From our tech in the field, funjon, comes this review of the Cradlepoint CTR-500 portable broadband router. Tired of paying $10/hour at a Starbucks, funjon decides to blaze his own trail. Gaming on the go or no go at all? Read on.
In early July I bought a Cradlepoint CTR-500 portable broadband router. Its quite the useful little device – can set up and share mobile broadband anywhere, including the car. Great toy, if you’ve got a USB data card or ExpressCard/34 data card. Which I do – the Novatel Wireless Merlin XU870. Which as served me wonderfully over the past year.
Except it’s not supported by the CTR-500.
It worked from the start, sort of. The router saw it. With the appropriate AT commands, it would connect. But it crashed and rebooted, a lot. I think the longest runtime was 2 minutes before it went boom.
All is not lost! It appears that with the new (August 08) release of firmware, 1.3.1, the CTR-500 likes my Novatel Wireless Merlin XU870 ExpressCard. Obviously, it continues to not be officially supported, but it will connect. It connected before, too, but this time it doesn’t crash. Or at least, hasn’t yet. In fact, I’m posting this through the CTR-500/XU870 combo right now.
Of course, I went and bought an Option GT Max card used on eBay for $120, so I’d have -something- that worked with it right now. Which, I’ll probably keep for the time being, it never hurts to have a backup (or an officially supported device). With the Merlin, I don’t get the nifty signal-strength feature, but it does seem to be working.
Now I just need to find something to put the router in while it’s in my backpack so it doesn’t get scratched to hell. Oh, and I really need to fix the cigarette lighters in my car, so the router will work on them.
Official support would be even cooler, but making it not crash on this unsupported modem is MUCH APPRECIATED. I’m glad I didn’t spend $350 on a data card (and $200 on a router) in vain.
Now to get a couple of mag-mount antennae put on the car for super mega signal. The router -and- the Merlin card both have external antenna connectors. Hooray for a 80mph WiFi hotspot!
All in all, I’d probably give it 4 weiners out of 5. There have been some teething problems (occasionally config options dont get saved to flash), but it has additional features I’m not using. You can also plug in a USB broadband card, or you can use a phone as a modem, and there’s a wired ethernet port that can be either a WAN or LAN port, configurable in software.
The Cradlepoint CTR-500 retails for around USD $179.99.