There are two pieces to this device: the Window Unit and the Coverage Unit. If you guessed that the Window Unit belongs in the Window, you’d be correct. You place it in a window in a place where you one to five bars of wireless signal. The Coverage Unit is placed in the central part of your home or building. Both units are plugged into the wall and hook up to each other automatically in a simple step-by-step set up process.
This device is nifty for a few reasons. Let me hit on the big ones:
1) Setup is a snap! Literally, this device takes no extra cables besides the power cables (which are of reasonable length). The setup process is as simple as this: Plug in the window unit, make sure it has at least one bar displayed on the front of the unit, then plug in the coverage unit, make sure it gives you a green light. Yes? Setup is done, and you have increased your coverage already.
2) It Works! Pretty discreetly, this device does exactly what it says it will do, with results you would expect.
It increases data speed… in certain places: The Cel-Fi is advertised as a device that can increase data speeds, and it does. The increase wasn’t huge – usually about 0.10-0.30 mbps increases – but it was an increase. The most dramatic increase came in rooms without good coverage in the first place (like interior rooms with no windows, or basement interior rooms). These saw increases of 0.40+ mbps download speed increases and sometimes upwards of 0.70 mbps increases. Upload speeds were generally unaffected, but sometimes saw impressive spikes of 0.50 mbps+. But note – the download speeds were always higher when the Cel-Fi device was turned on.
It increases your cellular signal… a little: Similar to the data speed increase, the cell signal generally didn’t jump to five bars everywhere, but normally I saw a one-bar increase in most places. Once again, the most notable increase was in rooms with lower cell signal – like interior rooms without windows. It is also worth noting that the floor that had the device increased the strength to five bars nearly everywhere – except at the very opposite end of the building, where it fell to four.
Voice quality increase - This was a close call. I didn’t notice that much of an increase in voice quality (I made ten calls both with and without Cel-Fi turned on), but I did notice that some of the interference or haziness did disappear from time to time with the Cel-Fi on. It may not be the best selling point of the device.
3) It’s a Breeze to Use! There’s no connecting, no having to set up the device on your computer, no programs on your computer or device to run. You just plug them into the wall and watch your device’s signal increase.
1) Price – This device comes in at $525. Enough said.
2) Carriers? One. - You can only get this device for T-Mobile devices in the United States. Moreover, it can only be used with 2G/3G devices… HSPA+/”4G” devices aren’t compatible.
3) Probably Not for Consumers - This device doesn’t seem geared toward consumers as much as business owners with buildings that lack good, quality cell signal. That being said, it appears to be advertised as a consumer product, and it just might not be worth it to get an extra bar of coverage here and there.
While the Cel-Fi does exactly what it is advertised to do – increase the power of your wireless signal, and thus give you a better connection – the lack of carriers and the high price make it difficult to recommend for the consumer market in the US. However, if you’re running multiple 3G T-Mobile devices in a business where cell signal is weak, this might be a godsend.