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Review of the New Wi-Fire: Extends Wi-Fi Range up to 1000 ft.

The new Wi-Fire Wi-Fi signal booster from hField Technologies is a device designed to boost wireless Internet signals to your computer through the use of a powerful antenna device. The Wi-Fire is designed to sit atop a laptop's display or on a flat surface. The Wi-Fire wireless signal booster is capable of boosting Wi-Fi signals up to 3 times farther than a typical wireless Internet adaptor. What this means is that the Wi-Fire is capable of receiving Wi-Fi signals from up to 1000 feet away, which makes the wireless Internet signal stronger and less likely to drop.

EDITOR'S UPDATE:This wifi booster in no longer available. Another excellent wifi booster to consider is one made by NetGear. You can read the reviews and buy the Netgear Wifi Booster here on Amazon.  Other suitable wifi boosters are available here.

 

The Wi-Fire signal booster can be used in conjunction with just about any kind of Wi-Fi signal, such as those at local cafes, at your house, or at a hotel. The Wi-Fire does a great job of seeking out Wi-Fi signals that normally are out of range. I was able to test the Wi-Fire, and I was impressed with its signal boosting power. More on the performance of the Wi-Fire later in this review.

Design of the Wi-Fire

In the boxIn the boxThe Wi-Fire consists of an antenna, which is used to "seek out" Wi-Fi signals, and a USB connection used to connect the Wi-Fire to the computer. Included in the box, along with the actual Wi-Fire device, are installation instructions for the Mac and for Windows XP or Vista. Also included is the installation CD. Installing the Wi-Fire software was a breeze.

The Wi-Fire device is about 4 inches long by 3.25 inches high. The device weighs about 4 ounces. The Wi-Fire has a clipping mechanism which attaches the device to the top of a laptop. I found it a little difficult to get the Wi-Fire to attach securely to my laptop, and when I would move the antenna, the device would sometimes come loose from the top of my laptop. I had a better experience placing the Wi-Fire on a flat surface and using it that way.
Size compared to a deck of cardsSize compared to a deck of cards

The Wi-Fire connects to the computer via USB. The Wi-Fire features a very handy automatic cord-winding mechanism, which helps keep the USB cord from just dangling from the device and thus keeping the cord nice and tidy. I measured the USB cord to be about 4 feet long when fully extended.

The antenna of the Wi-Fire can be rotated 360 degrees, and it can tilt up and down. The Wi-Fire antenna needs to be manually adjusted by the user, by turning it, in order to find the strongest Wi-Fi signals in the area.

Wi-Fire Software

As I previously mentioned, the Wi-Fire software was very easy to install. Within a few minutes, I was able to have the software installed, and I was already searching for available wireless networks in the area.

The Wi-Fire that I received for testing was compatible with Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X 10.3 and higher. The wireless signal compatibility for the Wi-Fire consists of both "g" and "b" Wi-Fi networks.

Once the software was installed to my laptop, I was able to open the Wi-Fire connection manager icon from the desktop of my laptop. The Wi-Fire connection manager screen is very simple to navigate and use. The main screen will show the available Wi-Fi networks that the Wi-Fire is currently picking up. What's cool about the Wi-Fire software is that as you rotate the antenna, you can see the available networks change on the laptop screen. The main screen also displays the signal strength of each available network so that you can choose the strongest signal possible.
Wi-Fire Connection ManagerWi-Fire Connection Manager
Overall, the software is simple to use, and it gives all of the necessary information needed to connect to a wireless network including: name of the network, signal strength, and whether the network is secure or not.

Wi-Fire Performance Tests

After I installed the Wi-Fire software to my laptop, I was able to search for wireless networks in my area. I tested the Wi-Fire at my house with my home's wireless Internet disabled. Inside my home, I was able to find up to 5 wireless networks (all of which were residential). The Wi-Fi signal farthest away was a neighbor who lives approximately 600 feet from my house. That kind of range is very good, and hField Technologies claims that under ideal conditions, the Wi-Fire can reach wireless access points from 1000 feet away!
Wi-Fire shows 4 Wi-Fi networks availableWi-Fire shows 4 Wi-Fi networks available
The wireless networks that I was able to find with the Wi-Fire were great distances away from where I was (50-600 ft.). Because of this, I wasn't able to get very good signal strength for most of these networks. Using the device in a more open area will produce better results.

With my wireless router turned back on, I was easily able to connect to the Internet from outside of my house with my laptop. The signal was very strong in this case. It's very evident that the Wi-Fire does a good job of extending the range of wireless Internet to new levels.

When using the Wi-Fire, you will get slightly less battery life from your laptop's battery. I didn't test the exact numbers, but hField Technologies stresses that the Wi-Fire is a "low power consumption" device.

