I travel often enough to have hotel internet be the bane of my existence. A single ethernet jack, pay-by-device WiFi, eavesdropping network layers, you name it there’s some place doing it in the hopes you’ll spring a little more to get online. Anyone who’s spent any time in hotel rooms around the world will understand exactly what I’m talking about. It just plain sucks.
Thankfully, someone out there has heard our road warrior screams of frustration and created one of the most handy travel gadgets that I will never leave home without again. Say hello to GL.iNet’s GL-AR750S Gigabit Travel Router. This tiny little box that’s barely the size of a credit card could very well be the god-sent device of your prayers!
With a footprint barely the size of a credit card the GL-AR750GS epitomises the saying “it’s not the size that counts”. Packing a dual-band 802.11ac WiFi transmitter, three gigabit ethernet ports, microSD slot for file sharing, microUSB for power and a full USB port for either running a shared drive or providing a cellular internet connection there’s a lot going on.
The travel router is also running the very popular OpenWRT operating system out of the box. OpenWRT is an open source project that many install on existing router to provide better configuration options and security features. GL.iNet have saved you the hassle and put it on there straight away for you and better yet, as OpenWRT can be quite the handful to configure, have place a very nice user interface over the top for your standard configuration and setup options.
Setting up the GL-AR750S is very quick and easy. It would want to be too, getting publicly available internet up and going can be cumbersome at the best of times. The first step is to simply power it on. That’s done via the router’s microUSB port and supplied cable. It needs 5V/2A to operate so if you’ve got a capable enough battery pack or computer you can supply power as you choose.
Next is providing the internet. That can be done in a variety of manners dependant on your situation. If you’re in a Hilton with a single ethernet jack protruding from a socket installed twenty years ago then you’d connect that to the router’s gigabit WAN port. If you’re in a cafe with open WiFi you’d power on and then go through its setup wizard to piggy-back off that, or if you’re without internet but have your phone or a cellular USB dongle you’d plug them in.
The router’s setup is handled by simply connecting to the now available WiFi network it’s running and hitting an admin page as you would any other router. There are two version of the interface available. A basic one with the necessary elements to get you up and running along with some umbrella type options and then a more advanced version with detail settings and data that allow you to do some crazy interesting stuff like throttling the router’s transmitting power to reduce its WiFi coverage to a smaller radius.
Bundled in is support for OpenVPN and a VPN variant I’d not heard of before called WireGuard. WireGuard supposedly offers a higher level of cryptography whilst performing at faster transfer speeds. Not having a WireGuard server to connect to I can only go by what’s written on the box: “4 times faster than OpenVPN”. OpenVPN I can attest to being very simple to setup and run, plugging in details for a trial NordVPN account I was browsing securely in seconds. The VPN connection can also quickly be toggled on & off via a hardware button on the side, which I think is a great implementation that those needing it for work will love and then easily disabled when streaming Netflix while splurging on room service.
The router can also act as a VPN server (via both OpenVPN & WireGuard) for others to connect to. I’ve not personally had a scenario to use this functionality but there must be a call for it or I doubt it’d have been included otherwise.
In terms of its WiFi performance the GL-AR750S does pretty well, once again considering its size. Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals are available but have a relatively low bandwidth support when compared with full blown home routers at just AC 750 – 300Mbps to 2.4Ghz, 433Mbps to 5GHz. That’s not terrible for a single person on the road but if you have a family of five running their phones, tablets and whatever else you’ve packed in the car to stop the kids screaming running off it you’ll find it likely to begin bogging down.
Lastly on the security front there’s built in support for Cloudflare’s DNS service over TLS. That’s a security protocol for encrypting your DNS requests and preventing any man-in-the-middle attacks, one of the most common forms of attacks on public networks. Massive inclusion and so easy to turn on via the router’s basic UI, big wins for small effort and little to no affect on your speeds unlike VPNs.
Outside of being used while travelling the GL-AR750S can also be used in your home network for simply extending your existing network’s coverage. It’s not what it’s made for but for someone who doesn’t travel every other month then having a use for it while at home too makes it an investment that can be used all the time.
Mind you, at A$119, it’s hardly a big investment. All of that and just the simple peace of mind that you’ll be able to connect all your regular devices every time regardless of what crazy setup you’re walking into on the road is worth five times that to someone on the road all the time.
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