I don't know if this is the world's smallest wi-fi router or not, but it certainly must be ONE of the smallest. I obtained a Kanex (pronounced "connects") mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point today because I wanted to solve a specific problem. I wanted a wi-fi router that is as tiny as possible because I only want to use it when traveling. It must fit easily into my suitcase or backpack. Most wi-fi routers are much too large, but this one should be perfect. In my initial testing, it also seems to work quite well.
Here's the problem I am trying to solve:
I travel frequently and always take at least one laptop computer and a wi-fi-equipped cell phone with me. I often also take an iPad and even occasionally a second laptop, depending upon the purpose of the trip. I have stayed at more than 100 different hotels in 20 or more countries in the past few years. I frequently hit two different problems, and I think both can be solved by this wireless wi-fi router.
Most hotels these days offer in-room Internet access. Some hotels offer it as free wi-fi, but far too many like to charge for the service. Prices in the U.S. typically run $8 to $15 per night for Internet access. Prices in other countries are often higher.
Okay, I may grumble a bit, but I can generally live with those prices. However, the problem arises when trying to use two or more computers or mobile devices on the same Internet connection. If I were sharing the room with someone else and that person also brought along computer(s), the problem would be even worse.
I have seen this problem on wi-fi wireless connections, but it seems more common in hotels that provide a wired ethernet cable in the room for Internet connectivity. In theory, a wired connection should be faster and more reliable than a wi-fi wireless connection. HOWEVER, the same wired connections almost always look at the internal MAC address of each computer being used. (Every computer has a unique MAC address that cannot be changed. No two computers ever have the same address.) When I plug in one computer, pay for its connection, use it for a while, and then later unplug it and plug in a second computer, I am usually asked to pay again for the second computer. In other words, I am expected to pay double. Three computers? Pay triple.
The second problem is that wired Internet connections are useless on a smartphone or tablet computer that doesn't have a wired Internet connector! How do you connect a smartphone or iPad or an Android tablet to an ethernet cable? The answer is simple: you cannot. Yet I need to use the tablet and smartphone with wi-fi wireless Internet connectivity.
The solution is simple: bring your own wi-fi router and connect it to the ethernet cable in the hotel room. Then I can "rebroadcast" the wired Internet connection via wireless wi-fi by using my own wi-fi router. With this solution I can use most any modern computer device I bring along. I could even use it on an Xbox or an Internet radio or a wi-fi VoIP telephone or most anything else that has a wi-fi connection. I normally don't travel with those devices, but I COULD.
Best of all, when a wi-fi router is connected to a wired Internet connection, the wired network only sees one MAC address, that of the router. Other computers can be “daisy chained” from the router but the hotel's network only sees the MAC address of the one device (the router) that is directly plugged into the wired network.
Once I add my own wi-fi router and turn it on, I can connect my laptop(s), the smartphone, the iPad, and most any other device that uses wi-fi for Internet connectivity. I can even use them simultaneously, subject only to the maximum speed of the wireless connection and the speed of the hotel's Internet connection. In my experience, speed hasn't been much of an issue.
Most any wi-fi router will work. The computer stores all sell dozens of different models, and I believe they all should work perfectly. My only concern: how big is this thing, and can I stuff it into my already-overstuffed luggage without paying exorbitant additional baggage fees to the airlines? I usually travel with only a single carry-on bag; therefore, most of the wi-fi routers at the local computer store started looking mighty big.
In contrast, the Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point is tiny, barely larger than my thumb. Look at the photos to see what I mean. You can click on each photo to see a larger image. I can plug the Kanex router into an ethernet cable in the hotel room or most anywhere else and then connect via wi-fi from any or all of my computers.
Again, most hotels use wireless wi-fi. That's not a problem for most people. My problem is dealing with the smaller number of hotels that use wired ethernet connections. I stay in enough of those per year to find it frustrating and expensive. A $28 device can save me a lot of money as well as saving frustration over the course of a year or two. It will pay for itself within the first two nights.
In fact, I am staying at a hotel at a genealogy conference in Burbank, California, for five nights next week. I have stayed there before and, if memory serves me correctly, that hotel supplies wired ethernet connections in every room but no wi-fi service in the room. (There is wi-fi service in the lobby, however.) The hotel also charges $12 a night or so for in-room Internet service. If you want to use a second wired device later, that will cost you an extra $12 per night. Then there is the problem of the mobile devices that don't have a connector for wired connectivity. The Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point should allow me to use my laptop as well as the wireless mobile devices without a problem while in my room. I will have to pay $12 a night; however, I won't complain too loudly as long as I can use my mobile devices.
The Kanex router is rather simple to use: plug in an ethernet cable, apply power, and start using it. There are only two connectors on this tiny device: an ethernet socket and a USB connector. The USB connector is used only to supply power to the router; it has no other use. You can plug that cable into any computer or into any charger that charges USB devices. That will keep the router powered up and running as long as power is applied, even though the router does not use the USB connector for anything else. If plugged into a laptop computer for power, you don't even need to carry a separate power supply or charger just for the router. That saves even more space in the luggage!
Configuration is simple: the first time you use the tiny router, go to http://192.168.1.225 and fill in the menu items that appear. The single menu page is rather straight-forward. The Kanex router supports all the basic functions of a wi-fi router but none of the fancy "extras" found in other, more expensive routers. It does support WPA2 encryption of the wireless connection to keep your data free from prying eyes. However, it does not offer port forwarding, firewall packet inspection, dynamic DNS, spam filtering, or anything else beyond the basics. The router's SSID can only be changed slightly; the word "Kanex" seems to be embedded permanently in the SSID. That doesn't bother me at all, but it may make a difference to other people with different requirements.
In theory, the Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point will support up to 16 devices connected simultaneously. However, that many devices sharing one wi-fi connection simultaneously will probably result in slow throughput, regardless of the brand of the router being used. The Kanex router probably will work fine for 4 or 5 simultaneous connections, and that strikes me as sufficient for a portable router. I ran three devices from it simultaneously most of this evening, and it worked well. Speed was not an issue.
I did find the Kanex router to have a limited range. It worked well for me up to about 30 feet or so from the laptop or iPhone. When I moved the iPhone further away, signal strength dropped off quickly. This is more than enough range to fill a hotel room, but you won't be supplying wi-fi to the entire neighborhood. Then again, this router was not designed to be a neighborhood wi-fi access point. If you need wider coverage, you need to buy a more expensive router.
All in all, the Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point looks like a great device. It should save me money and will take up almost no room in my carry-on luggage. It is only slightly larger than a tube of lipstick and only weighs 2.9 ounces. I can live with that.
I purchased my Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point from Amazon at http://goo.gl/KaKVn for $27.83. I suspect it is available elsewhere as well. Keep in mind that Amazon prices often jump up or down a bit, even from day to day. The price was $27.83 when I purchased mine, but might be a bit higher or lower when you look at Amazon.
UPDATE: A newsletter reader today pointed out that the price of the Kanex mySpot Pocket-Size Access Point from Amazon at http://goo.gl/KaKVn has now dropped to $22.50.