The standard setup for 3Com's OfficeConnect router is a snap. In a typical hotel room, just connect the included broadband/Ethernet cable and plug the power cable into a standard electrical outlet. You'll also need to ensure that the mode selector switch on the unit's right side is set to the type of connection you want. Mode one, or Configuration mode, lets you manually adjust network settings and configure security for the Travel Router via a browser-based configuration tool. The second mode, Access Point mode, turns both the firewall and the DHCP server off. (DHCP stands for dynamic host configuration protocol and is used to automatically configure your computer for the network.) You can use the Travel Router's Access Point mode when you want to connect one or more computers to an Ethernet LAN, or local-area network, equipped with its own DHCP server. Mode three, or Router mode, turns on the device's integrated firewall and DHCP server and is the correct choice for most hotel-room scenarios. Mode four, or Client mode, lets you use the Travel Router as a wireless adapter to connect a computer to a Wi-Fi network.
If you're familiar with basic networking principles, the mode selector makes setup a breeze. On the other hand, you may find yourself fumbling between modes if you're new to networking, and unfortunately, 3Com's quick-start guide fails to walk you through the standard hotel-room setup process. Beginners may be disappointed to discover that it isn't spelled out in the guide.
The OfficeConnect Travel Router's design is virtually identical to that of Netgear's travel router, and the units share many of the same features, including the mode selector switch. Like Netgear's unit, the OfficeConnect Travel Router comes with an external power adapter, making it less compact than Apple's AirPort Express. 3Com's unit also lacks an integrated USB print server, which you might want if you plan to wirelessly share a printer with a traveling colleague on the road, another feature that sets Apple's AirPort Express apart. But not everyone needs these extras, and 3Com's unit offers enough useful features to make it a good fit for many business travelers. Among other features, there's support for both WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security, an integrated firewall designed to thwart common hacker attacks, and VPN pass-through support, which lets you use the Travel Router to securely connect to a corporate VPN when you're on the road.
Long range and fast throughput are typically less important for a travel router designed for use in a hotel room than for a standard wireless router, which you would use to cover several rooms in a house. Still, you may find yourself in the position of wanting to convert an Ethernet network at a conference center into a wireless network for your colleagues; a little extra juice can come in handy in such an occasion. That's where the 3Com OfficeConnect Travel Router shines. At 200 feet, it can still kick out data at a rate of 12.1Mbps, which makes it the current long-distance champ among travel routers.