Cradlepoint PHS300 review

A few months ago I wrote about rocking a router in my pocket by running JoikuSpot to share HSDPA over WiFi on my Nokia N95-3

This solution works well enough, but only provides minimal control over routing and wireless setup. Furthermore, WiFi range is limited and battery drain is significant.

Enter the Cradlepoint PHS300, a battery/AC powered, pocketable, mobile wireless router designed to interface with a variety of USB 3G modems and phones.

The PHS300 is a black box resembling a 2.5″ hard drive enclosure, and is equipped with a USB port, a power connector, and power switch. The top features 3 status LEDs (power, 3G, & WiFi) and the bottom hides a Li-ion battery behind a removable cover (see my unboxing pictures).

Initial setup was as simple as inserting my AT&T SIM (MEdia Net data plan) into my Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U modem, plugging it into the USB port, and turning on the PSH300.

Within seconds, all 3 LEDs turned green and an additional WiFi network appeared. After connecting my computer to this WiFi network and opening my web browser, I was greeted with a login screen.

Once logged in (using the last 6 digits of the MAC address assigned to the PHS300), the web interface is similar to the one featured on most modern cable/DSL wireless routers. So I personalized the configuration, and I was immediately impressed with the routing features offered by the PHS300.

You see, before this review, I was thinking: “Why bother with a dedicated mobile wireless router when there’s software like JoikuSpot and WMWifiRouter?” Well now I know :)

The PHS300 supports PPP, DHCP, NAT with SPI, SSID enable/disable, Internet access control (services, URL, & MAC), 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, UPnP, multiple and concurrent VPN pass-through sessions (IPSEC, L2TP, & PPTP)… Hmmm, that’s quite a mouthful!

Performance and stability are top notch. Battery life is about 2 hours, as advertised.

Of course, all this flexibility comes at a cost. The PHS300 is larger and heavier than most mobile devices, and still requires a 3G modem or phone to function. Together with my Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U, it makes for quite a bulky and unwieldy monster beast :)

So, what’s the verdict?

If you need basic mobile routing for personal use, or a truly pocketable solution, I suggest you pick software like JoikuSpot (especially if you own a compatible smartphone).

But if you need advanced mobile routing for a small group, or emergency routing for a small business. I highly recommend the PHS300.


Is that a router in your pocket?

Or are you just happy to see me?

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I used an OQO Model 01+ and Motorola E815 connected via Bluetooth. I hacked the phone and tethered the computer to Verizon’s EVDO network. Every now and then, I’d share the 3G connection over WiFi, turning the computer into a router, and allowing other devices with WiFi around me to access the cloud – all this while walking down the street or driving down the freeway…

But here’s the cool part: the entire setup fit easily, without wires, in the many pockets of my trusty cutoff cargo pants!

The setup evolved over time. I replaced the phone with an LG CU500 on Cingular’s HSDPA network (now AT&T). Then I replaced the computer with an OQO Model 02, which I promptly modded for HSDPA (built-in).

And then, having narrowed things down to a single device, I was rocking a router in my pocket – I was ready for the mobile revolution :)

Eventually, I ended up with a Nokia N95-3 featuring both 3G and WiFi and I started thinking… Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Symbian application that turned the device into a router in my pocket? Wouldn’t it be great?

Well now you can have your cake an eat it too – you too can be packing a router in your pocket! Say hello to JoikuSpot for Symbian, WMWifiRouter for Windows Mobile, and Cradlepoint for other devices.

I’ve been playing with JoikuSpot on my N95-3 and it’s working like a charm.

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