- They cost a lot more! A minimum of an extra $200 and probably much more than that.
- Many of them are 3g only. For some reason amplifiers are lagging behind the industry and many of them won’t work with 4g. That’s unacceptable to me because I usually get a 4g signal in my travels and I need to be able to boost it.
- They are much more complicated. I considered them and was willing to pay the money for a few but putting them together was really hard and if they came as kits the prices were outrageously high.
My suggestion to all of you is to start with a Sleek because it’s very simple, works with 4g and only costs about $115 right now. They are so easy to set up I’m certain everybody here can do it and you will be very pleased with the results. If you use it for awhile and you are frequently running into locations where it’s not enough, then you can add the directional antenna. To me that has the advantage of breaking up the cost so you aren’t paying a large amount all at once, plus it smooth’s the learning curve into two parts so you don’t get all the parts in the mail at once and get overwhelmed trying to put it together.
Another complication that is going on right now is that Wilson Electronics is changing their name to weBoost, so all their new products are coming out with that name. Here is the new weBoost site where they explain that they are Wilson Electronics but have changed their name: https://www.weboost.com/us/.
In itself that’s no big deal, but it looks to me like they are raising their prices as well. For example the Wilson 4g Sleek is $114 on Amazon, and the new weBoost model, the Drive 4gs is $200–its $85 more! I could tell from the specifications it was the same thing but to be sure I contacted weBoost and asked and they confirmed the differences are only cosmetic, inside they are the exact same thing. I asked her if they would be making any more Sleeks, and she said no.
So, if you think you might ever want a Wilson Sleek amplifier, now is the time to buy it! When they are gone, they are gone and the price will be $85 more! Buy it RIGHT NOW by clicking on this link from Amazon: Wilson Electronics Sleek 4g
Installing the Sleek is very simple because it is literally plug-and-play, there is no software to install or learn or anything to do except screw in the antenna and plug in the USB power cord. It comes with a 4 inch magnetic mount antenna that goes on the roof and I found it to work very well. I bought a larger trucker cell phone antenna, and it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the 4 inch antenna. It doesn’t work nearly as well as the directional antenna so I no longer recommend it.
Now let’s talk about the directional antenna. In my last post I told you how pleased I am with its performance and in this one I’ll tell you what to buy and how to install it.
The good news is it’s all available from Amazon and isn’t too expensive; the bad news is it’s not at all clear what you need to buy to make the antenna work with the Sleek; in fact it was so complicated I couldn’t figure it out. First I went to the Wilson website and tried to find the information I needed but their website was not helpful for someone like me who knew nothing about electronics. I finally gave up and had to write Wilson’s customer service to get it right. They told me what to buy and I got it all from Amazon. Fortunately for you, I’ve done the leg-work and here is a list of what you need from Amazon:
- The antenna: Wilson Directional Antenna
- A cable for the antenna: Wilson Electronics 20-Foot Ultra Low Loss Coax Cable with N Male Connectors
- An adapter from the cable: Wilson Electronics 971107 N Female to FME Female Connector
- And another adapter to make the cable work with the Sleek: WILSON ELECTRONICS 971119 Fme Male to Sma Male Connector
Putting all that together is easy you just screw the pieces into each other and into the Sleek. Again, there is no software or learning, they just start working with each other. But you still have to attach the antenna to a mast and get it up in the air. I like to do things as easily as possible so here is the very simple system I put together:
A Painter’s Pole as a Mast For the Antenna:
I wanted to be able to get the antenna as high in the air as I reasonably could to pick up very weak and distant signals but the mast had to be short enough to carry inside the van and light enough it was easy to handle. A painters pole was the perfect solution because:
- It was made of fiberglass and aluminum so it was very light and also very strong.
- It extended out a long way and then collapsed down to a smaller size. The one I bought is 6 foot at its shortest and 12 foot at its longest. That’s high enough for me and yet still short enough to be easy to carry in the van. Mr. Long Arm Painter’s Extension Pole, 6-to-12-Feet. If you are tight on space you might consider the 4 to 8 foot model. Mr. Long Arm Painter’s Extension Pole, 4-to-8-Feet
If you want to get as far up in the air as possible, you might want to get the 6 to 12 to 18 foot model. MR LONGARM 6-Feet to 18-Feet Painter’s Pole
- They are reasonably priced, you can get them for either $17, $25 or $55 depending on length.
