As cell phones become the "everything gadget" for more people, companies have begun to cash in on the need for great reception at all times. Wilson Electronics and Wi-Ex have introduced some of our favorite products, and even Sprint Nextel offers an option of its own. A less successful product, at least in our view, was the Arc Wireless Freedom Antenna. When we tested it last year, we weren't impressed by its ugly-duckling design and we didn't like that it needed a wired connection to the phone. Also, it only made variable improvement in our cellular signal.
But Arc Wireless is back for another round with the Freedom Blade, which offers two improvements over its predecessor. Not only does it sport a sharper design, but it also did a better job of boosting reception. On the downside, however, it sill needs the clunky wired connection to your phone. Though that's not an issue when you're using the Freedom Blade in a car, it will impact your mobility when using it indoors. Still, if you're looking for a signal booster and can't afford the high price of the fancier models (the Wi-Ex zBoost YX300 is $169) the Freedom Blade's $24.99 price tag makes it a good buy. It may not be as effective as competing models, but you should notice some difference. Just remember that the adapter to your phone costs extra ($9.95 to $14.95).
Whereas the Freedom Antenna was almost unsightly, the Freedom Blade is sleek and inconspicuous. At 5.5-inches tall by 1.0-inch wide by 0.3-inch deep, it won't overwhelm your desk or dashboard. The base adds an extra half inch of height, but the whole arrangement is so light it barely registers on our scale. The plastic construction of the Freedom Blade concerns us slightly, as it felt rather flimsy. The antenna comes in basic black and the base is gray. Laptop clips and dashboard mounts are sold separately.
As mentioned previously, the Freedom Blade requires a wired connection to your phone. The cable measures three feet long, which isn't bad, but the need for a cable pretty much takes the "wireless" out of wireless phone. To connect the cable to your phone, first attach your chosen adapter to the end of the cable using the screw connection. Then, connect the adapter to your phone's antenna port. Not every cell phone has one, particularly newer models, but if your handset has one it should be located on the back near the antenna. Remove the rubber port (if there is one) and snap in the adapter. Fortunately, we got a much more secure fit on our Motorola V600 (more later on why we had to use such an old model) than we did with the Freedom Antenna and a Sony Ericsson W600i.