I don't often quote poetry in this column, but indulge me a bit of leeway when I steal from T.S. Eliot when he wrote, "April is the cruelest month" (first line of "The Waste Land"). If he were around today this might be a reference to the technology trade show travel schedule, in which conferences seem to hit particularly hard in April once winter doesn't have its hold on flight delays.
Luckily, gadget-makers understand the cruelty of travel, and are always creating new devices that help the mobile worker/road warrior ease the pain of a hotel room with few outlets, or expensive in-room Wi-Fi. Here are three gadgets I've recently tested that can help you on your next trip:
The scoop:Trek (N300) Travel Router and Range Extender (model PR200), by NETGEAR, about $60.
What is it? This small box acts as a miniature travel trotter that can connect to hotel wireless and public Wi-Fi hot spots, providing a bridge connection for multiple devices via Wi-Fi. When you return home, you can use the device as a Wi-Fi range extender (to fill in any wireless holes you may be suffering from), or even as it's own router (if you don't yet own one). The unit comes with a built-in power plug, two Ethernet ports (one for a WAN, the other for a LAN), a USB port for attaching a storage device, and a USB cable (if you want to power the unit from a USB port instead of the wall outlet).
Why it's cool: The multiple functions of the Trek make it more useful than a single-function travel router, extending its value. But the main reason you'll love it is to extend wireless connections for multiple devices (PC, phone, tablet) when you travel. With hotel Internet service costing $15 per day or even higher ($20+ per day in some cities), this router can help you maximize that connection by allowing Wi-Fi to multiple devices. If you tried to connect three devices, for example (PC, phone and tablet) to the hotel's wireless, you might end up paying three different charges for that access.
Having tried several travel routers in the past, I was a bit skeptical with the Trek, mainly because hotel wireless setups usually involve browser authentication (you can't get to the wider Internet until you pony up the cash). However, I was very pleased to see that the Trek device and NETGEAR Genie software could easily set itself up for the multi-device sharing. After plugging in the device to a power source, I flipped the switch on the Trek to "Wireless", then connected my computer to the Trek's SSID (both the SSID and the password are on a sticker on the unit). This triggered the Genie software to scan available wireless signals, letting me choose the hotel's wireless network. Once the Trek connected to the hotel network, it opened up another browser window/tab to let me authenticate, at which point additional devices could connect to the Trek without having to worry about additional charges. As long as any new device connects to the Trek instead of the hotel network, you should be fine.
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