Tag Archives: wifi

AmpliFi Brings Mesh WiFi to UK



Mesh WiFi is still considered a new product in most markets with few consumers understanding the technology behind it or the benefits over wifi extenders. Many people simply use the basic wifi in the modem or router supplied by their broadband provider, though I imagine we’ll see mesh wifi incorporated into their offerings over the next year or so. Sky already has with their Sky Q product.

For those of us geeks who’d rather do our own thing, Ubiquiti have announced the availability of their AmpliFi HD Mesh Wi-Fi products in the United Kingdom. The AmpliFi system starts with a modernist cube HD Router that has a neat touchscreen display showing up and download speeds. The wifi network is extended with MeshPoints which plug directly into power sockets. These look discrete and stylish too [Correction – the picture shows a US plug on the MeshPoint, not a UK plug, so it will be the right way up.]

In addition to the hardware, AmpliFi HD offers plug-and-play setup through an app that directly links AmpliFi devices to a smartphone (or tablet) via Bluetooth.  With the app, owners can manage their network, monitor ISP speeds, invite guests, create family profiles, check network security and access in-app support. AmpliFi uses 802.11ac WiFi technology, powering up to 5.45 Gb/s of aggregate wireless throughput. Being mesh, AmpliFi provides great speed and great coverage. Spec-wise, AmpliFi is a dual-band system, supporting 802.11ac plus the usual b/g/a/n, with 3×3 antennas.

There’s a note with the MeshPoints that they can pair with an “an existing router [turning it] into a powerful mesh network” which is interesting. I’d assume that there’s some kind of minimum spec, such as 11ac, to make this work effectively.

Investing in mesh wifi is a significant investment. The AmpliFi starter kit with HD Router and two MeshPoints costs the best part of GB£350. Additional MeshPoints are £132. (Prices are similar in US$, to be honest). Interested? The AmpliFi HD Mesh WiFi is currently on sale through Scan and Amazon.


Devolo GigaGate Delivers Speed for Gaming and 4K



Here’s the problem….your broadband connection comes into the front of the house and your games room is at the back of the house. The free wifi router from the telco is rubbish and struggles with Netflix, never mind playing online gaming with the PS4. And the Bluray player needs a cabled connection. What are you going to do?

On solution might be to look at Devolo’s brand spanking new GigaGate Wireless Bridge which sets up a point-to-point 11ac WiFi connection and delivers gigabit-level performance. It’s fast. Very fast. Over about ten metres through one brick wall I had a connection speed of over 1 Gb/s in both directions.

The GigaGate has two units, one a base station which connects into your router via a cable, and a satellite station for the games room. The satellite offers five Ethernet ports and an 11n WiFi access point for connectivity. One of the LAN ports is gigabit and the other four are fast Ethernet (100 Mb/s). The GigaGate starter kit is a bit like Noah’s Ark – there are two units, two power suppliers and two network cables. Devolo recommends using their cables to ensure gigabit-level performance.

Getting started couldn’t be any simpler as the GigaGate bridge is configured out of the box. Connect the base station to the router, put the satellite next to the consoles and power up both units. Wait about twenty seconds for the lights to stop flashing and job done! It’s nearly idiot proof.

The base and satellite stations are shiny and black with white LEDs. As you’ll see from the pictures, they’re total dust magnets. Network ports are round the back and there are neat little feet which flip out to stand them up. The stations can be wall-mounted through the holes in the four corners, though I didn’t investigate this.

Devolo’s Cockpit app for PCs has been updated to include the GigaGate along with the dLAN powerline network units. The equivalent My Devolo app on Android doesn’t yet show the bridge though I’m sure it’s coming. Of course, both the base and satellite stations have a web interfaces, so it’s easy to log on for monitoring or configuration.

The interfaces are slightly different between the base and satellite stations. The base station can only communicate with satellite stations and the interface reflects that, showing information relating to the 5 GHz 11ac bridge. There’s only one network port too, though it is possible to connect eight satellite stations to one base station. This makes the GigaGate ideal for sending a broadband connection to outhouses – perhaps you have a garden office that’s currently supplied by a weak WiFi connection.

