Hands on with the YX560SL Cellular Booster, part 3: COLD HARD DATA

It’s big. It’s brawny. It promises to be the best small office cell booster EVER. It’s the YX560SL booster from Wi-Ex, and we’ve been putting it to the test. This isn’t just a “touchy feely” exercise, this is a real-world shootout between the previous king of the hill, the YX545, and this sleek new grey beast. We looked at all the parts and what you get is a new cell booster that looks a lot like the old one, a beefier cable and a massive yagi antenna.

Occasionally, one of the older RF engineers who visits this site bemoans the lack of cold hard data. Not this time. This time we pulled out all the stops to see who did well, how well they did, and how much power they brought to the cellular experience.

Test criteria

In order to make this test as fair as possible, the YX560 antenna was mounted in the exact same place as the YX545 antenna. A piece of scrap aluminum was used to attach it to the eave. (If you want to see the original YX545 installation, check out this series.) In a perfect installation the antenna would have gone up about another eight feet to clear the roof of the house next door. But this is apples to apples, meaning the antenna stays in the same place, and so does the booster.

The booster is placed in a less-than-ideal location that puts it about one meter away from the desk where this review is being written. Ideally it should be up a little higher but it was the only place it could go.

In order to aim the antenna, I used the Rootmetrics Coverage app. This told me the location of the closest towers (about 1.5 miles away) and the general direction. I knew I didn’t have to be too precise because the beam width is about 60 degrees, meaning I could just point in the general direction.

To measure the power of the signal I used an iPhone 5 in test mode as detailed in this article. This gives the strength of the signal in dB at the site of the phone. The numbers are negative, and closer to zero means more signal. If I were right at the tower I would have expected about -60. Outside our test lab in the open area the measurement was -70.

I measured the same five locations, first with no booster, then with the YX545, then with the YX560SL.

Location 1 is the workstation where I sit all the time.
Location 2 is the other side of the door to the blog editor’s office, about a meter further away and through 1 wall.
Location 3 is the other side of the office area, about six meters and another wall away.
Location 4 is the lunchroom, another five meters and another wall away.
Location 5 is the other side of our Operations center, a total of 20 meters and four walls away from the booster.

Here’s the story

What you see in the chart above you is that the YX560SL (black line) totally blows away the YX545 (blue line) in the 1 meter test. The YX545 did give 8dB boost over the no-booster numbers (even with the booster in kind of a weird place) but the YX560 gives a real-world number of 37dB in the same location, with the booster still placed weird! The total loss through the walls, which was 47dB, is now only 10dB and more importantly the actual measurement of -80dB is enough to give four bars where before I got zero bars.

Walking a little further away from the booster actually helps the YX545 a little (because there’s a line of sight to the office window) but there’s no difference in the YX560. Hey, once you’re already up to -80dB, what else do you expect?

Once you get to the lunchroom, there’s no difference in gain, meaning that the booster isn’t doing anything at that location. That’s about 40 linear feet away, and remember the booster isn’t placed very well. With one of our Signal Pro’s holding the booster up to a height of about 2 meters, the gain in that area increased to 10dB.

Conclusion

If you want a small office booster that realy works, you’ve got to try this YX560SL. It’s easy to see that even with a simple install, you’ll get fabulous performance. Wi-Ex says this booster is capable of 70dB gain if properly installed and I don’t doubt it one bit. Keep in mind, in this test the antenna was obstructed by another building and several trees, the booster was less than one meter off the floor, and the walls are built to commercial codes with full metal conduits.

I would highly recommend this booster to anyone who needs one. The install was easy and quick, and the results speak for themselves.