WiFi wars are over, Portal emerges the undisputed winner
Portal advertises itself as the biggest WiFi breakthrough in fifteen years, and as a computer tech for the past quarter century I’m going to have to agree with that. Portal WiFi is so good I had to grab a laptop to test it on because I did not believe that my phone wasn’t flopping over to LTE and not telling me when I reached extreme ranges.
The Portal router is so good I’m not even going to make jokes about the cake being a lie. That’s how good it is.
The testing environment
I work in a 30,000 square foot three story office building in Nashville. It’s made of steel, concrete, broken dreams, and has required a minimum of five routers to provide adequate coverage. There’s a large open area in the center of the building where of course not a single ethernet cable can be run so you could centrally locate a WiFi access point.
I placed the Portal router in a copy room alcove on the first floor behind a printer and an office copy machine.
I didn’t believe my test results. This is not me saying I was amazed, I simply did not believe what coverage and range I was getting and decided that my rooted phone with LTE failover must just be misinforming me. I vowed to ask in the ROM forum whether or not people were having it switch over to cell without telling them.
Then I booted my Lenovo Yoga and connected to the Portal router. The router, in direct line of sight from where I was, was down two floors, 150 feet or so vertical distance. In between me and it was a video rendering area that has a thing I call The Monolith. It’s a wifi killer (20 or so hard drives, tv equipment plugged into it, WiFi access point on top of it because it kills any signal from outside.) The Yoga connected.
I went to speedtest.net, did a quick test and while not particularly impressive in terms of bandwidth, I was getting 8d/3u mbit.
I walked to a point where the monolith was not in between me and the router (about 20 feet down the hall,) and started getting 30mbit down.
I noticed I could get extremely far away and still had decent bandwidth. The signal percentage bar was significantly lower than the point I would expect data to even be working, but it was.
I did a speedtest at the extreme range on the Yoga and it was going fine and then the signal dropped. The OS had decided that the signal was low enough to look for another AP and latched onto it. Oh well.
Now that I believed my phone was not auto failing over to LTE I decided to do some fun stuff. The most technically impressive was 80-100 feet away, line of sight through two bathrooms, a cinderblock wall, a rack of lighting equipment, and on the other side of a box truck’s engine block. This was sub one mbit speeds but it was still going.
Claiming less than measured?
The Portal WiFi router claims to be able to serve 3000 square feet. While my 30,000 square feet building is across three floors, that still puts SQ foot coverage to the 10,000 sq foot range. Say 5000 if I’m smoking something and can’t measure.
I’m probably going to take a video camera, tape measure, WiFi speed test, and just see how far I can walk from this in an open area.
Going to take this home and put in in my faraday cage of a house.
It’s not perfect… yet
From a hardware perspective this thing blows anything I’ve ever used out of the water. Nine internal antennas, covers nearly my entire building (seriously, I’m two floors away connected right now, 35+down, 8 up.) Doesn’t seem to be in a fight with the 30+ other WiFi routers in the building (we rent space, everyone seems to have their own AP, we’re also right next to an apartment complex, the number of APs is absurd).
The app-based setup is a little limited in what you can do, has some bugs I’ve reported, however it does have a reasonably robust LAN based setup that works decently and lets you do most of what a modern router should be able to do. Except IPv6, which I’m assured is coming soon.
Some of the features are not here yet. Several are being rolled out today according to the timeline. We’ll see.
While I have become increasingly de-enamored of work-in-progress firmware routers, what this thing can do with the current incomplete firmware is more than several other routers combined are doing at my office.
Should I get it?
Are you doing a lot of intensive WiFi (such as streaming video to a TV)? Do you want the ability to hang out on the back porch or in the driveway and use WiFi? Using WiFi cameras and getting dropped packets? Trying to scan off that horrid WiFi printer/scanner combo and it’s running slower than Christmas? Can’t run cables everywhere? Plaster walls? Enough neighbor WiFi that yours sucks? Yes.
Not having problems with the WiFi you’ve got, home built after 1960, no noisy WiFi neighbors, can run a $6 cable to handle that one device that needs bandwidth? Probably wait until the price drops.
As a FYI – I’m under no obligation to give this a good review (other than that I’d like people to keep sending me stuff.) I did however get it sent to me for free and should you purchase it from the link below I’d probably get a referral fee. You can get around this by going to portalwifi.com and purchasing via that link should you want to give Amazon more money.
Availability and pricing
List price currently appears to be $199.99, Amazon has it for $135.47.
As the claims were a bit too unbelievable even to me, I posted a follow up video review with a laptop