You're on the road traveling. All you want to do is comfortably use your laptop and/or tablet or smartphone in the hotel, but for some reason whether the hotel chain is ancient and outdated or newly renovated, chances are there's just one wired Ethernet connection for Internet access. If you want to break free of the desk and work comfortably from another area, or share that connection with other devices (like your smartphone or tablet) or your co-workers, a wireless travel router (also known as a pocket router) is a great mobile accessory to have.
These small routers act just like normal routers and access points: They broadcast a wireless signal, which several devices can connect to at once. The main difference is that travel wireless routers are smaller and easier to pack. Some variations of travel wireless routers can use a 3G or 4G modem (i.e., mobile broadband USB modem) you get from your cell phone provider and broadcast that signal wirelessly for other devices to access. Sweet!
The travel wireless routers below all cost under $100 (many are just half that) and are ideal for Internet sharing. (If you're looking for the best Wi-Fi router for your home network, check out my picks here.) ~ November 7, 2011
The Cradlepoint wireless router is one of the most versatile pocket routers, because it can share your 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection or an Ethernet wired Internet connection. If you have a device that's lacking Wi-Fi, the Cradlepoint CTR35's Ethernet port can connect it to a Wi-Fi network. The router offers WPA2 security and can keep track of your data usage as well.
The Zoom 3G Wireless-N Travel Router takes your 3G mobile broadband
USB modem (i.e., the USB stick you can get from a wireless carrier for mobile data, such as the Virgin Mobile Ovation USB modem
) and lets you share it wirelessly with any device that can connect to Wi-Fi--in effect, you can turn a USB 3G or 4G modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. (The Zoom is compatible with wireless-g and wireless-b network cards as well as faster wireless-n
). You can also use it with wired 10/100 Ethernet connections.
The TRENDnet travel router takes a single wired Internet connection and creates a 300Mbps wireless network. The kit includes a carrying case, cables, and power adapter (the router can be powered either from your laptop's USB port, too). For easy setup, this travel router also has Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)
, so you can connect your devices with just the push of a button.
Though not billed as a travel router per se, Apple's Airport Express is compact and quite portable, weighing just 7.41 oz and measuring 3-inches thick; it's small enough to fit in your hand. The AirPort Express allows up to 10 Wi-Fi connections at a time and boasts fast wireless-n transfer speeds. Features like sharing printers wirelessly and streaming an iTunes music library make the AirPort Express attractive for use on your home network. On the road, like most of the other portable routers in this roundup, the Airport Express shares one Ethernet connection with multiple wireless devices. However, the AirPort Express costs about twice as many of the other travel routers; if you need a small but fully capable router, its flexibility may be worth the price.
This inexpensive mini router from CNet has two wired ports: one for connecting to the Internet modem via cable and the other for a wired device. The CNet router also creates a wireless network for Wi-Fi access. WPA2 encryption keeps your wireless network safe. One unique feature of the CQR-980 is its mini-USB power port, so you have more flexibility in powering the device (if your laptop has a USB port that can charge other electronics, for example, you can just plug this travel router into your laptop to charge it).
The ZuniConnect Travel router is a multipurpose device. In addition to serving as a wireless-n travel router that can share either a wired broadband connection or a wireless network signal, the ZuniConnect also is a USB charging station: two ports let you charge your smartphone and other devices on the go. The ZuniConnect Travel also has dual-active firewalls for increased security and Intelli+IP sensing technology for automatically resolving network conflicts. The ZuniConnect could help you reduce the number of adapters you have to travel with and connect all your wireless devices.
The Asus WL-330N3G is billed as the "world's smallest multi-role device." Smaller than a credit card, this wireless-n router can connect to a wired or wireless network and share the signal wirelessly. Besides these two modes (router and access point), the WL-330N3G can also extend a wireless signal in your home in Universal Repeater Mode or add Wi-Fi capabilities to an Ethernet-enabled device, such as your Blu-ray player or TiVo. Finally, the Asus WL-330N3G offers two modes especially useful for mobile users: The mini router can share a Wi-Fi account that requires authorization/payment with other Wi-Fi devices at no extra cost, and it can wirelessly share the data connection from a 3G USB dongle. It's also powered via USB port--another sign this mobile router is built for flexibility and mobility.