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BearExtender Mini gets your Mac connected to faraway Wi-Fi hotspots

Lex Friedman | March 6, 2013
The $50 BearExtender Mini is the follow-up to the company's 2010 BearExtender n3. Like its predecessor, the BearExtender Mini's goal is to let you use your Mac from further away from your wireless base station. The new model is half the size of and more powerful than the original n3.

Download speed, however, was a concern. In my repeated tests, I consistently saw download speeds of about 60 Mbps using my built-in AirPort card, and of about 44 Mbps using the BearExtender Mini. Upload speeds (7 Mbps during my testing) exhibited no significant differences in my tests.

When I tried the BearExtender Mini in places with lower-speed Internet connections, no downstream speed difference was noticeable.

The software

You'll use software provided by BearExtender to manage your Mac's Wi-Fi connection through the dongle. The software works, in the sense that you can browse available networks and select one.

That said, it's bone ugly and clunky to use. When you click to Connect to a network, there's no real sense that anything has happened, until you end up connecting to the network a moment or two later. Adding favorite networks is awkward, though of course that's not something you'll need to do too often.

In short, the software works well enough to get connected via the BearExtender Mini. But the app feels like an afterthought.

Bottom line

If you mostly get online at home within a room or three of your base station, you don't need the BearExtender Mini. But frequent travelers, students, and other folks who find themselves frequently facing spotty Wi-Fi with weak connections could likely benefit from the dongle's ability to pull in signals from far away. The Mini significantly improves upon the original BearExtender's form factor, and offers more power to boot.


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