The Windy31 is about the size of a regular thumbdrive with a retractable USB head. The USB head, however, is a bit too short. It works fine with most USB ports, but those that are slightly recessed into the computer case might result in a little trouble making a firm connection with the Windy31. In such instances, you can use the included USB cradle, but it's bulky and has a long USB cord and isn't ideal for travelers. While the Windy boasts a pleasing design overall and is available in either black or white, we wish it featured a better build; its plastic casing feels flimsy and cheap.
It's very straightforward to use the Windy31. Once set up, it works very much like any wireless router with the exception that you're limited to only connecting up to 31 other wireless clients to the network, as opposed to 254 with most routers. Considering its size and its peculiar niche, it's not surprising that the router doesn't support advance features such as VPN, firewall, DDNS, or Wi-Fi Protected Setup. It does, however, support a wide range of wireless security including WEP, WPA, WPA2, and even MAC address filtering.
We expect that most people will use the Windy31 to share their computer's Internet connection, and the router works very well in this regard. It supports virtually any type of Internet connection. No matter how your PC is hooked up to Internet--via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or even cellular connections--the router can share that connection with other Wi-Fi clients. We connected an AT&T Tilt to a laptop, then connected the computer to the Internet through the Tilt's 3G connection, and the Windy31 was able to share that connection, too. We didn't get the chance to test the router with all types of broadband connections, such as Verizon or ATT broadband cards, but the router's vendor claims that it does, and we have reasons to believe so. The router works very well with VoIP phones, too. We tried it with a Vonage VoIP phone and it worked flawlessly. This is actually very helpful because most of these phones access the Internet in a particular way; for instance, they don't support authentication via a Web site, and the Windy31 allows for customizing the wireless connection specifically to support this.
In our lab's testing, as expected, the Windy31 wasn't impressive in throughput. It registered about 8.5Mbps in our tests, which is comparatively low among other 802.11g routers and far short of 802.11g's theoretical max of 54Mbps. Most .11g routers are in the 7Mbps to 20Mbps range. The Windy31's throughput speed is more than enough, however, for casual Internet surfing, light gaming, and other non-bandwidth-intensive activities, which the Windy31 is designed to support. Generally, what you will miss is high-def movie streaming (we tried and it was choppy) or multiple simultaneous heavy Internet/network activities. On the other hand, we were very impressed by its range. We were able to pick up its signal from almost 200 feet away.
Service and support
In the United States, the Windy31 USB Wireless Router is distributed and supported by Synet, a company based in New Jersey. Synet backs the Windy31 with a one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. We tried the number and immediately reached a person who was very helpful and knowledgeable about the product--not surprising, since it would appear the Windy31 is Synet's only product offering at this time. At the Synet Web site, you can find useful information about the router from instructions and troubleshooting to software and firmware downloads.