Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Pick Up Distant WiFi Hotspots With The Pepwave Surf Mini

Whenever the 3Gstore staff discusses our favorite products, the Pepwave Surf Mini wireless bridge is always in everyone's top five. It's not hard to see why:
  • It can solve a lot of different problems, from not having enough WiFi range from your router to picking up distant WiFi hotspots to bridging from a hotspot to an existing network
  • It's affordable (MSRP is $99.99)
  • Setup is a breeze
  • It works REALLY well
One of the most impressive aspects to the Surf Mini is how powerful its WiFi radio is, particularly considering its tiny size and affordable pricetag. The Surf Mini is often used to pick up WiFi hotspots and create private networks from them or connect them to users' existing networks (for example, many RV-ers use the Surf Mini in their camper so they can pick up campground WiFi from a distance and use it securely), so we get a lot of customers asking about how good its range is — they want to make sure the Surf Mini is going to be able to pick up the networks they want to connect to. Oftentimes we'll hear things like "my laptop can see the campground WiFi network but it's really weak...is the Surf Mini going to be able to connect to it?"

When it comes to the ability to pick up WiFi hotspots, the Surf Mini is VERY impressive. Its WiFi radio is much more powerful than the receivers built into laptops, phones, and even many other wireless bridges, so it is capable of picking up WiFi hotspots from much further away. Its range will vary depending on the environment, but typically it can see WiFi networks from up to 250 meters (820 feet) away.

For comparison's sake, we tested the Surf Mini in several locations and compared it to laptops and phones at the same location. In each test, we were amazed at how many more networks the Surf Mini could see versus the other devices. In one location, an iPhone saw 2 nearby hotspots, a laptop saw 4, and the Surf Mini could pick up 22 networks. In another spot, an iPhone saw 4 available networks, an iMac saw 14, and the Surf Mini saw 23! In another location,  our computer saw 24 networks while the Surf Mini could pick up 33 nearby hotspots:
The Surf Mini has a lot of useful functions, but its performance as an affordable wireless bridge for picking up distant hotspots is what makes it one of 3Gstore's all-time favorites!