Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hawking (HWREN1) Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Extender Review (1/9/2010)

Hawking (HWREN1) Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Extender


I purchased the Linksys Wireless-G Router (WRT54G2) for wireless connections from out laptop to the DSL modem. The DSL modem and router are located in a spare bedroom on the second floor in our townhouse but didn’t provide enough strength for use downstairs in the living room. After sifting through the numerous reviews, I decided since the majority was positive, I would give the Hawking Range Extender a try. After some set-up delays (I’ll discuss below), I got it working and it works fantastic! I highly recommend this product!


I purchased the Linksys Wireless-G Router, never imagining that it wouldn’t reach downstairs in our town-house. The router was placed next to the DSL modem which is located in the spare bedroom near the outer wall. Every thing worked fine on the same level; however, it didn’t send a strong enough signal downstairs.

What was odd, at times the laptop signal showed anywhere from 3-5 bars and allowed a brief period of connection if the laptop was close the base of the stairs. However, the connection was extremely intermittent and mostly slow if it did connect at all.

So, I went to the linksys support web-page and clicked “Community Forums”. I found a top pick discussing things to try if you’re not connecting, such as changing the channel number (which made sense since our neighbors on both sides had a router), the type of security, etc. I tried all of the suggestions (and there were several), but nothing worked.

Then initiated a “Live Chat” with Linksys support, from (I decided to use this method because with these foreign support call centers, I often cannot understand their dialect.)

I explained the problem and mentioned that I tried the suggestions found in their Community Forum. I’ll use the first initial of the Linksys representative. “K” asked how far I was from the router; I guessed 75 feet to which “K” replied, “Well this router gives excellent signal strength up to 60 feet.” I said, hold-on and measured it. I reported to “K” that it was only 45 feet away.

“K” responded: “Normal G routers provide range up to 50 to 60 feet only in an ideal condition.” I thought to myself, didn’t you just say 60 feet? He then suggested, “You can go for a wireless range expander.” So, instead of seeing whether everything was set-up correctly or trying a tweak or two, “K” immediately suggested a range extender (also called a repeater). This led me to believe that they receive numerous calls about the signal strength of these routers and the only answer is to put an extender on Linksys’s routers.

I know that routers are supposed to be ideally placed in the middle of your dwelling, but this isn’t always possible for several reasons. So, I decided to do what I didn’t want to do. Buy another piece of hardware ($$$) – a wireless extender, but which one?

After much research and reading many reviews (not just Amazon), I decided to purchase the Hawking (HWREN1) Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Extender – it said it would work with g-adapters and with other manufacturer’s routers.

First let me comment about the reviews on Amazon though. There were plenty (mostly) very good reviews of this product. However, there were some negative reviews, too. I decided that because the greater number of reviews was positive, I would try it. Besides, some of the negative reviews didn’t carry enough weight for me. I decided to purchase the Hawking Wireless Extender from Amazon as they had the best price with free shipping to boot!

When the Hawking (HWREN1) Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Extender arrived, I used the installation disk (which I strongly suggest) and use the wizard option. (btw: you want to run the installation wizard from the computer that is hooked up to your modem/router). I followed the wizard and provided the security information it needed to talk with the Linksys router. At the very end, I got an error message that said the Hawking extender was (1) not able to communicate with the router as it may be too far away, or (2) the security settings (i.e. security key) don’t match. As you’ll see below, the second explanation was vague.

Neither of these error messages was “apparently” true. The extender was right next to the router and the security key was carefully entered (and doubled-checked). So, I ignored the error and took the RJ-45 Ethernet cable off and brought the extender downstairs. I got a great signal (five bars!) on my laptop. However, the laptop couldn’t connect to the internet – I was flustered! Then I thought to myself: ‘Maybe that error message was trying to tell me something’.

I brought the extender upstairs and reconnected the RJ-45 Ethernet cable from the router to the extender and started over. However, I got the same error message at the end. I thought to myself, what else could be causing a “security” error – the security key is correct! Then I remembered that I have my router set up with Wireless MAC Filter “enabled”, permitting only MAC addresses that are in the “permit only” list.

So, I decided to check the “permit only” list and discovered that the MAC address for the extender appeared on it although it was grayed out. Apparently, during the installation process, the router saw the extender and entered its MAC address on the permit only list. (I know I didn’t manually enter it.) But, as I mentioned, it was grayed out and the interface wasn’t allowing me to change anything.

So, what I did next was simply a guess. I decided to shutdown everything – the computer, the router, and the extender. Well, wouldn’t you know it, when everything came back up, the extender worked fine! For some reason, the router needed to reboot to recognize the extender’s MAC address and allow it to communicate with it - the MAC addresses in the “permit only” list were no longer grayed out.

This range extender works great! It’s relatively small (you can’t really tell from the picture) and very light.

I highly recommend the Hawking (HWREN1) Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Extender – I’ll never know whether the Hawking routers would have been a better selection then Linksys, but I would suggest giving their routers a try before Linksys routers. I’m just trying to be helpful. I believe in rewarding companies when they manufacture great products!