A long time ago Apple released the Airport Express. I have always wanted one of those, and I still kind of do for other reasons. While the Airport Express does more than just WiFi and networking, its price is still a bit high. I am sure there are even some who just want something of a similar size that JUST does networking. Well, TP-Link has brought out something that is even smaller than Apple’s Airport express. In fact, it is so small I can even fit it in a small pocket on the case I used to carry my netbooks. This is the perfect little travel router for someone who wants to have one with them for use in a hotel or other situations. The TP-Link TL-WR702N provides no frills portable networking with no special software needed and nothing but networking.
I’ve covered TP-Link a while back when they were strictly selling products in the Asian markets. TP-Link has since branched out and now it’s common to see their boxes sitting alongside the likes of Cisco, Netgear and D-Link at the local Micro Center. While I really like and still use the N series router I reviewed, I have been looking for something that’s small that I could take with me anywhere and had negligible power requirements. It surprised me that TP-Link has released a product that fits my needs perfectly.
The TL-WR702N comes with a network cable, USB Cable and a USB wall wart for power. You can also plug this into your laptop and power it off of that if you don’t have an outlet nearby and that’s VERY convenient. Other places I could see just using a USB port may be in the car via a 12v USB adapter if you need to connect a device that doesn’t have WiFi to a mobile access point or when you need to attach it to a desktop to provide networking.
Many Modes, Many Possibilities
The TL-WR702N has 5 different modes that you can use.
The first is just as a normal AP. In this mode, you can configure this with your laptop and then attach it to any available Ethernet port on your home router or in your hotel room.
Note: DON’T bring this to work and use it to add WiFi to your office without consulting your IT department. You will likely violate several network security rules your company may have. You have been warned.
The second mode is Router mode. This mode acts just like any home wireless router with exception that you will not have any ethernet ports. This works fine if everything you have is wireless.
The third mode is client mode. Client mode is useful for devices that only have Ethernet. Devices like desktops and some older game systems.
The fourth mode is repeater mode. This will connect to your existing wireless network and help extend the range a bit. This is one of my favorite modes with this little device as I am going to use several of these to help extend my churches existing WiFi network to the sanctuary and stage area. While in repeater mode, you can also use the ethernet jack to provide network access to any computer or device that has an ethernet port at the same time.
The fifth and final mode is bridge mode. This mode is similar to the repeater mode except that it changes the station id and allows you to have either no password or a different password than your existing WiFi network. The ethernet port is also active at the same time.
Configuration is a snap but does require you to change the configuration of your laptop slightly. You will have to change the IP address from being automatically configured to having a static IP address. The configuration should be 192.168.0.10 with a netmask of 255.255.255.0 and the gateway address should be 192.168.0.254. If you have never done this before, TP-Link has instructions included that helps walk you through this on Windows 7, Vista and XP. It’s pretty easy to do this if you use Ubuntu or Mac OS X as well but to make it easier, click on one of the following links for Ubuntu or Mac OS X.
Once you have the router powered up and your laptop connected to its network, point any browser to: 192.168.0.254. It will prompt you for a login. The default login is admin with a password of admin. Note: If you plan on staying secure, I would change the admin password right away.
Once logged in, you simply follow the Quick Setup instructions for the mode you need to configure. If you need to connect to an existing wifi network, you can do a site survey and pick the appropriate network in your browser and connect to it.
Once configuration is complete, the router will automatically reboot.
If the mode leaves the Ethernet port active and you intend to use it, you will want to change your IP to be Automatically Configured (via DHCP) so you can connect normally. In most configurations, you would use this with an existing router so the existing router will automatically configure the connection like it usually would without this router even when you are connecting to the TPLink’s Ethernet port.
If you forget the password, you can use a paperclip in the reset hole when you power up the router to set the router back to manufacturers defaults.
The performance of this handy little router has been great! Connections via the on-board WiFI to my existing router have been excellent and when in repeater mode it actually DOES increase the amount of signal I see on my laptop and increases my network’s reliability. As a real world test, I took this little router to my church and tested the repeater functions in a situation that we currently are having in our sanctuary. On the stage, our existing WiFi AP’s are too weak and you usually lose connection multiple times. It is to the point where they can’t use a laptop to control our sound system during rehearsals or any other case where the worship team needs to run the soundboard from the stage. So I took this router, configured it in repeater mode then plugged it into the back wall. Walked up on the stage with my laptop and the connection was reliable and speedy. Because of the success of this test, my church is buying several of the TL-700N models which are virtually identical to this one, except they can plug directly into the wall or power strip once configured.
The TL-702N is a nice ;little router that works well as a travel router and works wonderfully at home as well. My most favorite feature of this router is that I can power it from any USB port. If I needed to get a desktop that has no WiFi on my network, I can use this router easily by just plugging it in to an existing USB port. This let’s me use that desktop anywhere on my network. When travelling, if my room doesn’t have WiFi, I can add it easily using this router. The number of uses I have for this device are so high that I just might grab a couple more of them. When I can pick them up on Amazon, for a mere $25 bucks, how can I not?
What I Like: VERY portable; Good price; Good performance; Flexible
What Needs Improvement: Would be nice if it had extended features like AirPlay