The satellite station offers more. While it can show the state of the bridge, the connection follows from the base. On the other hand, the base has five LAN ports plus an 11n WiFi connection which is configured here.

Frankly the best bit is checking on the Bridge Monitor to see the connection speeds between the two stations. Yes, that’s 1170 Mb/s. Most of the time, the Rx and Tx data rates were symmetrical. Occasionally they would become slightly asymmetrical but it never lasted long. Obviously YMMV when factors like building construction and WiFi congestion are taking into account.

The speed and capacity was impressive. To test the load I connected up via cable an HDTV, a gaming console, a laptop and two tablets via WiFi. None of the devices had any problems streaming video from a combination of sources (Sky Q, NAS, Netflix).

Any downsides? Well, when I first powered up the GigaGate, I found that on the default 5 GHz channel (36), the bridge seemed to stop the Hue lights in the room working. It’s slightly odd because ZigBee uses 2.4 GHz but moving the bridge to a higher channel (over 100) stopped the interference. I also found that occasionally the bridge channel would wander from the selected setting. Devolo support suggested that this would happen if there was interference on the channel.

Just as a point to note, the WiFi controls on the GigaGate aren’t as advanced as you might find on the Devolo’s dLAN powerline networking adaptors. Those offer features like guest connections and time settings which are missing from the GigaGate so don’t expect to see them on the satellite.

While talking about powerline networking, when would you use one over the other? Powerline networking would be better if, say, you lived in a building with really thick concrete walls and floors which interfere with the WiFi signal. On the other hand, powerline networking doesn’t work well (or at all) unless there is a single electrical circuit: I have this problem in my property which has been extended as there’s now two circuits and powerline networking doesn’t work well across them.

Overall, in a couple of week’s of testing, the GigaGate performed amazingly well. It’s fast and reliable but I’m not going to pretend that the GigaGate is cheap. It’s not, though it does compare favourably with competing solutions. The starter kit has an official price of GB£220 and an additional satellite station is GB£130. On the other hand it’s really good, and if you want proof, I ditched Sky’s much vaunted Sky Q network mesh in favour of the GigaGate and never looked back.

Unboxing video below.

Thanks to Devolo for supplying the GigaGate Wireless Bridge for review.


Link Mini NAS and Wireless Hotspot from Fasetto at CES



Fasetto are making good on their promises from last year’s CES with the announcement of the Fasetto Link, a palm-sized pocket NAS and communications hotspot. Building on the Fasetto’s cross-platform cloud storage, the Link is a 2″ by 1″ cuboid, packing in a maximum of 2 TB of storage and a range of communication technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth and LTE. The modular design is powered by a Linux-driven Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 7420 2.1 GHz processor.

The Link is designed for an adventurous life from the start with a water and temperature-resistant shell that should protect the owner’s data from the frozen tundra to the odd cycle in a washing machine. It’s water resistant to 45 ft (IP68) with an expected battery life of 5 hours going full pelt but there’s no detail on operating temperature. There’s an optional battery pack that clips onto the Link for additional time. The Link can be discreetly attached to D-rings and or kept out of sight inside a bag.

Link combines the most powerful commercially-available hardware with an incredibly sleek, but tough, design,” said Coy Christmas, co-founder and CEO, Fasetto. “In Link, we now have a living storage and communications device and platform that lets you stream, store and share all of your digital files through one secure location that can survive almost anything.

In addition to the physical protection, Link has “custom-developed reform security software, user permissions and multiple layers of hardware and software encryption giving users a high degree of security and control over their data.” That’s reassuring given how much data could potentially be stored in in 2 TB.

If you are wondering what you might do with this, imagine that you’ve taken loads of digital photographs but you are in the back end of nowhere. Rather than try to transfer or backup all the high quality digital photos across non-existent LTE, the photos can be stored more quickly on the Link’s storage via wifi, and then made available to other devices in the local area. That’s a fairly tame example as the octacore processor has plenty of power to record extreme sports or stream multiple HD video feeds.

Fasetto Link was named a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree in four categories, including Wireless Handset Accessories, Computer Hardware and Components, Software and Mobile Apps and Computer Accessories.

