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BoB Lite review: BoB Lite

BoB's little brother isn't a speed demon, but it is simple to connect up and surprisingly powerful for such a cheap router.

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Alex Kidman
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Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.

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4 min read

Design

iiNet's second take on the BoB (Broadband in a Box, which we've commented previously should make it BiaB) modem-router concept carries the suffix of "Lite", but that's definitely not a comment on its relative size. BoB Lite is a big boy in the modem world, and you'll need a bit of desk space to accommodate him, albeit not quite as much as with the original BoB.

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8.8

BoB Lite

The Good

Self configuration works well. Includes VoIP ports. USB storage. FetchTV compatible.

The Bad

Average performance for an 802.11n router. USB 3G configuration is complex. Wireless security not pre-enabled. Dual-band, but both are 2.4GHz.

The Bottom Line

BoB's little brother isn't a speed demon, but it is simple to connect up and surprisingly powerful for such a cheap router.

It's also the only router we've seen to date that, out of the box has the words "Hurrah!" printed on it in big friendly letters. For those of a less bombastic nature, this is just a sticker detailing the initial set-up procedure that can be removed if you wish.

Features

BoB Lite's whole shtick is that you can just plug it in and let it do its thing; it should in theory communicate with iiNet's servers, grab your password and user details based on the phone line you're connecting from. It's worth noting that if you do that, your network is by default laid bare for the world to access. iiNet concedes this point with a slim leaflet in the box that suggests you set up a wireless access password. Call us picky, but even a simple predefined password would be a better bet for a product that's pitched squarely at networking novices.

BoB Lite is a 300Mbps-capable 802.11n wireless modem-router. Like its ancestor, the original BoB, it's operating on the 2.4GHz range, and just like the original BoB, there's a secondary 2.4GHz radio embedded within. By default it's switched off, which should improve throughput on the primary radio, but if you wanted two competing 2.4GHz networks in a very small space, it's there.

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BoB Lite has four 10/100 Ethernet ports, one VoIP port, one PSTN fail-over port and two USB ports for USB storage, device charging and 3G compatible modems, although one of these ports is located on the base of the router underneath a catch flap. If you were using a larger USB modem — something like Telstra's Ultimate USB springs to mind — there's no way you'd be able to use the base USB port for that purpose. We also found after extended testing that the closed hatch on the base is a great way to heat up your USB modem, which isn't all that good for it.

BoB's Lite suffix isn't just a function of its lower price. You also don't get the handsets that come with the full BoB modem, and this also means that the docking station that sat in the middle of full-fat BoB is absent. BoB Lite is also one of only two routers that iiNet rates as being compatible with the FetchTV service. No prizes for guessing that full-fat BoB is the other one.

Performance

Setting up BoB Lite was an interesting affair. The first BoB Lite we received was completely DOA and had to be replaced. The second unit worked, but we couldn't get it to automatically fetch our account details for some reason. It would connect up to the ADSL2+ line, choose all the correct parameters and then stop. We've no idea why, but thankfully the in-built browser-based wizard makes it very simple to enter your details. For the security conscious, it's worth noting that not only is the default SSID completely open, but the browser web page advertises the default admin password prominently.

We should note that the iiNet-only requirement for BoB Lite meant that we couldn't test the unit in the same environment as our most recent router reviews. As with any wireless router, performance will vary by location and intervening interference sources. In our tests, we average between 19.52Mbps at close range down to 11.09Mbps in a real-world file transfer test using BoB Lite. That's a little on the slower side given that InSSIDer identified BoB's two radios working at 300Mbps.

The rest of BoB Lite might be very user-friendly, but we struggled endlessly to get a Vodafone K3765 USB modem to connect using BoB, and the interface didn't help a great deal in this effort. Given we've seen 3G-capable modems shipping with default settings for major Australian carriers, it's curious that a theoretically "user-friendly" modem like BoB Lite doesn't come with this in-built. Whether BoB's budget market will care much for 3G fail-safes is perhaps moot.

Conclusion

It's a limited market product — you've got to be an iiNet customer, and if you want the cheaper AU$69 asking price, you've got to sign up for a 24-month contract — but within those confines it's hard to find significant fault with BoB Lite given the extremely low asking price. Typically at these kinds of prices you'd expect to find a half-rate 150Mbps product with no VoIP or in-built USB. For those iiNet customers wanting an easy experience with some configuration power for later, BoB Lite is a good choice.

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