Western Digital continues to make its mark in the consumer networking hardware space with the My Net Wi-Fi Range Extender (which retails at £85). This small box is designed to extend a wireless network's signal to those notorious "dead zones." The My Net Extender is an attractive device, with unique signal strength indicators to help you place it in an optimal location. On top of that, it’s easy to set up and does a good job of extending Wi-Fi range.
Design and spec
The My Net Extender is quite small measuring 50 x 150 x 130mm (WxDxH). It’s designed to be attached to a stand, so it operates upright. I find its form factor preferable to extenders that connect right into a power outlet, such as the Cisco Linksys Wireless-N Range/Extender Bridge (RE1000) because it's easier to place the extender in different locations to get the best connection with a router.
Western Digital's device is a dual-band range extender, able to extend either a 2.4GHz or 5GHz wireless network. This dual-band capability gives it an advantage over many other extenders on the market, which tend to only support the 2.4GHz band.
However, there’s one caveat when it comes to extending 5GHz Wi-Fi: The 5GHz band is not great at sustaining throughput over long distances. It’s better to use the 2.4GHz band for larger coverage areas in general – but still, it's nice that you have the option of working with either band. This extender supports 802.11n and will also work with legacy 802.11x routers.
The rear panel hosts a power button, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button for connecting to a WPS-supported router, and a toggle switch to operate the extender in either 2.4 or 5GHz mode. On the front of the device are two LEDs; one for power and the other for wireless status, the latter of which lights up once the extender is successfully connected to a router.
With the My Net Extender about 30 feet away from my router, I saw 12 LEDs lit up. Moving the extender about another 15 feet closer to the router lit all 18 LEDs. The LEDs provide a handy, quick way to position the extender in the best location without having to fire up some software utility.
The extender ships with a quick install guide and setup is indeed quick. In fact, you can get the extender going in only three steps. Plug it in; push the WPS button on the extender and on the router you want to connect it with; and place it in the best location using the LED signal strength indicators.
I set up the extender with Western Digital's My Net N900 router. The three steps worked perfectly. In seconds, I had the N900's wireless network extended. Of course, a wireless extender should work with just about any router, so I tested connecting via WPS to a Linksys router. However, the two devices would not pair using WPS.
I was able to get the My Net Extender hooked up to the Linksys router by connecting an Ethernet cable to the extender, and going into the extender's web-based management interface. Connecting to the extender requires a settings change that takes a lengthy three minutes, but otherwise, there was no issue getting the extender connected to the Linksys router using the software.
The My Net Extender offered impressive performance on par with the excellent Cisco Linksys RE1000 Extender. In the same room as the router, the My Net Extender gave the fastest throughput I’ve seen at 34Mbps. Moving 75 feet away from the router, that throughput dropped to 4Mbps, considerably slower.
Still, 4Mbps was enough to browse the web and is quite frankly impressive in my testing environment, which has heavy RF interference from many access points in proximity and lots of glass and concrete. The RE1000 did a tad better at 75 feet hitting 6Mbps – not much of a difference when it comes to web browsing.
By the time I reached a distance of 100 feet away from the router, the My Net Extender, as with the RE1000, could no longer register throughput on the Ixia IxChariot utility I use to measure speeds. I was able to surf the Internet, though, without too much lag. By the time I reached 150 feet, I was still connected to the Wi-Fi network, but surfing was so slow that browsing became pretty frustrating.
This Western Digital extender has a very easy setup process, works with older routers, and allowed me to browse the web at up to 150 feet away from my router (even if it was only really a palatable surfing experience at 100 feet). The My Net came out with slightly slower throughput than the Linksys RE1000 in my tests, but it allows for more flexible positioning than the RE1000 does simply because the device is standalone and doesn’t have to be plugged into a power socket.
So while the similarly priced RE1000 has the edge with its slightly faster throughput, the My Net Wi-Fi Range Extender is a worthy alternative with the bonus of those handy LEDs for checking signal strength as you test out where’s best to place the device.