Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sleek 4G by Wilson Electronics

We had a good time at CES this year seeing several new products. One of those was the Sleek 4G by Wilson Electronics which we will be covering in this review. The demand for good coverage continues to increase as the number of mobile devices in the world continues to grow. In some areas cell phone coverage is spectacular, while other areas suffer. I happen to live in an area that has poor coverage making it the perfect place to test the new Sleek 4G by Wilson Electronics. If you're skeptical about a device being able to increase your phone's signal strength without physically attaching an antenna to the phone, read on!

Product Number
SMA Female
50 ohms
698-746 MHz / 746-787 MHz / 824-894 MHz / 1850-1995 MHz / 1710-2155 MHz
Power output for single
cell phone (uplink) dBm
700 MHz
(band 12/17)
700 MHz
(band 13)
800 MHz1900 MHz1700/2100 MHz
Noise Figure
3 dB nominal
> 40 dB
Power Requirements
5.5V DC, 2.5 A
2.25 x 4.25 x 2.5 (inches) / 5 x 9.5 x 5.6 (cm)
2.5 (oz) / 0.07 (kg)

Inside the box you will find the cradle, the antenna, a car charger, a usb cable for the car charger and different sized clips for the cradle. The clips slide up to be removed from the Sleek 4G. There are three slots you can put the clips in for a custom width. If that's not enough, there are different sized clips included in the box so you should be able to find just the right setup for any phone. Yes, even the monster phablets like the Galaxy Note II should have no problem fitting comfortably into the Sleek 4G.

If you're looking for a setup that will work nicely for your home or office, pick up the Home/Office Accessory kit. It comes with:
  • Desktop Mount
  • Window Bracket
  • AC Power Supply
  • Carrying Case

If you plan on using the window bracket, make sure that the cradle is as far away from the antenna as possible to prevent oscillation. If you don't do this, you will probably not get the results you're looking for.

The Setup
For our tests I am using the Galaxy Nexus phone running CyanogenMod 10.1 Nightlies. I'm on the Verizon 4G LTE network and I live in a neighborhood that is just within range of a 4G tower, but far enough away that I barely get one 4G bar while inside my house.

It was not a quick and easy solution for my home. I believe there was some form of oscillation going on which prevented me from getting the desired results the first time I tried setting things up. There is an LED on the Sleek 4G which is supposed to change colors when there is oscillation going on. The LED for my Sleek 4G did not change colors, but I finally found a position for the antenna outside my home and around the corner that was far enough away from my desk. Once I found my sweet spot I was good to go. In a car, the metal roof helps prevent any oscillation between the antenna and the cradle. The Sleek 4G by itself is designed more for a car setting, but it can be used to boost your signal next to your desk using the Home/Office Accessory Kit. If you plan on doing this, be prepared to spend some time finding the best position for the antenna.

For our first test I did a simple signal strength test. The Sleek 4G is supposed to increase both 3G and 4G signal strength. To start out I forced my phone into 3G mode. Without the Sleek 4G my best signal was -105 dBm and my worst signal was -120 dBm on Verizon's 3G network. Once I put the phone in the Sleek 4G cradle the dBm jumped up to -85 dBm. In terms of bars, I went from one bar all the way up to a full 4 bars of signal strength. No more dropped calls or missed text messages! I am extremely impressed with these results, they go beyond my expectations.

Our second test was similar to the first test. We know that the Sleek 4G significantly improves the signal strength of 3G service, but this thing is the Sleek 4G after all. One very cool feature about this device compared to previous cradles by Wilson Electronics is that the Sleek 4G is carrier agnostic. There is a switch on the cradle that lets you specify which 4G network you're on (Verizon or AT&T). I'm on Verizon, so the switch is in the up position. With 4G enabled on my phone I average about -111 dBm inside my home when I am lucky enough to get a 4G signal that my phone will connect to. With the Sleek 4G cradle I average about a -109 dBm, but sometimes I am lucky and I get a -99 dBm. Currently I am lucky enough to have a -99 dBm signal.

Our next test deals with speed. What does a -99 dBm signal give me for speed on the Verizon LTE network? For this next test I ran the app and unplugged the Sleek 4G in the middle to show the drastic difference in performance with and without the Sleek 4G.

This is a perfect example of with and without the Sleek 4G. I put the phone in the cradle and ran the benchmark. In the middle of the download I unplugged the power to the Sleek 4G and you can see were it takes a significant hit in performance. I was averaging about 12 Mbps download speeds until I pulled the power which caused the average to drop all the way down to 6 Mbps by the time this speed test finished. If the average dropped that much, the actual speed without the Sleek 4G must be even lower. Without the Sleek 4G I average about 1 Mbps download speeds. I plugged the power back in before the upload process started and then I unplugged it in the middle as well. You can also see where I unplugged it during the upload speed test. The upload for some reason in my area is not as drastic, but it is still a noticeable difference.

The only downside to the Sleek 4G is portability. It is a perfect solution for the car, but home and office users will be forced to leave their phones in one place. If you're looking for more mobility within your home or office, Wilson Electronics has other products which cost more but they will give you the signal boost without being tethered to one place.

The Sleek 4G cannot create a signal. You must have some kind of signal in order for the Sleek 4G to work its magic. If you are in an area that has absolutely no signal, do not expect the Sleek 4G to create a signal for you. Unfortunately there are just some places where carriers do not provide coverage and you would need something like a femtocell and an internet provider in order to have cell coverage.

Overall I have to say that I am very impressed with the results. When we saw the Sleek 4G at CES 2013 we knew it would be impressive, but that did not prepare me for a signal boost so strong that I would get 12 Mbps download speeds on my phone at home. The Sleek 4G is truly an impressive carrier agnostic device that anyone can benefit from. If you live in the city, there are gaps between cell towers where the Sleek 4G will help you get the best connection possible. I've traveled all over and stayed in hotels where my room feels like a dead zone and the Sleek 4G would have been nice to have. The Sleek 4G is a perfect fit for anyone looking to see significant gain in their signal strength. Based on the design, features, quality and performance, the Sleek 4G has earned our Highly Recommended Award!

Wilson Electronics