Today's computing world is becoming more and more a mobile one. We see netbooks, laptops, thin and lights, desktop replacements and mobile offices. Even our phones are moving towards this mobile lifestyle. In the course of normal business people move from access point to access point and whether this is wired or wireless does not matter.
Our lives and business is conducted in small pools of connectivity. This applies even more if you are heading from hotel to hotel. In many cases you have multiple options for getting on line. Either you can hit up the hotel's terrible (in most cases) wireless or you have an option for wired connectivity.
But how do you keep yourself protected, or share that single connection or indeed how do you keep from being stuck around the RJ-45 jack? Well, the answer is to use a Travel Router. These handy devices allow you to use a single Ethernet connection and turn it into a wireless access point complete with firewall and wireless encryption. Some of these even allow you act as a wireless firewall (its connected to the open wireless network while you are safe behind it).
Today we are taking a look at the TEW-654TR N specification travel router from TRENDnet. This is a multi-function wireless device that is an outstanding tool for anyone on the road.
As with all of the packaging we have seen form TRENDnet, the TEW-654TR comes in a smart looking box. It is not the flashy packaging that many manufacturers tend to use these days; instead it is simple and informative.
The front shows you a picture of the product as well as a nice shot of the extras you will get when you pick this device up. The back has the now familiar diagram as to where the TEW-654TR would fit into your mobile network.
You will notice that there are three different setups depicted on the back. This is due to the triple role that the TEW-654TR can play.
Inside the box we find the TEW-654TR and some nice extras. It is obvious at this point that TRENDnet is serious about this product.
Along with the TEW-654TR itself, TRENDnet has included a nice travel pouch which easily organizes all of the parts you would need to use the TEW-654TR in any of the three capacities it is designed for.
One very nice extra is the inclusion of a USB power adapter. This means that no matter where you are, you can still use the TEW-654TR, as you can always power it directly from your laptop.
The TEW-654TR is a tiny thing for a router. It easily fits in the palm of your hand and could even be put in a pocket without too much trouble. It measures only 0.73" high x 3.15" wide x 2.36" in length. This makes it one of the smaller types of these devices on the market.
The front of the TEW-654TR is sloped in order to maintain its slim appearance. There are three LEDs that let you know what is going on with it at any time. These indicate Power, LAN and WLAN. TRENDnet has kept things pretty simple here.
The back is where we find all of the ports (power and RJ-45). There is also a button for Wireless Protected Setup. This is a nice feature that I have never used in a real network. To me there is just something about setting things up manually that I prefer. There is also a reset button here just in case you need to clear all of the settings on your TEW-654TR.
Now, something to note back here, The RJ-45 port is a 10/100 port. This means that even if you are connected at the maximum speed that 802.11n can offer (150Mbps) you will only ever get 100Mbps through the TEW-654TR. I hope in future revisions they can upgrade this to a 1Gbps adapter and offer the full transmission speed of the 802.11n wireless.
*A note on the reset button; using this only resets the settings for the current operation mode. To clear all of them you have to change modes and press the reset button on each one.
Flipping the TEW-654TR over, we find a very important switch. This allows you to change the operational mode of the TEW-654TR. You can set it to AP (Access Point), Client, or RT (Router). Each of these is pretty self-explanatory and will be covered in more detail in the setup and performance sections.
Setup and Installation
The setup of the TEW-654TR depends on the mode you want t use it in. As mentioned just before, there are three available and easily switchable modes. We will talk about them in order here.
RT (Router); this is a typical router mode here. You move the switch on the bottom to RT and then plug the TEW-654TR into your cable or (A)DSL modem into the RJ-45 port on the back.
Once you are connected you can then log onto the TEW-654TRs web configuration page by connecting to the TRENDnet654 wireless network. This will be unsecured when you first connect, but not to worry as in a few short steps you will have a secure wireless device.
After you are connected and have received an IP address, you can connect and configure your TEW-654TR by typing in http://tew-654tr (or the default IP address 192.168.10.1) into your favorite flavor of web browser.
After you type in the default user name and password (they can be found in the quick start guide and manual) you will see the main status screen. From here you can setup your TEW-654TR manually or choose to run the Wizard to get things going quickly and easily.
The one thing that you will need to do after you are done with the seven steps of the Wizard is to go back in and setup wireless security.
From there the TEW-654 has a few good firewall options, including ones that you would normally only find on larger home routers.
One option that is missing is the ability to use this to connect to a hotspot and still sit behind a firewall. This would allow you to have isolation and firewall protection when connected to an open (and unsecure) public WiFi AP. It would, in effect, create your own private and secure hotspot. Unfortunately (as of this writing) it is not a feature that is available on the TEW-654TR. After speaking with TRENDnet they have said it is something they are interested in working on but could not make any comment as to when (or if) it might show up on the TEW-654TR in a later firmware.
