Hawking HBB1 Broadband Booster review: Hawking HBB1 Broadband Booster

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MSRP: $169.00

The Good Easy setup; no software; improves streaming media; works with all routers; compact.

The Bad Negligible effect on surfing; pricey; can slow down routine Web operations; limited adjustability.

The Bottom Line Hawking Technologies' HBB1 Broadband Booster can help make a high-speed connection more efficient and improve the quality of audio and video streams.

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6.6 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

Hawking HBB1 Broadband Booster

Forget about bandwidth when evaluating broadband connections; latency, or the time it takes to process requests, is what really counts. Hawking Technologies' HBB1 Broadband Booster can help by imposing a proprietary Quality of Service routine to streamline Internet access from your network; however, it attacks only one part of a vast problem. While it's easy to set up and works with all routers, the Broadband Booster's effects are truly appreciable only when streaming media files. And at $79, Hawking's Broadband Booster costs as much as a midrange router. For a bit more money, you can find a router that implements a similar Quality of Service routine, such as the D-Link DGL-4300. But if you're devoted to your current router and just need to speed up streaming audio or video, the Hawking Broadband Booster could be a welcome addition to your network.

Broadly speaking, latency is the time each network takes to process a data packet and send it along. It can range from an imperceptible few milliseconds to an annoying several seconds. Hawking's Broadband Booster streamlines the data traffic flow to the Internet through a cable, DSL, or T1 connection. The problem is that while broadband can deliver a few megabytes a second of data, all but the most expensive ISPs uplink at only a couple hundred kilobytes per second; when there's a lot of action, some data and commands have to wait their turn.

By examining every data packet leaving the network and ranking them based on importance and timeliness, the Ubicom StreamEngine inside the Hawking Broadband Booster puts the most critical items--such as VoIP audio, online gaming, and streaming video--ahead of more mundane items such as Web page and FTP requests, background operations, and software updates. It may sound like a complicated process, but the Hawking Broadband Booster hides the complexity from the user. Just plug it in between your network's router and broadband modem and wait a minute for it to evaluate your connection and adjust its parameters. Hawking claims that it works with every router on the market. We tried it with four recent network devices from Hawking, Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear, and it worked with all.

After the Broadband Booster powers up, its LEDs glow green; they flash blue to let you know when the device is streamlining throughput. The package includes the Category 5 cable you'll need as well as a handy short extension cord so that you won't tie up two AC outlets with its bulky power adapter. For everyday operations such as page requests and e-mail, the LEDs blink and flash occasionally; but while you're gaming online, watching streaming video, or listening to Internet radio, the Broadband Booster's LEDs are constantly flashing.

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