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Trendnet TEW 655BR3G review: Trendnet TEW 655BR3G

Trendnet TEW 655BR3G

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
6 min read

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.


Trendnet TEW 655BR3G

The Good

The Trendnet TEW 655BR3G offers a flexible solution for mobile wireless Internet access. The router is compact and has good throughput performance and range, considering its tiny physical size.

The Bad

The Trendnet TEW 655BR3G's signal stability and support for USB mobile dongles could use some improvement.

The Bottom Line

The Trendnet TEW 655BR3G makes a decent companion for those who need to share an Internet connection or create a mobile wireless network on the go.

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.

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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

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.

The router supports a Wi-Fi Protected Setup with a button on the side. This button initiates the 2-minute window that any other WPS-enabled device can securely enter the network without requiring you to remember or type in the password (aka, the encryption key).

The Web interface shows many other regular features you'd find in other full-size routers, such as support for Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, and different methods of security such as MAC address filtering and all different versions of WEP and WPA wireless encryptions.

The Trendnet TEW 655BR3G exceeded our expectations in both throughput and range performance. Despite its tiny size, the router offers throughput speed comparable to that of full-size, dual-stream wireless-N routers and is faster than the MiFi, by a large margin.

In the throughput test, the Trendnet TEW 655BR3G scored 44Mbps, compared with the 50.4Mbps of the Cisco Valet Plus and the Linksys E3000's 43.5Mbps. At this speed, the router can transmit 500MB in about a minute and half.

In the 100-foot range test, the Trendnet did very well with a 29.4Mbps throughput rate. And in the mixed-mode test, where the router was set to work with both Wireless-N and legacy Wireless-G clients at the same time, it scored 36.9Mbps, which is another very impressive number.

The most impressive thing about the Trendnet, however, was its range. In our test environment, the router was able to hold a steady connection up to almost 180 feet away. Considering its size, this is a very long range. To put this in perspective, the MiFi 2200 could only cover a radius of 30 feet.

CNET Labs 2.4Ghz Wireless-N Performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed Mode  
Cisco Valet Plus
Trendnet TEW-639GR
Trendnet TEW 655BR3G
Linksys WRT400N
Netgear WNR2000
D-Link DIR-615

Trendnet provided us with a 3G USB dongle from AT&T to try out with the TEW 655BR3G, and when we used it, we found that the router didn't recognize the dongle automatically.

However, after we logged into its Web interface and adjusted a few settings, the router was able to connect to the Internet via the cellular connection. The connection, though fast enough for most surfing needs, wasn't as fast as the MiFi 2200's.

We believe this had more to do with AT&T's sketchy 3G signal in the San Francisco Bay Area. This experience will vary depending on your location and service providers used.

The TEW 655BR3G shares a shortcoming with other Trendnet routers like the full-size TEW 639GR : its signal stability could be better.

The router failed our 24-hour stress test in which it was set to transfer data from multiple wireless devices continuously. We found that the signal was reset once during this time. However, we think that this shortcoming is acceptable and won't have much of an effect in real-life usage, but Trendnet says it will soon release a firmware update to improve the router's functionally.

Service and support
Trendnet backs the TEW 655BR3G with a generous three-year warranty (compared with one year for most routers). The company's toll-free technical phone support is available 24-7 for the lifespan of the product. Trendnet's Web site offers comprehensive self-help tools including the Configuration Emulator, which shows the look and feel of the router's Web interface and its features. There are also other download materials such as manuals and the latest firmware.


Trendnet TEW 655BR3G

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Performance 7Support 8