This tiny, ludicrously cheap router (smaller than the admirably small Apple Airport Express, and actually smaller than the power supply of my MacBook Air) is a wireless Swiss Army Knife: it can be router, bridge, or USB wireless client. That means it can be used to create an instant network, if you have access to a wired one, or to connect a machine without internal wireless networking to an existing wireless network, or to extend an existing wireless net, and in a few other ways as well. There are larger routers in the same TP-Link family, with more RAM and greater flexibility (you can swap out the firmware, for instance, to turn some of them into Tor routers), but they’re not watch-pocket size.
This “Nano” version is powered via Micro-USB port, too, which is clever — odds are good that power can be found, since so many devices require Micro-USB, and that means forgetting the included power supply is probably not a crisis.
Last week, couchsurfing with a friend who’d just moved into a new apartment, this router proved a lifesaver: I needed to get through to a work website, and his regular router which had been set up for a different ISP wasn’t behaving as expected with his freshly activated Verizon internet service. I had brought along the TP-Link with the thought that it might prove useful at a conference I was attending. Turns out, I hadn’t had a chance to use it until the router SNAFU made me remember it. “Look what I happen to have along — let’s check it out.”
Just plugging it it, it turns out, wasn’t *quite* good enough: the default was not plug-and-play “wireless router” as I’d expected. However, the fold-out directions — not quite Apple good, but not bad — explained how to switch modes through the built-in browser-based GUI. That done, we switched the default admin password (“admin / admin” is nicely guessable, and thus a bad choice), created a nicer wireless-access password than the long, random one provided, and voila! — Crisis averted.
One way I’m using it now is to provide a guest network in my house, which I can play with or reconfigure without touching the regular access point. If I want to remove guest access, to tighten up that access, or for that matter to throw it wide open, this is a nice granular way to do that. It’s also just nice to have a spare router around, since I find their lifespans are unpredictable.
-- Timothy Lord
TP-LINK TL-WR702N Wireless N150 Travel Router
Available from Amazon