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REVIEW: TP-LINK TL-WR710N MINI POCKET ROUTER

Business man’s best friend

A while back I reviewed the awesome TL-WR702 Nano Router from TP-Link.  The guys at TP-Link must have liked what I wrote because now I’ve been sent the similarly named TL-WR710N to take a look at it.

As with the 702, this new model is designed to be a portable router, allowing business minded people to set up small private networks and share an Internet connection.  The 710 has a few more tricks up its sleeves though.

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For one, there’s no need for a separate power lead, the 710 can plug directly in to a standard 3-pin outlet, which saves space in your rucksack and on your desk.

It also includes two LAN ports, for connecting multiple wired devices, and has a USB port which can be used to charge mobile devices or add centralised storage to your mini-network.

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Out of the box

Inside the packaging you’ll find:

  • The TL-WR710N mini-router
  • A flat Ethernet cable
  • A resource CD
  • Some paperwork

The router itself is noticeably larger than the 702, but that’s not surprising when you consider that it has to pack in a charging circuit, USB port and an extra Ethernet port.  It’s still a pretty dinky device at 75x85mm, and when you consider that you wouldn’t have to take a USB charger with you as well, it’s probably reducing the overall space needed in your bag even further.

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In terms of design, the 710 is neatly modelled in high gloss white plastic, with a grey plastic insert covering up the circuitry inside.  On the front facing side is a blue status LED which shows when the device is powered and flashes to show various activity and connectivity.

Using it

The TL-WR710N can be used in a number of different ways, depending on your needs.  Obviously, it can be used as a USB charger for any smartphone or tablet, but it’s also a pretty versatile home router.

It has several modes of operation, from acting as a wireless access point, to sharing a wired Internet connection to multiple devices, to extending an existing wireless network to cover a hotspot.

TP Link categorise each mode as follows:

Wireless Router Mode (Default)Creates an instant private wireless network and share Internet to multiple Wi-Fi devices, which is suitable for most hotel and home network.

Client Mode (TV/Game Console)Gives wired-only devices access to an existing Wi-Fi networks.

Repeater ModeExtend existing Wi-Fi, improving signal strength and maximizing coverage.

Access Point ModeCreates a wireless network for Wi-Fi devices. 

WISP Client Router ModeSimultaneous Wireless ISP access and sharing.

In practice, each of the modes runs pretty well, with the “Client Mode” and “Access Point Mode” being of particular use to those who frequent hotels.  Quite often you’re stuck with either a distributed WiFi network or a LAN port connected to the desk in the room.  Neither is an ideal scenario as you might not want to be tied to a desk, or might only have WiFi devices with you.  The 710 provides an excellent and convenient way to access these services in a way that suits you.

The file sharing feature also works well, and is ideally suited to small teams working remotely, where they might need to centrally manage files that they’re working on.  Shove a decent sized USB thumb drive in to the 710′s USB port and you’ve got a storage drive that everyone on the network can access.

The 710′s wireless range is pretty impressive when you consider its size, though it falls short of the coverage you’d expect from a decent home router.  That being said, there’ll be no issue sharing a connection among users in a hotel suite or decent sized office.  In fact, this may turn out to be a blessing; you don’t want people in other hotel rooms or offices to be able to see and join your network.  This shouldn’t be an issue, though, thanks to the WPA encryption included in the router.  WPA can quite easily be cracked, but it will at least stop the opportunist from stealing your Internet connection, or your personal files.

Conclusions

As someone who spends a fair amount of time travelling and staying in hotels, the TL-WR7110N is an extremely worthwhile piece of kit.  Not only does it allow me to access the hotels Internet connection from multiple devices, but it also allows me to share files stored on a USB hard disk, and acts as a pretty decent charger for my devices at the same time.  This last point is important when you consider that a lot of hotel rooms only honour you with a single power socket for charging devices.  The charger in the 710 is only rated to 1A, so it can take a little longer than normal to charge some modern portable devices, but it’s still better than carrying around a separate charger.

One point worth mentioning is that when charging an iPad 3, the 710 was sometimes not recognised as a suitable charger and subsequently the iPad only trickle charged.  This is more about poor design on Apples’s part than a shortcoming of the 710, though:  The iPad 3 was notorious for charging issues with 3rd party chargers.

Other than that small gripe, the TL-WR710N has made its way into my travelling rucksack, replacing both my previous USB charger and my TL-WR702N.  It’s a little more expensive than the 702, but the fact that I can do away with another piece of kit, and the extra USB functionality, makes it worth the extra money for me.

If you travel often and need access to the Internet and your files, then you should definitely buy the TL-WR710N.

Author

Matt

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