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July 31, 2003

Review of WiFi Finder

Bob Rudis reviews Kensington's WiFi Finder and finds it wanting: Bob wrote in with some information about his earlier experience with the credit card sized device from Kensington that reports with one, two, or three green LEDs the signal strength of nearby 802.11b or g networks. I asked him if I could share his thoughts, and he agreed.

Bob wrote:

Just received a Kensington WiFi "Finder" in the post today. I usually am not too disappointed being an "early adopter," but in the case of this product, I wish I had put the money in the iPod piggy bank instead.

The package comes with a tiny, 11-page instruction booklet, a keychain ring and the WiFi "Finder" itself. The WiFinder (easier to type and a better name) is one of the flimsiest gadgets I own now. I would not attach it to my keychain, let alone put it in my pocket. It's the size of a very thick credit card with no quick, consumer-friendly access to the internals (e.g. for changing the battery).

I immediately tried it, since I have an open AP at home. At the time, there were no clients on the network, just the AP happily sending out beacon packets. The WiFinder didn't detect anything. I double-checked the settings of the AP and tried it again. Still no signal registering on the WiFinder.

On a hunch, I started up a couple WLAN clients and had them stream some music and d/l some game demos in order to create a good amount of 802.11b traffic. The WiFinder eventually did pick up the activity, but as soon as the traffic stopped (leaving the AP beacon only), the WiFinder couldn't find anything.

I was going to give their support organization some time to answer a few questions I submitted before contacting you and others, but when I was told that it would be 2 days before I would hear something, I had to start spreading the news.

I checked the Kensington web site support forum for other posts and two others have had problems with WLAN detection. The answers so far (from Kensington) indicate that this device will have trouble picking up anything but strong, open 802.11b AP's (they really backtrack on 802.11g support) with many operational clients. They explicity state that it will not detect WLAN's that have been "designed to be hidden" (whatever that means).

My recommendation is that folks save their money, buy an old iPAQ (or a Zaurus), get a WiFi card for it and run linux + kismet. It may be more expensive, but it will be worth the functionality.

5 TrackBacks

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>>They explicity state that it will not detect WLAN's that have been "designed to be hidden" (whatever that means).

aka, if BSSID is disabled, this device don't see it at all. all serious WLAN hardware has this feature, even consumer-grade equipment is doing it lately, and older equipment that is broadcasting the SSID frequently has newer firmware available that lets you turn it off...

considering these various limitations i don't see this product doing well in the market. i think best buy/circuit city/etc will be getting a lot of returns.

Sounds like it's worse than that. If I read the excerpt correctly, it doesn't detect the broadcast SSID, since it only detected the AP when clients were actively using it. Given how cheap it is, it may just be detecting energy in the ISM band. I wonder if it could be fooled by a 2.4 GHz cordless phone?

They couldn't use "WiFinder" because that name is protected by trademamrk and copyright by WiFinder the world's largest directory of hotspots. See

I have to agree that this is the biggest POS I've bought so far to date. I feel ripped off for the 24 bucks I spent on this device. Doesn't work the way I would expect it too. Stay away from this waste of plastic.

I bought two of these at Circuit City.
If they would work as promised, I thought I would keep one and give the other to a friend.

After trying to use it for about a week,
I'm returning them both. It is a useless gimmick.

I tried it at my home AP at a friend's and at two commercial hotspots.
If it works at all, it is sporadic and the LEDs are totally useless outside in bright light.

What a completely frustrating product.
I agree with the others, save your money for something more useful.

i concur, hell i even work for circuit city and it wasn't worth the $15 i paid for it. i brought it home sat it right next to my working 802.11b router and it gave me nothing but red lights. i brought it to the store where we have a huge network, and it only sporadically gave me a signal. the thing is incredibly flimsy and looks like it will break at a moment's notice. if you're wardriving, do it the old fashioned way, this thing is a POS.

Working fine for me...I picked up signals from my home router without activity both in the house and backyard as well as in Starbucks.

I bought 2 of them mailorder, I used it on my corporate network to try to see if we had any roague access points. The thing lit up like a cristmas tree, and had me thinking someone had an access point somewere. I finaly tracked down what the cause was.

Forget trying to find wifi hotspots with this thing. You can find Panasonic 2.4GHZ DSS cordless phones from about 500 feet away. I unplugged the cordless and took another walk through the building and nothing! What a piece of S#$%.

Kensignton even states in the manual, that they use special filtering technology that won't detect cordless phones or other 2.4GH signals. Only 802.11 b/g Access Points. I called Kensington and told them they lied and to change there documentation as I purchased a WiFi finder not a cordless phone finder.

Stick to a laptop with Netstumbler or a PDA with MiniStubler.


USELESS!!!!!!Right next to the antenna with your hand wrapped around it doesn't detect anything.

This thing is a lifesaver! - don't understand why all the problems for everyone else but I've been using it as a keychain and check for sites all the time - so far found 2 unexpected/unadvertised free wireless sites that I never would have found if I hadn't been using this all the time.
It's much too inconvenient to carry around the laptop - booted - or bother investing in a PDA to find hotspots. Also I never expected a $29 product to perform as well as a $500-$2000 PDA or laptop so I guess I had more realistic expectations for a passive device than some of you. This is a great product! I do wonder about g networks though..

I Got the latest Fimware upgrade.yesterday! 08-13-03
It works like they said it would Love mine. It can even pick up SiG at 50mph! Dudes...I am keeping mine and getting more for some of my friends!!!!

Here in Hawaii I found Sig at my local "Starbucks", "Dunkin Dounuts" "Borders" and some other places i would have not dreamed... The got it right this time!!!

I got one and it detects stronger signals, doesnt detect my Dlink 22mbit AP outside my home, but ive detected other peoples stronger 802.11g networks in the rich neighborhoods, works fone for me, i just wish it would detect weaker signals

FIRMWARE UPGRADE? did you say firmware, Jayson Tanega? how the hell does that work?

There is another WiFi detector from Smart ID in the market.See for an evaluation of both WiFi detector. See for more info.

There is a very detail evaluation of Smart ID's WFS-1 against Kensington's WiFi Finder. Very detail and enlightening. See

I bought that device from BestBuy after the dealer recommended it. Unfortunately the shop was closed after I had tried the device until I left that town. Otherwise I would have brought it right back. I could as well stick a wet shoestring into each ear and find just as many hotspots as with this piece of sh@t.

I'm still deciding... it seems like it does work somewhat and I'm in the road a lot so it might be worth it...

I went to and found they have a 90 day money back guarantee policy.

This piece of Sh** couldn't detect a good fart in a bath tub!!!! What a rip off!!!

seems to me that it's so cheap... it would have some use proving to people how many things can be 'hacked' with the right wireless tools (free network/internet connections or listening to phone conv's, or even cell phone conv's or big sports arena scoreboards :-))... go thru any neighborhood and I'll bet it will be blinking like crazy. and even if something is strong in some obscure place like starbuck's and it's a phone and not an internet connection, oh well.... go to a big airport and sit in the lobby and try to figure out how to get on the net wihtout paying then if that floats your boat (and if you actually bought and tried this you could probably do this...)

if you wanna find network connections and not phones than get an old zaurus or ipaq with Linux and kismet (and attempt to find out how to put them on there!)

it still sounds cool! I think 2.4 ghz is a standard frequency for all types of wireless 'stuff' like phones and network cards like 900 mhz is and 49mhz might have been... and 2600hz can still be used in older payphones...