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Gadget Guy: Cell Ranger Port

Published On: Nov 25 2008 03:49:44 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 25 2008 03:53:09 AM CST

Cell Ranger PortRating: 2.5 out of 5Price: $149.99

"Can you hear me now?" It's a phrase some of us say to the person on the other end of our cell phones more than others. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just pocket a mini cell phone tower, then turn it on in areas where we're getting almost no signal?

A new product called Cell Ranger Port aims to cut down your cellular frustrations without breaking the bank.

To start, there's not a whole lot to it, so you need very few instructions. Simply place the device's antenna in a window or on the roof of your car about 7 feet away from you and then plug the other end into your computer's USB port. No software is needed; the USB port is purely for power. The company also has a car version that plugs into a power port so you don't have to always have your laptop with you.

Once the device is plugged in, it scans the available cellular signals and then broadcasts the strongest one to a 6 foot radius around your computer.

The company says this little device will supercharge the signal, adding about 2 to 3 bars to your phone and allowing you to connect in places you might not have been able to before.

I tested phones from US Cellular, Verizon Wireless and AT&T and found a small boost at best, potentially adding an additional bar of service in my home and car tests. However, I saw the same variation in signal by just leaving my cell phone sitting in one spot so I can't be certain the device was being all that helpful.

The Upsides: It couldn't get any easier to use. Just place it in the window or on the roof of your car, put some distance between you and the device and then plug into the computer. No software needed.

The Downsides: The increase in signal strength observed couldn't be attributed directly to the device. Each of the phones tested had a signal variation by about a bar without having the device plugged in at all.

Also, if it did increase the signal coverage, it only does so for a 6 foot area, which isn't practical for people who move about on the phone and it doesn't do anything to boost the outgoing signal from your phone -- only the incoming one.

The Bottom Line: In these tests the device wasn't a homerun but on various message boards and blogs across the Internet some raved about amazing newfound reception while others didn't notice any difference. The company has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you're looking for something to help with your signal, it might be worth a try.

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