Cheap travel routers

In the past I’ve traveled for work, conferences and personal a lot. The first category has declined a little from the “travel all the time” I’ve done in the past since I’ve joined the release engineering team. When travelling regularly I have a collection of things I pack that make life easier and a little more pleasant.

On of these is a travel router, often hotels have wired but no wireless, or flaky wireless or you need to pay for more than one device (or even one device). I don’t have a high spec need but it must have the following:

  • Dual ethernet WAN/LAN (everyone knows I have lots of ARM devices!)
  • Wireless, doesn’t need to be massivly fast (hotel internet is the bottle neck!) but it does need to be stable
  • Standard power cables, either figure 8 plug with inbuilt switching PSU or micro USB
  • Small
  • Open source and hackable. Probably supportable with OpenWRT
  • Quick and easy to reconfigure

For a number of years the device I used was an Apple Airport Express as it was one of the few that met most of the above criteria. But then I stopped using a iPod touch which meant the last option was dead due to the lack of openness.

Time for a new one! I’ve been looking for a while, I almost went for the popular TP-Link WR703N router as it’s well supported in OpenWRT but it meant that I lost the extra wired network port.

Then I came across the NEXX WT3020. It comes in four official options all of which have 802.11n, dual 100Mb ethernet, and runs from a micro USB connector! All but the bottom end model have a USB port for 3G or storage. The top two models just seem to have SW options but no other HW. Perfect, it even has OpenWRT support! So I went with the WT3020H, all for around $20.

I ordered one, while I was awaiting for it to arrive the OpenWRT project released Chaos Calmer 15.05-rc1 which has a prebuilt image and literally in less than five minutes I’d reflashed it to OpenWRT via the standard web flash interface! I’ve not had time to test performance, throughput and features such as USB but it seems to work pretty well for a $20 router and all the core features I need are working and it’s in a form factor that is TINY and I don’t even need to take an extra power supply. I’d call that a WIN!