GNC and CES followers will recall that Luke Malpass from Fasetto was interviewed as part of the coverage last year and Link availability was expected for Q4 2014. This is has been revised to Spring 2017. Prices start at US$349 for a 256 GB version up to US$1,149 for the 2 TB version. More details at Link’s shop where pre-orders can be placed.

If you are attending CES, pop in to see Link in action at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Central Hall, stand 16734 from 5-7 January 2017.


Devolo dLAN 550 Doubles WiFi



Devolo LogoPowerline specialists Devolo have given their mid-range adaptors a makeover, boosting speeds and updating the styling in line with the top-end models. The new dLAN 550 series takes over from the 500s, offering greater in-house range and faster WiFi transmission rates.

dLAN 550 WiFiThere are two powerline adaptors in the 550 series, the Duo+ and the WiFi. As might be guessed, the Duo+ is the wired version and WiFi is the one with wireless. The wired range has been boosted by a third from a notional maximum of 300m to 400m, though this will be affected by local circumstances.

The most noticeable change is likely to be with the WiFi unit. The wireless speed has been doubled, going from 150 Mb/s in the old 500 to 300 Mb/s in the new 550, courtesy of 2×2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology.

550 adaptors can easily be added into an existing dLAN powerline setup either using the Cockpit software or simply pressing buttons on the adaptors. Further, Devolo’s WiFi clone feature can reproduce an existing wireless network so that laptops and tablets see only one network and seamlessly switch to the strongest signal.

The dLAN 550 WiFi is now available online and in stores. The Starter Kit costs GB£99.99 and consists of a dLAN 550 WiFi and an additional dLAN 550 duo+ adapter. A Network Kit with three adapters (two 550 dLAN WiFi adapters and one dLAN 550 duo+) is available for £149.99, while single adapters for extending the WiFi network are available for £59.99.

GNC will be having a hands-on review of the dLAN 550 Starter Kit shortly.


Keezel Personal WiFi with VPN Security



KeezelVPNs are great for keeping snooping countries, Orwellian agencies and thieving criminals at bay, but they’re not always straightforward to setup and when you have a laptop, mobile phone and tablet it’s a pain to maintain the VPN on each of them. Keezel has a solution in the shape of a personal wifi hotspot which has VPN software baked into the firmware. Daniel finds out more from Aike Müller, Co-Founder and CEO.

The way the Keezel works is that when out-and-about in coffee shops and other public wifi areas, you connect all your personal devices to the Keezel wirelessly. The Keezel connects to the public wifi network, establishes a VPN connection to a secure server and then all your communications travel securely across the network. Neat.

The standard price is US$99 for the Keezel and then $5 per month for the VPN service. The Keezel is currently on Indigogo’s InDemand having been originally 540% funded back in August 2015. There are some special perks available with devices are expected to ship in March 2016.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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TP-Link announces the first 802.11ad router



Talon-AD7200One thing that can be counted on in the world of technology is progress. Yes, everything in the world moves forward, but some is faster than others and this field is one of them, advancing at a seemingly exponential rate.

Just when you thought you’d seen the fastest routers one comes along that will blow the doors off of it in terms of speed.

That honor currently belongs to TP-Link who has announced an 802.11ad router. Yes, that’s faster than the ac standard recently being promoted.

The Talon AD7200 packs speeds of up to 4.6Gbps on 60GHz bands and Qualcomm Atheros’ 802.11ad wireless technology.

“Qualcomm is continually investing in new, innovative technologies to meet the increasing bandwidth demands resulting from overcrowded networks”, says Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.  “We are leading the way with 802.11ac wave 2 with MU-MIMO to improve efficiency in the 2.4/5 GHz bands and now once again are bringing groundbreaking 802.11ad technology to commercial fruition. These technologies combined with the unique features of TP-LINK’s Talon AD7200 Multi-band Wi-Fi Router are designed to improve wireless networking and user experience”.

It will be available early this year, but a price was not announced.


