Upon first catching wind of the D-Link AirPlus G DWL-G730AP pocket router, our initial thoughts were quite critical: what on Earth would anyone need a miniature router for? All they do is nestle snugly underneath your desk, seen only when networking problems rear their ugly heads, we thought. Wrong.
For frequent travellers -- whether you're jet setting for work or pleasure -- the DWL-G730AP can be a huge convenience for a few simple reasons. Almost all hotels that offer Internet access only provide a wired connection, and this coupled with the tiny Ethernet cable supplied in each room means that you're stuck in one spot. If you want to surf the Web from the comfort of your bed, you're out of luck. And since only one Ethernet cable is provided, if there's more than one person sharing a room and you both want to get online, you're going to have to take turns.
This is where the DWL-G730AP comes in handy. Simply plug the Ethernet cable into the router, adjust a few settings, and you're able to get online from anywhere in the hotel room with as many machines as you like. This may seem like a trivial issue, but at just AU$130, you're not paying much for the convenience.
Measuring 80 (L) x 60 (W) x 17 (H) mm and weighing in at just 50 grams, the DWL-G730AP is doubtlessly the smallest router on the market today. It can easily fit into a pocket, but this won't be necessary since the device comes packed in a handy faux leather travel case. In addition to storing the router itself, the case also houses the bundled CAT5 Ethernet cable, a small power adapter and a USB cable. The USB cable is included to allow users to power the device from a USB port. This eliminates the need to carry around the power adapter, but at the same time will cause your notebook's battery to run down a tiny bit faster.
The DWL-G730AP uses an internal antenna, which is amazing considering its petite footprint.
Towards the back of the device lies one LAN port that doubles as a WAN port when in router mode (more on this later), a power plug and a reset switch. The underside of the unit offers a three-way mode selection switch, while on top are handy power, LAN and WLAN status lights.
As hinted above, the router can operate in three main modes -- access point (AP) mode, client mode and router mode. As an AP, the DWL-G730AP functions as a wireless hub, creating a wireless network in a room where a single Ethernet port is provided. Router mode is similar to AP mode, except here the device can also be used to share a single broadband Internet connection between multiple clients. Client mode enables you to connect to an existing wireless network, which is handy if your PC doesn't offer an integrated wireless chip.
Despite its size, the DWL-G730AP boasts most of the features seen on D-Link's full-sized routers. It offers 802.11g Wi-Fi, an integrated firewall, port forwarding abilities, WPA-PSK and WEP encryption. You can also disable SSID broadcasting, so the person in the next room won't see your network and in turn be tempted to piggyback off your Internet connection.
Configuring the device is a breeze, done solely through the Web browser. All settings are easily accessed and the fact that you don't lose preferences when switching between the device's three modes is a nice touch. Even if you're a networking novice, the included user manual is great and walks you through each step in the process.
We tested the device on a recent trip to the US at the Hilton Walt Disney World hotel. Predictably, only one Ethernet port was provided, and the included CAT5 cable was a mere half metre long.
D-Link's data sheet says that the DWL-G730AP is capable of operating at the full 54Mbps 802.11g throughput when you're within 50m of the device, 11Mbps once you move out to 150m and 6Mbps at 200m. This is obviously much shorter than the range offered by units with an external antenna, but this is to be expected.
In our testing, we found the device to be very speedy throughout the entire hotel room, which was around 60 square metres.
It's far from a necessity, but if you travel frequently and/or tend to share a room with other people, the convenience offered by the DWL-G730AP is well worth the price of admission.