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Review: TRENDnet Mobile 3G Wireless N Router

By Eric Geier

http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/reviews/AP/article.php/3893241/Review-TRENDnet-Mobile-3G-Wireless-N-Router.htm (Back to article)

Product: TRENDnet Mobile 3G Wireless N Router

Manufacturer's URL: http://www.trendnet.com/
Model Number: TEW-655BR3G
Release Date: April 2010
List Price: $99.00
Pros: Well-priced, battery-powered, supports WPS
Cons: Only Personal (PSK) encryption, lacking client isolation

TrendNET Mobile 3G Wireless N Router

The 3G Internet service provided by cell companies is all about mobility. Though most providers try to sell you a single adapter, you don't have to tie yourself down to using just one laptop or device. You can use a wireless router that supports 3G to provide the mobile Internet to all your Wi-Fi-equipped computers, phones, and devices. You might even find that you want to share the mobile connection with others.

Another use for a 3G router might be to get better reception from your wireless Internet provider. You can place the router where the signal is the best. Then you can browse the Internet from a more comfortable spot.

Meeting the TRENDnet unit

The 150Mbps Mobile 3G Wireless N Router (TEW-655BR3G) from TRENDnet is one option you'll find when searching for a 3G router. It supports USB adapters from the major providers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The actual supported 3G technologies include UMTS/HSPA, WCDMA (HSDPA), CDMA2000 (EV-DO), and TD-SCDMA.

Unlike most 3G routers, this one comes with a replaceable battery for true portability. You can really share the Internet from anywhere you have a 3G connection -- no worrying about an electrical outlet. Take it in the car, boat, backyard, parking lot, airport, outdoor venue, trade shows, pretty much anywhere.

The support of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is another notable feature of this TRENDnet unit. Just hit the WPS button on the router, and then on the laptop or device. All the security and encryption settings are configured for you.

We put this unit through the ropes and are here to share the experience and results.

Comparing against the competition

First, we compared this TRENDnet unit to current 3G routers from other vendors. We found the Netgear (MBR624GU) unit priced slightly higher, which includes 4 LAN ports (the TRENDnet unit has just one) but only supports 802.11b/g for the Wi-Fi. Priced even higher, the two D-Link models (DIR-450 & DIR-451) offer 4 ports and only 802.11b/g too, and are for 3G users with a PC card adapter instead of USB adapters.

We found two 3G routers that are optionally battery-powered like the TRENDnet unit we reviewed: Cradlepoint's PHS300 and the MiFi from Novatel Wireless. Yet again, these are both priced much higher and only include 802.11b/g support. However, the MiFi at least offers a longer battery-length of 4 hours (40 hours idle), compared to TRENDnet's projected 2.5 hours at full-load (4 hours idle).

When searching for 3G routers, you'll find some support mobile phone tethering. This means you could use the 3G connectivity built into your mobile phone for the Internet connection by connecting a USB cable between the phone and router. Unfortunately, this TRENDnet unit doesn't support this feature.

Another distinguishable feature among 3G routers is the additional support of regular Internet cable/DSL Internet connections. This can help you save your 3G bandwidth usage when around the office or home or act as backup connection. Fortunately, the TRENDnet model we're reviewing supports both techniques with its single Ethernet port, which can also serve as a LAN connection.

Setting it up

In the box, we found a printed Quick Installation Guide and a CD-ROM with the full User Guide. We also found an Ethernet cable for setup and an optional wired Internet connection. Also included were the rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a power adapter for plugging in the router and recharging the battery.

As the Quick Installation Guide says, we plugged the router into our computer to access the web-based control panel and complete the Setup Wizard. The Setup Wizard took us through changing the control panel password, setting the time zone, configuring the Internet connection, and choosing the Wi-Fi settings.

We at first had a problem getting the 3G connection working, but weren't using an adapter that's officially supported. The setup process should be painless though if you're using a supported adapter; a list is available here.

Theoretically, you can just pop in the 3G adapter, charge the battery up, turn it on, and it will work just fine without doing the Setup Wizard. You don't even have to configure the Wi-Fi security if your computers support WPS.

The Windows 7 computer we tested it with was very easy to get connected since WPS support is built into this Windows version. We just had to hit the WPS button on the mobile router then select the network in Windows 7. It used WPS to automatically configure the encryption settings.

Reviewing the technical features

While reviewing the Wi-Fi settings, we found the TRENDnet unit to only support the Pre-Shared Key (PSK) variant of WPA and WPA2, also known as the Personal mode. This might be disappointing to business-class users wanting to use 802.1X authentication with the Enterprise mode of WPA or WPA2.

Another feature found lacking in most other Wi-Fi routers is client isolation. However, this doesn't really affect you unless you're going to use it as a public Wi-Fi hotspot or share it with strangers. Client isolation prevents users connected to the router from communicating when with each other. This helps protect the shared files of users when everyone on the router can't be trusted. Windows Vista and 7 include a network classification feature that also helps secure shares when on public networks, but some users still might be running Windows XP.

We should note that other than those two features, the router includes all the other typical features and settings you'd find in Wi-Fi routers, such as: virtual server and port forwarding, filtering, URL blocking, MAC filtering, dynamic DNS, QoS, and SNMP.

Our final words

Overall, we found TRENDnet's Mobile 3G Wireless N Router easy to setup and use. Our main concerns are the lacking supporting of enterprise encryption and client isolation. However, these aren't big enough to stop us from giving it a strong recommendation to most 3G users.


Eric Geier is the Founder and CEO of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi with enterprise-level encryption by offering an outsourced RADIUS/802.1X authentication service. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, for brands such as For Dummies and Cisco Press.