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In The News
May 4, 2016 — by EMILY FISHERSHARE ARTICLE
Anyone who lives in an area with weak cell phone service knows what a hassle it is to sit near one particular window or to go outside every time you want to make a call. That’s where signal boosters like the $349.99 WeBoost Eqo come in. Boosters improve network performance and connectivity, and can mean the difference between a strong signal and one that’s barely there. The Eqo is relatively simple for anyone to set up, and offered impressive connectivity gains in testing. It also supports every major carrier without monthly fees or the need for an external antenna. That makes it worthy of our Editors’ Choice.
Design and Setup
Out of the box, you only have two pieces of equipment to deal with: the main Eqo unit and the antenna. Accessories include a power supply and a 25-foot coaxial cable.
The Eqo$349.99 at Amazon itself measures 12 by 9 by 4 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.4 pounds. The front is covered in shiny black plastic, with WeBoost branding and a status LED, while the back is covered in rubberized plastic. You’ll find a charging port on the left, along with an input for a coaxial cable and a connector for an optional external antenna (not included).
The antenna box is similar in shape, though a bit smaller, at 9 by 8 by 3 inches and 1.9 pounds. It has the same shiny plastic front with a WeBoost logo, and a rubberized back and sides. Unlike the Eqo, the antenna has a stand so you can keep it propped up on a table or windowsill. Alternatively, there are built-in mounting brackets covered by a rubber flap so you can put it on a wall. There’s a connector for the coaxial cable on the back.
To get the Eqo up and running, you need to start by finding the area in your space with the best signal strength. Doing that with an Android phone is easy: On your phone, tap Settings > About Phone > Network > SIM Status. There you should find signal strength displayed in decibels (dB). Walk around the house until you find the point with that shows the lower decibel rating (more on that in a minute). It’s slightly more complicated for iPhone users. You have to launch the phone dialer and call *3001#12345#* to enter Field Test Mode. Then you can pull down the notification shade, and in the top left corner, you’ll see signal strength in place of where signal bars are normally displayed. It showed up fine on the Apple iPhone 6s Plus$749.99 at T-Mobile I used for testing.
Signal strength operates on a logarithmic scale, so the lower number is better. A reading between -50dB to -85dB is a strong signal. -110dB or higher is weak or no signal. As long as a signal exists, a cell booster should be able to amplify it. According to WeBoost, you need to have a strong enough signal to make a call in order for the booster to work, so if you live in a complete dead zone, you’re out of luck.
Place the Eqo wherever you get the lowest decibel reading (for me, this was the back of the house by the kitchen window) and connect it to the power supply. Make sure the shiny plastic section with the LED is facing into the room where you can see it, and not out toward a wall or window. At this point, the LED will be red because the antenna isn’t set up yet. That’s even easier; all you need to do is place it in the area where you most commonly use your phone, tablet, or any other cellular device. The two units should be facing each other. The minimum distance is 6 feet and the maximum is 25 feet, which is the length of the coaxial cable.
Given the layout of my house, I had to put the antenna unit in the middle of my living room That meant running the coaxial cable straight through the kitchen and into the living room. You can always supply your own longer cable to get around this issue. This can get a bit clunky, especially if you have to run the cable through multiple rooms in your home. Some boosters, like the 4G LTE Signal Booster on T-Mobile, are wireless, avoiding this problem.
Once the booster and antenna are connected, the LED light on the booster should turn green, which means that you have a signal and everything is working. If the light is orange, the booster is too close to an external signal and you should change its location.
Setup took about ten minutes, with the majority of time spent walking around the perimeter of my house trying to find the spot with the best signal strength. There are no accounts to register, no monthly service charges to keep track of, and no external antennas to install (unless you want to; it can further improve performance).
Network Performance and Range
The Eqo supports LTE bands 2/4/5/12/13/17, allowing it to improve performance on all major US carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and US Cellular. I tested the Eqo with an iPhone 6s Plus and a Google Nexus 5X$379.00 at Google Store on T-Mobile, and aSamsung Galaxy S5 on Verizon Wireless in Kendall Park, New Jersey. The area is practically a dead zone for T-Mobile and has weak Verizon connectivity.
Prior to installing the booster, I measured signal strength on all three phones. The 6s Plus and Nexus 5X reported a range of -105dB to -113dB, and only when the phones were by the window. In other parts of the house, I was in a dead zone, unable to make any calls, making my effective download and upload speed 0Mbps. For the Galaxy S5 on Verizon, signal strength was better, ranging from -97dB to -101dB. Average download speeds were around 7Mbps and upload speed were close 3Mbps. Unimpressive, but passable.
After installing the Eqo, signal strength on all three devices improved dramatically. The Nexus 5X and 6s Plus reported signal strength ranging from -95dB to -97dB. Not only that, in the area where I previously had no connectivity at all, I saw a high of 10Mbps download and 0.3Mbps upload speeds. Both devices became usable in the living room, and I was able to make calls and use data without having to rely on Wi-Fi.
I saw even more impressive improvement on the Galaxy S5 on Verizon. Signal strength ranged from -84dB to -91dB, which made for significantly improved download and upload speeds. The S5 hit a high of 30Mbps down and 10Mbps up. I was able to make calls, browse the web, and even download apps without Wi-Fi.
The booster is capable of covering up to 1,500 square feet. It was able to handle my one-bedroom townhouse without any trouble. That said, there was a noticeable decline in signal strength and data rates when I moved from the living room and into adjacent areas.
On the Nexus 5X and 6s Plus, the decline was steeper, likely due to the fact that T-Mobile had the weaker signal to begin with. Decibel range increased to -99dB to -103dB (still within the range of usability). Download speeds declined to 7Mbps while uploads remained the same. The Galaxy S5 on Verizon fared better, increasing marginally to -87dB to -90dB and pulling in 25.5Mbps down and 2Mbps up.
The WeBoost Eqo is a powerful signal booster that vastly improves the signal strength and network performance of cellular service in your home. The Eqo yielded big gains on three different phones operating on two different networks. And in one case, it meant the difference between decent service and no service at all. If you have a larger home, you will be better served by a more powerful booster like the WeBoost Connect 4G-X, which uses an outdoor antenna and can support areas up to 7,500 square feet. But for those in an apartment or a small house, the Eqo is a solid performer, and an Editors’ Choice.
TAGS: cell phone signal booster, eqo, pc mag, weBoost, weboost eqo, wilson electronics