Weak wi-fi woes

wifi-home-networkIt can be so disappointing – after a long day, you’re looking forward to catching up with the episode of The Night Manager you missed last week, only to find that you can’t get a wi-fi signal in the room you’ve set up as your TV snug at the top of the house.

We get a lot of requests for help to improve wi-fi signals at home – home networks can get quite congested with kids streaming things on their iPads, gaming and home-working, not to mention the tall houses in London that mean routers can struggle to push signals to the furthest reaches of your home. So, what to do about it? Is it possible to boost a weak wi-fi at home? Of course it is. And as with all things technical, there are many options – some simple, some needing a bit more effort and cash.

Here’s a few things you can try yourself.

Move, it, baby!

router

While routers are hardly eye candy, they shouldn’t be tucked behind cabinets or sofas. For the best wi-fi signal, routers should be placed in open spaces, where there are no obstructions or walls. If the router has antennae they should be positioned vertically. The higher and more central the router is located in the home, the better its coverage will be. And bear in mind wi-fi isn’t keen to compete with other electronic devices – particularly microwaves and cordless phones. And the signal will be weakened by thick walls, steel beams, washing machines and other low-tech realities of life. There are routers that are developing curved wi-fi signals, but let’s not go there yet!

Channel hopping

You may find in compact London that there are dozens of other wi-fi networks crowding your precious signal, so it might be worth changing the channel on your router to find one less crowded. This should give you a better chance to catch up with that episode of The Night Manager whilst the kids are battling online monsters on their iPads.

Power (line) to the people

wireless_home_2010Search Amazon for ‘wi-fi booster’ and you’ll find dozens of items for sale, starting around the £20 mark. And probably the easiest of these gems to use are power line adapters. We particularly like the Devolo wifi range – they’re a bit more expensive but super-easy to set up. These clever little devices use the household wiring of your home to send the broadband signal around the house. Plug one into a socket near your router. Attach said router to the power-line adapter with an ethernet cable. Plug another power-line adaptor into a plug socket in your office eyrie and bob’s your uncle. Almost.

Of course, if you can’t fix woeful wi-fi yourself, just give us a quick call. Umair joined us as a Tipster in January; he’s our network expert, tempting your wi-fi signal to the very furthest corners of your house. He’s getting quite excited about the new curved wi-fi signals too!

 

 

How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.