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Review: YX200 Dual-Band Car Cell Extender

The $299 YX200 from Wi-Ex, like its homebound older brother, the YX500, maximizes your cell phone signal, but this one is built for the road. While it cannot create wireless signal where none exists, it can extend the signal that's available, as well as eliminate drop offs while driving. Best of all, it does all of this for nearly every cell phone out there, without the need to physically attach anything to your phone.

The package includes the amplifier, a 12-volt cigarette power adapter, an internal antenna and a magnetic mount antenna for the exterior. Both antennas come with long, 15 foot cables, allowing the components to be placed anywhere in most vehicles.

Installation was more involved than I expected. The YX200 is designed to be powered on without the pair of antenna connected, with it calibrating as they are plugged into the amplifier. A single LED on the amplifier tells you when the equipment is working properly. The unit is particularly sensitive to this calibration and antenna placement. I forgot to follow this process when I moved the unit from one vehicle to another, and based on the LED status, was unable to get a green light. After a minutes of head scratching, I unplugged everything and started over, following the manual, and everything worked like a charm again.

One thing that I noticed that there is a very short range on the internal antenna. The included manual confirmed this, advising that the antenna be placed with two to three feet of where the phone is going to be used. This makes sense, given the short distance between the internal and external antennas, but it is still something to be mindful of. During one test, I stood outside of my vehicle and was out of range of the YX200.

New to the YX200 is dual-band support. The unit repeats signals both in the 800 and 1900Mhz ranges. Virtually all of the wireless operators in the U.S., running on GSM, CDMA , TDMA, and the ancient analog systems, operate in one of these two frequency bands. The only exception is Sprint Nextel's iDEN network, which is specifically mentioned as not supported on Wi-Ex's website.

In day to day usage, in some areas, I saw anywhere from one bar to as much as three bars improvement in signal with the YX200 over the cell phone alone. More importantly, its biggest impact was in areas when coverage had been marginal. The combination of an external antenna pushing the signal outside of the metal box of my vehicle and the boost in signal it provides eliminated most of the dropped calls and chopped up audio in testing.

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