Share that mobile broadband connection on the go—and the pricey monthly subscription—without breaking a sweat. That’s the main selling point of the Netgear MBR624GU 3G Mobile Broadband Wireless Router, a compact and highly portable single-antenna router. Designed for workers in the field, the $129 Netgear MBR624GU lets you share a 3G connection at a construction site, satellite office, special events, in a hotel room, or even in the car (if you spring for the $24.99 universal car power adapter). It uses outdated 802.11g wireless and has limited range, but for its price, this router gets the job done.
Setup and Design
At 6.9 x 4.7 x 1.1 inches, the MBR624GU is roughly the size of your hand. Its compact size and metallic silver design are business-friendly but not exactly trendy or attention-grabbing.
To start using the device, you just plug in a 3G USB card either directly into the MBR624GU or by using an included USB docking station. Netgear said the router will support up to 64 users simultaneously, but it recommends 20 to 25 users or less for optimum results.
Compared with the D-Link DIR-450 3G Mobile Router, which requires configuring your EV-DO card with the device, the MBR624GU took just a few seconds to set up and start using. It supports most USB devices made by Novatel and Sierra Wireless, such as the Sprint U720 we tested, and models from AT&T and Verizon Wireless, such as the Compass 855. You can’t use a PC Card or ExpressCard for 3G access, but that’s not as big an issue, since USB modems are the hottest sellers.
The MBR624GU is also designed to be eco-friendly: a convenient on/off switch lets you power down the device when it’s not in use. Like most routers, this one includes four Ethernet ports.
The speed of Internet access depends greatly on where you use the device (indoors or close to a window), and in which city—it will work better in a large metropolis like New York City. On our tests in a more remote area of Minneapolis, EV-DO access ran about 400 to 600 Kbps. The main point, though, is not exceptional speed, but the ability for a group of laptop users to connect to the Internet using just one mobile broadband adapter. However, the Netgear MBR624GU also lets you share files between laptops or stream media files to a set-top box such as the Logitech Squeezebox Boom.
Because the Netgear MBR624GU uses 802.11b/g and has only one small antenna, access speed over Wi-Fi is extremely slow compared to newer 802.11n models. From 5 feet, the MBR624GU managed only about 16 Mbps and wouldn’t connect beyond about 100 feet.
Because the MBR624GU runs slowly, it won’t work for video streaming in a conference room. In a test with the Logitech Squeezebox Boom connected over 802.11g, an uncompressed MP3 from Bruce Springsteen’s latest album would sometimes stutter and pause. That said, the MBR624GU does include some nifty Quality of Service features. For example, you can rank services such as Skype and World of Warcraft so that they are given priority. In a World of Warcraft test over 3G, we noticed very little latency during a chaotic battle using a Gateway MD7826U notebook.
Netgear also included plenty of security options with the MBR624GU, designed to ensure that business users are protected while using the device in public places. The MBR624GU supports WPA2-PSK, for example—which provides hackerproof encryption.
For $129, the Netgear MBR624GU 3G Mobile Broadband Wireless Router is a good buy. For groups of business workers, the router pays for itself many times over if only one employee has a 3G card but several need to connect to the Internet at once. The Wi-Fi connection speed and coverage area weren’t as good as the Kyocera KR2 Mobile Router ($249), but that router is twice as expensive. With its easy setup, and quality of service and security features, we recommend the Netgear MBR624GU for highly mobile teams of workers.