Review: Absolute Technology Linkase for iPhone 5
We've historically been skeptical of accessories that claim to boost iPhone signal performance, but decided to give Absolute Technology's Linkase for iPhone 5 ($50) a shot. The claim is that the polycarbonate and rubber case can boost Wi-Fi reception up to 50%, thanks to a retractable electro magnetic waveguide (EMW) antenna. According to the developer, areas that show one or two bars of signal strength should jump two two or three, and speeds should increase in zones with poor signal. Our testing results weren't quite as positive, but under some circumstances, Linkase may be a little beneficial. The case comes in five colors, and each includes a second EMW in a complementary shade.
The case portion of Linkase is a little bit better than we would’ve expected, given that the antenna is the main selling point. While it could’ve gone with a shell-style case, Absolute Technology instead chose a design that fully wraps around the body of the iPhone. The back and roughly half of the edges are hard plastic, while the rest of the border is semi-rigid rubber. This makes it much easier to insert and remove the device, but the lip it forms is minuscule. The button coverage is pretty good, although it’d be easier to press them if the rubber was raised just a little higher. We appreciate the tightly tailored openings along the bottom edge, although the hole for the Lightning port may be too tight for those using adapters or third-party cables.
We ran multiple real world tests to evaluate Linkase’s signal boosting capabilities; Absolute Technology commissioned its own scientific lab tests, with results available on its website. Familiar from the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” debacle, the core concept behind Linkase’s design is that your hand naturally covers the iPhone’s antenna when it’s being held, so sliding out the EMW antenna in Linkase will boost the signal. Our results were mixed. We did see an added bar in some areas when the antenna was raised, but we also saw Wi-Fi speeds decrease by almost half in places with already good signal strength. Depending on whether you’re connecting to a 2.4GHz or 5GHz network, you may see little to no change when using Linkase; the accessory appears to offer the most improvement when you’re on a 2.4GHz network, in a marginal location.
Ultimately, your results will vary. If you’re frequently in an area with poor Wi-Fi reception, the small boost may be a meaningful benefit. For anyone else with acceptable coverage, there’s really no need to consider Linkase. The case itself is pretty good, but there’s not much to justify the $50 price. For that reason, it merits a limited recommendation. A small segment of users will appreciate the value it brings, but most people simply won’t need what it provides.