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Cradlepoint MBR95 3G/4G Wireless N Home Router Hands-On Review

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cradlepoint MBR95 3G/4G Wireless N Home Router Hands-On Review

Update 3/2013: Since its release nearly 2 years ago, the MBR95 has been 3Gstore's most popular product - it was our #1 seller in both 2011 and 2012 and receives consistently positive reviews from customers (230+ reviews and counting, with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5)!


Cradlepoint's newest cellular router, the MBR95, is the big brother to the popular but aging MBR900 “home router,” which was released in 2009. The MBR95 adds many features that the MBR900 was lacking, while maintaining the simplicity and affordability that made the MBR900 so popular.

Designed for multimedia, gaming, and home networking, the MBR95 allows users to share a 3G or 4G mobile broadband or traditional cable/DSL internet connection, either wirelessly (at blazing 802.11 N speeds) or via ethernet (it features four LAN ports for wired connections). The MBR95 is incredibly flexible in terms of providing Internet access across multiple platforms: PCs iPads, DVRs, gaming consoles, printers, cameras, VOIP phones - just about any internet-capable equipment! It also offers the ability to utilize a WiFi hotspot as it’s source of connectivity (“WiFi-as-WAN”), and gives users the option of broadcasting two SSIDs - neither of which its predecessor supported.

Last year we deemed the MBR900 to be the “ideal ‘entry level’ home-use router,” but with the improvements and new features offered by the MBR95, it’s safe to say that the MBR95 has become the new top choice for home users who want the latest router technology and features without breaking the bank.


MBR900 (left) vs the new MBR95

DESIGN: Like the MBR900, the MBR95 has a single USB 2.0 port that supports a wide variety of 3G/4G modems (you can view the full compatibility chart here: MBR95 Compatibility Chart; Cradlepoint also regularly releases firmware updates to support additional devices). It has 4 LAN ports on the back of the device, as well as one dedicated WAN port for DSL/cable/satellite connections. The WiFi on/off switch and power switch are also on the back of the device.

mbr95_back.jpg
rear view of the MBR95

While the MBR95 is very similar to the MBR900, users will quickly notice that they don’t look identical. Unlike the MBR900, which utilized two external WiFi antennas, the MBR95’s powerful dual WiFi antennas (802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi 2x2 GHz radio) are internal, making the MBR95 much less bulky without sacrificing wireless range (the MBR95 is capable of broadcasting WiFi up to 600’, depending on walls and interference). In addition to the lack of external antennas, the MBR95 has an overall sleeker design, with smooth contours instead of sharp corners. At 7.9" x 5.3" x 1.5" the MBR95 doesn’t take up a ton of space, but it does come ready to be wall-mounted if you prefer to mount it out of the way.

Like most of Cradlepoint’s routers, the MBR95 features a variety of LED indicators on the front of the unit, so in a glance you will be able to tell if the router is powered on, which LAN ports are in use, if Wi-Fi is enabled, which WAN port is enabled (3G/4G mobile broadband or satellite/cable/DSL), if WPS is enabled, and the signal strength for the network being used.

mbr95_u760.jpg
the MBR95’s LED indicators provide lots of helpful info

SETUP/WEB ADMIN: Like all Cradlepoint routers, the MBR95 is simple enough for anyone with a basic understanding of a router interface to set up. A particularly nice touch is that the web admin can be put into “basic” mode, so that just the most commonly used features are accessible, or “advanced” mode, where more experienced users can access a plethora of options. It comes out of the box with basic WPA/WPA2 mixed security set up (the default password is conveniently located on the bottom of the router, as is the norm with Cradlepoint routers), but you can customize your security options with just a few clicks. The MBR95 is the 4th Cradlepoint device to utilize the new BSD operating system, which is really a breeze to use and navigate when compared with many of the clunkier interfaces out there.

MBR95 setup wizard and helpful features (click image for larger view)

FEATURES:

Wifi as WAN (WAW): One of the most exciting feature differences between the new MBR95 and the older MBR900 is the addition of support for WiFi as WAN (WAW). Simply put, WiFi as WAN means that the router can receive WiFi from an external source (for example, campground WiFi at an RV park, free WiFi at McDonald's, or even the hotspot feature from a smartphone like the iPhone) and create a private network that you can access securely through the MBR95 (either via WiFi or ethernet, however you like to connect to your router). Even if you have your own internet connection, the ability to use the MBR95 for WAW can come in VERY handy. WAW is great in the event of an unexpected internet outage - if your primary connection goes down and there is an open WiFi network in range, or if you have a smartphone that can be used as a WiFi hotspot (like the iPhone, EVO, Epic, and many others), the MBR95 can be configured to quickly connect to WiFi and your network will be back online in moments.

