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Wireless Reviews

Cradlepoint MBR900 Mobile Broadband N RouterThe Cradlepoint MBR900 Mobile Broadband N Router has been added to the Router and Wireless Charts.

The MBR900 is a single-band N router with four 10/100 switch, one 10/100 WAN port and USB port that supports a wide range of 3G and 4G modems for WWAN Internet access.

Cradlepoint MBR900 Mobile Broadband N Router

It's been awhile since I've seen a Ubicom-based router, but at the MBR900's heart beats a relatively-dated Ubicom IP5100U. Last time I saw this CPU was in a D-Link DIR-628. The FCC ID photos are pretty fuzzy, so I wasn't able to make out the RAM and flash complements.

Cradlepoint MBR900 board

But other key components include a Realtek RTL8306S 6 port 10/100 switch and Ralink-based radio using an RT2860T 2x3 N BB/MAC and I think (fuzzy photo again) an RT2820 2.4 GHz N RF section. Note that the MBR900's SI5WRT383UV2 FCC ID shows that the hardware hails from Taiwanese OEM U-Media where it's known as a WRT383U.

Indicators, buttons and connectors are shown in the drawing below. The 3G / 4G USB modem connector on the right side panel ensures that it won't collide with any rear panel connections.

Cradlepoint MBR900 ports and switches

Routing throughput running the latest 1.7.5 firmware measured 91 Mbps in each direction, but 144 Mbps total with up and down tests running simultaneously. So the Ubicom processor can deliver more routing speed than the 100 Mbps ports allow. But with essentially 100 Mbps wire-speed throughput, there won't be many Internet connections that the MBR900 can't keep up with. The IxChariot plot below shows regular variation, but no big or sustained dropouts.

Cradlepoint MBR900 routing throughput

The Maximum Simultaneous Connections test topped out at 17,778, which should keep gamers and P2P enthusiasts happy.

On the wireless side, the MBR900 is Wi-Fi Certified and properly defaulted to 20 MHz bandwidth mode out of the box. I didn't check fallback to 54 Mbps link rates when WEP or WPA / TKIP was engaged. My Win 7 client properly detected the MBR900's readiness for a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) PIN session, which, unfortunately, I forgot to do before sending it on to Doug for a full review.

Unfortunately, the MBR900's wireless performance is disappointing. The 2.4 GHz downlink average throughput Wireless Chart shown below is filtered to show only single-band routers and the MBR900 ranks in the bottom third. In 40 MHz bandwidth mode, the MBR900 fares a bit better, but rises only to near the top of the bottom half of charted routers.

Wireless Performance comparison

A look at the Wireless Performance Table below shows one of the causes of the MBR900's poor ranking—its inability to run tests in weak signal test locations E and F. It's been some time since I've seen a router that could not run tests in these locations in the 2.4 GHz band, but the MBR900 is one.

MBR900 Wireless Performance Table

Oddly, the Win 7 test client with our Intel 5300 standard card was able to remain connected to the MBR900 in Locations E and F. But throughput was not stable enough to maintain high enough throughput for the IxChariot test to run.

I'll also note that link speed continuously shifted when using 20 MHz bandwidth mode and rarely got up to the maximum 130 Mbps link speed. The link rate settled down a bit in 40 MHz bandwidth mode.

Here are links to the IxChariot wireless test plots if you'd like to explore further:

Read the full review.

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