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NetGear WGR101 54 Mbps Cable/DSL Wireless Travel Router review: NetGear WGR101 54 Mbps Cable/DSL Wireless Travel Router


The Netgear WGR101 is about the size of a PDA. It comes with a black-vinyl carrying case that's roughly twice the size of the travel router itself and big enough to carry the WGR101, the unit's power adapter, and a short Ethernet cable. In contrast, the AirPort Express has its power adapter built into the unit, making it a sleeker travel companion.

6.6

NetGear WGR101 54 Mbps Cable/DSL Wireless Travel Router

The Good

Fast; simple setup; handy carrying case.

The Bad

Lacks WPA security; poor support package.

The Bottom Line

The WGR101 has a couple of nice touches you won't find in other travel routers. Unfortunately, it's neither as elegantly designed nor as full featured as Apple's more expensive AirPort Express.
Netgear WGR101 travel router
Most hotel rooms have broadband nowadays, but unfortunately, many still don't have Wi-Fi. The Netgear WGR101 travel router lets you turn a hotel broadband connection into a wireless Internet connection for your laptop. Although the WGR101 includes a couple of nice touches you won't find in other travel routers, it's neither as elegantly designed nor as full featured as Apple's more expensive AirPort Express. If you're a penny-pincher, you should also consider Asus's 802.11b WL-330, which is slower than the Netgear WGR101 but also less expensive.

Basic setup for the WGR101 is a breeze. Power it up, snap in the Ethernet cable connected to your modem or router, and catch a radio wave. A printed quick-installation guide walks you through the process, in case you prefer a visual guide.

A switch on the side of the WGR101 allows you to toggle the device between single and multiuser modes. This helps you prevent others from tapping into your wireless connection but gives you the ability to allow others to access the connection, which can come in handy if you want to share a file or an Internet connection with a business associate in a nearby room. The switch also has a third setting that puts the router into a mode that lets you configure security and network settings for the WGR101, and there's a fourth setting that is unassigned. That's one setting too many, and the fact that the settings are marked only with nondescript numbers (1 to 4), makes the switch on the WGR101 unnecessarily confusing. When you choose the unassigned setting, the router behaves as if it is in multiuser mode.

The Netgear WGR101's security measures, we're sorry to report, are wanting. The WGR101 lacks support for the current wireless security standard, WPA. (Netgear claims that a firmware upgrade will add WPA support to the WGR101 in the future.) You can use WEP to protect your wireless connection. The browser-based configuration utility lets you restrict access based on MAC address at least, which lets only certain computers connect.

We think fast throughput is less important for travel routers than for other types of networking products because hotel broadband is generally much slower than the throughput of even the slowest Wi-Fi devices. Also, you may want to use this router at a friend's house or another unorthodox location, or you may want to use the WGR101 to exchange files with a business partner at the hotel, and if those files are large, you'll be glad you invested in a fast 802.11g router like the WGR101. Although it's not quite as rapid as the AirPort Express, the WGR101 delivers a respectable maximum throughput of 20.2Mbps. That's around 10 times faster than the rates you'll get through a standard hotel broadband service. Even Asus's 802.11b travel router is more than twice as fast as typical hotel broadband.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps  
Hotel broadband
2.0 

You get a one-year warranty with the WGR101, as with the AirPort Express and the Asus WL-330. You also get toll-free, 24/7 phone support for the life of the product. Warranty and support details for the WGR101 are listed on a separate printed card included in the package, but unfortunately, the manual lacks support information. There are several reasons why we wish that Netgear would include this in the manual, as Apple and Asus do for their products: this separate card is easy to lose or misplace, and also the WGR101 is a travel router, which means you're likely to be on the road and far from the printed information when you need it. Netgear thankfully does a better job offering online resources through its Web site, which is easy to navigate and includes detailed product information, world-wide phone-support numbers, a downloadable product manual, and downloadable firmware upgrades.

6.6

NetGear WGR101 54 Mbps Cable/DSL Wireless Travel Router

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 6Performance 7Support 6