Holiday gift ideas: home and office gear

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WBR-3800 Portable Wireless Hotspot, by levelone

Wi-Fi routers have been around for some time, and are now a fixture in many homes for connecting mobile users to the Internet via cable or DSL service. The levelone WBR-3800, however, is one of the new breed of routers that are designed for use with both traditional wired and 3G wireless connections. Both a USB port and a CardBus slot are provided, allowing (according to the vendor; we didn't test this) essentially any 3G service to be used for the backhaul link. The possibilities here are quite interesting -- an instant hotspot, as the product name implies, or the use of a 3G modem for emergency or field applications, or even permanently mounting the WBR-3800 is a vehicle for go-anywhere wireless (on both ends!) Internet access.

Some purists might note that this is an 802.11b/g device, and we're well into the era of 802.11n. Not to worry -- throughput is going to be limited by the speed of the backhaul (which will be 802.11b speeds or less, and very much less in the case of a 3G connection), so, coupled with the huge installed base of 802.11b/g clients, this product should still have a long and happy life.

Anyway, this compact (12x13 cm) unit would be ideal for portable and relocatable applications involving wireless backhaul. It's pretty plain-vanilla router otherwise, and, lacking 802.11n, wouldn't be my first choice for a primary home connection. But even there it could make sense, using wireless backhaul in the event of a wired-WAN outage.

Our eval unit had something loose rattling around inside -- disconcerting, but it worked regardless. Setup is via a utility that requires software installation and a time-wasting reboot -- these shouldn't be required in this day and age. No matter - if you're looking for a mobile WWAN to WLAN connection, this one is worth a look.

Cool Yule Rating: 3 stars

Price: $136.61 at

Product Web site.

Reviewed by Craig Mathias

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