Can You Hear Me? Can You Hear Me Now?

header_05Last month, I began searching for a new place to call home. Criteria that were at the top of my list included large closets, lots of natural light, and proximity to the beach. I’m happy to report that I found a place that met all three criteria. However, there was one key criteria that should have been on my list but wasn’t…cell phone reception. It wasn’t until I decided to work from home one day that I realized I picked a location that generated only about one or two bars on my AT&T Wireless Blackberry Bold. I experienced dropped calls, “Can you hear me now?” conversations that resulted in the person on the other line hanging up on me, and sometimes the inability to even place a call. It was so bad, I resorted to an almost extinct species in the world of electronics - the home phone. Luckily, I had one, but I thought I’d only be using it to buzz people in from my security gate.

Imagine how ecstatic I was when I was asked to review Wi-Ex’s zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL cell phone reception booster. The cell phone gods must have heard my prayers! I wondered if such things existed and, if they did, whether or not they really work.

I have to admit, I was a little intimidated when I received the package. It included a base unit, base unit antenna, signal antenna, power supply, signal antenna bracket kit, base unit mounting screws, and a DBS satellite coaxial cable. A coaxial cable? I’ve seen the cable man run coaxial cables in my living room, but I’d have to do that myself? Yuck. I thought it would be a lot of work.

But, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up. You’re required to setup the zBoost’s base unit at least 15 feet away from the signal antenna. I decided to place the base unit on one of the shelves in my entertainment center. I then ran the coaxial cable on the ground to the top corner of my dining room, right next to a large window. Then I tested the signal. It appeared as though my reception improved. The one to two bars turned into three to four bars. I tried placing phone calls and I didn’t have any problems. I still wasn’t 100 percent sure it was working or if I was just having a good cell phone reception day because sometimes the bars would drop back to one or two. The power light was also a solid orange color which, according to the user guide, means it’s not working right. The next day, I experienced a dropped phone call, which convinced me it wasn’t working.

zBoost Base UnitI decided to experiment by moving the base unit around, testing various locations. Most of the suitable locations I found were too close to the signal antenna. I finally found that if I placed the base antenna on top of my entertainment center, instead of on one of the shelves, the power light remained a solid green. That’s the key here - finding the proper location to place both the base unit and the signal antenna. It may take you a few tries to find the right place. The user guide states that for the best performance, you should place the signal antenna in the attic or on the roof. Neither of those are an option for me. Placing the signal antenna outside of a window is also a better option, but that would have meant a lot more extra work for me.

The signal antenna also isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing thing to hang on your wall. It’s a white bar that comes with black brackets. I opted to purchase a white bracket on my own from Home Depot to mount it to my wall. It’s still not pretty, but it’s less noticeable than using the black brackets.

Wi-Ex markets the zBoost YX510-PCS-CELfor $399 on its website, but you can find it on sites like Amazon.com for less. Amazon currently has it at $289.99. The YX510-PCS-CEL is compatible with all phones operating on PCS (1900Mhz) and CEL (800 Mhz), except Nextel. They also sell the YX500-CEL for $100 less. This version is only compatible with phones that operate on CEL (800 Mhz). There’s also the YX500-PCS for $299, which is only compatible with the 1900 Mhz frequency band.

I’ve been using the YX510-PCS-CEL now for about a week. It definitely boosted the number of bars on my cell phone, and I haven’t experienced a dropped call or failed call since I found the proper location to place the base unit. Call quality still isn’t perfect. Sometimes I hear static or my conversations don’t sound as clear as they could be if I “naturally” had better cell phone reception. However, it’s an improvement and I’ll take better over nothing.

ReviewsCecilia Daclan