Amped Wireless R20000G, SR20000G, and UA2000: Routers, Repeaters, and Adapters (Oh My!)by Jarred Walton on June 23, 2012 12:00 AM EST
Amped Wireless SR20000G Repeater
The core hardware in the SR20000G is essentially identical to that of the R20000G; the major difference is in the firmware. Instead of offering up wireless routing functions and all of the associated options, the SR20000G focuses solely on being a repeater. In theory, Amped could have supported both functions with one device, leaving it up to the users to select the desired mode—there are other wireless routers that support some form of wireless repeating, for example—but outside of business class access points our experience with such functionality is limited.
Before we get to the actual hardware and software, let’s quickly cover the question of why someone would prefer having a wireless repeater as opposed to simply adding another router. Outside of managed networks used in businesses (where you have a main server handling DHCP and routing duties and potentially numerous wireless access points), most homes consist of a single wireless network. In larger homes/yards, a single router might not provide sufficient coverage, and you can end up with dead spots. To improve coverage, you’ll either need to relocate your router, or else you’ll need another router. Let’s assume you have placed your main router optimally and you still have dead spots, so you decide to go with the second option.
When you add a second wireless router, you need some way for that router to communicate with the rest of your network; typically, that entails running an Ethernet cable back to your main router. If you then configure both wireless routers with the same SSID, you can create all sorts of issues with your wireless devices hopping between routers and not being able to properly communicate with other networked devices (which is why businesses use managed networks), so you end up with a secondary SSID. Great—that should work acceptably for most people. But let’s say you don’t want to run an Ethernet cable—that would often require either putting holes in walls/floors to route the cable, or you have an unseemly wire snaking through your house. Why not simply have a second router talk to the main router and extend your network range that way? That’s the main purpose of a wireless repeater/wireless range extender.
A secondary use of a repeater would be to add another wired network located in a separate area of your home/business, again with the caveat that you don’t want to run wires to that location. Using a repeater like the SR20000G for your home theater for example is a great option, particularly if you have multiple devices that you want to connect to your network. Sony’s PS3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and Nintendo’s Wii all support wired and wireless connections, though you might need an adapter depending on which model of each device you have and whether you want a wired or a wireless connection. The problem is, even with WiFi built into all of the latest models, the quality if the WiFi adapter may not be all that great, limiting your range and/or signal quality. If you add a repeater like the SR20000G that can get a very good signal to/from your main router (more on that in the testing section), you can then connect your HTPC, Xbox, PS3, Wii, or any other Ethernet device without worrying about antenna positioning or quality.
Unfortunately, while there are plenty of wireless range extenders on the market, I haven’t personally had a need for one or a chance to test any of the other offerings, so I can’t really comment much on how the SR20000G compares to other repeaters. I can say that it’s one of the more expensive wireless repeaters on the market, currently going for over $170 (and also backordered at several places I checked), but Amped is claiming better hardware, firmware, and support. (Incidentally, I also have a Netgear router that features a Wireless Repeater function, but it appears to only work with an identical Netgear router configured as a base station.)
|Amped Wireless SR20000G Wireless Repeater Specifications|
|Frequency Band||2.4GHz, 5.0GHz (Simultaneous)|
2.4GHz: 300Mbps (Rx), 300Mbps (Tx)
5.0GHz: 300Mbps (Rx), 300Mbps (Tx)
Dual 2.4GHz 600mW Amplifiers
Dual 5.0GHz Amplifiers
Dual Low Noise Amplifiers
|Wireless Output Power||29dBm (2.4GHz)|
|Wireless Security||WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPA Mixed, WPS|
|Wireless Access Scheduling||Specific day and time|
|Wireless Coverage Control||
15% - 100% Output Power
(Adjustable individually for 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz networks)
Guest Wireless Networks (Up to 8)
Supports Wireless Multimedia (WMM)
User Access Control (MAC Address)
2 x High Gain 5dBi Dual Band Antennas
2 x Reverse SMA Connectors
5 x RJ-45 10/100/1000M LAN Ports (Local Ports)
1 x USB 2.0 Port (for USB Storage)
|Power Adapter Rating||Switching Adapter, Input: 100-240v, Output: 12v, 1A|
|Mounting||Wall, Stand or Desktop|
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4GHz or 5.0GHz Network
Computer with wired (RJ-45) or wireless (802.11a/b/g/n) adapter
1 x High Power Wireless-N 600mW Gigabit Dual Band Repeater
2 x Detachable High Gain 5dBi Dual Band Antennas
1 x Power Adapter (100-240v)
1 x RJ-45 Ethernet Cable
1 x Setup Guide
1 x CD: User's Guide, Installation Video
1 x Stand for vertical mounting
|Price||Online starting at $180|
All of the wireless features remain unchanged, so we’re once again dealing with a 2x2:2 MIMO dual-band device. The antennas are high-gain options and the broadcast power is 600mW, so range should be the same as with the R20000G—Amped states a coverage area of 10000 square feet, and in our experience you’ll get fairly good connection rates within that range, with the ability to connect from even farther away at the cost of transfer rate and connection quality.
Visually, the only real difference between the SR20000G and the R20000G is in the Ethernet ports on the back of the device; instead of four Ethernet ports and one “Modem” port, all five ports function as standard Ethernet ports. As indicated by the “G” suffix, all of the ports are Gigabit capable. Since repeating a wireless signal is the only real difference, let’s get straight to the setup and configuration process.
Initial setup requires a wired connection to the repeater, and Amped recommends having the repeater in close proximity to your router. The process is extremely simple; the repeater scans for wireless networks, you select the 2.4GHz and/or 5GHz network(s) you want to extend, input the security passwords for the main networks, and then choose SSIDs and security settings for the extended networks. Once all that is complete, the repeater will reboot several times over the course of three minutes or so, and then if everything worked properly your repeated network will be set up and ready for use.
There aren’t nearly as many configuration options at this point compared to the R20000G, but that’s expected. USB storage is still available, and you can modify your wireless network settings and see network statistics, and that’s about it. The most useful page (after initial setup) on the SR20000G is likely going to be the Management->Repeater Status screen, where you can see the signal strength for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz home networks. Amped recommends finding a location for the router where both signals are 70% or higher, though in practice you can still get reasonable performance with 60-70% signal strength as well.
The one major “gotcha” that you need to be aware of when using a repeater is that there will be some drop in the throughput for every hop that you go through. Technically, there’s nothing to stop you from having three or five or even ten repeaters extending away from your home wireless router, but in practice I imagine network throughput would be horrible on the tenth repeater. I’ll get to the throughput with just one repeater once we hit the performance section, but my experience suggests that if you can get a stable connection to the home router, you’ll almost always get better throughput that way. Amped recommends putting the repeater about 20-30% of the distance between the router and the area you’re looking to extend coverage to, which seems reasonable. For my house, I don’t really have any dead spots to begin with, so I had to move outdoors before the repeater became necessary. Even then, throughput was still a tossup between the repeater (with a much stronger signal) and the router.
The problem is that you get interference when using the repeater: your laptop (or mobile device) broadcasts a signal to talk to the repeater, which then rebroadcasts that transmission to the router. The result is that even when there’s a strong signal from your laptop to the repeater and from the repeater to the router, you’ll see wild fluctuations in network throughput. However, throughput isn’t the only useful metric when looking at wireless networking. Even if you may not be able to transfer data quite as fast when going through a repeater, if you’re nearing the fringe of your router’s coverage, a repeater can make web surfing much more palatable, especially if you move around much and can’t be bothered to find a location with a clean signal.