Panbo

CellRanger Stix, bummer but...

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 6, 2008

CellRanger_Stix_no_gain_cPanbo

I can tell you with some certainty that an RSSI value of -106 usually shows as one tiny bar on my Verizon Centro phone and usually means that it can ring when called but is darn flaky in terms of actual verbal communication. It’s pretty much the standard Verizon cell status around my house and even most places right outside. What I can’t tell you is whether the Cell Ranger Stix amplifier I’m testing was on or off when I took this photo…because it seemed to have no effect on the signal whatsoever!

I also tested it in my truck, including in areas of better reception, and during all tests paid close attention to Cell Ranger’s troubleshooting advice about separation between amp and (dinky, see below) antenna.Still I saw no improvement in RSSI or bars (which move slower and are less precise).
   But maybe I got a bad unit. Jeff Siegel is also testing a Stix and he’s seeing a definite improvement, sometimes two bars worth. His service is AT&T (GSM), which also tested well for Geardiary, so maybe that’s the difference. I’ve filled out a trouble ticket at Cell Ranger, and it will be interesting to see how they handle it. Maybe I got a lemon, or maybe the technology just doesn’t work with CDMA 1900MHz cellular?

Cellranger_Stix_cPanbo

PS 9/7. Jeff sent over this dramatic illustration, bigger here, of how well the Stix is working for him. He “took all of these images within a 2 minute period and all were done in exactly the same position. The only difference was whether the Cell Ranger was plugged in or not. I repeated this about half a dozen times over the last 24 hours and consistently got the same results.” This was done on land, and Jeff is planning to test some more using the weak signal at his mooring. Why wouldn’t he get good results there too? But what’s the problem with my Stix?

Cell_ranger_results_Jeff_Siegel

Comments

Well, I'll be darned! Cell Ranger support suggested putting my Centro right on top of the Stix, which seems pretty odd as their instructions warn against putting your phone closer than a foot, and their troubleshooting notes suggest two feet.

But if I put my Centro within a few inches of the Stix, it works splendidly. Boosts the signal from 105 to 70 RSSI, three bars! Unfortunately, it's very hard to use the phone that way, short of a headset, and it goes back to "no gain" just six inches or so from Stix. I've asked Cell Ranger if this may still be a lemon unit.

Posted by: Ben at September 8, 2008 1:53 PM | Reply

While I've never gotten around to writing a follow up to this Cell Ranger entry, the short story is that I recommended it in PMY with the significant caveat that it may be too fussy about distance from phone to Stix in some cell service/phone situations (like my Verizon CDMA/Palm Centro). But Jeff Siegel had good results with various phones and is now offering Stix at ActiveCaptain, along with a wealth of valuable info on marine cell phone use. If you could use a portable cell boost, try the Stix but test it thoroughly before the money-back guarantee runs out:

http://www.activecaptain.com/GM.php

Posted by: Ben at October 28, 2008 9:16 AM | Reply

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