Priced at less than $100, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G is much cheaper than the MiFi 2200 3G cellular router that's currently offered by both Verizon and Sprint. On top of that, the Trendnet allows you to choose the carrier and the data plan you want, can work as a regular wireless-N router, and supports many devices at the same time.
The Trendnet, however, is a lot less compact than the MiFi 2200, which is about as small as two credit cards stacked together. Still, the new router is compact enough to fit in any pocket. It also offers great performance and range.
If you travel a lot in groups, or even alone, and need to share the Internet--be it a regular line at a hotel or a 3G cellular connection--among multiple devices, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G is a good investment.
Design and ease of use
Depending on the size of your hand, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G can fit right into your palm. Measuring a small 4.2 inches by 2.9 inches by 0.8 inch, the router's design leans more toward practicality than good looks, but it still retains a sleek casing with rounded corners.
On the right side is a USB port that supports a long list of USB 3G adapters/dongles for all U.S. wireless carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. Using the USB dongle makes the entire package a little more bulky than we'd like.
These dongles are generally designed to provide the cellular connection to a single computer they're connected to. However, once plugged to the router's USB port, the Internet connection can be shared with up to 255 wireless clients, compared to only five in the case of the MiFi 2200. Currently, nobody would expect to share a cellular connection with that many clients, but the Trendnet can also work as a normal router with broadband modems that offer much faster Internet connections.
On the back are an on-off switch and an Ethernet port, which can function as either a WAN port or a LAN port.
When connected to a 3G dongle, the router's Ethernet port will function as a LAN port, allowing you to connect a computer to it via a network cable and access to the Internet. You can also connect it to a hub to share the Internet connection or create a local network among multiple wired devices.
When not used with a 3G dongle, this Ethernet port can be used to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem or the network port at a hotel so that you can share the connection to multiple devices via its wireless-N signal. The router automatically detects when the Ethernet port should be used as a WAN port or LAN port. This flexible design makes the router useful in various situations.
On top, the router has a power indicator, and on the front it has three LEDs that indicate the status of the wireless network, the USB dongle, and the network port.
Like most Trendnet routers, setup for the 655BR3G is rather simple. The device is preconfigured to offer an open wireless network, requiring only that you turn it on and plug it in to an Internet source via its Ethernet port. If you have a 3G dongle, just plug it into the router's USB port without connecting the router's Ethernet port to an Internet source. Most of the time, that's all it takes.
If you want to further customize the router's settings, such as change the wireless network's name or lock it with an encryption, you can do so by accessing the router's interface, then point a browser on a connected computer to its default IP address, which is 192.168.10.1.
Here, you'll be greeted with a well-organized Web interface that gives you access to all of the router's features. The Web interface also helps you change the settings of the 3G dongle in case it doesn't connect to the Internet the moment you plug it in. Although we had no problems getting the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G up and running, in case you run into trouble, the router comes with a CD that contains detailed instructions.
Unlike other travel routers, which are based on Wireless-G, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G is a Wireless-N router. However, it only supports the single-stream N, meaning its wireless speed is capped at 150Mbps, as opposed to 300Mbps as in full-size dual-stream routers. Still, this is about three times the speed of any Wireless-G router and for most situations, 150Mbps is plenty fast.
Despite the tiny size, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G has a lot of features. It has a battery bay on the bottom that hosts a lithium ion battery (included), which has enough juice to power the router for a few hours on one charge. This helps the router be truly mobile when used with a 3G dongle.