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By Thomas McKinnon 22 January 2010

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Sharing a 3G connection is something we’ve come to find rather useful of late. It allows you to set up a mobile office when on a trip or attending a function with colleagues. It also offers the security of a backup connection should your ADSL line go down.

We reviewed the MiFi 2352 last year and found everything but its price impressive. Looking for cheaper alternatives, we came across the Edimax 3G-6210n, a wireless and portable 3G router that’s battery operated and small enough to carry about in your notebook bag.

Compared to the MiFi

While the MiFi 2352 and Edimax Wireless 3G Portable Router have a near identical purpose, in terms of functionality they are significantly different. The MiFi comes with a built-in HSPA modem, the Edimax Wireless 3G Portable Router doesn’t (see full Tech Specs). This means that you still require a 3G USB  modem, rather than simply inserting a SIM card in the device to connect to the internet. The Edimax is consequently a very good option for people who already own a  3G USB  modem, as it will work out considerably cheaper than the MiFi.

Conversely, the need to plug a 3G USB modem into the Edimax means that you now need to carry two devices about and, when setup, the Edimax is a more awkward and bulky unit than the all-in-one MiFi. Also if you don’t already own a 3G USB modem, like the U9-T modem we recently reviewed, then you will have to factor that purchase into the price of opting for the Edimax Wireless 3G as well.

Lastly the Edimax Wireless 3G Portable Router doesn’t include a slot for a microSD card, so the option of using it as a basic, but portable NAS device is not available - a feature we really enjoyed on the MiFi. 

Setup

Setting up the Edimax Wireless 3G, while not laborious, was a little more involved than we would have liked. You are required to setup the device from a disc – choosing your language and settings preferences etc. – and it’s necessary that you connect the unit via LAN before you establish a wireless network.

Once you’re setup it’s a whole other story however. Other users can simply find the wireless network and connect to it. You can also secure the network against unauthorised access. Using the hardware WPS button located on the side of the unit, you can instantly activate the device’s wireless protection. Passwords, encryption and other options can be set while using the setup wizard or by accessing the device’s locally-hosted homepage.

Performance


The device uses Edimax’s nLite technology, which is compliant with IEEE 802.11b/g standards and is compatible with IEEE802.11n wireless standards. It can support wireless data transmission rates (downlink) of up to 150 Mbps.

We weren’t overwhelmed by its data throughput rates however. There was a dramatic difference between accessing the internet using a 3G USB dongle alone and a single user accessing the internet via the Edimax Wireless 3G, linked up to a 3G dongle. While we were expecting some sort of compromise, throughput speeds were generally cut in half.

We did receive decent coverage from the little unit though, with a direct range of about 10 m. Connecting in open spaces really isn’t a hassle, but as the device has no antenna to speak of, don’t expect much in closed off areas, like a house with many rooms.

The device’s battery life was also decent, allowing for 2-3 hours of connectivity. Something we did notice was that the router got extremely warm after more than a half-hour of use.

Verdict


The Edimax Wireless 3G Portable Router is a very useful device for creating 3G based wireless networks. It’s small, neat and should stand up to the rigors of a mobile life. If you already own a 3G USB modem it’s also a more cost effective option than buying an all-in-one portable 3G router and HSPA modem. It retails for a recommended R907 excl. VAT. Phone Miro Distribution on  086 123 MIRO (6476) or visit sales@miro.co.za for more info.

PROS
Battery life is respectable. Well priced.
CONS
Transfer rates aren't particularly good and setup could have been more straightforward.
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