Category Archives: wifi

Wander the World with the Fonebud W at CES 2018



Mobile data charges abroad can be prohibitively expensive and tethering for wifi burns through the phone’s battery. The new Fonebud W wireless hotspot solves this problem for over 80 countries worldwide. Don chats with Dixon about the features of this new device.

Using your home SIM while in a foreign land typically ends with a large bill when you get back, though seasoned travellers will have a pocketful of SIMs for local telcos. Mind you, it’s still a pain making sure that your smartphone is unlocked and forwarding your calls to your new number (unless you have a dual SIM phone). A much better solution would be the upcoming Fonebud W personal WiFi hotspot which works in over 80 countries, particularly in Asia and China. The 10,000 mAh battery will run the Fonebud W for well over a day and can be used to wirelessly charge a smartphone. Yes, it has a wireless charger built-in, though you can still charge with a cable. The small LED screen shows details of connectivity and battery life.

The Fonebud W will be available in Q2 2018 and will cost US$129-$169 including 24 GB data which is valid for a year.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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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.


D-Link Delivers Simplified High-Speed Whole Home Wi-Fi System



D-Link is a global leader in connectivity for home, small business, mid to large-sized enterprise environments, and service providers. D-Link made several announcements at CES 2017 about their new products, including the Covr Wi-Fi System and the Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System.

The Covr Wi-Fi System (DKT-883) technology transforms the traditional router-extender solution into an easy to use Wi-Fi system that blankets the entire home with a fast, reliable, signal. While other mesh network solutions rely on multiple access points, a premium router is the backbone of the Covr Wi-Fi System. Combined with the seamless extenders to cover hard to reach areas, the system delivers a Wi-Fi signal to all areas of the home including upstairs, basements and backyards.

The Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System (DHP-732AV) is one of the first Wi-Fi solutions to utilize PowerLine technology as a foundation. Covr uses the existing home router and a set of adapters to create a comprehensive Wi-Fi coverage solution. PowerLine users the home’s existing wiring to transfer network data, essentially turning electrical circuits into a high-speed network The Covr PowerLine System extends Wi-Fi coverage to hard-to-reach areas of the home, as well as wired networks.

The new D-Link HD 180 Degree Wi-Fi Camera (DCH-8100LH) and HD Wi-Fi Camera (DCS-8000LH) deliver an intuitive and affordable way to monitor homes and loved ones. The two cameras are designed for a variety of surveillance applications and lighting conditions – offering premium features, wide viewing angles, night vision, sound and motion detection, and crisp HD video.

Visit D-Link System at CES 2017 at Titian 2301A, Titian 2301B, and Titian 2302.


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.


LIFX Color 1000 Smart Bulb Review



If you are looking for a last minute Fathers’ Day present then an LIFX smart bulb might be just the thing. Getting into smart lighting can be expensive as there’s often an additional wireless hub to control the lights but LIFX have taken a different approach with their lamps as each one connects via WiFi. There’s no Z-Wave or Zigbee here. The folks at LIFX kindly sent one of their smart bulbs for review, so let’s take a look.

LIFX offer four different bulbs, in a combination of two shapes and colour v white only. On review here is the Color 1000 in the A19 size (BR30 is the other size) in a UK variant with bayonet cap. A screw cap is also available and interestingly works across US and UK voltages.

LIFX Color 1000 in box LIFX Color 1000 in box

In the box, there’s the light plus instructions. In addition to the physical light, an app needs to be downloaded from the appropriate app store to your smartphone or tablet. Apps are available for Android, iOS and Windows.

The bulb itself is solid, weighing in at 243 g and measuring 117 mm tall and 63 mm wide. It’s no lightweight.

LIFX Color 1000 LIFX Color 1000

In common with most “IoT” Wi-Fi devices, there’s a two step setup process that the app takes you through. When first powered up, the light will create a small Wi-Fi network that your smartphone connects to. Using the app, you can then configure the bulb to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi, selecting the SSID and providing the passcode. Both the smartphone and bulb disconnect and reconnect as normal to the Wi-Fi network. With the configuration out of the way, you can now start to have fun.

During the setup, you need to create a username and password which you generally don’t need to use unless you are going to use the bulb with other smart home gear, such as Samsung’s SmartThings. More on this later.

As an aside, during my setup, the bulb needed a quick firmware update which all happened automatically and painlessly, though it did delay getting going by a few moments. Good to see that it’s easy to keep the bulbs up-to-date.

The LIFX app provides all the tools you might expect to manage bulbs in a smartly-lit house. Bulbs can be collected into names spaces, such as “bedroom” providing quick access to multiple bulbs based on location. Obviously in this example I only had one room.

Screenshot_20160609-001949 LIFX Colour Wheel LIFX White Wheel

The bulb can be switched between colour and white modes depending on you mood, with a straightforward wheel to choose the desired hue. The brightness can be controlled too using the control in the middle of the wheel.

LIFX White LIFX RedLIFX Greeen

LIFX say that the Color 1000 puts out a little over 1000 lumens which is equivalent to a 75 W incandescent bulb. It was definitely a bit brighter than my Philips Hue colour bulbs, though I did notice that the Color 1000 got fairly warm too and will consume 11 W at full brightness.

Fiddling around with the LIFX Color 1000 is tremendous fun and children will love co-ordinating with their favourite Disney colours. You can imagine the colours generated from Frozen…. There’s even a special effects mode which has selections like “Spooky”, “Flicker” and “Color Cycle”. Themes sets up preset colours for easy access and schedules can turn lights on and off automatically it’s all simple to use.

Contrary to my original review, the Color 1000 can be controlled from outside out of the premises. Using my mobile phone and 3G only, it worked as if I was at home, turning the light on and off, changing colours and so on. Great if you want to use the LIFX as a security light and turn it on when you are unexpectedly late coming home.(I’m not sure what went wrong the first time I tested and it didn’t work, but I can only assume it was a temporary connectivity problem from outside my home. It definitely does work – sorry LIFX.)

In addition to being able to control the bulb via the native app, LIFX have put some work into integration with connectivity from Nest, IFTTT, “Ok Google”, SmartThings, Echo and Logitech’s Harmony. I tried it with Samsung’s SmartThings and it was very easy and straightforwad. Select LIFX lights in SmartThings, stick in the username and password created during setup, and job done with the Color 1000 appearing in SmartThings for control.

In summary, the LIFX Color 1000 is a good choice if you want to get into smart lighting at a reasonable cost – the UK price of the bulb is £59.99. Admittedly that’s still not cheap and it is £10 dearer than the equivalent Philips Hue but you don’t have to buy the Hue Hub at £50 before you get going. LIFX have future-proofed the investment with their integrations, so if you get into smart lighting and then smart homes, the LIFX Color 1000 can still be used as part of the system. The Color 1000 is a big bulb so if there’s a particular lamp that you want to use with it, just check the bulb’s going to fit.

The LIFX is available from Amazon and other online retailers. Thanks to LIFX for the Color 1000 to review.


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.