Wilson Sleek 4G-V review: Wilson Sleek 4G-V

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MSRP: $150.00

The Good The Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G-V will deliver a usable cell phone signal in areas with poor carrier coverage. It has a compact and sturdy design.

The Bad Smaller phones won't fit in the Sleek 4G-V's cradle. The design can be clunky, and you'll need to follow a lot of guidelines when setting it up.

The Bottom Line If you have the cash and can master the design, the Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G-V booster delivers the strong signal your cell phone needs.

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7.5 Overall

In a perfect world I wouldn't even be reviewing a cell phone signal booster. That's because in an ideal world, there would be no reason for them.

Sadly, though, carrier networks are far from perfect and a lot of people can't get the service they need on the road, at home, or at work. A cell phone signal booster is an obvious solution for those folks, but choosing one is just as important as buying the right phone. Some products, like the metal stickers you can find online for a few dollars, are nothing but snake oil. A device from Wilson Electronics, however, is a much safer bet. Yes, you'll have to spend more than pocket change, but Wilson's products deliver results instead of just vague promises. As long as your phone gets some signal (even if it's negligible) and you can handle the sometimes cumbersome setup, your handset will go from useless to useful.

The latest product from the company is the Wilson Sleek 4G-V, which debuted in January at CES. It's Wilson's first cell phone signal booster to boost Verizon's LTE network in the 700MHz band while also supporting all GSM and CDMA networks (so, Verizon and its carrier rivals) at the 2G and 3G levels. A companion product is the Sleek 4G, which supports AT&T's LTE. Of course, that means the products aren't completely interchangeable.

The cradle easily accommodates any smartphone. Smaller handsets, however, may not fit well. Josh Miller/CNET

Like the original Sleek, the Sleek 4G-V has a compact design. It's not exactly cheap at $129, but it's a device that works well and that isn't funding the pockets of your carrier through an added monthly fee. Though it's designed primarily for use in the car, you can expand it into stationary use with the optional Home/Office Accessory Kit for $29.

The primary part is the sturdy phone cradle that's partially covered in an all-black, soft-touch material. You get three pairs of plastic arms for securing your phone, but there's barely any size difference between them and they only adjust to three positions. Though that will satisfy anyone with a thicker smartphone, the cradle isn't really built for basic flip handsets like the Samsung Gusto 2. When I knocked the cradle even slightly (picture yourself going over a bump in the road), for example, the Gusto 2 tended to slip out. I had this problem with the previous Sleek, so again I'm hopeful that Wilson will adjust the design in future products.

The cradle's securing arms are plastic, but the front of the cradle is covered in a rubbery soft-touch material. Josh Miller/CNET

Setup begins when you secure the cradle to your dashboard with the provided clip. That's easy enough, but you'll need to be creative for the next step of running the cable out of your car window and attaching the stubby antenna to your car roof. The arrangement can be awkward and even a little unsightly. On the upside, the long cable connecting the antenna to the cradle will leave you plenty of slack, and the strong magnetic base should ensure that the antenna won't blow off in inclement weather. The last step is to plug in the cradle with the included car adapter. A nice feature is the second Mini-USB port on the side of the cradle for charging your phone via another cable (you'll have to provide it, though).

Setup with the home/home office accessory kit is about the same. Instead of your dashboard, you attach the cradle to a sturdy base that you can rest on a flat surface. Thanks to a couple of adjustable joints, you can swivel the cradle up and down and in a full circle. In the box come a standard wall plug on a long cable and a window mount on suction cups for positioning the antenna. Wilson sells more-powerful antennas for both home and car use, some of which don't require a magnetic mount.

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