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Thursday, 29 November 2007

Cradlepoint Personal Hot Spot - PHS300 Battery Powered EVDO Router Review has the PHS300 on sale, Check out the latest sale info on the PHS300

PHS300 Updates

Wondering if your PHS300 is compatible with 4G WiMAX? Read our article to find out: PHS300 Hardware Version 1 vs. 2: Is Yours 4G-Compatible?

HOT TIP: Interested in bridging WiFi between remote buildings?  or extending the WiFi range of your PHS300? check out our Pepwave Surf Review

Not sure if the PHS300 supports your aircard? Check out our PHS300 Compatibility Chart.

We really like CradlePoint's first EVDO router, the CTR350 'Travel Router', and now CradlePoint has given us a new toy to review.

How do you improve upon something that was pretty good in the first place? You add a feature that no other 3G router has made available before: built-in battery power!

The new CradlePoint PHS300 takes everything we really liked in the CTR350 and adds a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery to allow a kind of wireless freedom never before available - and it sells for just $179.99 ($159.99 if purchased with Sprint or Verizon EVDO Card with 2 year service).

CradlePoint says that the "PHS" stands for "Personal HotSpot", but we like to think it means "Portable HotSpot" because any hotspot can be 'personal', but only the PHS300 can be more portable than any router we've ever used, 3G or otherwise.

First, we'll talk some about the hardware and then we'll elaborate on some cool ideas we have for this new router.

At 4.9" x 2.9" x 0.6", the PHS300 is about 25% bigger than the CTR350. The extra space makes room in the design for the Lithium-Ion battery.

PHS300 and CTR350 size comparison

Both the Cradlepoint routers are much smaller than other 3G routers. Here they are on top of the Kyocera KR1 and TopGlobal MB6800. These things are tiny!

PHS300 and CTR350 compared to KR1 and MB6800

The battery is a 3.7 volt lithium-ion cell phone battery with stated capacity of 1800 mAH. We tested battery life using a Sprint U727 and connected a laptop that reloaded web content in multiple browser windows to keep constant traffic through the router. Under these test conditions, we were able to stay online for just over 2 hours and 15 minutes! When the PHS300 internal battery is just about dead, a red indicator LED turns on letting you know you will soon run out of power.

As one would expect, plugging in a PHS300 with a completely dead battery brings it right back to life. No waiting for the battery to recharge before you can use it again (like that idiotic AirCard 595U). In fact, you can even use the PHS300 plugged into A/C power, and with no battery installed at all. By the way, for those who will want extra batteries, 3gstore has them available for just $24.99.

Naturally, not all EVDO devices draw the same amount of power and all of them draw more power as available signal weakens. We plan on testing battery draw for a lot of the compatible devices and will report on that in a separate article here on in the near future.

Speaking of devices, the PHS300 works with all the same devices that the CTR350 works with, but the router firmware between the two models is not interchangeable (and if you try to install the wrong firmware on the wrong device - it won't let you).


PHS300 with Siera Wireless 881U HSDPA USB Modem
Cradlepoint PHS300 with Siera Wireless 881U HSDPA USB Modem

At launch, the PHS300 will work with Sprint USB modems like the Franklin CDU680, Sierra Wireless 595U, and the Novatel U720 /U727. It will also work with the Verizon USB720, USB727, AC595U USB modems. The PHS300 also works with Sprint's EX720 and Verizon's V740 ExpressCards, using a compatible usb-to-expresscard adapter . For a list of all the devices that work with the PHS300, make sure to always check the 3G Router Compatibility Chart that we keep as up to date as possible.

PHS300 with CDu680
Aside from just USB modems and Expresscards (with adapter), the PHS300 is also compatible with many phones and one of them we want to mention in this review is the Sprint BlackBerry 8830. This is especially important because the BB8830 is very popular and there are probably more of them than any other EVDO data device. A lot of BB8830 owners have lamented the fact that they can't easily share their high speed EVDO connectivity because the 8830 does not have built-in WiFi... and now, with the PHS300 (or CTR350), you have a really cool way to create a hotspot in as little as 12 seconds and then share the EVDO connectivity you have on your phone with many other WiFi enabled devices. The PHS300 even charges your phone via the USB port.
PHS300 with Blackberry 8830, CDU680, U727

The PHS300 has one USB port for an EVDO device to attach to, as well as an input jack for A/C power (optional d/c adapter available), and something else that the CTR350 does not have: an on/off switch. Here is picture showing the business end of the PHS300 looks like as well as the battery.

PHS300 Ports and Battery

Another difference between the PHS300 and CTR350 is that the PHS300 does not have any ethernet ports at all. Not even one for WAN input. Given that the PHS300's target audience is people out and about, away from an office or home, we suppose it makes some sense not to include an ethernet WAN input -- but given the fact that one audience who may want to carry around a PHS300 is a troubleshooting set of geeks who travel from client office to client office fixing things that go horribly wrong, it would have been nice to be able to carry just one CradlePoint router that could handle WAN input where available to them, rather than having to have one portable router that can, and one that can't. In fact, it would have been nice to have at least one ethernet port that could "go both ways" - accept WAN input when available, or allow for a client to connect via ethernet LAN port to share the connection.

