Updated 5/29/14: TRENDnet supports VPN passthrough
Whether you travel for business or pleasure, today's modern, well-connected road warrior has to travel with an assortment of gadgets that most likely includes multiple chargers and cables, spare batteries and a power strip. But does your kit include a travel router? If not, it probably should.
A travel router performs the same basic function as your router at home - it allows you to share an internet connection with other users. So why do you need to pack a travel router?
While it's true that many hotels offer free Wi-Fi as part of the room rate, not all of them do. Some hotels still provide only a wired Ethernet internet connection in your room. If you've lightened your load and are traveling with a Wi-Fi Only tablet rather than a notebook with an Ethernet port, you'd be without a high speed connection.
A travel router plugs into the Ethernet connection in your room, providing your own, instant, secure hotspot. I can tell you that my travel router has helped me stay connected on vacations. Last year on a vacation to Ireland, two of the five hotels I stayed in had only a wired Ethernet connection. My family travels on vacation only with iPads and my travel router (a D-Link DIR-505) solved my connectivity problem in the time it took the device to boot.
Another reason to pack a travel router is that some hotels offer Wi-Fi, but they charge based on the number of devices you connect. Most of the travel routers in our roundup have a "WISP mode" (wireless internet service provider) that allows you to connect the WAN port to a wireless network and share the connection. The service provider only "sees" one device (your travel router), but you can have multiple wireless connections.
Finally, in some business situations, you might have a group of people meeting in a conference room that has only a single Ethernet connection. A travel router would let all group members not only connect to the internet, but could enable secure file sharing within the group.
In this review, we'll be looking at six travel routers - one each from six manufacturers:
- Belkin F9K1107V1 Wireless Dual-Band Travel Router
- D-Link DIR-506L SharePort Go (Note: we previously reviewed this router)
- Edimax BR-6258nl N150 Wireless Personal Hotspot & Travel Router
- TP-LINK TL-WR710N 150Mbps Wireless N Mini Pocket Router
- TRENDnet TEW-714TRU (Version v1.0R) N150 Wireless Travel Router
- ZyXEL NBG2105 Wireless Mini Travel Router
All have street prices ranging from $20 to $40, so no matter which product you choose, you won't be laying out too much money. All six routers are "N150" class, meaning that they support 1x1 802.11n, which yields a maximum link rate of 150 Mbps with the router in 40 MHz bandwidth mode and 65 Mbps in 20 MHz bandwidth mode. All routers provide basic routing and connection sharing for wired Ethernet connections.
To help you compare the important features of these six products, I've compiled the feature table below. Data was derived from product specification sheets, user manuals, and, in some cases, contact with product marketing departments.
|Belkin F9K1107v1||D-Link DIR-506L||Edimax BR-6258nl||TP-LINK TL-WR710N||TRENDnet TEW-714TRU||ZyXEL NBG2105|
|Form Factor||Soap Bar||Soap Bar||Stick||Wall Plug||Wall Plug||Soap Bar|
|Power Source||USB||USB||USB built-in cable||Internal||Internal||USB|
|Included Power supply||Y||N||N||N/A||N/A||Y|
|Included Ethernet cable||Y||Y||N||Y||Y||N|
|Dimensisons (mm)||89 X 68 X 24||103 X 23 X 80||65 x 15x 21||85 x 75 x28||81 x 50 x 39||77 x 43 x 16|
|Chipset||- Realtek RTL8196C
- Realtek RTL8192DR (radio)
|Ralink RT5350F||- Realtek RTL8196CS
- Realtek RTL8188CE (radio)
|Atheros||Ralink RT5350||- Realtek RTL8196CS (?)
- Realtek RTL8188CE (radio) (?)
|Reset button||Y (Pin reset)||Y (Pin reset)||Hold WPS button||Y (Pin reset)||Y (Pin reset)||Y (Pin reset)|
|Default router address||192.168.2.1||192.168.0.1||192.168.8.1||192.168.0.254||192.168.10.1||192.168.1.1|
|WPS Pin Code||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Wired LAN Port||N||N||N||1||N||N|
|SSID # (Guest Network)||N||N||N||N||N||N|
|Dual Dual Band||Y||N||N||N||N||N|
|Wireless type||N150 (simul. dual band)||N150||N150||N150||N150||N150|
|DHCP Client List||Y||y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|DDNS||N||Y (2)||Y (10)||Y (3)||Y (4)||Y (2)|
Table 1: Features
Table one shows three products based on Realtek silicon and two using a Ralink RT5350 SoC at their core. Only the TP-LINK uses an Atheros SoC that remains unidentified due to its fuzzy FCC ID document pictures.