Setup and Installation Part II
Client mode turns the TEW-654TR into a basic 802.11n Wireless adapter with one small caveat. The TEW-654TR is an 802.11n wireless router and adapter, yet as we mentioned above the Ethernet port is only 10/100. This means that you will never be able to actually get the full 150Mbps that the wireless adapter can offer. You end up having a bottle neck at the Ethernet port.
To get this setup you might need to take an extra step, the TEW-654TR (as mentioned) has a default IP of 192.168.10.1. The manual says that you can access it using the URL http://client-654TR but during our testing we found this was hit and miss. We would recommend using the IP address at all times. Before you can access it you will need to set your LAN adapter to match this IP range. Once you do this you will be able to get into the Client Mode setup screens.
The two most important screens here are the Wireless client screen and the LAN screen. In the wireless client screen you can choose the AP you want to connect to, while in the LAN screen you setup the type of IP configuration that is used on that network. Most of the time Dynamic (DHCP) is going to be the right choice, but you can setup a static if needed.
*Note: once you attach to a wireless network the IP address of the TEW-654TR will change, you will need to use this new IP to connect to the device, so you will want to go back into the setup and write it down for the next time you want to use it. You will also need to change your LAN adapter back to dynamic to connect properly.
Access Point Mode
The final mode is one of the simplest. In the access point mode you can use the TEW-654TR to add wireless to any wired network. Again, the same issue that plagues the Client Mode is present in the AP mode. This is the 10/100 LAN port; meaning that you will not be able to get more than 100Mbps through the TEW-654TR in AP mode. Here unlike the Client mode (but like the router mode) you can connect to your TEW-654TR by using the URL http://tew-654tr.
Once in, you can setup wireless security, WLAN access control and a few other features to make your TEW-654TR a little more secure.
We used PerformanceTest 6.1 by PassMark which you can find out more information about here. It has a handy Advanced Networking section which is perfect for our testing.
Doing our best to emulate a real-world performance scenario, I setup a server running Windows 2008 (x64) Server, (2x Xeon Quad Core 3.0 GHz 1333MHz FSB, 4GB DDR2 FB-DIMMS, 2x 146GB SAS drives in RAID 1) and the client PC was an ASUS G51VX With built-in Intel 802.11n adapter. The results were gathered by sending data from the ASUS notebook to the server at different distances with different adapters and determining the average transmission speed.
We compared the TRENDnet TEW-654TR in client mode against the TP-Link TL-WN821N and the built-in Intel Pro Wireless (N) adapter on the ASUS G51VX. All wireless tests were completed with WPA2 Personal (with the AES cipher, as it has been proven to provide better performance) and 802.11n + 802.11g wireless mode enabled on our D-Link DI-655 router.
For AP and Router Modes we tested the TEW-654TR against the DI-655 directly as the TEW-654TR does not support a g+n mode and I had to run it with b,g and n all enabled. The router was placed in the exact same position as well as the notebook at its various testing locations for fair comparison.
- Connection Speed
Connection speeds for both the AP mode and Router mode were usually around 72Mbps. This is most likely due to the need to have b enabled as I was able to reach 100Mbps with n only set on the TEW-654TR. Hopefully TRENDnet will add a "g+n" mode in a future firmware.
In Client mode it was difficult to find the true connection speed. The reason for this is that the connection on your physical system is through the LAN (Ethernet) port and on your system this allows it to show 100Mbps, while you might experience much slower performance. This issue is not limited to the TEW-654TR and is found on just about all of the pocket/travel routers I have worked with.
Now for the fun part. To test the speed of the TRENDnet TEW-654TR I chose three common working points inside my house. One was in the lab within 10 feet of the DIR-655; the next was in the bedroom roughly 35 feet away and requiring the signal to travel through a wall containing the main house electrical panel and a "wet wall". The last was outside on the back porch, roughly 45 feet from the router. Both the second and third positions were out of the direct line of sight of the router.
*signal travelling through wet wall and main house electrical panel
Interestingly the TEW-654TR does an excellent job of handling traffic thrown at it. In fact, when run within 10 feet of an Access Point is outperforms the other wireless adapters we tried. As a Router and Access Point it also does quite well, but starts to fail at longer ranges. This is not surprising as it is not meant as a long range device, but to be able to bring wireless connectivity with you whereever you go.
Overall the TRENDnet TEW-654TR is an excellent product. There are a few changes that we would like to see TRENDnet implement; such as a hotspot mode and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Still, despite those two items, it does exactly what it says it does.
TRENDnet provides you with everything you need to use the TEW-654TR without having to buy extras. The price is also at a great point at $59.99 U.S. over at Newegg with free shipping. This is less than many home routers while giving you better portability.
In the realm of bandwidth the TEW-654TR did much better than we expected. Originally we had thought the lack of a Gigabit ethernet connection would hinder speed. This was simply not the case inside the typical operating range (10-15 FT). If you are interested in a small ultra portable wireless device that gives you incredible flexibility and performance, you will not go wrong with the TRENDnet TEW-654TR.