Failover/Failback and Failure Check: The failover feature allows you to prioritize your connections (3G/4G modem, wired WAN, and/or WiFi), and when/if the highest priority connection fails, the next connection in line will take over automatically; it can also be configured to “failback” to the primary connection when it’s back online. Failure check is a related option, which allows you to decide how often you would like the router to check the connection and which IP address you would like the router to ping to check the connection, even when you are not actively using the router yourself. We have found that the MBR95 can failover from a disconnected Ethernet WAN connection to a backup 3G data card in as little as 5 seconds! This can be crucial if there are business applications tied to the router that can’t be compromised by an internet outage.

Modem Health Management (MHM): This feature monitors the connectivity of USB modems connected to the router. MHM provides tiers of recovery mechanisms, starting with software resets and escalating to hardware reset and eventually a full power cycle of the modem as necessary.

Dual SSIDs: Like the CTR35 and MBR1400, the MBR95 can broadcast two WiFi SSIDs (the network name that the router broadcasts) - one private, and one public. This option is ideal for people who want to maintain a secure network for personal or business use, but also want to let others use their connection from time to time without allowing these "guest users" to access the secure network and compromise your private information (users connected to the guest network will have access to the internet, but NOT be able to access the MBR95’s web admin or any other devices on the network). The two SSIDs are completely separate from one another and can be set up with totally different settings - different security options and so forth.

WiPipe Support: WiPipe is Cradlepoint’s cloud-based management service, which gives you a consolidated router management tool to communicate with and manage ALL of the Cradlepoint routers in your system. WiPipe gives IT managers easy access to an individual router or a pre-defined group for firmware updates, configuration, management, etc.

Security: WEP, WPA, WPA2, and AES encryption for secure Wifi SPI firewall and NAT to prevent unwanted access to any connected devices on the network.

WRAP-UP: Like its predecessor, the MBR95 really shines as an easy to use home router, without sacrificing functionality. The features Cradlepoint has added to the MBR95, like WiFi as WAN support, make it even more versatile than the MBR900, but the price is still affordable enough for just about any user!

What we love about the MBR95:
  • WiFi as WAN functionality
  • Super-fast failover
  • Option to broadcast two SSIDs
  • 3G and 4G modem support (click here for a complete list of supported modems)
  • Easy to set up, configure, and use - based on newer BSD platform from CradlePoint.
  • Affordable
  • Sleek form factor
What we wish it had:
  • Support for tethered PDAs/smartphones (older Cradlepoint models offered the ability to use phones like Blackerry as a modem)
  • Option to add external WiFi antennas for additional range
Final note - how does the MBR95 compare to Cradlepoint’s other newly-released router, the business-grade MBR1400?

For those wanting even more functionality (especially in an enterprise setting), the MBR1400 does offer a number of features the MBR95 does not:
  • Option to add protective security cap
  • 3 USB ports + 2 ExpressCard slots for more advanced load-balancing/failover options
  • Configurable LAN ports to function as WAN ports
  • True enterprise functionality for any size business (including Site-to-Site VPN)
  • 5.0ghz WiFi option

The Cradlepoint MBR95 is now available at 3Gstore for $124.99.

ALL routers purchased from 3Gstore include:
  • 1 year of FREE expert tech support from US-based/English speaking 3Gstore technicians who know CradlePoint routers inside and out. Purchase at the big box retailers (or just about any online reseller) and they will tell you to call CradlePoint for support and CradlePoint - did you know that Cradlepoint charges $9.95 for each 30-minute support call? We get MANY customers calling each every day who wish they knew this before purchasing - don’t make the same mistake!
  • Free access to exclusive 3Gstore.com tipsheets that will help you with your router setup, from setting up a gaming console to a webcam
  • 24/7 access to our Support Portal, where you can download manuals, guides, tip sheets, and more

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 April 2013 )
 
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