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Computerized Investing > November 2, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$49.99

Travel router/adapter fits four of the most common international plug configurations and features four different modes for wireless networking.

While I don’t do much international travel, I do a bit of travel for work, visiting AAII Local Chapters around the country. These days I travel with a Verizon MiFi hotspot to ensure I have Internet access on the road. However, prior to getting it there were times I’d stay at a hotel that only offered a wired (Ethernet) Internet connection, which meant I was tethered to the desk in my room.

Recently, however, I received an ingenious device from Satechi, a maker of a variety of mobile accessories: the Smart Travel Router. This device allows you to plug into a variety of international power outlets to charge your various devices. In addition, you can plug in an Ethernet cable from a wired network to create a wireless access point, or take advantage of a few other wireless networking options.

Out of the Box

The Smart Travel Router measures roughly 2.25 inches by 2.5 inches by 2 inches, small enough to fit into a laptop bag or carry-on. I was a little disappointed in the seemingly cheap plastic casing, which makes me wonder how much wear and tear it can take, especially from true road warriors.

On one side of the router is a USB port and a slider button where you can choose the country or region you’re in: U.K., Europe and U.S/Australia. Choosing one of the three positions will extract a plug designed to fit various outlet types. According to Satechi, the router fits outlets in over 150 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and China, along with Europe. On the same side is a 2.1A USB charging port.

The two short edges of the router are where U.S. and U.K. prongs extend, while the Europe plug extends from one of the long edges.

On the side opposite the adapter selector bar is an Ethernet plug where you can connect the router to a wired connection, modem or other device. Next to the plug are three indicator lights for Power, WAN/LAN and Wi-Fi.

Lastly, on the other long edge is an AC port that will accommodate a variety of different plug types.

It is worth mentioning that the charger isn’t a voltage transformer, so depending on your device and its charger, you may need a converter depending on where you are in the world.

Setup

Beyond plugging into an outlet to allow you to charge up to two devices simultaneously, the Smart Travel Router offers four networking modes:

  • Router: Just like the wireless router you can use at home. Plug the router into an outlet and then connect an Ethernet cable from your modem to the router. The router will then broadcast a wireless signal creating your own wireless network.
  • Repeater: You can also connect the router to a wireless network, just as you would a laptop or mobile device. This enables you to extend the range of your wireless network, which is useful when you need a connection in a room far away from your router.
  • Access Point: Plug the router into a wired connection using an Ethernet cable to create a wireless connection. This is useful when there is only an Ethernet port, as you can connect the router to the Ethernet port and broadcast a wireless signal that your devices can connect to.
  • Client: Connect the router to any device with an Ethernet port, such as a Smart TV or gaming console and use it as a wireless adapter, which enables the connected device to connect wirelessly to the Internet.

I had no problems setting up the router as either an access point or a repeater. In our office we have Ethernet ports that allow us to connect to our office network. I plugged the router in to a power outlet and then connected it to one of these Ethernet ports using an Ethernet cable. After about 30 seconds, the WAN/LAN and Wi-Fi lights turned on (and the Wi-Fi light flashes intermittently). Then, after making sure Wi-Fi was activated on my iPhone 5s, I located the Travel Wi-Fi network and selected it. You are then prompted to enter a pass code and your device will connect to the router’s wireless network. These steps would be similar if you wanted to use the router as a traditional router; you would plug in the router and connect it to your DSL or cable modem using an Ethernet cable. You could then look up the Travel Wi-Fi network using your mobile device and login using the provided credentials.

Setting up the router as a repeater adds a few more steps but was still relatively easy. In our office we also have multiple wireless networks set up for us to connect to on our various mobile devices. This time, I plugged the router into a power outlet, without connecting an Ethernet cable. Again, I connected my mobile device to the Travel Wi-Fi wireless network and logged into a dedicated website. Here I located the office wireless network I wished to amplify or repeat and entered in its login credentials. After about 60 seconds the site indicated the connection was complete and the router was “paired” to the office wireless network.

Once my iPhone was connected to the router, I had no problems surfing the Internet or anything else I normally do when connected directly to the office wireless network—and at roughly the same connection speeds.

Conclusion

As I am primarily a domestic traveler, the Satechi Smart Travel Router’s usefulness is somewhat limited, especially since I typically travel with my own wireless hotspot. The router does allow me to connect both a plugged and USB charger simultaneously, so it helps reduce the number of chargers I normally carry with me when traveling. Also, for those rare times I end up in a hotel that only offers wired Internet, creating a wireless access point so I can roam around my hotel room is a nice feature.

For international travelers, however, the Satechi Smart Travel Router should be part of your travel kit. It offers a compact set of plug adapters for over 150 countries in addition to its charging and Wi-Fi capabilities. And, at $50, the router offers excellent value given the convenience it offers.

Pros

  • Fits electrical outlets in over 150 countries
  • Charge two devices at once
  • Four wireless networking modes
  • Simple online wireless setup

Cons

  • Cheap plastic casing
  • Doesn’t convert current or voltage, so electrical converter still required depending on the country you’re in
  • Router only supports passwords with numbers and letters, not special characters

Satechi Smart Travel Router

$49.99 (Currently $44.99 on Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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