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D-Link 802.11g Pocket Router/AP (DWL-G730AP)

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Review Posted August 2005 by Tanker Bob

There's a reason we chose the name MobileTechReview— we provide key product information and relate experiences of value to road warriors. Staying connected provides perhaps the largest challenge for today's road warriors. At one time, the challenge consisted of finding hotels that provided data ports for modem connections. Later, this changed to finding RJ-45 Ethernet ports for high-speed Internet connections. Today's wireless world cries out for free 802.11b service in business hotels.

Most service businesses like hotels adapt rather slowly to technology changes. Some haven't made it to the Ethernet high-speed Internet stage. Many more made it that far but haven't invested in a wireless infrastructure yet. What's a wireless, mobile body to do?

Enter D-Link with their mobile router/access point (AP)-the DWL-G730AP. This baby measures just 3.15" x 2.36" x 0.65" (8 x 6 x 1.65 cm) and weighs in at only 1.8 oz (50 grams). It comes with a short CAT5 cable, AC power adapter, and USB power adapter. All this fits in a very attractive, pocketed, 6.1" x 4.7" x 1.5" (15.5 x 11.9 x 3.8 cm) carrying case that fits nicely in a corner of your roll-on suitcase. It also comes with an installation CD with the manual on it. D-Link provided everything you could possibly need to connect wirelessly to the Internet through a wired Ethernet port. The USB power connector even allows the D-Link to be powered by a laptop. D-Link thought of everything.

The router/AP itself has a 3-position switch that determines its function as well as the role of the Ethernet port in the rear of the device. It can act as an access point, router, or wireless client. If you wish to use the AP to connect to the Internet through a hotel room's Ethernet port, then choose the router position. To give your laptop wireless capability to connect to a wireless LAN, then choose the client position. Furnishing your wired router with wireless capability uses the access point position on the switch.

Note that the device's name says that is supports the 54 MB/sec 802.11g standard. This may be fine for newer laptops with 802.11g WiFi cards, but all PDAs as of this writing only support the older 11 MB/sec 802.11b standard. No problem, as the D-Link maintains full backward-compatibility with the 802.11b standard.

In addition to the security modes discussed below, it sports a built-in Network Address Translation (NAT) firewall with Virtual Private Network (VPN) pass-through in router mode. This combination both increases security while allowing you to connect to your company LAN. In access point (AP) mode, the D-Link supports 802.1x authentication with a RADIUS server. That's a lot of power in such a tiny container.

Setup

Setting up the Pocket AP proved to be a breeze. A web-based interface with wizards and a colorful user guide (also on the accompanying CD) takes you step-by-step through the process. Deciding on the correct function-switch position provides the only real challenge. Carefully following the wizards or step-by-step directions in the brochure will get you connected in minutes. If all else fails or you make a fatal mistake, simply reset the device and start over.

The router mode may be configured wirelessly, but not the other two modes. This increases the security of the device. Router mode cannot be setup through the Ethernet port because the port changes function in that mode to Internet access only.

Helpful hints

It doesn't hurt, though, to know a few basic wireless facts up front. For example, it another wireless setup is present in the area, choose a channel at least 5 away from the existing setup. Failure to do so will result in interference, packet corruption, and/or an intermittent connection. Change the default password and SSID to improve its security. In a small hotel room, you don't need the device running at full power. If you don't use any security, you basically invite others to share your connection. Most fellow travelers would probably just check their email, but you don't want to be traced as the source of illegal activities in which a few might engage through your open router. Better safe than sorry, so use security or lower the power to some minimum required inside the room.

Setup directly from a PDA proved challenging, but not due to any fault of the D-Link. Neither WebPro 3.5 on the Palm OS nor Netfront 3.1 on the Pocket PC side would properly load all the required web screens from the D-Link. Believe it or not, Pocket IE in Windows Mobile 2003 SE would load the screens, but wouldn't allow some basic settings to change. The D-Link should therefore be set up from a laptop or desktop computer before traveling with your PDA.

Use in the wild

With the exception of the RADIUS server feature, Tanker Bob tested all supported security modes of the D-Link Pocket Router/AP-open (i.e., no security), 64- and 128-bit WAP, MAC filtering, disabling SSID broadcasting, and WPA-PSK. The device performed well in all these modes. For use with a Palm Tungsten T3 and an Enfora Wireless Portfolio, 128-bit WAP combined with MAC filtering and disabled SSID broadcasting furnished the best-possible security. The Dell Axim X50v with Windows Mobile 2003SE supported the overall most secure setup with WPA-PSK, MAC filtering, and disabled SSID broadcast. I also tested all these configurations with my Windows XP SP 2 desktop computer. All of these setups provided excellent performance.

Trip after trip, the D-Link had me connected to the net within minutes of arrival in my hotel room. Once I had set up the router in advance, I just plugged it in and I was off and running at each stop. The carrying case kept all required pieces together and consistently organized. Just toss the case into my roll-on for each trip-no searching for loose stuff at the last minute. Everything about traveling should be this easy.

Wrap-up

Tanker Bob can't speak highly enough of the D-Link DWL-G730AP Pocket Router/AP. It furnishes the road warrior with everything necessary to connect under any circumstance where an Ethernet connection is available. The D-Link retails for $99.99, but can be found on the net for about $63-a no-kidding bargain. Tanker Bob doesn't leave home without it!

Pros:
Everything necessary for all possible connections included, except your lunch
Built-in NAT firewall w/VPN pass-through
Supports all common wireless connection and security standards
Unbelievably small
Exceptionally easy to use web-based setup

Cons:
Haven't found a way to change some settings via PDA browsers

Price: $99.99
Web site: www.dlink.com

 

 

 

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