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If we ever need an industrial-strength cell phone-signal booster, Wilson Electronics would be one of the first places we'd look. Over the last couple of years, we've discovered that company is a reliable source for improving your cell phone reception--whether you're a trucker who makes runs through rural areas or you just can't get a signal in your house or office. The first Wilson product we tested worked great, but we didn't like that it required a wired connection to your phone. When we reviewed the second amplifier 9 months later, we liked that it used a wireless connection, but the overall design remained clunky.
To its credit, Wilson seems to have paid attention to our comments. Its latest product, the SignalBoost Mobile Professional Amplifier, has a compact and intuitive design and delivers good performance to your handset through a wireless connection. Cell phones aren't the only device to benefit, as the Mobile Professional also can boost reception to your laptop data card through a USB cable. At $269.95, the Mobile Professional won't come cheap, but it's worth the price if you really need an improved signal.
The Mobile Professional consists of several parts: the amplifier itself, a stubby external antenna with an attached cord, a power cord/USB cable, a car power adapter, and a wall plug. Though that may sound like a lot to assemble, setup is quick and straightforward. Unlike with Wilson's other products, the Mobile Professional's amplifier isn't a heavy and bulky metal box; instead, it measures just 4.75 inches tall by 2.0 inches wide by 1.0 inch deep. At that size, there's no need to stash it clumsily under your car seat, as we had to do previously. Thanks to the included metal bracket with built-in suction cups, you can attach the amplifier discretely on the dashboard, window, or any convenient surface. It's a far less clunky arrangement, and you can bring all the parts on the go with you in the included carrying bag.
After you've secured the amplifier in your chosen location, you should find a place for the 4-inch external antenna. The best location will depend on where you're using the Mobile Professional; if you're in a car, you should secure it to the roof, and if you're in a building, you should find a location near a window. The base of the antenna is magnetic, so it should remain secure while you're driving. Also, you can use the aforementioned bracket to position the antenna on a wall or window. Keep in mind that the antenna requires a wired connection to the amplifier. That won't be a problem in a building, but in a car it can be a bit cumbersome. It can also be a bit unsightly, since you must pass the cord through a window, but that's the price you pay for improved reception.
The final step is to plug in the amplifier, using the car adapter or wall plug. The power cord, which also serves as the USB connection to a PC, is almost 7 feet long, so you should have no trouble positioning everything. And of course, when you're using the Mobile Professional with a wireless card, it won't need another power source.
We tested the Mobile Professional while driving in several areas with consistently poor reception. In each case, the Mobile Professional boosted our signal noticeably. We could place and receive calls with little interference and few fade-outs. What's more, we no longer suffered from dropped calls. In our experience, the Mobile Professional needs at least a minimal signal to do its job. If we had no reception at all, we didn't see any difference in performance. On their end, callers also noticed a big improvement. We tested the product with Motorola, Samsung, and Nokia handsets, but we didn't see a difference between the three models.
It's important to note that individual results will vary. Also, you shouldn't expect the Mobile Professional to magically cure all your reception woes. Even when we noticed a change for the better, there were still moments where the signal was intermittent. But on the upside, those moments were all within the normal constraints of using a cell phone. In our testing, the amplifier did not interfere with other electronic devices.
The Wilson Electronics SignalBoost Mobile Professional Amplifier Kit supports CDMA and GSM. It doesn't support Nextel's iDEN network, but Nextel users can take advantage of other Wilson products.