HeadToHead: 3Com Office Connect vs. NETGEAR Wireless 54Mbps Travel Routers

Basic Features

As you can see from the product shot at the head of this review, 3Com's 3CRTRV10075 Office Connect Wireless 54Mbps 11g Travel Router and NETGEAR's WGR101 54Mbps Wireless Travel Router arpe separated-at-birth twins. Their silver-gray plastic cases differ mainly in the placement of ventilation holes and, of course, product branding and neither have slots for wall-mounting screws.

Both products have a single auto MDI / MDI-X 10/100 Ethernet port, power connector and dual-function Reset / Reset-to-factory defaults switch and Power, Wireless Link / Activity and Ethernet Link / Activity LEDs. Both also include a four-position mode switch, but that's where the differences between the products start.

In both products, Positions 1, 2 and 3 function similarly, setting the mode to Access Point, Router and Setup / Configuration modes respectively. But while the 3Com uses Position 4 to morph itself into an AP client, the NETGEAR leaves this position unused.

NOTE!NOTE: The label on the bottom of the WGR101 describes position 4 as "Help (connect PC to ethernet port)" while its user guide supplied on CD says that it's "unused at this time".

Neither product supports WDS repeating or bridging and you'll see later that their routing features are very basic, although the 3Com does better in that department. Both come with cases that can hold the router, smallish power-wart and short (~2 foot) CAT5 cable they include, plus other odds and ends. But neither product includes the cable that the ASUS Pocket APs throw in, which allow you to power it from a nearby USB connector. And although the power warts aren't as small as the ones that come with the ASUS APs, their slender form-factor with side-exiting power cable will nonetheless still take only one position on most power strips.

The difference in documentation approach between the two products bears noting. The NETGEAR router includes a bright yellow single-sheet printed Start Here guide and Read This First document describing how to use the product with registration-based hotel wireless systems. The guide directs you to a link to a NETGEAR support site page that it says has the latest documentation, but neglects to mention the combination HTML / PDF User Guide included on the supplied Resource CD. Kudos also go to NETGEAR for including a summary of mode switch settings, SSID and WEP mode defaults, login username and password and how to use the Reset button on its bottom-side label.

The 3Com router includes a printed 14-page Quick Start Guide, but doesn't include a CD or have a User Guide downloadable from its website. Fortunately, the Quick Start Guide covers pretty much all you need to know for setting up and using the product. The 3Com's bottom label is less informative than the NETGEAR's, including only a description of the four mode switch settings.