We’re calling it - the days of the standalone 3G dongle or modem are numbered. In their place, a new class of portable router has emerged. The AXIMCom MR-102N is one such device. Packed into a small device, marginally larger than a cigarette box, is a 3G modem, wireless router and battery pack that will create a wireless LAN anywhere, anytime.
The AXIMCom MR-102N is very easy to set up. It has an Ethernet port, USB port, power switch and AC input. The Ethernet connection is used for the initial set-up so that you’re not creating an open wireless hotspot before you’ve done any configuration.Unlike many of the routers in this class, the MR-102N supports a variety of advanced network settings such as port forwarding and VPN.
We tested the AXIMCom MR-102N with a USB modem from Optus. We powered on the MR-102N, plugged in the modem and went into the browser-based configuration utility. This was both Windows and Mac friendly. Given that it worked with both Firefox and Chrome, we’d expect the same from Linux.
Setting up the modem required that we choose the brand from a drop down list and then enter the APN settings. Once that was in, we could choose whether to connect automatically or on command. One of the handy things about the MR-102N is that it’s not only able to use USB modems. If you’re an iPhone user and have tethering enabled, you can connect your iPhone and share its 3G connection. You can also use Windows Mobile and Android phones in the same way.
Perhaps the most important thing we can say about the MR-102N is that it just works. Once we’d gone through the initial set up, the MR-102N delivered a reliable Internet connection to an iPhone, iPad, netbook and notebook computer. Battery life was reasonable with several hours of use on a single charge.
Range over the 802.11n radio was solid with ping times only falling once we several several meters away. The signal didn't completely drop away until we were over 12 metres away and with a solid wall interfering with the line of sight.
For $199, the AXIMCom MR-102N delivers an easy way to use your existing 3G data service and share it with multiple devices. With support for all Australian carriers and a bunch from other countries as well, the MR-102N makes a worthy travel companion.