Saturday, January 2, 2016

Travel Routers Part 5 - early pro/con

After doing some testing I have made some early observations.

ZyXEL - pro
  • small and light
  • several modes
  • WPS button which I have NEVER used
  • no battery - nothing to recharge or discharge
  • supports DDNS
  • firmware is current suggesting it's stable (2013)
  • some logging
ZyXEL - con
  • no battery therefore impossible to be mobile
  • many tasks require reboot and it's not clear from the menu
  • no users per se
  • no VPN
  • rebooting can require multiple reboots
The biggest hindrance to the ZyXEL seems to be speedtest.net and QoS. I tried a speedtest with QoS disabled and the performance varied widely. I suppose there could have been some spectrum competition with my neighbors but the results were consistent and so I think it's the device. When I enabled QoS the device took a dump. The GUI indicates that the QoS bandwidth is measured in kpbs, however, never really go there.

FileHub - pro
  • speedtest was normal and nearly full speed.
  • supported hidden SSID (great for hotels)
  • GUI auto detected and displayed a popup when I inserted a USD drive
  • into my second hour and the battery indicator is still on 3. It must be a curved scale so that 4 is 100% and 3 is not 75% (25% per indicator) so that 76% is not considered full. Correction, the documentation says 4 LEDs is 75-100%. I guess the factory change was just over 75%.
  • confirms in the DOC that Chromecast is supported
FileHub - con
  • there is an option to change the hostname. I suppose that the hostname must be an indicator to the upstream network device but it's not crystal clear. I'm not sure I want to identify myself either.
  • Changing the SSID caused the GUI to appear to hang which only meant that the SSID changed and I had to update the connection; not so obvious but not unusual
  • no file download feature but I can upload. Samba support would normally be a pro, however, since I can already upload but not download samba is just a curiosity. 
  • SECURITY - the guest user was ON by default. 
  • SECURITY - the samba service was ON by default.
  • disabling samba displayed a curious warning message, however, disabling the guest user did not.
  • no VPN
  • only the admin and guest user; which is not a strong 'con' but it is not immediately clear what a user can do
  • removing a mounted USB flash drive meant navigating to the "information" menu. This was completely counter intuitive.
  • not certain what happened when I tried my USB HDD. Since the drive was a MacOS filesystem it should not have been readable, however, an error would have been nice.
  • upgrading the firmware caused some features to be reversed...(check those security settings)
  • no logging at all. How am I to know if I'm under attack while traveling. The Router is the first point of attack and if penetrated could leak everything.
One thing I learned from the Sandisk Connect and Sandisk Media Drive is that one can conserve a lot of battery if you download the media instead of playing over the air. Granted the FileHub has a big battery but then things get complicated when the battery is empty and you try to use your laptop's battery to prime the device just to get a few files from it. On the otherhand the media is portable itself so if you are out of battery you can move the media to your laptop. But then why use it in first place.

** I should try one of those media sticks that has a USB and micro-USB. But it's not part of this review.

UPDATE: in a small benchmark I copied a file from my laptop to a USB HDD in 1:05 and to a USB flash drive in 7:36. I was able to download the same file from the FileHub USB flash drive in just under 3:30.

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