The device may be small but it’s a very powerful 802.11n Wi-Fi transmitter that lived up to the hype presented by a rep I met at MacWorld. This latest model, packed with a 1000mW high power transmitter and long range upgradeable antenna, replaces the original BearExtender Mac, but is compatible with older and newer model Macs, such as the PowerMac, iBook, MacBook and Mac Mini and runs on any Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) through the current version Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.
The software that came in the box received revealed that Mountain Lion was a beta version but a new driver was released on BearExtender's website last month. However an online manual for Mountain Lion is not currently available. This new device is not compatible with Windows although like my review here, the PC version is rated with a number of perfect ratings.
BearExtender Mini for Mac was easy enough for to install and some users may find it unnecessary to review the QuickStart Guide that comes with the unit. Installing the software shouldn't take long and after restarting the computer, the gadget is connected via the USB cable. Within moments, a window should appear with available networks to choose from.
Once a network is selected, the mini device’s performance was quite impressive. According to information presented on the BearExtender website, the mini provides up to four times the Wi-Fi range, connect and download at higher speeds and see more Wi-Fi networks around you. From first impression, the Wi-Fi range did appear to be significantly stronger and more networks were indeed visible than without using this device. In fact it was very easy to connect onto a neighboring network that wasn’t password protected. Previously, I was unable to perform the same task using the network card from either my iMac or MacBook Pro.
The last part of this review was to test the device’s download and upload speeds. Three speed test websites – SpeedTest.net, Speakeasy.net and Comcast’s XFinity along with three web browsers – Safari, Google Chrome and Firefox were used in this test. Over the course of the next two hours, repeated tests were used with the three websites and browsers. Concluding results did show that the BearExtender Mini for Mac did slightly outperform my iMac’s network card, particularly when undergoing the performance test through SpeakEasy. However there were a few times that Wi-Fi did just as well or better than BearExtender.
One other online review of the BearExtender Mini for Mac determined that the device’s download speeds were considerably slower than a built-in Airport card, however the reviewer points out that no download speed difference was noticeable in lower-speed internet connections. For my testing, I used a service with download speeds up to 50 Mbps and upload speeds up to 10 Mbps. The device reportedly has a maximum speed of 150 Mbps although 802.11n can support up to 300 Mbps. Spokesman Roland Saekow said the maximum speed was set at 150 Mbps to make the device more affordable, particularly for students.
At just $49.97, the BearExtender Mini for Mac is a great choice for businesses travelers and for people on the go who need to connect wirelessly. There are also upgrades available, such as an optional 5dBi antenna upgrade and a soft carry case.
The BearExtender Mini for Mac won’t replace my own network card completely, but it will definitely come in handy whenever I’m on the road or if I want to work on my MacBook Pro in a different part of my home.