Finding a Wi-Fi signal with your mobile device can be frustrating, but Absolute promises that its Linkase cover for the iPhone 5 will help you connect to a hotspot from farther away. Equipped with an electromagnetic waveguide sensor that claims to boost your signal up to 50 percent, is the Linkase worth the $49.95 price tag?
The Absolute Linkase has a sleek and appealing design that won't add much bulk to your iPhone 5. Measuring 4.9 x 0.4 x 2.5 inches and weighing 0.6 ounces, the black cover features a soft-yet-durable polycarbonate body that feels smooth.
Along the left side, you'll find a cutout for the mute switch right next to the volume buttons. There are cutouts for the iPhone 5's Lightning port, speaker grilles, headphone jack, camera and the power button. Absolute offers a slew of colors to choose from, including Coal Black, Ash Gray, Frost White, Chili Red and Antarctic Blue.
The electromagnetic waveguide (EMW) sensor, which is used to boost your phone's Wi-Fi signal, is neatly stowed away in the back of the cover. Simply slide the slot up with your finger to expose the antenna, which is made of the same material as the rest of the case.
While we love the Linkase's overall design, we found it difficult to turn our iPhone on and off. We had to hold our finger down hard in order to depress the power button through its polycarbonate shell. The Linkase's slim and tight design also makes it a little difficult to squeeze your device into the case, although it's a welcome trade to preserve the phone's compact form factor.
There's no doubt that the Linkase will protect your iPhone 5 with some stylish flair, but it didn't perform well as a Wi-Fi enhancer during our testing. We used the Speedtest.net app to measure download and upload speeds both with and without the Linkase in our office, finding little difference.
In fact, we saw a decrease in Wi-Fi performance in some circumstances. When standing five feet away from our router, download speeds averaged 12.6 Mbps without using the Linkase. After we slipped our iPhone 5 into the case and deployed the antenna, the average download speed decreased to 10.67 Mbps from the same distance. Upload speeds averaged exactly the same at 27.2 Mbps both with and without the Linkase.
We tested the performance again 50 feet away from our router, and the Linkase didn't do much to improve our signal. Without using the cover, we averaged download speeds of 12.85 Mbps and upload speeds of 26.3 Mbps. The EMW sensor changed our results slightly, with download speeds averaging 12.31 Mbps and upload speeds 26.7 Mbps.
The Linkase offered erratic results when it came to everyday Web browsing. Without using the case and standing 50 feet from our router, it took 2.8 seconds to load CNN.com, 15.3 seconds to load Laptopmag.com and 9.8 seconds to load ESPN.com, according to Loadtimer.org. Using the Linkase, Laptopmag.com loaded slightly more quickly at 8.1 seconds, CNN.com took about the same time to load at 2.9 seconds and ESPN took longer to load at 13.8 seconds.
The results remained inconsistent after we moved closer to our router. When standing five feet away without using the Linkase, it took 4.5 seconds to load Laptopmag.com, 3.9 seconds to load CNN.com and 5.4 seconds to load ESPN. After attaching the Linkase, it took our iPhone 5 5.3 seconds to load Laptopmag.com, 3 seconds to load ESPN.com and 9.3 seconds to load CNN.com.
The Linkase didn't do much to boost our signal strength, either. Without using the cover, we lost connectivity about 125 feet away from our router. After placing the Linkase on our iPhone and deploying the antenna, we were still unable to detect the network at that distance.
The Linkase features an appealing and sleek design, but we didn't see much of a difference in our phone's signal performance when the EMW antenna was deployed. While the Linkase did boost speeds when we were near a router, this accessory didn't appreciably increase the range at which we could connect to our network. While the idea of an iPhone case that can boost your signal is a great idea, the Absolute Linkase doesn't quite deliver.