A few weeks back, I wrote an overview of Sengled’s new Boost, a combination LED bulb and Wi-Fi extender. At the time the product was just announced, and wasn’t yet available. Once it became available, Sengled was kind enough to furnish me with a unit in order to do an actual product review.
To recap, Sengled’s raison d’être for the Boost is to be a problem solving widget for areas in the house that suffer from weak Wi-Fi, which can impact everything from the speed at which video streams (or doesn’t, as the case may be) to your tablet to teeth grinding lag while trying to play videogames, to how well automation products function.
Wi-Fi extenders aren’t a new product category by any means, but considering how most of them aren’t very aesthetic looking, Sengled’s solution is to hide it out of sight: Make it in the form factor of an LED bulb and hide it in a lamp.
As it happens, I had exactly the right scenario at home with which to test the Sengled Boost. My side of the bed in the master bedroom is, geographically, the furthest point in the house from the Wi-Fi router (a Linksys E3000, in case you were wondering) in the basement where the cable Internet comes into the house.
Measuring the Wi-Fi bandwidth in the house was done with the Ookla Speedtest app on my iPhone.
Leave aside for a moment your urge to mock us poor Canadians for what our service providers laughably call “broadband” in our country and heed the measurements I came up with. Down in the basement, standing right beside the router downloads clocked at 20.09 Mbps. Upstairs on the main floor, standing over top of where the router is located below, downloads were 15.36 Mbps. Then, at the other end of the house, on my side of the room they clocked a sad 7.61 Mbps. Clearly, I can’t work under these conditions.
The Boost’s manual is brief, and to the point. Installation is simple (how many AV pros does it take to screw in a light bulb?). Initial connection to the mobile app is by accessing the Boost’s own Wi-Fi network, then selecting your network and giving the Boost the password. The app allows control of multiple Wi-Fi-enabled Sengled bulbs, controlled either individually or all at once with a master on-off button.
On the lighting control side, every time you open the app on a mobile device it takes a few moments to search the network for bulbs, so from a user-experience perspective I don’t know if anyone would want to equip their entire house with Wi-Fi-controlled LED bulbs, and have to pull out their phone every time they walk into a room and want to turn on the lights, but that’s probably a specious argument.
The other complaint, if it can be called one, is the potential for user error. Since the Boost is screwed into the socket of a lamp, there’s the potential for users to forget and throw the switch on the lamp. Obviously, cutting the power to the Boost means that it won’t work.
To my credit, only once did I stand there like an idiot for more than five minutes trying to get my phone’s Sengled app to connect to the Boost, and getting repeated, “No bulbs found, retry?” messages before I thought, “Hey, maybe I should check the switch to see if it’s powered on.”
Other than that, the interface between app and bulb was mostly seamless. There was one instance where the app couldn’t find the bulb, and I had to swipe out the app and re-open it, after which it paired properly. Not a flawless track record, but still good.
But what about the Wi-Fi extending capabilities? That’s what the review is about after all.
After setting up the Boost, the Ookla app clocked the Wi-Fi in the master bedroom at 15.07 Mbps, double what it was without a booster, more than doubling the signal strength to bring it in line with the rest of the house, finally allowing me to stream Netflix on my side of the bed without endless buffering.
I’d rate the Sengled Boost as definitely a useful widget. It does what it’s supposed to do, and operates unobtrusively. That makes it a worthwhile problem solver to use when you need one.