The internet has become indispensable to many, especially the younger, wireless generation. Fortunately, there are various ways to get your internet fix on the go, from taking advantage of free Wi-Fi access points in coffee houses to mobile data plans that require forking out for the subscriptions.
Combining these two aspects, we have Aztech's HW550-3G 4-Port Wireless-N 3G router. The name attached to this router is as long as it is informative about its capabilities. Predictably, it comes with the standard WAN port and four Ethernet ports to wire up your PCs or laptops.
For WLAN support, the HW550-3G supports draft-N speeds, which is more than sufficient for internet surfing. Its third option is apparent from the USB port, which allows users to plug in their mobile broadband dongle to create an access point, transmitted either wirelessly or through the Ethernet ports.
The HW550-3G has simplicity as its main focus, be it in its aesthetics or usability. The front panel displays the various status LEDs indicating the activity of the power, HSPA, USB WAN or your Ethernet ports. On the side of the same front panel, there's a connect/disconnect button that operates your 3G connection. This is a pretty nifty shortcut to deactivate your 3G connection should you switch to your normal WAN network.
Some people might find it daunting to get their routers configured to work properly. We found the HW550-3G to be pretty painless in this aspect. The bundled Quick Start guide was sufficient in its basic instruction to start the ball rolling.
Once we gained access to the router's web interface, it turned out to be simple and intuitive to navigate. After all, there are only three icons in the Basic mode, which includes a Home page that displays your router's status, a Wizard page that prompts you for your basic settings, and a Quick Setup page that lets you do all your basic settings manually. It took us less than five minutes to get our 3G connection up, and we were online soon after.
More tech savvy users will be interested in its Advanced mode, which brings you to a different user interface that grants you additional features like stating your IP address range. The HW550-3G comes with the standard security features such as WEP and WPA encryption. To be even more specific, you can also do port-forwarding for up to 30 applications.
If mobility is your mantra, the Aztech HW550-3G is well suited due to its light weight and compact nature for a router of its class. With or without a local access point, you can still depend on your mobile broadband, which is theoretically able to support downlink speeds of up to 7.2Mbps.
To say the least, such speeds are sufficient for basic web surfing or even media streaming like YouTube. Whilst you might have to pay more for the additional data plan and the USB dongle, the router by itself is one of the most reasonably priced ones we've seen at S$99 for a 4-port Ethernet router with draft-N speeds and HSPA support.