Summer is travel season, and people all around the U.S. are planning to vacation out in the country. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city is great, but cell service out in rural areas can be hit or miss.
That’s where the Wilson Sleek 4G comes in. It can noticeably improve your cellular-wireless connection speed.
Build and Design
This accessory consists of a cradle and an antenna. The cradle holds your phone or mobile wireless hotspot, and the antenna is important to bringing in a stronger signal.
The cradle is easily adjustable to a variety of devices. It works well with both my Apple iPhone and the Verizon MiFi hotspot that are my constant travel companions.
It comes with a range of arms for bigger or wider phones, so you can secure a range of devices. However, for phones it is basically portrait only, as it does not hold the device very securely in landscape mode. This really doesn’t matter for mobile hotspots.
The Sleek 4G has to be plugged in, and draws its power through a mini-USB port, opening up multiple options — it can easily be used in your office or your car. It comes equipped for in-car use, but a home/office kit is available. And there’s a full-size USB port on one side, so you can power your phone while its in the cradle.
“Sleek” is in the name because compared to many signal boosters Wilson’s is tiny. It qualifies because it isn’t the size of a cinder block.
The antenna is on the end a fairly long cord, so it’s no problem getting it out to where it needs to be. And it has a powerful magnet, so it can be quickly put on the roof of a car.
The U.S. uses a variety of 3G and 4G cellular standards, but the Wilson Sleek 4G is capable of improving almost all of these — only poor WiMax is left out in the cold. A switch on the side changes it from 4G HSPA to 4G LTE.
By both benchmarks and real-world use, the Wilson Sleek 4G is capable of speeding up slow cellular-wireless data connections made with multiple wireless carrier’s networks.
Wilson promises that it can enhance 4G signals on all major carrier networks in North America, while at the same time it boosts 2G and 3G signals on all carrier networks. While I wasn’t able to test every possible permutation, I saw improvement in all the configurations I tried.
This device was tested in a cabin located in the woods over two miles from the nearest cell phone tower. There was no 4G access available, but there rarely is in rural locations.
On a Verizon connection, signal strength was typically between 40% and 60% and -87 to -93 dBm, which in layman’s terms roughly translates to low to medium strength or two or three bars.
By adding this signal booster with the antenna placed on an outside window, the signal strength jumped from 90% to 96% and -80 to -76 dBm, which can be considered medium to high strength or four bars.
In real-world terms, this means that loading web pages moved from frustratingly slow to adequately fast. In addition, streaming video from Netflix and YouTube became possible.
The improvement with an AT&T phone was even more marked. Signal strength for this carrier was very low in the area of testing, to the point that no data access was possible, although phone calls could be made. With Wilson’s signal booster, the test phone was able to achieve a strong 2G EDGE connection. While quite slow, this permitted email access and light web surfing where it wasn’t possible before.
But there is a tiny caveat: in my testing, the Sleek 4G had no appreciable effect on already good cellular data connections. At my home office, I have pretty strong cell service on all of the Big Four wireless carriers, and tests with this signal booster showed that it wasn’t capable of bumping “very good” up to “extraordinary”.
Those who travel to remote locations but want to stay connected to the outside world can really benefit from the Wilson Sleek 4G.
As prices range from $130 to $150, it’s not for people who are just going off the grid just one time. A few visits can justify the cost, however.
Those who live out where cell signals get tenuous might benefit even more, although this group might consider investing in something even more powerful. Hardcore home and office options are available from Wilson — although these are larger and more expensive, they have greater flexibility.
- Really can improve weak cellular-data connections
- Works for almost all 4G, 3G, and 2G connections
- Weak support for phones in landscape mode