WiFiRanger Intelligent Mobile Router Hands-On Review

User Rating: / 3
Thursday, 17 March 2011

WiFiRanger Intelligent Mobile Router Hands-On Review

There are a variety of mobile broadband routers for 3G and 4G users to choose from, but most are either limited in the types of internet connections they support or are difficult for the average user to set up and use. The WiFiRanger and WiFiRanger Pro from BlueMesh Networks stand apart from the rest of the pack by supporting a huge variety of internet connections (3G or 4G mobile broadband, cable/DSL, satellite, and even WiFi) while also being intuitive and easy enough for even the most novice user to set up and use.

The WiFiRanger allows users to utilize just about any source of internet:

  • 3G or 4G LTE Mobile Broadband (no 4G WiMAX support at this time - possibly in the future)
  • WiFi (campground provided, free/open hotspots, commercial networks, or private networks to which you have the security key)
  • Satellite (MotoSat, Hughes, etc)
  • Cable/DSL

Besides the array of types of internet connections the WiFiRanger supports, what really makes the WiFiRanger unique is the way it handles the connections. The WiFiRanger is set up to automatically connect to an ethernet connection, open WiFi hotspot, or USB modem with no manual setup needed in most cases. Upon powering on the router, the WiFiRanger will search for connections in that order: first, it will check to see if an active WAN connection is available, then it will search for open WiFi hotspots, then it will check for a USB modem. Most impressive is the manner in which it connects to open WiFi hotspots - unlike any other router or wireless bridge, the WiFiRanger features a unique "ranging" functionality (hence its name!) which allows the router to scan for available networks, analyze the performance of each one, and connect to the best option.

The rest of the WiFiRanger's setup and functionality is similarly simple and unrivaled by any other router or wireless bridge we've encountered. BlueMesh has managed to create a router that virtually anyone can use, without skimping on features.

Features: The WiFiRanger's ability to connect to external wireless networks is likely to be one of the most popular features, but that's not all the WiFiRanger offers:

  • Range mode to automatically connect to open networks
  • 4 Ethernet LAN ports and 1 dedicated WAN input 
  • Auto-connect: the WiFiRanger tries to connect to ethernet first, then wireless, then cellular (the order can be adjusted or it can be turned off if you want to handle connections manually)
  • Intelligent failover: with the ability to connect to so many internet sources, if your primary connection goes down, the router will keep you connected via your designated backup sources!
  • Wireless N WiFi radio (wireless range is approximately 100-200ft through walls, much greater unobstructed)
  • Supports up to 150 WiFi clients, plus 4 LAN connections (desktop computers, gaming consoles, DVRs... just about any internet-capable device with an ethernet port)
  • Support for a variety of 3G and 4G LTE modems (click here for compatibility chart), plus a special "modem support program" where BlueMesh will PAY users $25 for their help in getting an unsupported modem working!

The WiFiRanger Pro is identical to the WiFiRanger but adds a few extra features:

  • MotoSat Support: allows you to control and configure a satellite modem directly without any special requirements
  • WFRBoost Support: this intelligent bridging technology allows you to use a separate radio when using WiFi for WAN, giving unmatched performance. (Additional hardware required - coming soon!)
  • Intelligent Meshing: allows you to utilize multiple WiFiRanger units to create an extended network, similar to WDS (Wireless Distribution Services) on other routers.
  • Advanced IP settings: adds the ability to set multiple IP addresses for things like DNS, LAN and WAN.

Design: The WiFiRanger is lightweight (1/2 pound), and while it's not "travel size" (its dimensions are 6.38" x 5.2" x 1.18"), it's certainly compact enough to fit anywhere from an office to an RV.

the WiFiRanger (center) is not as small as the CTR500 (top), but is more compact than the MBR1000 (bottom)

The top of the WiFiRanger features 8 LED lights, which indicate the status of the router (power on, LAN connections, etc):

top view of the WiFiRanger

All of the WiFiRanger's ports are located on the rear of the unit:

rear view of the WiFiRanger

One important thing to note is that the WiFiRanger's single USB port (where you'll connect your 3G or 4G mobile broadband device) is positioned vertically, and it can be a tight squeeze for some of the larger modems. We highly recommend that anyone planning to use a USB modem with the WiFiRanger also purchase the optional 3' USB extension cable, which will eliminate any concerns about fitting into the tight space and also allow you to position your modem in a location where it can obtain a better signal.

