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CradlePoint CTR500 3G Cellular Travel Router Review

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: General
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Specifications and Design

A Unique Product

A unique product came to my attention several months ago from a company called CradlePoint.  It wouldn't surprise me if you have no knowledge of the company prior to this article, but they are makers of some unique networking products that high-tech users and businesses will find pretty attractive.  The CTR500 we are reviewing here today is essentially a router for wireless broadband connections from cellular providers.  Functioning just like your standard router for your cable or DSL connection, the CradlePoint CTR500 uses USB and Express Card 3G modems and selected handsets as well. 

First, a list of specifications from the CradlePoint.com website:

Specifications

Model #: CTR500 Cellular Travel Router

WiFi Standards: IEEE 802.11b/g

Cellular Network Connection: Compatible
3G handset with USB data connection, USB Cellular modems, and Express
Card cellular modems (EVDO and HSDPA; see supported devices list for
details)

Wired Network Connection: 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet port (switchable LAN/WAN)

Firewall: NAT (Network Address Translation) with SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection)

Security and Access Control: Enable/Disable SSID, Internet Access Control (Services, URL, MAC, and DNS based)

Encryption: 64/128 bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, and WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK

Network Applications Support: UPnP, ALG, Email, FTP, Gaming, Remote Desktop, NetMeeting, Telnet and others

Business Applications Support: Multiple and Concurrent IPSEC, L2TP and PPTP VPN pass-through sessions

Platform Compatibility: Windows 98SE/NT/2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS X, Linux, and WiFi-enabled PDAs

Firmware Upgrade: Flash based with save and restore options (available from www.cradlepoint.com)

Device Management: Local and remote via Web Browser (HTTP)

LED Indicators:Power, WLAN (wireless LAN status), WAN/LAN (Ethernet link status), USB
modem active, ExpressCard modem active, Cellular Signal Strength

Dimensions: 4.8" x 2.8" x 0.8" (122 mm x 73 mm x 18.5 mm)

Weight: 4.0 oz.

Certifications: FCC, CE, IC, RoHS, Wi-Fi Alliance

Operating Temp: 0 C to 50 C

View
Datasheet
(PDF)

(To Download: Right-Click/Save As

The CradlePoint CTR500

The CradlePoint CTR500 is really an interesting all-in-one product that can act as a normal broadband router, accepting a WAN connection from cable or DSL internet lines and then creating a wireless network for your home or office.  What really makes the CTR500 unique is its ability to use a USB or Express Card based 3G wireless modem as the WAN connection, giving mobile users and teams the ability to maintain productivity and freedom from be tethered to cables and switches. 

Let's see how CradlePoint has designed this unique cellular router product...

The CradlePoint CTR500 has just about the worst product description I have seen on a product...what the heck is a "personal Wi-Fi hotspot" and how does it differ from traditional router technology?  I couldn't tell you either from that name.  Luckily the unit has more to lean on than packaging. 


Since this device is largely intended for business users you will find an assortment of international plug adapters. 


The unit itself is pretty small, measuring just 4.75" long, 2.75" wide and 0.75" tall and weighing between just 3 or 4 ounces.  It has a piano finish on the top and quite a few indicator lights as well.

On the back of the device is connection for an external antenna for the WiFi connection the router produces.  If the range you are getting from the unit is lacking, then you can purchase the add-on from CradlePoint or elsewhere. 


Looking at the left side of the device we see a USB connection, WiFi on/off switch, 10/100 LAN connection and the input for the power cord.  You have ability to use the 10/100 network connection for WAN (like your DSL or cable modem) or LAN if you want to connect a computer without a wireless connection the network.  The USB port is used for connecting a USB 3G modem or it can connect to select handsets too.

The front of the CTR500 holds the reset button used to return the device to its shipping status and a signal strength button to update the cellular strength indicator immediately.  This is useful for walking around the house (or wherever) to find the best location to place the router and 3G modem.


Finally on the right hand side is the Express Card slot for those users that have cellular cards in that format.  The lock/unlock button is used to keep the Express Card in place.


For a size comparison and to see how a typical USB modem would be installed, here is my Sprint-branded Novatel U727 connected to the unit.
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