Early last month I was stoked to receive a new weBoost Drive 4G-X RV Cellular Booster Kit as an upgrade to our old Wilson Sleek device. Although the little Wilson Sleek did a decent job at getting us online in fringe reception areas the 4G-X Drive Kit, plus the large external RV/Truckers antenna, promised an even bigger boost.
I quickly got to work installing the new equipment on our Keystone Cougar fifth wheel. The installation went smoothly, and soon the weBoost amp lit up green, and all our cellular devices were showing full bars. It was great to see but expected since we were camping near a city, so signal strength was already good.
The real test would come during our planned trip down the Oregon coast along Highway 101. With it’s sparser population centers and treed, hilly terrain it’s notorious for weak cell signal areas. From previous trips, I had multiple spots in mind to test out the new booster system.
Real World Test In Fringe Reception Area
So, the main reason we as full-time RVers wanted a cellular amplification system was to improve our reception of cell signals in weak areas. For us, that generally means data signals to improve Internet connectivity and speeds, but being able to get a phone call or text message out is important as well.
During our latest travels, I made a point of returning to what I knew was a particularly bad reception area near the Redwoods National Park. I performed several different tests with multiple combinations of equipment I had on hand. The following are rough figures I recorded, nothing scientific but does give a general indication of results achievable. They closely match what I saw in several other weak test locations along the coast.
weBoost 4G-X with Trucker + Small Indoor: -83dBm RSSI 92% SINR 10dB
weBoost 4G-X with Trucker + Big Indoor: -76dBm RSSI 95% SINR 15dB
dBm = Decibel Milliwatt (Lower negative number is better)
RSSI = Receive Signal Strenght Indicator (Higher is better)
SINR = Signal to Noise Ratio (Higher is better)
As you can see, it can get pretty complicated with all these numbers and acronyms. I’m not going to go into too much detail; there are lots of resources on the internet if you want to delve deeper. For example – Cell Phone Signal Boosters: The Definitive Guide.
In layman’s language with no booster, I had 1 bar and extremely slow internet speeds with frequent disconnects. With my old Sleek booster I had 2-3 bars and good speed, and with the new weBoost Drive 4G-X, I saw 4-5 bars and excellent speed and connectivity. I was a happy camper!
weBoost Drive 4G-X Review
I’m impressed with the performance of the weBoost kit thus far. I’ve tried it in several challenging signal areas, and it has met or exceeded my expectations, and I look forward to using it during this winters snowbird adventures. We love to boondocking off the grid and many times that means sacrificing a reliable cellular connection.
From a safety standpoint, it’s always nice to at least have a little bit of cell phone connectivity to get an emergency call, email or text out to the world. Even a minor increase in cell signal coverage will mean a lot to us.
The installation process was incredibly straightforward, with the biggest hurdle being running the wires inside the RV. Luckily, I had already hooked up a new backup camera system, so even that was a snap. Once physically installed in the RV the weBoost simply needs to be turned on and it magically starts boosting up to 4 cellular devices.
A green light on the weBoost amplifier indicates it is functioning properly, if not the light turns red. Usually, a red light would indicate miswiring or the outside and inside antennas are too close causing feedback.
I tested the weBoost amplifier using my MiFi Hotspot, a new Huawei Smartphone, and an old cheap little Tracfone and with three different carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It worked well on all. I also was able to boost signals running on 4G LTE, 3G, Edge (2.5G) and 1xRTT technologies.
Since we’ll mainly be using the weBoost while dry camping, I wired it up using the included 12-volt DC adapter versus the AC adapter, for best power conservation.
The adapter reduces the voltage down to 6 volts DC and 2.5 amps required by the weBoost Drive 4G-X and has a conveniently lit on-off switch. One side benefit of boosting the cell signal is the phone or hotspot uses less of its battery power when the signal is strong.
There are a couple of things I didn’t like. One, the indoor antenna range in my rig is quite short. Anything further than a foot or two and I lost much of the signal boost, even with the large antenna. Two, in less than a month the external antenna metal hardware is starting to rust.