the WiFiRanger with a 598U 3G modem attached

Setting up and using the WiFiRanger: BlueMesh designed the WiFiRanger with ease of use in mind, and this is evident from the moment you unbox the router. Basic setup instructions are included on the inside of the box, and these simple steps are likely to be all most users need (although a full manual can be downloaded from WiFiRanger's website).

the inside of the WiFiRanger's box

As previously noted, no setup at all is needed for most connections - simply connect your ethernet cable for a WAN connection, plug in your USB modem, or allow the router to "range" for open WiFi networks and the WiFiRanger will handle the rest; within a few minutes you'll see the "internet status" LED light up and you'll be ready to surf the web! WiFi-as-WAN users in particular will be thrilled with the hands-free setup.

To change settings and options within the router, users can navigate their browsers to the WiFiRanger's intuitive web admin portal, called the "control panel".

The easy to navigate control panel (web admin) makes it simple to make changes and edit settings

There are a variety of settings WiFiRangers may want to tinker with, including:

  • Changing your SSID (wireless network name)
  • Changing your network password
  • Editing the auto-connect order (for example, if you prefer to have cellular be the top priority) or disabling it completely
  • Editing the "range" options: the WiFiRanger gives you two options for connecting to wireless networks - "connect best," which analyzes all of the available wireless networks and connects to the best one, or "connect first," which connects to the first available open network. "Connect best" is the default option, but it can take several minutes to scan through and analyze all the available networks before connecting, so some users may prefer to just connect to the first network.
  • Enter and save passwords for secure wireless networks
  • Set wireless networks as "preferred"
  • Editing failover options, including designating a specific number of days, hours, minutes, or seconds that you want the WiFiRanger to check your connection (when it detects that the connection has failed, it will automatically move on to try the next available connection).

All of these options - and more - are easy to locate and configure within the control panel, but to make things even easier for our customers, 3Gstore has created a custom tip sheet with helpful instructions and pointers with all of the WiFiRangers we ship!

BlueMesh's efforts to keep things as simple as possible for users extends to the firmware upgrade functionality. Users never have to manually check to see if firmware updates are available - upon boot up, the router automatically checks to see if any updates are available; if there is a newer firmware version available a "click here to upgrade" link will appear in the upper right side of the control panel.

Wrapup: The WiFiRanger's support for so many internet sources and its intelligent failover functionality is likely to make it a hit with everyone from office users to RVers. There is no easier or more affordable way to take advantage of every internet connection you have access to, from your ethernet WAN at home to campground WiFi on the road!
What we love about the WiFiRanger and WiFiRanger Pro:
  • Easy to set up, intuitive to use
  • Range mode connects to open WiFi networks automatically
  • Intelligent failover
  • Easy firmware upgrades
  • Support for popular 3G and 4G USB modems, plus modem support program for unsupported modems
  • MotoSat support (Pro only)
  • Option to add additional hardware for improved WiFi-as-Wan performance (Pro only)

What we wish it had:
  • Signal % or RSSI for 3G/4G modems (control panel shows signal bars only)
  • Failback (the router will failover to your secondary connections if the primary connection fails, but it will not failback to the primary one when it comes back online)
  • Support for WiMAX modems
  • WEP compatibility
  • Ability to select the wireless chanel you wish to broadcast on
  • Advanced features common in other mobile broadband routers, including:
    • DHCP Reservations
    • Content Filtering Aka: OpenDNS
    • Port Forwarding
    • DMZ
    • Virtual Server Settings
    • MAC Address Filtering
    • Log files
    • Remote admin

The WiFiRanger and WiFiRanger Pro are ON ALE NOW at 3Gstore! Save an additional $20 if you're also signing up for a Sprint or Verizon 2-year contract!

All WiFiRangers purchased from 3Gstore include our exclusive tip sheet to help you get your router set up, and all customers have access to our esteemed technical support

Related links:

Last Updated ( Monday, 08 August 2011 )
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