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New Amped Wireless Helios range extender promises extreme Wi-Fi coverage, no speed loss

The Helios-EX range extender uses a dedicated band to eliminate signal loss and promises up to 12,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage.

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The Helios-EX range extender (left) and the Helios router from Amped Wireless

Dong Ngo/CNET

Amped Wireless today released a new type of Wi-Fi extender at CES 2017. The Helios-EX RE2200T is set to eliminate the biggest shortcoming of extenders in general: signal loss.

Signal loss happens because extenders have to do two things at once: receive the signal from the original router -- a process often referred to as back-haul -- and rebroadcast that signal to Wi-Fi clients. Having to do two jobs simultaneously, the extender's efficiency is reduced by 50 percent. This means clients connected to an extender, like your phone or laptop, will have just half the real-world Wi-Fi speed compared to those connected to the original router.

The Helios-Ex manages to overcome this by having three Wi-Fi bands: two 5GHz and one 2.4GHz. It dedicates one 5GHz band to the job of receiving signal and uses the other two to rebroadcast it to clients. This means all of its bands only do one job at a given time, resulting in no signal loss.

DirectLink

Using a dedicated band for back-haul, which Amped Wireless calls DirectLink, is not new. The Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi system uses this technique for its satellite unit to connect to the main router unit. However, while the extender unit of the Orbi system only works with the main Orbi router, the Helios-EX works with all existing routers on the market. This means instead of getting an expensive Wi-Fi system, you can get a Helios-EX to couple with your existing 802.11ac Wi-Fi router and achieve similar Wi-Fi coverage and performance.

In fact, Amped Wireless claims that the Helios-EX itself can cover up to 12,000 square feet -- larger than any Wi-Fi system I've worked with -- with speed up to 866 megabits per second on the 5GHz band and up to 399Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. The extender also includes four Gigabit network ports for wired clients. Overall, this seems a great addition to any home that needs better Wi-Fi coverage.

Keep in mind, though, I've never experienced any Wi-Fi product that performs exactly as the vendor claimed. Also, like any standalone extenders, the Helios-EX won't offer seamless hand-off, meaning clients will not automatically switch between the extender and the original router without interruption. Seamless hand-off is generally only available in Wi-Fi systems where hardware units are designed to work with one another specifically.

Plus a new router

Apart from the extender, Amped Wireless also introduced today its latest tri-band AC2200 router, the Helios RTA2200T, which has two 5GHz bands (up to 866Mbps each) and one 2.4GHz band (up to 399Mbps), all of which are used for clients to connect to. This new router shares the same design and Wi-Fi coverage as the extender but is made for those wanting to replace their existing router.

The Helios-EX extender is slated to be available later this month while the Helios router will ship in the first quarter of the year. Both of them come with a suggested retail price of $180.

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