[2014 Testing] Cellular Booster Testing: Wilson Sleek 4G vs Wilson Mobile 4G/weBoost 4G-M

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We've spent the month of September 2014 at Oregon's scenic Cape Blanco State Park as volunteer lighthouse tour guides.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

It is one of our favorite places on the entire Pacific Coast. Incredible scenery, great private campsites, and an absolutely magical lighthouse.

But... There is not much at all in the way of cellular signal here, particularly back in the heavily treed campground area.

In other words - the perfect place for our next round of in-depth cellular booster testing!

While here, we have been putting our full collection of onboard boosters through their paces. We tested both of our old boosters which predate the new FCC certification requirements, and two new 2014 model FCC approved boosters.

Here is what we tested:

  • Wilson Sleek 4G-Verizon — Tri band cradle-style booster, with Verizon LTE and AT&T 4G HSPA+ support.
  • Top-Signal 55 — Dual band, boosting most pre-LTE signals. 55dB maximum gain
  • Wilson Mobile 4G (same as the weBoost 4G-M) — New five band booster, with support for multiple devices at once on Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile LTE. 50dB maximum gain. Price point: $350
  • Wilson Sleek 4G (same as the weBoost 4G-S) — new five band cradle-style booster, supports a single device at a time and LTE on Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. 23dB maximum gain. Price point: $150

All of the above equipment was provided for testing courtesy of Powerful Signal.

For a list of current 4G Mobile Boosters on the market:
Comparison: Mobile 4G Cellular Boosters (weBoost, SolidRF, MAX-AMP, SureCall)

 

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In this round of testing, we set out to answer questions like:

  • Is there any reason to upgrade from the older Sleek 4G to the new 2014 model?
  • Does the Mobile 4G have enough advantages over the Sleek 4G to justify over twice the price?
  • Are the older boosters hopelessly obsolete now, or are they still worth keeping around?

Read on to find out!

Our antenna testing lab.

Our antenna testing lab.

We tested every booster using its stock provided inside and outside antennas, all installed identically onto the bus with the outside antenna mounted to our roof, and the inside antenna in our tech cabinet.

We tested the following connection scenarios:

  • Outside, on our camp site picnic table.
  • Inside the tech cabinet in our bus (with no booster).
  • Inside the tech cabinet with the various boosters tried in turn.
The scenic cliff-side "Cape Blanco Phone Booth"

The scenic cliff-side "Cape Blanco Phone Booth", the only place in the campground with reliable cellular signal.

We also tested at the bluff down the road from the campground that has a clearer line-of-sight view of the town down the coast - an area we have come to call the "Cape Blanco Phone Booth" because so many campers walk down here to make phone calls and check emails.

All the speed test results reported here are representative, averaged over several tests. If test results were oddly inconsistent from test to test, that is noted.

The order in each category is ranked by measured signal strength, in dBm, from strongest to weakest. Remember - the lower the dBm number, the stronger the signal. But pay attention to the tested speeds - signal alone isn't everything!

 

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