matters is the results, and here they are:
Second floor tests, no antenna
Overall, the Freedom Antenna increased download speeds from 100k to 400k and ping times usually decreased (did not decrease much when in the basement, however). These speeds can determine whether your online gaming experience will go smoothly or if you’ll be kicked off. It can also determine whether VoIP or other latency-crucial applications will be applicable.
For under $50, the Freedom Antenna is worth it if you want/need the extra speeds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t test the voice quality because we didn’t have a compatible phone. If you live in a complete dead zone and think the antenna will magically pull signal, you may want to look elsewhere.
~Increased download speeds from anywhere from 1/10th to 1/4th
~Decreased ping times dramatically
~Compatible with many phones and data cards
~Company’s claim of 8x Stronger Signal didn’t prove to be true
~Is very directional