- I’d prefer a non-conductive material so I would be at less risk from lightning, the painter’s pole is half fiberglass so that helps. It’s a fallacy that the pole would attract lighting, it doesn’t attract lightning. But, if lightning was going to strike at or very near to the van anyway, it would strike the highest point of the van which was the pole.
Mounting the Pole to the Van:
Next I needed to find a way to mount the painter’s pole to the van. If you have an RV it’s easy to attach it to the ladder on the back or if you have a truck camper with jacks you can mount it to one of the jacks. You can use hose clamps or even tarp bungees with the little balls on the end to mount it to anything long enough. Many RVs have a 4” x 4” rear bumper and if you do then I recommend you follow RV Sue’s mounting method—you can find it on this page of her blog: http://rvsueandcrew.net/8014-2/
None of those things would work for me with a van so I had to create my own method. Whatever I did it had to do three things: 1) hold the mast securely upright, 2) keep the antenna from being blown in a circle by the wind and, 3) be fast and easy to set-up and take-down because I’d have to do that on every trip to and from camp.
Of course whenever you drill into the side of the van you have to be worried about rain getting in so I used self-tapping sheet metal screws that come with a little rubber gasket that forms a seal around the hole—any hardware store sells them. If you’ve ever installed a metal roof, you know these rubber gasketed screws are the only thing keeping it from leaking. I believe they will work just as well here.
You can see in the pictures the painter’s pole slides down in the four wall hangers and I clamp each one down with a spring clamp. It’s simplicity itself, but works extremely well! It’s very simple to clamp and unclamp it and it’s low enough to just slip it in and out of the hangers. The clamps grab it tight and I can’t imagine a wind that would turn the antenna.
So far I am extremely happy with the whole setup:
- I get great data reception even when the cell tower is 20 miles away
- Setting the antenna up and down is extremely fast and easy. I just slide it into the pipe hangers and clamp them down.
- With or without the Smartphone App finding the tower is simple and takes me about 5 minutes.
- Mounting the mast to the van was cheap, simple and easy—all I had to do was drive 8 screws.
So there you have it a reasonably priced way to dramatically improve you cell and data reception that is easy enough for just about anybody. If you are going to give it a try, I strongly suggest you do it now because the price of all of it is going to skyrocket once the current supply of Wilson-branded gear is sold-out.
- Wilson Electronics Sleek 4g
- Wilson Electronics 20-Foot Ultra Low Loss Coax Cable
- Wilson Electronics Directional Antenna
Wilson Electronics 971107 N Female to FME Female Connector
WILSON ELECTRONICS 971119 Fme Male to Sma Male Connector
MR LONGARM 6-Feet to 18-Feet Painter’s Pole
Mr. Long Arm Painnter’s Extension Pole, 4-to-8-Feet
Mr. Long Arm Painter’s Extension Pole, 6-to-12-Feet
Excellent information, Bob, as usual! Thanks for providing your readers with a link to my blog. Sue
Got my Wilson stuff all ordered and on the way. Thanks Bob!
Thank you Dust in the wind!
Thank you Sue for being my inspiration! I hope all my readers subscribe to your blog!
Thanks for the heads up on the price increase. I’ve been wanting one of these for quite some time, as even when I’m at my home base I have a week signal. It’s funny, when you open up the link for Amazon it also shows you a “newer model available”. It’s the weboost for $199.00! I should have mine by next week. I just ordered the Sleek and will decide if I need the directional antenna after trying it. Thanks again for the great info as always, and the chance to save some money. Every little bit helps.
Your’re very welcome Doug!
I assume there are cables shorter than 20 feet.
Yes, there is a 10 foot cable, but I wouldn’t want one, I use the whole 20 feet with just a little to spare.
Thanks for the great information. I just ordered the entire package from the links you provided.
Thank Omar, I appreciate that! I think you will be very pleased with it.
Wilson Sleek’s price is climbing. Already up to $122.20 as of a few minutes ago. Here’s my question: While at Lake Shasta, my Verizon LTE signal was pretty non-existent, and I was mostly stuck with 3G. Will the Wilson Sleek boost that to a 4G LTE signal, or do you have to already be getting 4G to boost your signal? Thanks for all this great information!
It depends on whether there’s 4G coverage there at all. An app like Technomadia’s “Coverage?” would help you know whether there’s any 4G to be had.