Privacy and Security with the Wi-Fire

When the Wi-Fire seeks out Wi-Fi networks, it will find every compatible signal within its range. The Wi-Fire software will tell you whether or not the network that was found is secure or not. This helps to keep you from using a signal that may be unsecure. You may need to enter passwords to use a Wi-Fi signal that is encrypted. You should always make sure that your home's Wireless Internet is encrypted, otherwise other people can gain access to your wireless signal.

Conclusion

I like the Wi-Fire a lot, and I think that it could be a very useful device for many people. It performs as advertised, by extending the range of wireless Internet. The software couldn't be easier to install and use. The only issue that I have with the Wi-Fire is when trying to clip the device to the top of a laptop. It feels a little loose on top of the laptop, especially when turning the antenna or moving the laptop. Maybe it'll work better on other laptops, as I used a Dell latitude laptop that is about 5 years old.
Wi-FireWi-Fire
With the minor design flaws aside, the Wi-Fire is a great product from hField Technologies. The Wi-Fire is currently available for $79 from the hField Technologies website or on Amazon here.

EDITOR'S UPDATE:This wifi booster in no longer available. Another excellent wifi booster to consider is one made by NetGear. You can read the reviews and buy the Netgear Wifi Booster here on Amazon. Other suitable wifi boosters are available here.

Joe Eitel's Gadget Blog
InventorSpot

Comments
Apr 22, 2008
by Anonymous

Be careful when purchasing the Wi-Fire

Be careful when purchasing the Wi-Fire, it didn’t work for me and I have sent them 4 emails and left 2 phone messages (no one ever answers the phone) trying to get a return number and they won't respond. It's starting to look like this is a “Fly by Night Outfit” at best.

Oct 5, 2008
by Anonymous

Not for Macs

I have to agree the software for Leopard is not really functional it often causes kernal_task to eat up all my cpu cycles and nothing but restart will fix the issue. Great idea, but useless without functional software. Still no sign for their improved Version 2.0 software either even with a Summer 2008 release date.

Nov 18, 2008
by Anonymous

Wi-Fire: Certainly be careful before you spend money on i!!

The Wi-fire does in fact work, increasing signal maybe 50%, but not nearly as good as mfgr claims. A flimsy design requires rubber bands or duct tape to secure it, plus its software is buggy, causing me to have to reinstall it more than once to get my computer to run it reliably.
Worst problem came when ordering a second unit for a friend (not knowing at the time that better, competitive products are now available) but it arrived DOA. I had to send several emails and leave phone messages to try to get the thing replaced, without results, and finally asked for an RMA. Suddenly, six weeks later a new unit--instead of a refund--arrived, but with no reimbursement for shipping their defective product back.
Compared to several other online electronic companies I've bought from, Wi-Fire's customer service is very poor, about the same as the stability of the device. I recommend checking Amazon and other web sources for better solutions than this one for improving improve Wifi reception.

Jan 16, 2009
by Anonymous

WiFire: Not worth the money

It seemed like just what I needed. As a business traveller who uses WiFi almost daily, this looked like the ideal solution when all I could get was a weak signal or none at all. I read several reviews and decided to give it a try.

My first impression when I opened the box was that it was very cheaply built. This was confirmed when I tried to "clamp" it to my laptop screen. Even the slightest movement, or keystroke, is enough to shift it and lose the signal. The retractable cable doesn't swivel at the unit so it becomes wrapped around the base and often hinders movement when trying to adjust the finicky antenna. Also, the cable's retractable mechanism takes some getting used to. It's positioned in the middle of the cable and if you don't give both ends a tug at the same time, it will inevitably become entangled in the spool. They do warn you about this in the manual, but it's easy to forget about it and will cost you a few minutes to fix.

As for performance, well, I played with this thing for about a month at different locations and only a few times would it pick up a useable signal. And when it did, it usually wouldn't connect. Not once did I get a useful connection with it that I couldn't get with my built-in antenna. I e-mailed the tech dept at Hfield and the replies I got were the elementary suggestions, such as "Did you try adjusting it in all directions to get the best signal?". Duh.

So, I now have a $79 paperweight that is too light to be even usefull for that. Don't waste your money and patience.

Jan 25, 2009
by Anonymous

Suggestions

Can you give some suggestions of "better, competitive products are now available"?

I've been considering the wi-fire but after these reviews would like to know what my other options are.

Feb 8, 2009
by Anonymous

re: Suggestions

I suggest the ALFA Network AWUS036H.

Mar 2, 2009
by Anonymous

hField wi-fire/ xyz powerful card ---VS--- Alfa AWUS036H?

Buddy alfa awus036h is something you won't regret at all. hold that's not the way to speak about such a prestigeous product. It actually goes beyond expectations while searching and performing over wlan. Mother of all wlan cards build-to-date. If anyone disagrees kindly bring along your evidence also.