Solwise 3.5G plus WLAN Mobile Server Router
DIY networks, wherever you go
Review Compact travel routers are nothing new, but they're generally limited to linking Wi-Fi devices to a wired network. Here at Reg Hardware we use an old but still handy ciggie packet-sized Netgear WGR101 unit to connect our laptops and iPhones to hotel Ethernet feeds.
Solwise's 3.5G plus WLAN Mobile Server Router: small box, big name
Solwise's ungainly monikered "3.5G plus WLAN Mobile Server Router" does that too - and rather a lot more besides. In fact, so feature-packed is this gadget that, for once, the appellation 'Swiss Army Knife of...' really does seem appropriate. Indeed, we can't help wonder if it's not trying to do too much.
The MSR is about the size of a MacBook Pro power pack. It's 91 x 78 x 30mm in size with a three-pin plug attached to the side so it'll clip straight into a mains socket. It really resembles Apple's AirPort Express mini router in size and looks. There's a row of status LEDs toward the top. On what, when it's plugged in, is the bottom of the device, you'll find two Ethernet and two USB ports.
Our first niggle should be obvious to all at this point. What twit decided that the MSR's business end should face downwards, where it's least accessible, deserves a kick up the proverbial. Make sure you connect your cables before you plug the MSR into the mains, is our advice.
Like a travel router, one of the MSR's Ethernet ports takes the feed from a broadband modem or hotel network cable, while the other provides a way to hook up a wired device. Both ports are 10/100Mb/s rather than Gigabit, but this is a primarily mobile product, not something you'd install at home.
Then again, maybe you would. In addition to routing the WAN link through the second Ethernet port, the MSR will also tie it in to a number of wireless devices through its integrated Wi-Fi access point. It's only 802.11b/g rather than 802.11n, but its security extends to WPA - TKIP only, not AES - and will interface with a Radius authentication server if you have corporate ambitions.
Hmmm it is a bit flakey to say the very least
Just got one of these and a 9dB aerial/coupler for my under-used 3 mobile BB.
The manual is 255 pages long and I think perhaps 20 of those pages contain useful info. The rest are basically "fill this field in with the required information" whatever that may be.
The router came with the 2.1.11 firmware which disconnects every 2-3 minutes and won't reconnect without power-cycling the router, so I tried the 2.1.13 firmware. Same. Memories of Solwise SAR716 routers start to resurface :( Anyway I try 2.1.9 firmware and that seems to work - well it stays up for more than 5 minutes and doesn't lose the USB modem.
The QoS is appalling and I don't for one second believe it does what it claims - in fact I know it doesn't as I tested it. Likewise the firewall - DON'T enable the DoS attack stuff as the router seems to lose the plot entirely. I suspect its more than a little underpowered for what it tries to do. Oh and defaulting to allowing remote management via http with the usual "admin" username and password is staggeringly stupid.
Still the antenna/coupler I got from Solwise work very nicely - I'm mid-way between masts and its always been a bit of an issue. The antenna sorts that brilliantly - solid five bar signal strength. You have to love Solwise for their RF kit even if some of the networking stuff is a bit iffy at times - they do try though which is more than most do.
So I'd say a 7/10 for the router is fair. I am going to try getting it to act as failover for a Netgear ADSL router which I know isn't going to be straightforward but we'll see how it goes. Worst comes to worst the kids/wife can plug this in when the Netgear locks solid due to UKOnline's abysmal authentication servers :)
I would like it to failover automatically but I rather think that involves having the USB modem active all the time - and with a 9dB antenna attached I don't think that's the best plan ever if you're sitting in the same room most of the day ;)
According to Solwise, it comes with a UK plug and you can buy a europlug.
However, no US or Asian plugs are on offer. That's a shame, since it then requires a plug adapter to work in e.g. China or the USA. Note that it will, in fact take 100-240V in.
A full set of interchangeable tips would make up for a lot though.
I'm based in the Netherlands, and so UK is abroad for me. I know El Reg is a UK-based site, and Solwise is UK-based. But shipping rapidly becomes very expensive when you cross borders, to say nothing of e.g. RMAs (ouch ouch ouch)
My assumption was indeed that Solwise has these manufactured OEM and that they're not an original design - the question is has anyone else done so - that drastically increases my chances of finding the same features locally.
3G compatible router for £60?
Last I looked that was a pretty good buy. I think Edimax make something very similar, though not as compact, for the same money. It only seems a few months since I last looked and cheapest device was over £120.
Re: Sensible design engineer
>> The very obvious reason this is done, and should always be so, it to avoid dust or worse still any solid objects such as staples or paper clips falling into open sockets and causing damage.
Difficult to say which is the least worst place on a device like this - on the top would clearly be the worst - on the bottom makes the device unusable in some socket (e.g. ones that are close to the floor) - sticking them on the back is good, but means the device will protrude even further - sticking them on one of the sides probably wouldn't be feasible. I think if you wanted to be certain of using this device everywhere you went you would need to carry an extension lead with you. On the bottom of the device is perfect if you plug the 3G USB stick (which tend to be quite large) into a small extension cable or flexible adapter.
One more thing, you have to bear in mind that the author is clearly a Apple user (many references to Apple hardware) - therefore he is used to such niceties as a MagSafe power connectors - ofcourse, if this were Apple branded it would likely cost five times as much.
>> Shame about the plug, since I usually only travel with one adapter. The Dlink travel router can run off USB...
Looking at the photos you should only need one adaptor, looks like it has interchangeable plugs - like a travel charger.
>> I don't usually fancy ordering hardware from abroad though.
Solwise are based in the UK and this is a UK based site, so where is it abroad from?
>> Does anyone know who manufacturs this thing?
I believe most of most of the hardware Solwise sell is designed and manufactured to their specification - probably using reference designs and 3rd party manufacturers. There is a lot of stuff they sell which I have seen elsewhere - it isn't simply re-badged hardware. There are probably other companies using the same reference designs, like the Edimax device I mentioned, but it is quite different externally.