These days I’ve been missing a lot of calls due to low signal in my office which is located in the basement.
To help with this Maximum Signal sent me their newest amplifier: the Maximum Signal Sphere. It retails for around $550 Canadian and promises to fix the reception problems I’m having in my basement.
Here’s what you get: outdoor antenna, antenna mount, mounting hardware, 2 x 25ft LMR-400 cables, antenna amplifier, AC adapter, indoor antenna and a quick install guide.
The LMR-400 cable is just a coax cable (just a single core) with a serious amount of shielding.
I hired a company that normally installs over the air HDTV antennas to install the amp. Here’s how the install went.
First we installed the outdoor antenna on the roof of my 2 story house. A J mount (not included) was used to attach the outdoor antenna to the roof. We didn’t have enough cabling to install the antenna in front of the house, so we put it on the side. The antenna is also less of an eyesore since it’s not in front of the house. It’s directly above the room in the basement where we were going to put the amplifier. The 25ft of cable was just enough to reach from the antenna to the amplifier. We had less than a 1ft to spare. The outdoor antenna is omnidirectional, all it requires is a 180 degree line of site and needs to be at least 16” higher than any obstructions. Since it’s omnidirectional you don’t have to aim it.
Next we ran the cable from the roof to a hole they drilled near the house’s electrical panel.
We attached the cable from the outdoor antenna to the amplifier which was placed close to the electrical panel. For us 25ft of cable was more than enough.
We made a hole in the ceiling of a room in the basement, ran the cable over there and attached it to indoor antenna. The indoor antenna was about 15 ft from the amp and it was pretty much a straight run so we had plenty left over. If you have a large house or plan to put the antenna far from the amp you may need more so measure before you buy. The indoor antenna is kind of an eyesore. I think it kind of looks like a nipple (maybe the ceiling is feeling cold).
The only tricky part was figuring out how to install the indoor antenna into a finished ceiling. I suspect the indoor was designed with drop ceilings in mind. We ended up making one hole where the center of the antenna would go and a second hole close to it to help get the nut on which secures the antenna.
Overall, the install was pretty straight forward. My only complaint is that the amp lacks mounting holes or a mounting a bracket. The install was slightly less than ideal because we had to run some of the cabling along side a bunch of electrical wiring and in some places had to go 90 degrees across them.
Before we talk about numbers let me explain signal strength numbers: I’d consider anything higher than -70dbm to be a really strong signal. -80dbm is still good (still full signal bars), -90dbm is still good enough to make calls but usually means you’ll have marginal signal indoors. -106dbm is pretty much the point where your phone stops working.
Let me describe the situation at my house the day I did my testing. Rogers had fairly weak signal - worse than -90dbm outside my house but actually had pretty fast data (~1mbps downlink) considering the weak signal. Before you scoff and the slow speeds keep in mind I live in the suburbs. TELUS/Bell have similarly weak signals - worse than -90dbm outside but data was much slower that day (~0.3mbps downlink). I used a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant to measure these numbers.
So does the Sphere work? Absolutely! When I stood directly underneath the indoor antenna and held my phone up to it the signal went from -101 to -59dbm after I plugged the power in which is a mind blowing 42dbm improvement! To over-simplify it it’s like going from no bars to full bars. Of course no one really uses their phone like that. Signal drops off a lot once you move away from it but in the same room with line of site you can expect a ~15dbm improvement.
In the next room over (my office) which is separated by an insulated wall I’m still seeing an over 10dbm improvement.
Unfortunately I installed the indoor antenna in my basement so I can’t comment on how well it it penetrates floors. It’s omnidirectional but I think it aims the signal down given its shape.
So what is the result of the increase in signal? Generally speaking voice and data should now be more reliable. My Rogers phones no longer switch to EDGE as frequently and data is now reliable. My TELUS/Bell phones also experience more reliable voice calls though the data is still quite slow. One thing you shouldn’t expect is that data suddenly becomes much faster. It might be faster but you probably won’t go from say 0.5mbps to 5mbps all of a sudden.
The Sphere only works when you need it. So if your phone is sitting there idling, sometimes it will appear as if the amp is not working properly. The Sphere doesn’t work with AWS frequencies so Mobilicity, Wind and T-Mobile HSPA customers won’t see any benefit from this.
Here’s the bottom line; it’s easy to install and it works. Buy the Maximum Signal Sphere if you have weak signal outside your house and none inside. It will make both your voice and data more reliable.
I put the "HO" back in "HOFO"
Great review! I miss your video reviews though. This one would have been quite cool to see.
I have a friend who has a portable model of sig-amp and who positively loves it and swears by it as he gallivants about Ontario.
It's unfortunate that one has to spend a few hundred $ to solve this sort of issue, but it is what it is - there are no useful $20/$50 signal amp solutions.
One tip for anyone using these things - try to place the receiving (external) and broadcasting antennas as far away as possible from one another, otherwise the amp will lower its output power to the 'transmitting' antenna so that it's not feeding-back into itself.
Did the model that was tested here support multiple, or just a single client (phone)? AIUI it's only the more expensive models that support multiple devices concurrently.
It probably won't help your Tx signal however, so if you have people complaining that you sound garbled or upload speed is slow, or your handset battery is constantly dying not much you can do.. Apart from sit on the roof!
It really depends on if the amp is two way or not, but I suspect not, because the mobile network could get confused by radio waves coming in different strengths (from the external anntana and the mobile itself) and it might play havoc with the mechanism the network uses to control how strong a signal the device sends. Would be interesting to find out how the tx leg works with this thing either way.
It's a 2 way amp. My upload speeds are similar to my download speeds.
It supports multiple devices.
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Basement SEEG party?
My Feedback | EDGE @ 200+ kb/s | HSPA+ @ 4665 kb/s
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Weird. Is it my imagination of did a few posts from this thread disappear?
The Globe and Mail did a review of the Wilson Sleek here:
Sleek is a sophisticated cell phone booster
Which a) is from a brand that I know is legit, and
b) is only about $150 (although this is an in-car model and only supports 1 client device at a time).
IIRC my friend has a Wilson in-car model and that's the one that they love.
Why would these units not be Legit in your eyes ? Howard himself installed in his home and posted the results . They pass FCC and Industry Canada . Just Wilson because spends a lot on advertising does not mean they are better or more legit . The Companies I work with spend their money on R&D making better products not a ton of dough on advertising claiming they are better . The Units ( Cyfre & Maximum Signal ) I sell are bought by carriers and never lost a head to head 3rd party test with a Wilson products. You should check around . Here is a link to one of the leading RV Community Tech experts
Check out his communications section
spotwave.com also sells this type of stuff.
spotwave actually closed down in 2009 . A company bought them off to sell off inventory . No new products are being developed