Solwise NET-3G-3GWIFIMRW review
802.11g, 1x 10/100 Ethernet ports
It may look like a HomePlug adaptor, but this is actually a niche product that's designed to share a 3G mobile broadband connection, either via WiFi or wired networking.
Your 3G dongle plugs into one of two USB ports, but as they're so close together, a dongle might block access to the other port. You can also plug in a cable or ADSL modem via the WAN port, but most people will be better off buying a full-size ADSL or cable router, unless you need the portability, such as for using in a hotel room to give you wireless access. There's automatic failover, so as soon as the internet connection on the WAN port fails, you get a 3G connection instead.
You can configure the NET-3G-3GWIFIMRW using its setup CD or through the web interface. Both take you through the same options for wired, wireless and broadband connections. 3G internet access through a Virgin Mobile-branded Huawei E160 dongle was incredibly simple to set up, and worked perfectly once we'd entered our provider's details. We updated the device to the latest firmware, which supports more 3G dongles. Updating was easy; we just downloaded the latest version from Solwise's site and updated the router using the firmware setting in its web-based management.
Solwise hasn't scrimped on features. Websites can be blocked by keyword or IP address, and a simple Quality of Service (QoS) page lets you use pull-down menus to assign priorities to different internet services, such as voice, video or games. After connecting a 3G dongle, you can use the remaining USB port to share a storage device, printer or webcam. FTP support and network folder-sharing make this a cheap alternative to a NAS, and it worked perfectly with an 8GB flash drive, although it was unable to provide sufficient power to run our USB hard disk.
We rarely review 802.11g routers now that Draft-N devices are so inexpensive, but we were disappointed by the NET-3G-3GWIFIMRW's range. It managed just 11.7Mbit/s at a distance of one metre, but couldn't provide a reliable signal at 10 metres, despite us trying several different channels. It managed 8.4Mbit/s at five metres, but that was without a wall in the way. The lack of WPA2 encryption is also inexcusable, even if WEP and WPA are supported.
Considering the whole point of this router is to share a 3G connection, it does a surprisingly poor job. The wireless range is dismal, and you'll have to shell out on a switch to attach more than one computer via a wired connection. If you need a 3G router, Billion's BiPAC 7402NX (What's New, Shopper 253) is a better choice. It costs £112, but has far better wireless range, a four-port switch and it's faster.