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Computerized Investing > January 18, 2014
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$39.99

Mini router features five different modes for wireless networking.

Several weeks ago I featured the Satechi Smart Travel Router, which allowed you to charge your devices via a variety of international power outlets as well as create a wireless access point or expand an existing wireless network. The Smart Router offered some features I didn’t really need, as I am not much of an international traveler, but I appreciated the ability to plug in and charge USB devices as well as the ease with which I could turn it into a wireless router.

This week I take a look at another Satechi product that mimics some of the Smart Router’s networking features: the Satechi Wireless Multifunction Mini Router. Although it lacks the multi-function plug-in prongs and device charging capabilities, the Mini Router supports five different modes for wireless networking, including turning a wired Ethernet connection into a wireless access point or extending the range of an existing wireless network.

Out of the Box

The Wireless Multifunction Mini Router measures 2.9 inches by 1.9 inches by 2.3 inches, making it a bit smaller than the Smart Travel Router. I was a bit surprised that the electrical plugs do not fold into the body of the router to make it more compact for travel, a feature that is becoming more and more common these days.

On the bottom of the device are two Ethernet ports where you can connect the router to a wired connection; one port is for LAN and the other is for WAN/LAN connection.

On the front of the router are indicator lights for LAN, WAN and WLAN connections as well as WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) and Power. There is also a push button for automatic WPS connections with compatible WPS-enabled devices.

Setup

The Wireless Multifunction Mini Router offers five networking modes to the Smart Travel Router’s four:

  • 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.
  • Bridge: This mode isn’t supported by the Smart Travel Router and allows you to connect to an existing wireless network and rebroadcast it, just like in Repeater mode. However, you can rebroadcast the existing wireless network under a new name, allowing you to organize different users of your network into separate connections. For example, on your home wireless network, you can create a separate network for your guests to connect to.

I had no problems setting up the router as an access point. 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 router’s WAN/LAN port using the provided Ethernet cable. After about 30 seconds, the WAN and WLAN lights starting flashing. Then, after making sure Wi-Fi was activated on my iPhone 5s, I located the router’s Wireless-N and selected it. The Smart Travel Router had a default passcode that you could personalize, to secure your access point. That is not the case with the Mini Router, which relies on the network’s own passkey to create a secure connection. However, one glaring problem with the Mini Router is that it doesn’t support special characters. Since these days most network security experts advocate the use of special characters, you aren’t able to use the Mini Router with networks with passcodes that have special characters without first “dumbing down” the password.

Since our office’s wireless network password makes use of special characters, I wasn’t able to set up the Mini Router as a repeater. This mind-boggling design flaw seriously limits the Mini Router’s usefulness for the security-conscious.

Conclusion

I have reviewed many Satechi products in this column and have usually walked away with a positive attitude toward them. This is definitely not the case with the Wireless Multifunction Mini Router. The company seems to have glossed over the fact that it does not support special characters. This is unbelievable in this age of heightened security and strong passwords. If you have a wired or wireless network that has passwords that only make use of numbers and letters, than this router may be something to consider for creating wireless access points or extending the range of your wireless network. However, you are better off changing your passwords to make them stronger through the use of special characters and finding an alternative to this product.

Pro

  • Five wireless networking modes

Cons

  • Does not support passwords containing special characters, only numbers and letters
  • Electrical plugs do not fold into the router for travel

Satechi Wireless Multifunction Mini Router

$39.99 (currently $34.99 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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