| Business travel has advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, you can kick back and enjoy a nice meal on the company's dime, but when you get back to your hotel room, you may miss the comforts of home or even some of the comforts of the office. The desk in your hotel room is cramped, the chair is too high, and the Ethernet cable that connects to the hotel broadband connection is only two feet long, chaining you to that uncomfortable desk.
Unless, that is, you have a travel router. These little routers remove your hotel-desk shackles. Plug one into your hotel room's broadband cable, and you've converted your room into a Wi-Fi hot spot. Travel routers let you compute anywhere in the room that you darn well please--heck, if you book a room next to the pool, you might be able to connect from the poolside.
Prices and feature sets for travel routers vary widely, and shopping for one can be confusing if you haven't considered exactly how you intend to use it. Before you reach for your wallet, ask yourself which features are imperative and which are less crucial. If price is no object and you want the cream of the crop, you may want to consider Apple's AirPort Express. Although the AirPort Express isn't marketed primarily as a travel router, its compact design and versatile feature set make it an excellent travel solution, especially if you have an AirPort network at home. The AirPort Express connects wirelessly to an AirPort Extreme Base Station, which means that when you're not on the road, you can use the AirPort Express to extend the range of your AirPort network at home. The unit also has an integrated USB print server, making it easy for you to set up a network printer either at home or on the road. Another plus is the unit's all-in-one design, which includes an integrated power adapter. Other travel routers come with a separate power adapter and a nylon case to hold it all together, increasing the total travel bulk. The AirPort Express unit is self-sufficient: toss it in your bag, and you're ready to roll. No extra travel case is necessary.
If you intend to use your travel router only on the road and have no need for a print server, consider Netgear's WGR101 or 3Com's travel router. Like the AirPort Express, the Netgear and the 3Com units include an integrated 802.11g access point. Each unit comes with an external power adapter and a carrying case, making them slightly bulkier than Apple's AirPort, but at around $60, they are also half the price.
You can shave another $10 off the price if you're willing to settle for an 802.11b unit. The 802.11b standard offers only about 5Mbps of real-world throughput, compared with 20Mbps or more for most 802.11g gear. But most hotel broadband connections max out at around 1Mbps, so you don't stand to gain from the enhanced speed of 802.11g. Since the Net connection is the bottleneck in this situation, 802.11b is plenty fast enough for most road warrior environments. The Asus WL-330 access point works well as an 802.11b travel router and sells for less than $50.
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