D-Link DWL-G730AP Pocket Router/AP
October 25, 2004
Often find yourself wishing you could share a wired connection wirelessly? Here's a diminutive device that lets you do this easily. Moreover, it can also function as an access point, or even as an Ethernet client.
Price: $99 MSRP
Pros: small, cheap, can function as router, AP, or wireless Ethernet client
As common as wireless networks have become, they're still far from omnipresent. Case in point: If you're a frequent traveler, chances are that you've been at least a few situations where you may have had access to a wired network but would have preferred a wireless one to enhance mobility or allow multiple people to share use of a single LAN port.
Until recently, this problem could be solved either by the kludge of sharing the wired connection across an ad-hoc WLAN or else keeping a bulky access point in tow during your travels. Not long ago, I looked at the ZyXel G220, a USB device with a software AP, which offered a more elegant solution than either of the aforementioned choices, but still required a PC to operate.
D-Link's new DWL-G730AP Pocket Router/AP, on the other hand, offers the best of both worlds when trying to unwire a LAN port. It's small enough to be conveniently transportable, and since it's a real stand-alone wireless access point, it doesn't require a PC (except for initial configuration). The G730AP is an 802.11g device and can actually operate in one of three modesin addition to an access point duty, it can also function as a router or as a client adapter.
The size of G730AP lives up to the word "pocket" in its name, measuring a willowy .67 x 2.36 x 3.15 (HWD, in inches) and barely registering on the scale at about 1.7 ounces. This makes the G730AP small and light enough to fit in the shallowest of pockets, including even the breast pocket of a dress shirt. You wouldn't want to do this though, because the G730AP is nothing without its accoutrements, which consist of a flat, ribbon-style CAT5 cable, a decidedly non-bulky AC adapter, and a USB power adapter (more on that later). The G730AP and its accessories all fit nicely into an included faux leather zippered case for easy transport. (The case won't fit in your pocket, unless it's the pocket of a winter parka.)
The G730AP eschews a swiveling dipole antenna (presumably to keep the bulk down), and instead uses an internal one. The back of the device offers the obligatory recessed reset button, power jack, and a RJ-45 LAN port. Three indicator lights (power, LAN, WLAN) grace the top of the unit and a small switch on the bottom toggles the G730AP between its three operating modes.Like most wireless routers, the G730AP doesn't use a configuration utilityall configuration chores are done directly via the browser. When used in AP mode, the DWL-G730AP provides most of the functions you'd expect from a full-size access point including a DHCP server, native 802.11g and mixed mode, and the ability to control the wireless transmit power. In fact, in each mode the G730AP provides essentially the same functions you'd find in the full-size and stand-alone D-Link product, so there aren't any significant compromises imposed by the unit's small size. The G730AP supports the full suite of authentication and encryption methodsWEP, WPA, and RADIUS.
When switched into router mode, the G730AP's LAN port becomes its WAN port, and the unit can then be directly connected to a broadband connection. Of course, all the clients must be wireless since there are no additional Ethernet ports for wired client.
Using the G730AP as a client can be achieved by simply adjusting the bottom switch and connecting the device to a PC. Since the G730AP only has a RJ-45 port, the only way to do so is via a PC's Ethernet adapter which means the device needs to be plugged into AC power. An alternative is the included USB adapter, which allows the G730P to draw power from your computer's USB port. This method should be used sparingly unless the computer is itself operating off a wall outlet, as it's an excellent way to drain a PC's battery, but it still comes in handy if you need to use the device somewhere that an AC power outlet is inconvenient or unavailable, like a hotspot or outdoors.
I did experience a minor glitch with the G730AP in client mode after a while, the unit would stop responding to pings and thus the administration interface was inaccessible, though the connection with the wireless network continued without interruption. Power cycling the device restored connectivity, at least temporarily.
It's worth noting that the G730AP retains the different configuration settings for each mode in non-volatile memory. I configured the device as an access point and then later used it as a client adapter, and when I switched back into access point mode all my customized configuration settings remained intact.
Given its nature as a temporary-use device, the G730AP is designed to be used on a desktop, and because of the unit's extremely small size, it doesn't provide any mount points or include any wall-mounting bracket (almost the entire bottom of the unit is designed to vent heat). As a result, getting the unit higher than the level of a desk (in the event of a challenging radio environment) will probably be difficult. The G730AP is rated at 15dBm of output power at a 54Mpbs signaling rate, and I found the range of the G730AP roughly comparable to that of a typical access point in my environment. The range did seem to suffer slightly when piggybacking for power on the USB port of a battery-powered notebook.
If you travel a lot and often wish you could share a wired LAN connection or broadband connection wirelessly, the D-Link DWL-G730AP is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to do so. The low price (less than $60 online after rebates at the time of this writing), features and versatility of the G730AP make it an excellent travel companion for the wireless road warrior.