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Kanex mySpot USB-powered Wi-Fi hotspot

Kanex is an accessory manufacturer that makes a wide variety of devices, from Thunderbolt cables to iPad charging stations. The mySpot (US$59.95) is a USB-powered Wi-Fi hotspot that initially confused me somewhat, because it seemed to be an expensive way to do something that could easily be done with any Mac with a built-in Ethernet port or one of Apple's $29 USB Ethernet Adapters.

What's that "something" I'm referring to? Sharing an Ethernet connection with other devices over Wi-Fi, something common to families on vacation who want to share a hotel Ethernet connection, or in classrooms or conference rooms where there's no current Wi-Fi.. Any Mac with an Ethernet port or Apple's USB dongle can share that connection by becoming a Wi-Fi hotspot -- it's part of OS X. Anymore, many people just use hotel or coffee shop Wi-Fi, or even share a 3G/4G connection with friends and family using the iOS Personal Hotspot capability.

So, with that caveat in mind, let's take a look at the Kanex product. It's definitely made with the traveler or remote worker in mind, since it's about three inches long, and about an inch square. It weighs just a scant 1 ounce. On one end is an Ethernet port; that's where you'd plug in the hotel or office Ethernet cable. On the other end is a USB cable that tucks into a receptacle on the bottom of the unit. That cable plugs into your Mac (either USB 2.0 or 3.0 is fine) or into a standard USB power brick, and powers the unit. On the top of the unit are a couple of tiny status LEDs to let you know if the unit is working properly.

Once everything's plugged in, you use your other devices to find the default SSID ("Kanex mySpot-xxx") and connect to the Wi-Fi network. At this point, you can use any web browser to go to the device's default IP address and create a password, change the SSID, or change the Wi-Fi channel or device IP address.

Knowing that this same Internet sharing functionality is built into OS X, who would be the target audience for the mySpot? Well, let's say that you want to share an Internet connection but have an older MacBook that doesn't have Wi-Fi -- there were some models that did not have Wi-Fi by default, or you may have a bad Wi-Fi card in your Mac. Perhaps you want your Mac to be mobile as well and don't want it tethered to an Ethernet cable for sharing. That's where the mySpot shines.

Since the device doesn't need to be plugged into a Mac for power, just any plug that has a USB port and supplies the necessary 5 Volts, it can take over the functionality of an AirPort Express ($99) base station and save you forty bucks in the process.

Personally, I think Kanex did itself a disservice on its website by showing pictures with the mySpot plugged into a Mac and an Ethernet cable. Instead, they should highlight the photos showing the mySpot plugged into an iPhone power brick, which shows that it's essentially just a really small Wi-Fi base station and doesn't need the Mac for power.

How does the mySpot work as a Wi-Fi base station? Pretty well. It's not a full 802.11a/b/g/n device like the AirPort Express as it's missing the "n" capability, but it has good range and can handle up to 16 connected users. If you need a faster device or want to host more users, then you probably want to go with the Apple product.

Conclusion

Although many hotels and conference centers now provide ubiquitous Wi-Fi, there are still situations where you might need a small, easily-carried hotspot like the mySpot. Kanex has developed a reasonably priced Wi-Fi hotspot that is tiny and easy to set up.

Pros

  • Incredibly small and lightweight
  • Can be powered from any USB port, including an iPhone charging brick
  • Easy to set up
  • Less expensive than Apple's AirPort Express hotspot

Cons

  • May be a limited-use device in this world of almost-ubiquitous Wi-Fi

Who is it for?

  • Anyone who needs to share an Ethernet-based Internet connection with up to 16 people or who wants an almost invisibly small Wi-Fi base station

Giveaway

Kanex and TUAW are giving away a mySpot to a reader. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before December 30, 2012 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected and will receive a Kanex mySpot valued at $59.95
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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