Is the WeBoost Drive Sleek a worthy vanlife cell booster?
I bought the WeBoost Drive Sleek (AKA WeBoost Sleek) so I could work remotely from my van in places with weak cell service. I use my phone as a mobile hotspot, so I figured I could use the WeBoost to strengthen cell signal and in turn, strengthen my WiFi connection.
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I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on the WeBoost devices so I was hesitant for a while to buy one. With prices ranging from $199 – $599, it’s a pricey investment! Especially now being on a part-time freelancer salary, every dollar counts that much more.
But I found the WeBoost Drive Sleek for $199. I live in a small campervan (1999 Ford E250) and this specific WeBoost device was advertised as working with vans.
The WeBoost Drive delivers on what it promises: strengthening a weak cell signal. But it only seems to do so under specific, perfectly-right conditions.
WeBoost states that the closer you are to a cell tower, the better it will be able to strengthen the signal. This means it may be useless if you are too far away from a cell tower–I’m not sure what they define as “too far”, though.
So when I was out in the desert trying to boost my signal, far away from cell towers, it would only help about half the time. My phone would show full bar coverage, but still wouldn’t load.
It also states that this specific WeBoost device only works when your vehicle is running because it needs power from the cigarette lighter outlet (12V CLA). Thankfully, my older Ford Econoline still puts out power from the cigarette lighter outlet even when it’s not running. But if your vehicle doesn’t do this, then understand this device won’t work if your car isn’t running.
If I were doing long drives through mountain passes with wavering cell coverage, the WeBoost delivered on a stronger connection.
In my opinion, this was not the right device for van life, but it was the only device that I felt was affordable to try out. It’s marketed as a “commuter device”, which I think is perfect for what it offers. So, if you need a stronger connection on long drives, it can strongly deliver on that. I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten my $200 worth of use from it, though.
How does WeBoost Drive work?
The WeBoost Sleek works by picking up outside cell signal and then amplifying it through the cradle. The antenna picks up the outside signal, sends it to the booster where it is amplified, and then to the cradle which distributes it through the phone.
It’s designed to amplify signal for just one cellphone or device, which needs to be in the cradle in order to work. The WeBoost Drive Sleek (and all cell signal boosters for that matter) cannot create a cell signal–they can only boost an already-existing cell signal.
How do I install WeBoost Drive Sleek?
WeBoost Drive comes with four main parts: the booster, cradle, antenna and outlet plug. Here are the general steps for installation:
- Mount magnetic antenna to outside of vehicle roof. The roof of my van is fiberglass so I used the super sticky, adhesive disk to keep the magnetic disk on my roof. Make sure the antenna is safely away from windows, ceiling fans or skylights.
- Route and connect antenna cable to booster. Connect the wire attached to the antenna, to the booster, then secure the booster near the back of your vehicle.
- Route booster cable to cradle. Run the booster cable up to the front of the vehicle and connect to the port in the cradle. The cradle should always stay at the front of the vehicle.
- Connect the cradle to power by plugging its cable into the USB cigarette lighter outlet in your vehicle.
Place your phone into the cradle. Your phone should automatically and instantly pick up on signal.
How do you activate a signal booster?
Simply insert your phone into the cradle and make sure the cradle has a power source. You don’t need to register your account, or press any buttons, to activate the signal.
Cell Signal Booster Capabilities
The WeBoost Drive Sleek works with any network, on all carriers. It advertises up to 23dB signal improvement and is 5G compatible. One PCMag reviewer saw a 14-22dBm improvement in RSRP over five different locations.
But many times I was in remote locations where cell service would yo-yo in and out throughout the day. I thought this would be the perfect way for WeBoost to remove the “yo-yo”, but it rarely did.
While I don’t know the technical specifics of how it affected my signal strength, I know that it was not overly reliable. Perhaps I was trying to use it for what it simply wasn’t made for.
Do you recommend the WeBoost Drive Sleek?
I recommend the Drive Sleek for commuters, smaller vehicles, and those who aren’t exploring too far off the beaten path. The Drive Sleek is not made for large vans or RVs (they have different devices for that).
Here’s a review on the WeBoost 4G-X RV (designed for bigger rigs and RVs) from my van life friends, Two Roaming Souls.
But if you’re frequently off the grid in a bigger rig and need consistent cell signal, I don’t think the WeBoost Drive Sleek can deliver. On a 1-10 scale, I give this WeBoost review a 6/10.