Hunter Ceiling Fans Go Wireless For CES



Hunter Fan CompanyNow this is a cool idea. Ceiling fan inventors, Hunter Fan Co, have introduced Wi-Fi controlled ceiling fans integrated with Apple’s HomeKit for CES. Feeling a little warm? Ask Siri to turn on the fan for a gentle breeze to lower the temperature.

There’s two new Wi-Fi models coming to the market, Symphony and Signal. Symphony has a graceful, modern design and comes in fresh white, while Signal, with its satin nickel housing and reversible wood-finished blades, is a contemporary blend of sleek design and classic finishes. Symphony’s MSRP is $329; Signal’s MSRP is $379. Both fans are available Spring 2016 at online sites such as Hunter FanAmazonBuildBestBuyHomeDepotLowes and Menards. Of course they will be stocked in lighting showrooms nationwide.

Hunter FanAs with all HomeKit-enabled equipment, users can also create custom scenes involving the fans and the built-in lights. For example, one could create a scene to automatically turn on the fan’s light, lock the doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat to the desired temperature in just one step.  For emergencies, users can also set up HomeKit-enabled products to work together based on triggers, such as having the fan’s light turn on the moment the fire alarm detects smoke.

Hunter FanOur ceaseless innovation is why Hunter Fan is the industry leader, and these new Wi-Fi enabled fans, with added support for Apple HomeKit, are a testament to our heritage of progress and originality,” said Hunter Fan CEO John Alexander. “They’re beautiful, affordable, high quality pieces of decor that bring state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology where it might not be expected: the ceiling fan. As we celebrate 130 years, we have several exciting developments to share with our customers, and are proud to kick off 2016 at CES with Symphony and Signal.

Symphony and Signal were developed in collaboration with industry leaders Ayla Networks and Marvell Technology Group Ltd., which will feature the fans in their respective displays at CES 2016.


Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit Review



Devolo Logo

I’m a big fan of powerline networking and Devolo in particular because it helped me double the speed of my internet connection. It was simple; using one of their adaptors I was able to put my broadband router by my telephone master socket rather than at the end of a long extension lead. In one go, my download speed jumped from around 4 Mb/s to over 8 Mb/s. Result.

Obviously these speeds are trivial in comparison with data transfer rates achieved by gigabit networking and the limiting factor is the internet connection, but where a media enthusiast has set up a DLNA server in a house with multiple playback devices – smartphones, tablets, media streamers, smart TVs, games consoles – significantly higher data rates are needed and this is where the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter kit is likely to come in handy. Let’s take a look…

Devolo 1200+

For those who haven’t come across powerline networking before, it’s a way of using a home’s electricity sockets as a network infrastructure. A minimum of two network adaptors are required; plug one into a power socket near the router and connect with a network cable. Plug the other into a power socket near, say, your smart TV, and again connect via network cable. The two adaptors then communicate across the electrical network, connecting the smart TV to the router. It’s that easy.

Opening the box (courtesy of Devolo), there are two network adaptors, two network cables and a getting started guide. As can be seen from the picture, the adaptors aren’t small, but they do have power pass-thru, so there’s no loss of a power socket. Somewhat oddly the bulk of the adaptor points upwards, whereas the older adaptors tend to point downwards and were more discreet. These units are for the UK market, with different plug configurations available for other countries.

Devolo dLAN 1200

Devolo Hard to ReachBoth of the adaptors come with gigabit ethernet ports; there’s one on the smaller unit and two on the larger. The larger network adaptor takes the usefulness of powerline networking a step further with the incorporation of a wifi access point. It’s not just any old wifi either. It’s an 802.11ac implementation meaning that it broadcasts on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supporting data rates of up to 1200 Mb/s, which is broadly “state of the art” as it stands.

On the box, Devolo helpfully points out some of the areas where ordinary wifi coverage may be less than ideal, including the smallest room. It gave me a chuckle.

Devolo 1200+ Network Ports

Devolo Adaptor AddGetting going with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ is easy. As these adaptors come pre-paired out of the box, all that needs to be done is plug them in and connect up. The LED “house” light on the larger unit will flash red until connection is made and then go solid white – perhaps taking 20 seconds. Introducing the adaptors into an existing network is straightforward as Devolo has great software that helps with this too.

