When we reviewed the Wilson Electronics SignalBoost Cellular Amplifier earlier this year, we were impressed with how significantly it boosted our cell phone reception in areas with patchy coverage. Where previously, we struggled to get a consistent signal, the SignalBoost made it possible to make a call. Yet as useful as it was, we didn't love how we had to use a wired connection from the amplifier to our phone. Though that wasn't a huge problem when using the device in the car, it wasn't so ideal when using the product at home. Nothing takes the mobile out of mobile phone like a wire that anchors your handset to one place.
Fortunately, Wilson's engineers corrected this issue with the company's most recent product, the Wireless Amplifier Cradle Kit. Designed for use in a car, the Cradle Kit delivers the same performance as the previous model but with a more convenient wireless connection to your phone. The arrangement is still a bit clunky, and you'll need a lot of room in which to set up the various parts, but the Cradle Kit delivers on its promise of boosting cellular signals for both GSM and CDMA carriers. All that functionality comes at a high price tag, however. The Cradle Kit is $459.95.
Like its predecessor, the Cradle Kit consists of four parts: the main amplifier, a power cable, an external antenna for catching the cell phone signal, and an internal antenna for transferring the signal to your phone.
In the product that we reviewed, the internal antenna is integrated into a phone cradle that holds your phone in place. You can secure the cradle to that dashboard or an air vent using one of three included connectors, and the cradle adjusts to hold just about any device, including larger smartphones, such as a BlackBerry. It's a great arrangement, particularly if you're making hands-free calls while driving (as you should). Alternatively, if you're hoping to use the amplifier product in your home, Wilson Electronics sells comparable models that instead use a more traditional antenna.
The blue amplifier measures 5.6 inches by 3.6 inches by 1.7 inches, and it has a utilitarian design and solid metal construction. It's quite sturdy, so you don't need to worry about banging it around, but it's also a tad heavy, at 1.44 pounds. We prefer to rest it under a car seat, but since it tends to grow quite hot, we were wary of cramming it next to seat fabric.
This time around, we were glad to see that Wilson put a series of indicator lights on the amplifier (the previous product had only a power light). They indicate the amplifier's status and whether it's receiving a signal.
Setup involves just a few steps, but it's important that you follow the directions. First, install the 12-inch external antenna, and connect it to the amplifier. The antenna has a magnetic base, which ensures a secure fit to the roof of your car. Of course, a magnetic base won't work on convertibles, but Wilson sells a variety of other antennas, including ones that can you affix to a windshield, a mirror, or even a model that requires you to drill a hole in your vehicle.
The external antenna connects to the amplifier via a long cable that measures 11 feet. Although that should accommodate almost any vehicle, keep in mind that you'll need to run the cord through a door or window. Wilson recommends tucking it under the door seal. While that certainly gets it out of the way ,and it protects the wire from wear and tear, the arrangement is still a tad cumbersome.