I have a similar question: will the 4G booster improve a weak 3G signal, or do I need to carry 2 different boosters?
Hi Ming, no it will work on both, it is a very wide band it picks up.
It will boot 3G and 4G.
T, it will work on both, it’s a wide spectrum antenna. It’s just as good with 3g. BUT, 3g will never be as fast as 4g. All the Sleek will do is make it the best 3g signal it can be–it will still be 3g.
Big thanks from me, too, Bob! Amazon price up another $2 but only 2 Sleek left in stock now – after I ordered mine!
You got in under the wire Biz Crate!
Thinking this is also a great set up for a two meter amateur radio antenna to hit repeaters in the distance. Thanks for the great ideas for the mechanics of this.
You’re welcome Kevin. I can see this would get any antenna up in the air pretty good and then be easy to take down.
Excellent review Bob, appreciate the information.
You’re welcome Curtis.
nice, simple, and effective mast!
Ming, you could be talking about me, or the mast.
Signed up to say, big thanks Bob. Been looking at Wilsons for awhile. Now was the perfect time to dive in. Seems like we’re on the fringe of reception in most our favorite spots…until the Sleek 4g arrives. The setup detail and accessory links are appreciated. Dale
I hope it works as well for you as it did for me!
I hope it works as well for you as it did for me Dale.
I’ve had this exact setup since last summer at my off-grid cabin. It’s amazing. I go from no data to strong 4g.
Bob I didn’t see it mentioned but when you put your phone on the amplifier, it will allow you to make normal voice calls in areas where you never could’ve before. I find this to be as important as being able to get online using the MiFi
Josh, tha’s a very good point! I have used it for that, but I rarely talk on the phone so it isn’t a priority to me.
Thanks for reminding us.
Some of your readers may be interested in a permanent mount for the painter’s pole antenna. If you have a flat space on your bumper, you can do what I did:
At Home Depot I bought a flat base flange and a two foot length of iron pipe that screws into it. The flange is attached to the bumper with 4 short bolts. Everything else is pretty much like yours. It goes up and down via the paint pole, and the whole thing rotates for tuning via the threaded flange at the bottom. I also put in a hook to contain the top of the paint pole to keep it from vibrating in travel. The paint pole fit almost perfectly into the inside diameter of the iron pipe. I added a bit of tape and some epoxy on the pole to make it tight. It’s all one piece now.
This arrangement has been working without trouble for several years. It’s not suitable on your van, where you have to remove it regularly to open the back door, but if you don’t have a clearance problem it is a lot less trouble to leave the pole permanently mounted.
Thanks very much for that Bob!! Great idea!
I got my Wilson Sleek 4G in time. I was going to wait a couple months originally. Thanks for the heads up!
Glad to her that Alan!
Is it normal for the Sleek to get hot? I’ve been using my USB outlet.
That coax cable is pretty thick. Any creative ideas on bringing through into the interior without cutting holes in metal?
Thanks for your help,
Steve, yes, mine does get hot. I try to lay it on it’s side so it can cool a little bit but it still gets hot.
It is a huge cable isn’t it! I’m just taking mine in and out and running it in through a rolled-down window with no permanent mount.
If I were going to make it permanent I would bring it in through the floor and fill the hole in with caulk.
Maybe I missed something. I’m not clear on exactly how this setup works. The directional antenna plugs into the Sleek 4g via the cable and various adapters and the cell phone itself sits in the Sleek 4g cradle so it’s physically tethered? How do you get internet? Is there an SMA connector for a wireless router?
George, it depends on what device you are using. I use a Verizon Jetpack and it sits inside the cradle and gets the greatly amplified signal. So it isn’t physically tethered (except it is actually touching but not connected by a wire) it’s just getting a much stronger cell signal from the Sleek. The Jetpack then rebroadcasts the cell signal as a wifi signal which all my devices can read. If you have a smartphone, you do the same thing and set the phone up as a Hotspot and it rebroadcasts the signal as wifi.
For voice, you will want to use a Bluetooth headset so you don’t have to hold the phone in the cradle to your ear. It has a lot more radiation than just a cell phone.
Got it. Thanks Bob. Your website is a goldmine of information as I prepare to go nomad.
Glad to help, George.
Now it doesn’t seem so complicated. Thank you for your guide!