Aside from the lack of any kind of ethernet port, the only other negative we can see is that there is no way to tell how much battery life remains. No flashing indicator light or series of LED lights, and nothing in web admin. You get a red LED to let you know its about to die, and thats it. We've expressed how important a battery meter is to our contacts at Cradlepoint and we know they are working on a solution.

By the way, we're really impressed with how responsive Cradlepoint (the company) has been with us. Many other router vendors have been either impossible to open a channel of communcation with, or standoffish if/when they reply. Not Cradlepoint. They are always open to hearing from customers about suggestions to refine their products. In fact, we suggeested they set up a special email address to collect suggestions and they did. If you think something needs tweaking, send your ideas to

From a software perspective, both routers operate in much the same way. Every admin feature that exists on the CTR350 also exists on the PHS300. For more about what the router administration is like, please do read our CTR350 review.

One thing we've noticed about the CTR350 and the PHS300 is that CradlePoint's proprietary "WiPipe" algorithm for improving upon certain types of connections really seems to make a difference. We've been experimenting with WiFi VOIP/SIP phones for as long as they've been around, and the CradlePoint routers are the first ones we've found that actually allow for decent VOIP calls.

We're not the only ones noticing speeds through these routers. Our customer Alex King wrote: "I've got no hard data to back this up, but my laptop seems to do a lot better with simultaneous data transfer through the WiFi router than it does connected directly to the EVDO modem. I'm not sure what is balancing the transfer better (the router or the WiFi on the laptop), but given the choice I'd rather connect through the CradlePoint router. This is a bit of a surprise."

An optional cigarette lighter 12v car adapter is available that allows the PHS300 to be used (and charged) from a vehicle. The PHS300 is a tiny EVDO router than can run for hours off its built in rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery... lets talk about potential uses for this router shall we?

When natural disaster strikes, 'first responders' to ground zero are often emergency relief workers who need to assess damages and determine relief efforts. Quite often these specialists work in teams, and for their communication needs the PHS300 is a perfect fit. No power, no problem.

As mentioned earlier, enterprise 'geek squads' who travel each week troubleshooting issues at satellite offices will often find it difficult to connect to a tightly secured network. With the PHS300, they won't need to beg network admins for 'clean pipe' anymore. The PHS300 is fast and easy to setup, and provides excellent VPN support for even the toughest enterprise requirements.

Business Executives no longer need to depend on inconsistent and expensive WiFi at the hotels they frequent. Impromptu staff meeting on the hotel's beachfront? Sure thing. You bring the margueritas, I'll bring the internet.

Speaking of executives and enterprise staff... many laptops issued and maintained by large corporate entities are seriously locked down and cannot have any new software installed, not even a connection manager for a 3G device. For those folks, the PHS300 will be a wonderful new toy, since all they need to be able to do is connect via wifi!

Is your home or office located in an area where annual storms will often knock out power and/or DSL? The PHS300 makes an excellent 'emergency backup solution'.

Covering a major event and need to provide pipe to a bunch of bloggers because the ballroom's WiFi is overrun with thousands of other jorunalists? No problem. Just pack your PHS300 in with the rest of the gear, and lock it down so only your crew gets the best photos and stories online while Steve Jobs is still on stage.

Family full of iPhones? perhaps an iPod Touch or three? Jump off the EDGE and use your PHS300 the next time your family goes camping, on a picnic, to the beach, or even a 2 hour soccer game to watch the twins prove their All-Star skills.

How about wedding receptions or family reunions and such? You know, the kind of special event where they hand out cameras and ask guests to take pictures of everything? Why not use Eye-Fi enabled cameras and send all the photos through your PHS300 and automatically upload to a website for friends and relatives around the world to see? Sure, you could do the same with a bunch of cell phone cameras, but that resolution isn't the best. An RSS photo feed of high resolution event photos, without breaking out a laptop and card reader. Now that's slick!

Last but not least, lets talk about how the PHS300 can benefit 'LifeCasters' -- the folks who want to do what Justin Kan from does. By using a router with its own battery, you minimize the drain on your laptop's built in battery, and you don't have to install any special connection manager software onto your laptop -- just use the built in WiFi to get internet access through the PHS300. Add the fact that PHS300 batteries are cheap and swapping only causes about a minute of downtime, and you can see that the PHS300 will be a popular choice for the lifecaster crowd. Don't forget that with CradlePoint's WiPipe technology , your streams are likely to be just that much more stable.

What are the negatives of this router?

There is no indicator in the interface to tell you how much battery life is left when you are running on battery. A red light comes on when your router is about to lose charge and then a few minutes later the PHS300 turns off. Having a spare charged battery may be a good idea.

Lacking an Ethernet port may be a negative for some. How can you hook up a desktop that only has an ethernet port? You would need to get a USB WiFi adapter and then you can use the CradlePoint Router.

If you are a Mac user or your Windows laptop is locked down and you cannot (or do not want to) install the Verizon or Sprint Connection software, just plug your EVDO Wireless Card into your PHS300 and hookup via WiFi.

Important Note. All routers require that your data card be activated in a supported computer before they will work in the router, the CradlePoint PHS300 is the same. When ordering a PHS300 and data card from, besides saving a few dollars, we will pre-activate your Sprint or Verizon  card (for free) before shipping - so you can plug and play when you get it. Also, Sprint will be selling a version of this called the SPHS300 or MNX7470V. It will be supported by Sprint and have other limitations (devices, features, etc.).

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 18 January 2011 )
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