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
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.
During our testing period, we got a moderate, but noticeable, improvement during our calls in the areas where reception was low. On the whole, the Freedom Blade delivers better performance than its predecessor, though it's still not a miracle worker. For example, we noticed that you need a least a marginal signal to use the Freedom Blade. If you don't have any reception at all, the antenna will be of little help.
The change in signal strength may not be immediately noticeable on your phone's display, though we did see a jump of a bar at times. The change may not be great, but it should be there. When the Freedom Blade is working, you should notice less static and interference and fewer audio cut outs. The Freedom Blade won't make a difference in voice quality. As with the Freedom Antenna, we were hoping for an indicator or light on the antenna to show when a signal was present. Unfortunately, that's not available.
The main downside of the Freedom Blade is the small number of phones it supports. Because of its design, most of the handsets are rather old. There's nothing introduced after 2006, which is a very long time in the cell phone world. The T-Mobile Dash and LG enV are two most recent handsets. That's why we used the V600; we had nothing that was newer around for our testing.