Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gadget Review -- Wilson Sleek

About 20 miles from downtown Flagstaff is the Bonita NF Campground at the entrance to Sunset Crater NM. Good place to park and test the new gadget -- Wilson Sleek signal booster. I knew from a previous stop that Verizon signal was poor to non-existent. Dry camping at Bonita and parked in the midst of the Ponderosa pines on a floor of volcanic cinders. The pines cast shadows impacting solar panel output to recharge the batteries. (But that is another story.)

Although the Wilson Sleek comes with a very small antenna, I knew from experience that the outside antenna atop the flag pole would give better results. Attached the outside antenna to the Sleek. Attached the Sleek to a power source. The Wilson trucker's antenna is mounted atop a fiberglass flag pole to get the elusive that Verizon signal.

The Verizon voice/cell phone test.... Before using the Sleek, the Verizon cell phone display would alternate between a Verizon 1X signal with zero bars or "No Service". Placed the cell phone in the Sleek cradle. The signal display now showed 1X with two bars and EVDO appeared with one bar. Don't know if a phone call could have been made and staying connected.

The Verizon MiFi 4G LTE test.... Before placing the MiFi card into the cradle, the MiFi display showed signal strength with no bars. When placed into the cradle, the display showed two bars -- occasionally one bar. Turned on the computer and turned on Wi-Fi to connect to the MiFi unit. Most of the time, data transfers were at 1X speeds. A rare moment it transferred at EVDO speeds. (Note: the Sleek does not amplify 4G signal.)

Tests with Wilson amplifier... (already in the gadget collection). I expected the signal strength to be better with the directly connected amplifier. And it was. There is no external antenna connection for the cell phone, so the test for comparison was done with the MiFI card.

With the MiFi card via amplifier direct connect, the display on the MiFi card showed two bars all the time with an occasional three bars. Transfers were typically at EVDO speeds. In a later test, the MiFi display showed only one bar and speeds were at 1X.

Bottom line... It works for data -- some. Regardless of the connectivity -- Sleek or amplifier -- speeds were rarely consistent. Response time was highly erratic when accessing a new URL. Other times, it appears that the communication between here and there stopped. Stopped the access and tried again helped sometimes.

However, this test may have compromised from the start. Trying to go from no signal detected (at this location) to one bar may be pushing the technology. Add to that the forest of Ponderosa trees impacting signal. The first test was done before that large Class A RV that moved into the next space. That could also have impacted the already weak signal when I tested the second time.

My recommendation.... Save your money. To get internet connectivity, head down the road or to the nearest coffee shop. Or read a book. That is hard for someone with an internet addiction. I know. However, I did find that I survived a several nights without internet. Kind of like the old days -- as little as five years ago.

Unfortunately, that recommendation is partially colored by my current internet experience at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails RV park at Cottonwood, AZ. Although the MiFi display shows a four bar signal strength, the throughput speeds are erratic. Sometimes veeery slow. No doubt some of that is affected by other Verizon users putting heavy demands on a limited bandwidth


  1. Thanks for the test. Would it be too greedy to ask you to test the Sleek alone, without the Wilson antenna?

    At 70 cents per mile (AAA average of motor vehicle cost), plus coffee, plus goodie, that trip to the wi-fi hot spot isn't so cheap.

  2. Boonie, Left Flagstaff. Perhaps I can do a test on the backroads between here and Prescott -- a destination some time this week.

  3. Very interesting read. Thanks for the objective review.


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