Devolo provides three ways of interacting with the dLAN adaptors. First, there’s a desktop version of their Cockpit software for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

Devolo Cockpit PC

Second, there’s an app for iOS and Android. There are currently two apps for Android, Cockpit and My Devolo, both of which do much the same in terms of the dLAN adaptors, but My Devolo appears to be the newer. The screen shots are from Cockpit.

Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit

Finally, there’s a web interface.

Devolo Cockpit Web

The impressive part about the dLAN1200+ WiFi adaptor is that it isn’t just a wifi extender: it’s effectively a fully featured router with DHCP, access control, parental control and guest setup, along with everything else needed to configure the wifi. If the non-wifi dLAN 1200+ adaptor was connected to a pure cable or broadband modem, there would be no need for any other equipment. Very neat.

Devolo Web

Performance-wise, the Devolo dLAN 1200+ seemed both fast and solid. For over a month, I used the dLAN 1200+ WiFi supplied network services for most of the devices in my house, including smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, a Chromebook, Sky+ TV on-demand, and two Roku media streamers. No problems to report with connectivity or stability. In terms of speed, I was able to stream three different HD movies to three tablets at the same time without any glitching or stuttering.

In closing, there are two features of Devolo’s products that I think set it apart from the cheaper end of the market. First, there’s great backwards compatibility with older products; I was able to use three generations of Devolo products in the one network. Second, their comprehensive management software which is available as an app, application and web service.

Overall, the Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is excellent. The devices themselves are well-made, though perhaps on the large side but it’s a great setup for those where the the living room is far away from the main router. There are two gigabit sockets on the adaptor for any equipment that doesn’t have wireless, plus fast WiFi for those devices that do. With the option of using the 5 GHz frequency for congested areas or to spread the load, the wireless performance is great.

The Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is available online at around £160, which isn’t cheap but considering what comes in the box, plus the performance and the benefit of getting wifi where you need it, I think it’s value for money.

Thanks to Devolo for the review unit.


Celestron NexStar Evolution at CES



celestronA few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Kitt Peak in Arizona for an astronomy night and it will be one of the highlights of my life. It was a revelationary moment when I looked up and saw the Milky Way properly for the first time; I was used to seeing a few bright stars with a few more during the cold winter. Nothing prepared me for millions of dots spread across the sky…the stars, like dust…  Jamie and Todd explore the cosmos with Bryan Cogdell from telescope manufacturer Celestron.

At the interview table is the Celestron NexStar Evolution, a portable computerised wifi-operated telescope with built-in rechargeable battery. The telescope itself is a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube which can be controlled wirelessly from a tablet (or smartphone) using the Celestron SkyPortal app for both iOS and Android. It’s very easy to use; simply find the celestial body of interest in the app and then the telescope will orient itself to view the galaxy, star or planet of interest. The battery lasts around 10 hours so there’s a whole night of viewing without recharging.

The NexStar Evolution is available now in three variants with 6″, 8″ and 9.25″ mirrors at around $1300, $1600 and $2200 respectively.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Peri Duo Speaker Case for iPhone



Peri Logo

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, there are few mobile devices that produce anything like a decent volume and as for stereo separation, forget it. Fortunately Peri can come to the aid of iPhone owners with the Peri Duo, a high-power wireless speaker and phone charger case. Todd and Jamie find out more from Cedric Sumimoto, co-founder of Peri.

The Peri Duo is a standalone wi-fi and bluetooth-enabled speaker and iPhone charger case all in one. As expected, music can be streamed via AirPlay but the iPhone doesn’t have to be in the case when playing the music, so the Duo speaker can be on the opposite side of the room while the iPhone is safely in a pocket. Even better, more than one Duo can be connected to a phone so one Duo can be assigned as the left speaker and one as the right. Alternatively, one phone can multicast to dozens of Peri Duos, which really gets the party going.

The battery is 2500 mAh which will fully recharge an iPhone once with a bit over, or else the Duo will play music for around 4 hours.

The Peri Duo will be available for the iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and iPod Touch. The MSRP will be $139 though it’s currently on pre-order at $99 via Indigogo. Deliveries are expected from April onwards.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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