A typical Bluetooth device (mobile phone, headphones, keyboard, etc.) is supposed to have a range of approximately 10 meters between it and the computer that it is paired with. For those of us that aren’t into the joys of metric measurements, that’s around 30 feet. The thing is that I’m lucky if I can separate my Treo 680 from my iMac by as much as 15 feet before it is unable to connect. What if you could walk around your entire home with a pair of Bluetooth headphones and not have annoying static and lost connections? What if your Bluetooth range could be boosted from 10 meters to 1 kilometers? That’s 30 feet to .6 miles! Sound crazy? Well the folks at AIRcable claim that their Host XR Bluetooth USB transmitter dongle can do just that. Let’s find out.
Bluetooth 2.0 compatible with 802.11b tolerance
Radio : Raw output power: 19.5dBm
Input sensitivity: -92dBm
Omni directional antennas: up to 9dBi
Directional: up to 18dBi
antenna connector: RP-SMA
Power: Via USB, 5V, max 200mA
Size: 83 x 63 x 23mm
Host XR module
6ft USB cable
Small antenna (1 km)
Quickstart info sheet
The AIRcable Host XR is a small Blue Aluminum box about the size of a deck of cards.
Rubber grommets on the sides allow you to attach this module to wall or other surface.
A magnet on the bottom of the module gives you another mounting method.
One side of the Host XR has the USB connector and…
… the other end has the connector for the antenna. A small Blue status LED is located next to the antenna port. This LED will blink when the module is powered on and working.
The Host XR comes with a small 1 km (.6 miles) 3.5 inch long antenna. AIRcable also sent me a 15.5 inch long 9dBi antenna (I’m not sure of the range for this one). Both antennas have the ability to rotate and swivel forward and backwards.
To connect the AIRCable Host XR to your computer, you just use the included USB cable. Plug one end into the module and the other end into an open USB port on your computer. That’s it. No AC adapter is needed. All power comes from your computer. No software is needed either as long as your computer already has a Bluetooth stack installed. If it doesn’t, it’s your task to find / purchase the drivers. This product does not include any software. It also does not include much in the way of instructions. Basically all you get is a one sided sheet of paper that tells you to connect the Host XR to your computer and away you go.
To review this product I decided to do two tests. One with my Treo 680 and another with a pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones. First of all I tried pairing the Treo with my iMac’s built in Bluetooth to sync it. Sitting right next to the computer, I had no problem pairing and syncing. My office is in the basement, so the next step was to see how far away from my iMac I could go with the Treo and still connect / sync. I was not surprised that I started getting sporadic connection problems as soon as I climbed the stairs to the main floor in my home. Walking out the front door (which is directly above the location of my iMac), I was unable to connect at all. Next up the stereo Bluetooth headphones. Results turned out to be exactly the same as with the Treo. Blah! Bluetooth is lame. But if the Host XR can fix the range issue, it might be less lame. Let’s try it.
I quickly connected the Host XR to my iMac and then pressed of the onscreen Palm hotsync button… and then… nothing. No connection. Grrrr. So I deleted all pairings on both the iMac and the Treo and tried the Bluetooth hotsync wizard on the Treo. Hmmm, it was finding two Bluetooth computers with the same name. No matter which one I picked, it wouldn’t connect to either. So I rebooted the iMac, which got rid of one of the dupes. But it didn’t get rid of the connection issue. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the Treo to connect. Then my Treo started spontaneously rebooting after every time I would try to pair with the the iMac / Host XR combo. Not sure what the problem was, but I gave up and decided to go the stereo Bluetooth headphone test.
The headphones paired just fine with the iMac / Host XR combo and within a couple of seconds, I was up the stairs, out the front door, down the drive way and walking down the road, with music playing perfectly through the headphones. Was I able to walk half a mile before the connection dropped? Nope, not even close… I was able to get approximately 75 – 80 feet from the computer located in the basement. I tested the 15.5 inch long antenna thinking I’d see some amazing results with it. I mean it is bigger right? I was disappointed that I only gained around 5 feet of additional distance.
The AIRcable Host XR Bluetooth USB Transmitter does increase the range between your computer and paired device. That claim is true. But the claim of 1 km is a bit misleading. To get this range, you need to be outdoors had have a perfect line of site between the two devices. It also depends on the device that you’re paring with the Host XR. So a lot of factors come into play… That said, if you have a large house, on multiple floors, this device will definitely help and works great for headphones.