3Com OfficeConnect Wireless 54Mbps 11G Travel Router

  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent

Pros

  • Small and very portable
  • low price
  • choice of router, access point and bridging modes

Cons

  • Internal antenna limits range
  • requires separate AC adapter when travelling

A small product with a big name, 3Com’s OfficeConnect Wireless 54Mbps 11G Travel Router sounds a bit like a marketing invention, but it does have practical uses. For example, it can be used to create a private wireless network when tavelling and to share an Internet connection at out-of-office meetings, presentations and conferences. It can also be used to connect fixed Ethernet devices to a wireless LAN or, if you just want to loose the bulk, instead of a standard wireless router on a home or small-business network.

Roughly the size of a pack of cards, the 3Com router supports 54Mbps 802.11g wireless networking and is both remarkably cheap and very easy to use. A single RJ-45 port connects it to the wired LAN or a fixed Ethernet device, with a slider on the side to select the mode of operation.

Three modes are available, starting with the default router mode where the 3Com device acts as a wireless gateway, connecting wireless clients together and to the Internet. A built-in DHCP server is used to assign and manage client IP addresses here, with a NAT (Network Address Translation) router, complete with stateful inspection firewall, to share a single Internet account.

In the second (access point) mode, the router can, again, be used to connect wireless clients together and to the Internet. However, in this mode the DHCP server and NAT router are turned off and each client requires its own credentials to communicate with the host LAN and the Internet.

Finally, client mode turns the Wireless Travel Router into a wireless bridge to connect a PC -- or other device with a fixed Ethernet interface -- to a wireless LAN.

A simple browser-based interface is used to configure the settings for each mode, with the usual facilities to set common options like the wireless SSID and channels to use, and the level of encryption to apply. There’s support for up to 128-bit WEP and WPA, although not WPA-2 as yet. On the plus side, UPnP and VPN forwarding are both supported, plus in router mode it’s possible to nominate a single DMZ address or configure more specific port forwarding rules for public facing servers.

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Range could be an issue as there’s no external aerial on the Wireless Travel Router, although we got good signal levels indoors at distances of up to 40 metres. The need to carry an AC adapter is a bugbear too (Power over Ethernet support would be nice), but you do get a padded travel pouch and a short UTP cable as part of the deal. Moreover, at just £40 (ex. VAT), the 3Com Wireless Travel Router is good value whether you're using it for mobile purposes or as a replacement for a bigger wireless gateway.

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