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Shy of those using Nextel or other iDEN networks, the STIX mobile signal booster from Cell Ranger may be the solution to your dropped calls, signal degradation, or other nuisance cellular "speed bumps" as attempt to stay connected while you navigate the roadways.
By first impression, the packaging doesn't not do this product justice (in my opinion) in that this relatively upscale, and $149 US priced, device addresses some specific needs for those who may seem surgically attached to their mobile phones. It is simple in presentation and design and requires very little time and effort getting started. Since the mobile device does not need to be tethered to the booster, it was great to be able to use my mobile phones as I normally would.
I made a little road trip into places that I know to be notorious for dropping calls -- outlying areas, urban areas, "dead zones" at county lines, etc., and made note of signal strength, call quality, and upload/download speeds on both an Apple iPhone 3G with AT&T and a Samsung Instinct on the Sprint network. After placing the antenna on the rear side of my vehicle, as recommended by the manufacture, and tucking the antenna cable beneath the interior molding, I plugged into my 12v power port (which is no longer a "lighter" and seems to only be used for electronics these days) and fired up both devices to repeat the survey.
In each situation, the Cell Ranger STIX showed an increase in signal strength and more consistent download speeds on both AT&T and Sprint networks. Be aware that some drops cannot be helped by this, or any similar device, as some older cell sites have a much lower user limit, there are some suburban and rural areas where prime times (rush hour, holiday travel) just cannot be helped once they have as many users on each tower as they can handle. With that said, the best results came from fringe areas of regional highway driving. In particular, the Instinct had a noticeable increase in signal strength on state roads.
Urban areas were a bit trickier and, like most wireless technologies, less can be more to avoid interference from other users and signal sources that may be present at other frequencies (microwave, digital TV broadcast, and other radio interference), and the device was not as useful in those situations. At the recommendation of the manufacturer, I did attempt to connect with a Sprint "AirCard" with good results there as well. While download speeds improved by approximately 10 percent, upload speeds (slower to begin with) did not seem to be affected at all.
There are a few things to remember when using an accessory like this: First, don't forget that you have an additional antenna on your vehicle. It is important to remember to remove it when parked in areas that may make it attractive to would-be thieves or when going to a car wash, etc.. Second, the Cell Ranger STIX does its best work on downloading, but may be limited by bandwidth caps by your mobile service provider. Finally, be certain that you do extend the antenna's cable instead of popping it through a sunroof or cracked window for best results.
The Cell Ranger STIX is an effective mobile signal booster, and at a reasonable price, that helps end the "can you hear me nows." The manufacturer's data indicates that they employ a microprocessor and auto-adjusting amplification to achieve the performance boost. Using a few speed test sites (including Toast and the SpeedTest iPhone app), downloads seem to maintain their speeds better in fringe area, with a more consistent connection speed, more than a huge jump in the speed, itself. Call quality was always very high with less "hiccupping" in the audio and fewer dropped calls. The company also offers a USB version as well for the laptop-totting business traveler, but that's a review for another day.
Pros: Better signal integrity, strength, even with multiple devices
Macsimum Rating: 9 out of 10 stars