APC 3-in-1 Wireless Mobile Router

2 Dec 2005

Price: €59.99 inc Vat
There are already more DIY wireless network products on the market than you can shake a stick at. With its latest offering, the 3-in-1 Wireless Mobile Router, APC aims to offer something a little different, namely three wireless applications in one product. The device can act either as an access point, forming a wireless ‘bridge’ between an existing local area network (LAN) and a wireless device; as a router that links networks together via a wireless connection; or as a wireless client that can turn a laptop or PDA into a networking hub for other wireless devices.

What does all this mean? Well, for one thing, if you’re working from home via DSL you can create a wireless hotspot by plugging the router into your DSL connection, giving you freedom to work from your kitchen, sitting room or wherever. Or if you’re at a trade show and you want to network a number of your colleagues’ laptops, for example, this device will allow you to set this up without having to get the event organiser involved.

For a machine that describes itself as wireless and mobile, the APC router needs to be tough and highly portable. It passes both tests easily, being made of rugged plastic, weighing very little (0.4lbs) and having the modest footprint of a small calculator. It comes with Ethernet (LAN) and power cables plus a user manual on CD.

When it comes to set-up and use, however, the router’s performance is patchy. First, the good news. After I plugged the power and network cables into the back of the device, my wirelessly enabled laptop picked up its signal almost instantly and the connection was strong and constant. But bearing in mind this product’s target audience is the small business or home user, the “quick set-up” instructions that came with it were jargon filled and light on detail. The term “configuration”, which appears multiple times in the instructions, may not worry technophiles but it scares casual users to death unless the instructions are very easy to follow — which in this case they were not.

Configuration is definitely the downside of trying to combine three products in one but it is not a step you can afford to ignore with wireless networks. In particular, security settings will need to be closely attended to if you are not to open up your network to the guy in the next building with a wireless card in his laptop. The device comes with 128-bit WEP encryption with built-in firewall protection but this has to be activated.

While the APC 3-in-1 Wireless Mobile Router scores well on build quality and features, using it is a far from a no-brainer. While the tech-savvy might be happy to persevere, the casual user might find they get lost in the paperwork.