Go on a road trip across any stretch of this vast Canadian landscape and you're likely to hit "dead zones" along the way - pockets where cellular coverage either disappears or was never really present in the first place. Wilson's Sleek Cell Phone Booster proves very capable in bringing those reception bars back to keep conversations going.
Dropped calls aren't fun, and they can happen at the most inopportune times, but if it's something you find yourself dealing with often, the Sleek might be your answer. As a signal booster, it's primarily aimed at drivers, though it does also offer a home kit in case you have the same problem there, too.
The package consists of a cradle with three sets of holders for the sides, a 4.25-inch rubber antenna attached to a long 10- or 12-foot cable with a coaxial output at the end, and a 12-volt USB charger to keep the Sleek up and running. The cradle itself also comes with a mounting bracket with an adhesive backing to stick to the dash. I opted to just leave it lying in one of my cup holders, which made no difference in performance.
Placing the antenna using the strong magnet underneath on the vehicle's roof is simple, but running the cable and keeping it well-hidden from everyone else isn't. If you know what you're doing, you might be able to snake it under the door seal, but if not, you likely have to bury as much of the cable as possible under the driver or passenger seat.
As is, the Sleek is designed to only enhance the signal of the phone nestled in its cradle, so the antenna won't be able to actually do anything for passengers with phones that have no reception. Wilson does offer other larger systems that can cast a wider net to heighten reception for multiple handsets, but they're also more expensive.
One key upside is that the Sleek is agnostic, meaning it will work with just about any phone, regardless of brand, carrier, model or design. The holders on the sides have three different slots to slide them in from the top for the best fit, except this can become a problem for passengers who may have handsets that are different in size due to their design or the case they're housed in. Swapping phones is easy enough because the cradle doesn't need to have a wired connection to any handset leaning on it, but in order to get the most out of the Sleek, users will have to hold the cradle with the phone in it, all while connected to the antenna and charger.
It can be a little cumbersome, which is why a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone is a must for a driver - hands-free is the law, after all.
Despite the design hurdles, the booster worked like a charm. Driving around all parts of the Greater Toronto Area gave me five full bars all the time, and this was with multiple phones - iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm Pre. This was especially the case in areas where reception is choppy or unreliable. To see a phone go from two bars to five is really something. Other areas outside the city also showed an increase in reception once I placed the phone in the cradle.
And though the manual suggests that you place the phone as close as possible to the Sleek when in the cradle (meaning taking the phone out of a protective case), I had increased reception even when phones were still encased.
But the best part was the improved call quality, regardless of whether they were directly from the handset and cradle or via a Bluetooth device. Voices came in so clear on both ends that callers didn't even realize I was on the road.
Wilson's Sleek Cell Phone Signal Booster is available at The Source, Amazon.ca, select locations of Bell and Telus stores, as well as select locations of Wireless Wave and Telephone Booth. Prices range between $105 to $139, depending on the vendor. An extra $40 gets you the home kit.