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REVIEW: TP-LINK TL-WR702N NANO ROUTER

Every home should have one

Sometimes I look at a product and think “that’s cool”.

Other times I look at it and think “that’ pretty useful”.

Rarely do I find a product that ticks both boxes.

Today’s a happy day though because the TL-WR702N is one such product.

In simple terms it’s essentially an ultra-portable wireless router, but when you actually stop and think it has a huge list of applications. Read on to find out more.

Look and feel.

It can be hard to appreciate just how small this device is. The word “Nano” in the title says that it must be pretty small, but I was still shocked when I pulled it out of the box.

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This thing is absolutely tiny. That’s a full wireless router. Look at it! It’s incredible!

Ok, maybe I’m a little overexcited by it, but it is cool.

The design is quite modern, with the main part of the casing being made of piano-white plastic, and the lid being a baby-blue, glossy affair. It looks and feels well made, though it’s clear you’re not suppose to try and open this thing and take a look inside.

To the rear of the box you’ve got two connectors; a Micro-USB port for power and an RJ45 network port for connecting it to a network or client device. There’s also a handy reset button that will restore it to factory settings.

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The included power supply is actually bigger than the router itself, but the good news is that any USB 2.0 certified port should be able to power this thing, so there’s no issue using it connected up to your PC or laptop (or games console, smart TV, HiFi, etc.).

Uses

The TL-WR702N comes preset to run as a wireless access point. Connect it to your existing wired network and it’ll allow any WiFi enabled device to connect.

This would be of fantastic use to anyone who wants to use their smartphone or tablet with a network that was previously wired only network. I can’t tell you how many times I checked into a hotel and found that the only connection available was a wired one. Even if I am lucky enough to be staying in a WiFi enabled hotel, it’s more than likely that my room will be in a notorious WiFi black spot and I’m unable to connect. Theoretically, I should be able to plug this router into the wired connection in my room and connect to the Internet using my smartphone. And I can usually sponge power off of a USB port on the back of the shiny new TV that the hotel saw fit to put in.

Not only that, but this pocket wonder can be set up in a variety of other ways, other than simply as an access point:

  • Router mode – Acts as a full router when connected to an ADSL or cable modem.
  • Repeater – Extends the range of a separate WiFi network
  • Bridge – Similar to repeater but also activates the Ethernet port so that devices can connect via a wired or wireless connection
  • Client – Acts as a wireless card for any PC or laptop with an Ethernet port, allowing them to connect to wireless networks.

I can think of a tonne of places where I could make use of these modes. Or rather, I can think of a tonne of situations where I wish I’d had it at the time. Right now I’ve got it operating in repeater mode, covering off an annoying blackspot that seems to envelope my sofa. I can also imagine using it in router mode so that I can stream media wirelessly between my smartphone and my CarPC.

Performance

In tests, I’ve found that the range of the TL-WR702N was pretty much on par with my expectations. It’d be unfair to expect a miniscule device like this, with no external antennae, to perform too well in terms of range. That being said, the performance isn’t bad, and you can typically walk into an adjacent room with your mobile device without worrying too much about the connection dropping.

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In terms of transfer speeds, the device itself is rated to Wireless-N, though I would hazard that it’s the 150Mbps version rather than the faster 300 or 450 variants. It’s fine for general web browsing, but try to transfer large amounts of information and you’ll notice the performance difference when compared to a decent Wireless-N home router. It also tends to get a little warm when large amounts of traffic are thrown at it, so I’d advise against using it as a main router if you tend to migrate large amounts of data between devices.

All in all, it performs well. I didn’t experience any dropped connections or performance issues during a week of testing in a variety of modes, so it should stand up well to light to medium use.

Documentation

I normally don’t write about a products documentation, but in this case I felt I had to make an exception.

It’s terrible.

Seriously, if you’re looking to use this device as anything other than an access point, and your PC and networking knowledge is not that great, then you’re going to have a really bad time.

TP-Link Instructions

I can see what’s happened; TP-Link is a Chinese company, and it looks like they’ve thrown the Chinese version of the user guide into a translation program, hit go and then sent the results off to print. For the most part you’ll get the gist of what TP-Link mean, but on some ocassions you’re left wondering if you’ve developed sudden onset dyslexia overnight.

That being said, those with a bit more knowledge and experience will probably throw the manual in the bin and crack on anyway.

The web interface of the router is similarly marred with poor translations, though many of the options tie up nicely with other products so most users should be able to muddle their way through.

Conclusions

Documentation aside, the TL-WR702N is an awesome little product. Seriously, it’s one of those devices that you buy first and then wonder how you’ll use it afterward. Why do I think that? Well the thing can be bought online for well under £20, that’s a heck of a lot of functionality for less than a meal in a mediocre restaurant.

I would honestly recommend that any geek out there should just buy one now and shove it in your desk drawer. I guarantee that within 3 months you’ll be trying to connect a device, a lightbulb will go off, and you’ll reach for it.

Even if you’re not a complete geek, if you travel often you can surely appreciate how a device like this could be useful for connecting to wired networks in hotels, offices and convention centres. For a minimal cost you’ve basically made your life a whole lot easier.

Go and buy one right now, I’ll even put a link just to the right.

ReviewScore

Author

Matt

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