by Nik S.
Super Cantenna Review
I recently was given the opportunity to test the Super Cantenna Wireless Booster Antenna. The Cantenna name is appropriate given that the product is in the shape of the can, similar to a Pringle’s can in size, and sits on a tripod. The seemingly simple design is advertised to stand apart from the homemade “Pringle’s” type antennas due to its dimensions, shielding, and polarization, which have been engineered for maximum signal strength and distance. The product is advertised to extend the range of your wireless network, bridge gaps in your wireless network, or connect to other networks in the neighborhood.
For background, I live in a town home community in close proximity to many other residents with exactly eight town homes adjoined in one building. My town home is located in the middle of one of these units.
For testing the Cantenna, I used the following:
- Orinoco RG-1100 Access Point
- Orinoco Gold PCMCIA Card with antenna jack
- D-Link DWL-520 PCI Adapter (http://www.dlink.com.sg/products/?pid=42)
- D-Link 4dbi Omni-directional antenna (http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=325)
- NetStumbler Software v. 0.4.0 (http://www.netstumbler.com/downloads/)
To begin testing, I connected the Cantenna to my Media Center PC downstairs using the D-Link PCI card. The access point was located upstairs on the opposite end of the town home. With the standard antenna, the D-Link adapter was barely able to receive a signal from the access point upstairs. To remedy this, I had previously been using a D-link 4dbi antenna just to keep a steady “poor” signal.
I was anxious to see how much the Cantenna would improve my connection. The setup was easy, as advertised, with a plug and play connection straight to the SMA connector on the PCI card. Signal strength is typically -63 dBm on my Media PC, but as you can see from the NetStumbler graph, at a steady -51dBm the Cantenna provided a 12dBm boost OVER the 4dBi omni-directional D-link antenna. I played with the Cantenna for a while, rotating it left and right to see if I could tweak the signal strength any further (note the dips in the Netstumbler graph), but a 12dBm boost was the end result either way. You can see the connectivity boost in the graph between the 4 dbi D-Link antenna and the Super Cantenna in the image below.
Netstumbler graph for D-Link antenna versus Cantenna signal strength (dip marks the spot where D-Link antenna was unplugged then Cantenna plugged in) (view large image)
For my next test, I wanted to test the Cantenna’s ability to extend the wireless range outdoors. My town house is in front of a lake that measures approximately 2 miles across at its widest point.
Distance from town home where the author’s wireless network is setup to the park across the lake where laptop is being used to connect to the home network — about 1.2 miles (view large image)
This time I hooked up the Cantenna to my Orinoco access point, and pointed it out of my office window across the lake. Directly on the other side of the lake (1.2 miles from my townhome) is Bill Frederick State Park. I was hoping the Cantenna would allow me to enjoy nature AND my network. Without the Cantenna hooked up, I was unable to pick up any signal at all. With the Cantenna attached to my access point, the story was quite different. Although the connection was “poor”, with a -80 dBm signal I was able to maintain a steady connection and browse my home network with no issue. Again, note the dips in the graph as I had someone back at home rotate the Cantenna back and forth to find the optimal signal.
NetStumbler graph for reception 1.2 miles across lake using the Super Cantenna (view large image)
I then made a short trip home to retrieve the Cantenna. I wanted to see if I would obtain the same signal strength from the park with the Cantenna attached to the Orinoco Gold PCMCIA card in my laptop. To make this connection, I used the Wireless Garden notebook adapter I was provided with the Cantenna. Back at the park, I was quite impressed with what I saw as I fired up Netstumbler. Although the signal from my network was -2 dBm weaker than with the Cantenna on my access point, I was now seeing tons of access points. As I slowly swept the Cantenna along the lake shore (which is littered with one condo development after another), I picked up 15 networks!
When using the Super Cantenna from a park close to a condo development it would appear you’re in an urban jungle with the amount of wireless networks the Super Cantenna helps to pickup (view large image)
- Boosts the signal as advertised
- Easy plug and play
- Much easier and more professional than building one yourself from a Pringle’s can
- Great value for the money, this is the easy alternative to buying a second access point to use as a repeater
- Using two of these, pointed at each other, you could create an extremely long distance connection between two locations!
- Size does matter —
- May not pass the “Wife Acceptance Factor” when perched atop your entertainment center
- Doesn’t fit in your laptop bag so it would be hard to lug around on trips
Pricing and Availability for the Super Cantenna
The Cantenna Wireless Booster Antenna is available from a number of retailers starting at about $49.99