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How We Test Wireless Travel Routers

Discussion in 'Wireless Article Discussions' started by jb510, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. jb510

    jb510 New Around Here

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    I'm starting this thread since I couldn't find it and wanted to comment on this post:
    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-howto/32361-how-we-test-wireless-travel-routers

    I appreciate needing separate criteria for testing travel routers and I think these are a good start. As someone however that uses travel routers regularly there are two criteria significantly missing from the wireless travel router test.

    The two shortcomings are apparent in the D-Link DIR-510L Test here.

    The two instances I most often use my travel router is when I need to repeat a weak wifi signal from outside the room I'm staying into the room in (often place in the window or just outside the door and when I need to transfer data between two devices in the same room.

    For the first, range is extremely important. I need to pick up a weak signal and repeat it. In this scenario you could/should do a simplified version of your wireless extender test. Knowing the range of various travel routers (which in practice varies wildly) is really important.

    For the second, wireless device to wireless device speed is very important. In the DIR-510L test you only test across the wired 100 Mbps LAN connection and comment that that is probably capping throughput. However, it's conceivable to 11AC devices could transfer data across the wireless bridge much faster.

    In the case of the DIR510L the other important factor regarding extension is if you see a 50% throughput reduction. I just ordered one myself, but I'm hoping that I'll see full speed on 2.4Ghz backhaul and then full speed on 5Ghz extension.

    Thanks for all the great data!
     
  2. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Just a quick comment - most hospitality networks are 2.4GHz on perhaps G54, many are still on B11... used to be that many hotels had ethernet, but in recent travels this is the exception rather than the norm...

    Travel routers - like the single band ASUS WL-330NUL will act as a client to the WiFi provided, but they're basically repeaters, due to having only a single radio, so performance there will suffer on the WAN side.

    It's still useful, don't get me wrong...

    Even with some of the dual-band travel devices - performance is not a priority, access is..
     
  3. jb510

    jb510 New Around Here

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    I find the same. Most hospitality networks are 2.4Ghz and 11g.

    The request for the additional test data is born purely from experience of using a travel router almost daily for the last few years in hotels, guest houses, AirBNBs, cafes, coworking spaces and even at home.

    The HooToo HT-TM01 was the first one I really liked. It was great until Chinese "TSA" confiscated while transiting in Beijing for it not having the MaH capacity printed on it (HooToo later started putting that data that on the exterior, but I had a very early model). I replaced it with an HT-TM03 which I used for about a year and really loved as well. Last week however it went missing (I lost it... somewhere) and while I'd replace it with an identical unit it sadly seems to have been discontinued (I think they'll have a new version out soon similar to the very recent TM04 > TM06 upgrade).

    My personal needs are most often trying to get wifi that's 1Mbps and flaky inside the room stable inside the room. Putting a travel router in the window, outside the door, in the hallway, etc... I can often get a stable connection at double or triple what I would otherwise. I never really stay at proper hotels with professional built networks, where I stay all too often "we have wifi" means we have wifi in the community/public areas and maybe it reaches some of the rooms. It can also mean there is wifi in the living room, but it doesn't reach the bedrooms or backyard.

    However, sometimes I do use it as an extender of a fast network, like when I'm home for a few weeks and don't get internet turned on, but with permission can use my neighbor's 50/5Mbps cable modem and 11n wifi that almost reaches me. The travel router out in the front yard does wonders! ...or when Im home and do have internet turned on but want to extend my network into my own backyard. In both cases avoiding the single radio halving would be a great benefit, hence I just ordered a DIR-510L. While I wish it wasn't so much more expensive, I use it enough price isn't really a deterrent, and a little better performance means a lot to me.
     
  4. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Well, Tim Higgins has tried to provide a relative benchmark, but the travel router environment where many of these are used is very, erm, dynamic...

    Most of the times these days, when I travel, I'll fire up the hotspot on my phone - seems to be better there...

    Have had some awesome in-room connections over in Asia, but in the US, internet, while a selling point, is miserable at best...
     
  5. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    me too.. using my Arduino phone's hotspot mode and Verizon LTE.
    But in the hotel room, we can rack up the cell plan's bytes using the iPad linking through the phone.
    My wife wasn't too pleased when I said don't watch movies when we're linked up like this.
     
  6. System Error Message

    System Error Message Part of the Furniture

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    well lets discuss here on how to set the standard of testing for travel routers.
    I would suggest the points of
    Portability - form factor/size and how it is powered (battery, usb, solar, POE, coal)
    wifi - chips, performance, range, features
    Wired interfaces (DSL, ethernet, cable, fibre optics, CPU bus, usb, etc)
    NAT performance
    software features and VPN performance
    price and value for money

    Ofcourse this means that android phones can be included too as a travel router and reviewed.
     
  7. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Run thru the standard test regime used for all router/AP's, and then some emphasis on the features that SEM mentions above - one of the key features I like in a travel router is the flexibility of the WAN interface - Ethernet/WiFi or USB for 3G/4G phone/modem...
     
  8. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    Travel routers are rather passe now, since most 4G smartphones have free WiFi tethering (hotspot created by phone).
     
  9. System Error Message

    System Error Message Part of the Furniture

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    Perhaps some dont really understand the benefits of a travel router. Sure you could tether your phone but lets see this from a non-techie view.
    The travel router could be using a different SIM card (like when you go abroad). it could have better 4G/3G reception.
    It could save you from having to waste your phone's battery where everyone charges it too often nowadays meaning new phone every less than 2 years.
    It could feature a large battery or AC plug with many usb ports that can charge your many usb devices. This is really becoming a trend now seeing everyone who comes over or goes around plugging their phones about.
    It could have better and faster wifi chips than your phone. Most phones only have 1 wireless stream compared to 2 or 3 streams on wifi routers and better wifi range.
    It could have routing features not present in the phone. I know android is linux that you can make it do all sorts of stuff but not everyone is a skilled techie. It could be preconfigured for security and VPN in the case of public wifi.

    The benefits can be endless and a number of 3G/4G providers do not allow tethering.
     
  10. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    When I think Travel Router what comes to mind is a small WiFi router without a cellular modem. Used to be, people paid for USB cellular modems that could be plugged into a travel router, laptop, or PC. Not so now, with tethering off of a phone. The carriers seem to want to sell a hotspot box rather than a USB modem.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
  11. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Well, Cradlepoint had the CTR35 and CBR400 series - they're end of life, and these days, pretty spendy if one can buy one...

    Cradlepoint pivoted from consumers to the VAR space, which is why those devices are EOL - but compared to many, CP has one of the best 3G/4G modem driver teams in the business..

    Nifty boxes, and beyond most of the 'travel routers' that one finds over the shelf these days, and well beyond "hot spot" mode on smartphones.