When you look at the vast majority of routers on the market today, they're typically about the size of a hardcover book. Some of them might have more bells and whistles than the others, but they serve the same fundamental purpose. What's interesting about the Diamond Multimedia WR300NR is not only how compact it is, but also how it's more than a simple wireless router. Indeed, it's a multifunctional device that can serve four different functions.
Features and Highlights
The WR300NR was announced not that long ago, but we were able to get our hands on one for review. What's key here is that it is a 4-in-1 device:
- Wireless Router: It can work as a standalone wireless router when you connect it to a modem, just like any other router.
- Wireless Repeater: It can serve as a range extender, connecting to a Wi-Fi signal and then repeating it to extend the range of the network. This is great for giving better wireless coverage in your backyard or garage, for example.
- Standalone Wireless Access Point: This is similar to the wireless router, except it can connect to a wired router to create its own separate Wi-Fi network. This is useful in hotel rooms.
- Wireless Bridge: What if you want to go the other way around? The WR300NR can connect to a Wi-Fi network and then provide you with a wired Ethernet connection via its LAN port. This is useful for wired devices like certain smart TVs, set top boxes and gaming consoles.
This Thing Is Small!
While you could certainly utilize something like this as a wireless repeater at home, I can totally see how this could be a good choice as a travel router. Since it is smaller, the WR300NR can easily be packed away in your bag with your portable USB battery and your travel SIM card, along with all the other gadgets and gizmos you take on the road.
Remember that so many hotels now charge you for Internet access on a per-device basis. If use the WR300NR with the wired connection in your room, you can effectively share that one connection (and pay one fee) and get on the web on your tablet, smartphone, notebook, 3DS or whatever else.
Setup and Configuration
The WR300NR comes with a simple fold-out sheet as the quick start guide, but the idea is pretty simple. You connect your laptop to the router via the LAN port and dial into its IP address in a web browser: 192.168.10.253. For whatever reason, this didn't work for me at first. It seemed to be connected, but I couldn't get to the admin login page.
I disconnected everything, let the router sit for a few seconds, and then plugged it back into the wall outlet. I tried hitting the reset button too, just in case. Then, I was able to get the administrative dashboard on my laptop shown here using the default username and password. I was initially dismayed that setup had to be through a wired connection, but it seems that the router also makes a default wireless network (SSID: Wireless-N) that you can use from wireless devices too.
The easiest way to get started is to use the wizard. the WR300NR defaults to "router" mode, but it is through the wizard here that you can switch to the other modes. The copy here could use some work -- it has some less than perfect English -- but it generally gets the point across. Following through the "router" mode wizard, I was able to rename the SSID and setup the WPA2 security. After connecting the router to my modem, everything was up and running as expected.
What I found a little curious was that AP mode said I could connect to an existing wireless network and then create my own unique access point, but that didn't really appear to be the case, because I couldn't select where it should connect. For most intents and purposes, sticking with "router" mode is a safer and easier bet.
For the "repeater" mode, the wizard is similarly easy to follow. You simply choose the SSID that you want to repeat, enter the appropriate password as needed, and save and reboot. One problem that I encountered with this is that I effectively lost access to the admin dashboard when the router was in repeater mode; it was only after I reset it (and let it default back to "router" mode) that I was able to regain access. This is because it is repeating another network and, thus, effectively loses its own identity.
The Real World Experience
Aside from some initial hiccups, the Diamond Multimedia WR300NR largely performed as promised. The basic router function is exactly what you need when you go traveling, particularly if your Ultrabook doesn't have an Ethernet port to use your hotel's wired Internet, let alone trying to connect your tablet or smartphone. It would be in your own best interest to pre-configure the router before heading out, though.
As far as the range extender functionality, the WR300NR performed at an acceptable level here too. I cannot "see" my home wireless network when I'm in the garage, but I can see about 2-3 bars of signal from the back of my house. I placed the WR300NR there (in repeater mode) and went back in my garage. And yes, I was able to get on the web. The speeds seemed a little slower, but at least I was online.
MEGATechie Radical Router or MEGATechie Abysmal Access Point?
Given its small size and barebones appearance, I didn't have particularly big expectations for the WR300NR. But, just like the Mini Rockers Mobile Bluetooth speakers from Diamond, this little router is just one of those nifty little gadgets that can be so useful. It's actually pretty robust as a router, with QoS support and more, and it helps that it can serve as a repeater or as a bridge too. I'm hoping that the hiccups I encountered were isolated incidents and not reflective of overall reliability concerns.
Considering that it sells for about $50 online, the Diamond Multimedia WR300NR wireless range extender and router is a worthy investment for anyone looking to fill in dead spots at home or to stay connected on the road.