Until recently, the king of Wi-Fi extenders was the Alfa R36. Combined with an Alfa Network USB Wi-Fi card, it allowed redistributing a connection in a simple way. The system worked pretty well, but the R36 had some minor flaws:
You had to be careful to use the right version of firmware depending on the model of Wi-Fi card used
In some cases, the default IP address of the device was the same as that of the access point or hotspot, which created an IP address conflict.
In some cases, a loss of flow could occur between the remote Wi-Fi network and that emitted by the R36.
Alfa R36A, the challenger
All these small defects have been corrected with the release of the new model, the successor to the R36, which is the R36A.
Sporting a standard design, the case is strictly identical to that of the R36, but in gray instead of white. Alfa Network has not done too much in cosmetics the real novelties are inside.
The R36A is more powerful than its predecessor, and for good reason: instead of the old chipset Ralink RT3050F (which must also not be produced since time) it embeds a SoC Qualcomm Atheros QCA9531 (compatible OpenWrt). As a result, the R36A is faster, more responsive and has a higher throughput in 802.11n with MIMO 2T2R up to 300 Mbps. Here is the technical data manufacturer of the device:
What’s Inside of the R36A?
The Qualcomm QCA9531 SoC finds its place in the middle of the PCB. On the left, we have the Winbond RAM. This is the model W9751G6KB-25, the DDR2 800 with a CL 5-5-5 or 6-6-6. On the right, we have the flash memory with Winbond W25Q128FV chip. The coils (coils) are of good quality, as the entire PCB is of excellent quality. Right on the edge, we find the four pins of the serial port, implanted as on the R36.
With 802.11n at 300 Mbps and a single connection antenna visible outside, we already suspected that the R36A was equipped with an integrated antenna. This is confirmed at dismantling, the small-integrated PCB antenna is glued under the top cover:
The plus is that it is connected to the PCB in UFL. Here we see the main antenna connector on the left and the integrated antenna connector on the right, just above the pins of the serial port:
The device has an integrated antenna, which can be replaced by an additional RP-SMA external antenna connector, adding a simple pigtail RP-SMA to UFL to further improve the speed and range of the device. This nice little hack, efficient and very easily achievable will boost even more performance if needed.
R36A: an updated administration interface
The R36 panel was frankly “old school”, know that the administration interface of the new R36A has nothing to do. It is modern, clear, complete, much more intuitive and pleasant to use.
The setup page sets the tone:
- Signal quality, throughput, and connected clients, all necessary information is visible at a glance.
- A page is dedicated to the management of Wi-Fi profiles:
- This is quite convenient, it avoids having to enter passwords and settings each time when regularly connect to the same access points and hotspots.
- The “Wired Network” tab is used to manage the LAN:
- We find the usual settings: IP address and DHCP server.
- The “Wireless 2.4G” tab is used to configure the Wi-Fi network issued by the R36A:
- Channel selection, country; transmit power, SSID, mac filtering, security. All important settings are on this page.
- The “DHCP and DNS” tab allows you to allocate static IP addresses.
- Network tools include Ping, Traceroute, and Nslookup. It is always useful to be able to ping, directly from the web interface:
- The System menu includes several sub menus. The “System Time” tab is used to synchronize the R36A’s time with the browser’s time, choose its time zone and even activate an NTP server on the device:
- The “Administration” tab concerns the security of access to the administration interface and the access to SSH (Dropbear):
- The “System Maintenance” tab is used to reset the device, update the firmware, import or export a configuration file and reboot.