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Satechi's Smart Travel Router: A world traveler's best friend

Satechi announced its new Smart Travel Router (US$44.99 special pricing) a few weeks ago and at the time I thought it was a pretty great travel accessory. After giving one the hands-on treatment, I can say without a moment's hesitation one of these should be in the gadget bag of anyone who travels internationally.

The Smart Travel Router is a mashup of three things: a standard international plug adapter, a USB charger, and a WiFi (802.11b/g/n) router. This little (3 x 2.25 X 2.25-inch) green and white wonder packs everything into one box, keeping your valuable packing space free.

To begin with, there's that one USB charging port with a 2.1A rating for charging your favorite iPad. Of course, that won't help much if you can't plug your device into the wall socket. That's where the plug adapters come in. On one side of the device is a UK standard plug; on the bottom is a European standard plug; and on the other side is a USA/Australia/China standard plug. Satechi notes that this combo of plugs can be used in more than 150 countries worldwide. To switch between the three plugs, there's a slider on the back that pops out one of the plugs depending on the position that it's in.

On the back of the Smart Travel Router there's that one 2.1A USB port that I referred to earlier. But on top, there's a one-size-fits-all socket that you can plug a standard device into -- say, one of Apple's little power bricks or maybe your MacBook Pro power cable -- regardless of what kind of plug you have. One thing to remember is that this is not a voltage transformer, but since most electronic gizmos these days run on either 110 or 220V at 60 or 50 Hz, you should be fine.

Now, to the third part of the package -- the WiFi router. According to Satechi, there are four different modes that can be set up:

  • Router: Functions as a typical router, connecting to the internet provided by your ISP and broadcasting a wireless signal, enabling you to create your own network.
  • Repeater: Connect to your existing network and amplify it. This enables you to extend the range of your wireless network -- invaluable if you have a weak connection in a room far away from your router.
  • Access Point: Create a wireless connection from a wired source. If only an Ethernet port or Ethernet cable is available, the router can connect to the wired connection and broadcast a wireless network that all your devices can connect to.
  • Client: Connect to a device such as a Smart TV or video game console via an Ethernet cable. The Smart Travel Router can then be used as a wireless adapter, enabling the connected device to connect to the internet wirelessly.

First, I tried -- and failed -- to set the Smart Travel Router up as a repeater. The browser-based wizard that appears when you connect to the Smart Travel Router's WiFi would not let me select my network. Although I saw the network name in the wizard, I couldn't get it to let me go to the next step of the setup process.

Next, I thought I'd set this up as an Access Point. I'm going to be teaching an iOS class at a local community college over the next two months, and although the college has a WiFi network, it is quite slow. Instead, I'd like to use a device like this to set up a small network for the class participants. To test this, I connected the Smart Travel Router to my network with an Ethernet cable, then ran through the wizard to set it up. It worked well, I was able to set up some good security, and all in all it's a nice little, portable Access Point.

I would suggest to anyone planning on using this for any one of the four WiFi modes listed above that they test it as much as possible before traveling. That way, you won't be trying to figure out the wizard and settings while you're on your trip, and you'll be aware of the process of setup as well as any limitations.

If you already have a travel plug adapter set and just need a small WiFi router, you might want to consider the Kanex mySpot ($49) as it is even more compact than the Satechi Travel Router.

Conclusion

The Satechi Smart Travel Router is a cleverly designed combination of travel plug adapter, USB charger and WiFi router that should be a part of every international traveler's kit.

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight multi-tasker
  • Provides not only a USB outlet, but also a way to plug in your traditional chargers as well
  • Works in more than 150 countries worldwide
  • WiFi router supports 100 Mbps 802.11n connectivity
  • Reasonably priced compared to competing travel WiFi routers, a bargain with the plug adapters built in

Cons

  • WiFi setup wizard UI is awkward and did not work properly for setup of repeater mode

Who is it for?

  • The world traveler who needs a compact set of travel plug adapters, an AC adapter for charging mobile devices and a WiFi hotspot, all in one compact package



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Accessories

Satechi announced its new Smart Travel Router (US$44.99 special pricing) a few weeks ago and at the time I thought it was a pretty great...