The extendAIR Direct antenna takes advantage of Apple’s Extreme Base Station’s Antenna port to extend the range of your AirPort network. Dr Bott claims that the £119 extendAIR Direct boosts the usable AirPort-enabled area to approximately 150 meters inside a 70° unidirectional “beam” of coverage. Our testing revealed this range to be reachable only under ideal conditions, but we found that the extendAIR Direct did improve signal strength at closer range.
The extendAIR Direct plugs directly into the antenna port on the high-end AirPort Extreme Base Station, and requires only a restart of the Base Station to be configured. The antenna is mounted on an adjustable base that can be either wall- or desk-mounted up to two metres from the Base Station.
Additionally, Apple’s new Power Mac G5 features an antenna ports that works with extendAIR, offering G5 users an alternative should the G5’s antenna be insufficient for their AirPort Extreme needs.
Perhaps due to the fickle nature of radio waves, we were only able to achieve Dr Bott’s claim of a 150m range in an outdoor environment with no obstructions between the extendAIR Direct and our target computer. Radio waves are scattered or deflected as they pass through solid objects, and the denser or higher in water content the object is, the weaker the signal on the other side. In a more real-world setting indoors, the antenna improved signal strength 25 to 50 per cent depending on distance – and more importantly the type of obstacle – between our test machines and the extendAIR.
With thoughtful antenna placement, we were able to achieve stronger signals and faster connections to our AirPort network. But don’t expect to simply plug in the antenna, set it on a shelf, and get dramatically improved AirPort coverage.