New gear.. new testing.
We are ramping up for a new round of testing, this time testing out some alternative MIMO portable TS-9 antennas, new weBoost Drive Sleek booster, Peplink MAX-BR1 Mk2 and Cradlepoint IBR-900.
The cellular boosters being tested:
- weBoost Drive 4G-X - our tried and true standard, based on many previous rounds of signal testing. We'll be using the vehicle antenna kit with the original 4" Mag Mount and OTR antennas as a control in this round.
- weBoost Drive Sleek - this newly released cradle booster from weBoost is a re-engineered form factor of their previous model - separating the interior antenna from the amplifier.
- Wilson Electronics Drive Sleek 4G - the original 4G cradle booster from weBoost, released in 2014 with the new 4G/LTE FCC certification. We'll be testing the new Sleek against it for performance. (Note, in 2015 Wilson Electronics rebranded to weBoost, and re-released this as the Drive 4G-S with a new case design. But electronically it was an identical product.)
- Cel-Fi Go M - With new firmware now available that is supposed to fix many of the issues we found during our May 2017 testing round, we're eager to get this digital booster back into testing. Cel-Fi may be getting us their new trucker antenna to test with in time - if they do, we'll change the 4G-X antenna to the OTR.
SureCall Fusion2GO RV 3.0 - SureCall wrote us to let us know they have a new version of their Fusion2Go mobile router we tested a year ago - claiming it has substantial technology changes.However, the evaluation unit they shipped us did not arrive in time to be included in this round of testing, and they have provided no further tech details to us.
The Antennas Being Tested
Netgear MIMO Suction Cup - We pretty much have a love affair going on with this directional suction cup mounted antenna that plugs directly into LTE hotspots with dual antenna ports. The results were amazing - often outperforming roof mounted antennas and boosters. In August this antenna disappeared from the market (soon to return), but seems to now be reliably back in stock.
- AntennaWorld 12Bi Log Periodic Directional - The designers of the weBoost Directional antenna have given us their wider band version to test head to head with.
- weBoost 4G Slim - weBoost's new interior antenna for their boosters. We'll compare it to the older 'candy bar' style (arrived in late February).
Routers Being Tested
- Cradlepoint IBR900 - Cradlepoint's newest flagship mobile router with a dual SIM embedded cellular modem.
- Pepwave MAX-BR1 Mk2 - Pepwave's refreshed mobile router with dual SIM embedded cellular modem (compared to the MK1 or 'Classic' model)
- WiFiRanger MicroLTE Pack - WiFiRanger's newest roof mounted T-Mobile based LTE modem. (Caught up to us in late February)
- Winegard ConnecT 2.0 - Winegard's refreshed ConnecT unit with roof mounted modem, this time with a user replaceable SIM card. (Caught up to us in late February)
The devices & the carriers we are testing them with include:
- Verizon - Novatel 7730L
- AT&T - Unite Explore & Netgear Nighthawk
- T-Mobile - ZTE Falcon Z-917 + Millenicom Airesy
- Sprint - Warp
For guides to boosters & antennas:
Our testing procedures:
During our testing, we will attempt to visit a variety of testing locations.
We start by taking 3 baseline readings with each of our cellular devices with no booster or antenna.
Each device is tested independently, with all other nearby devices in airplane mode to prevent any potential interference.
Next, for each device we test each booster and/or antenna combination. We take readings with the mobile hotspot device directly on the interior antenna for boosters, and for those claiming extended interior range we also test at 6' away.
The readings taken are:
Coverage? Map snapshot, showing high level view of anticipated service at each location.
- Signal strength db reading, on devices that support it using Field Test mode.
- Signal bars/dots present & service type - HSPA, LTE (and specifically which band, when possible), 3G, 1XRT, Edge, etc.
- DL = Download speed.
- UL = Upload speed.
- Ping time.
- SNR or Quality - Signal to Noise Ratio, if reported by device.
- Calculated scores.
For speed and ping readings, we are using the Ookla Speedtest app. When testing mobile hotspots we test on one of our iPads while connected via WiFi to the hotspot. We keep the distance between iPad and mobile hotspot consistent over the same WiFi band to rule out WiFi variables.
All of the individual field testing results and observations shared below are for our members. Not only will the results show the performance of each booster/antenna, but also what to expect in different types of signal situations.
Our goal in our cellular and Wi-Fi gear testing isn’t to attempt to create perfectly “fair” lab conditions, which are impossible in the real world. Instead, we try to strike a balance between real-world scenarios and the need to be able to test multiple setups head-to-head while being able to rapidly switch between them.
By testing in a range of locations and situations patterns tend to emerge - and we always try to sanity-check our conclusions by mixing things up to make sure that the overall results make sense and are representative.
Data Collection Completed: From February 1 - March 15, 2018 we hit the road testing new gear on a 1200 mile trip from Florida to Texas. We conducted two very in-depth testing rounds in remote signal locations, as well as tons of hands on time with the equipment. Our data collection is now complete, and we'll be working on analyzing our data to sum up into our various reviews.
Our initial thoughts on the gear, field testing data and notes are shared below for our members.
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