A Good Signal Booster Is the Answer To Zero-Bar Dead Zones
Cellphone dead zones aren't solely the domain of remote areas. Just consider the no-bars section of parkway not far out of Manhattan where the cops love to clock speeders because everybody’s Waze has stopped working.
I have a solution: The weBoost Drive 4G-X.
Mobile-phone-signal boosters are a great idea for anyone who regularly drives through a dead zone of poor coverage. The 4G-X is a signal booster that uses two antennas—one outside the car, one inside—to amp up your coverage and voice and data speeds. Using a 12-volt power adapter, it installs in minutes (or slightly longer if you want to hide the cables and make them neat). To test it out, I took a Mazda CX-9 to a black hole of Verizon coverage: my own driveway.
I live in one of those mobile-coverage no-fly zones. Verizon’s map says I should have full coverage, but the reality of the situation is exposed every time I leave the house’s blanket of Wi-Fi: One bar of coverage. If I’m lucky.
I also tried the 4G-X somewhere further afield: deep in the woods of Quebec. WeBoost says its booster works with all carriers, but I’d put a caveat on that: all carriers in the U.S. Out in the boonies of Quebec, it didn’t work with the Rogers network. So if you’re looking to hit a really, really out-of-the-way poutine stand, you’ll have to live with whatever coverage you can find.
On the plus side, the 4G-X is easy to set up and to move between cars. Put the magnetic antenna on the roof and run the cable in by just shutting it in the door (you could, of course, do this more elegantly for a permanent install). Connect that cable to the booster, then connect the flat rectangular interior antenna. Plug in the power cord and you’re good to go.
WeBoost directs you to affix the hook-and-loop side of the interior antenna to the side of your seat. Since the Mazda has leather seats, I put the antenna on the carpet in front of the passenger seat and tucked the booster out of sight underneath. Most of the power cable was hidden by the console trim. Pretty clean for a five-minute job.
I looked at my phone and saw the usual one bar. Then I flicked the power switch on the 12-volt cord, saw the booster’s green LED come to life, and waited. Within about 30 seconds, my phone’s signal abruptly jumped from one to three bars—a huge difference. To make sure this wasn’t some kind of coincidence, I cut the power to the WeBoost. Right back to one bar.
The only downside I see, other than potential lack of compatibility in the Great White North, is that the magnetic antenna isn’t going to work on vehicles with aluminum roofs, of which there are many. I guess you can usually find somewhere ferrous on the topside of a car, but it’s something to consider. Ragtops might be challenging, too.
A signal extender could be a must-have if you’re regularly driving through patchy service areas. Even if you’re not, the fact that the 4G-X can boost speeds and improve battery life on up to four devices in your car could be pretty huge for, say, any road trip involving teenagers. Just remember that if you want to beg out of a call, saying, “I’m losing you!” is no longer going to work.
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