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Is there any limitation of your existing wireless network coverage? I believe some of us do have such problem especially living in a big house; double storey, bungalow and etc. Airlive N.Plug is an interesting device which can help to solve this problem instantly without configuring another AP/router and it is a cheaper solution too. Besides that Airlive N.Plug has other awesome functions too where we will find out in this review.
The manufacturer of AirLive products, OvisLink Corp. was founded in 1993 in Taiwan by a group of industrial experts who set out to provide the best combination of quality, service, technology and value in the industry. Today, OvisLink Corp. is an international corporation, total networking solution provider with over 200 products and with hundreds of distributors around the world.
AirLive is a brand providing Innovation, Solutions, Reliability and Technology. AirLive's R&D department continuously focuses its efforts on developing the right products including AirLive WISP and Outdoor solutions, AirLive SMB and Security solutions and AirLive Small Office and Home products.
Package & Content
As usual Airlive products are packed with white packaging box which looks promising and a small see-thru window on Airlive N.Plug is even much attractiveness. Airlive N.Plug's Usages and features are described briefly at the back of the packaging with some interesting diagrams.
Same with other networking devices, Airlive N.Plug comes with standard accessories like antenna, adapter, network cable, driver CD, quick setup guide and regulatory declaration. A full manual is available in the CD (softcopy) or it can be downloaded from Airlive website.
A Closer Look on AirLive N. Plug
Wireless network coverage extender is not a new device in the market but it is our first time reviewing such device hence we will cover slightly more than usual. In short Airlive N.Plug acts as the bridge to extend the original wireless coverage from the original router or access point (repeater mode); can be done easily with the WPS linking or manual configuration.
Airlive N.Plug is also can be worked as a 3G sharing device (router mode) where a 3G dongle will be plugged into Airlive N.Plug's USB port. By enabling this router mode with 3G sharing, other devices can be connected to the internet easily where no additional device with hotspot sharing is required to enable such service.
Airlive N.Plug comes with compact form factor - 32 x 50 x 67.85 mm (H x W x D) and it can be plugged into power socket directly. The Airlive N.Plug's enclosure is made with plastic housing in white theme. All the indicators, WPS button, WAN/LAN1, LAN2, power button, antenna connector are spread across the enclosure neatly.
On the front panel of Airlive N.Plug, there are total five indicators for power, internet, WLAN, WAN/LAN1 and LAN2. All these indicators are pretty useful for quick inspection and troubleshooting. At the bottom of these indicators, there is a RESET/WPS button for configuration and reset; reset function can only be activated when Airlive N.Plug is being powered on.
Airlive N.Plug's top panel has selection mode (AP, Router & Repeater) and a USB connector. The USB port is used for 3G dongle for enabling the 3G sharing/broadband while the selection mode is used to decide what kind of function that Airlive N.Plug is going to work; repeater is the default setting and web configuration is required for AP or router modes.
At the bottom of the Airlive N.Plug, there are ON/OFF switch, antenna jack (R-SMA) and two LAN ports. In router mode, ADSL has be connected to the Airlive N.Plug's WAN/LAN1 port via Ethernet cable but this is not required for 3G sharing. LAN2 is used to connect with other systems for internet sharing purpose like AP.
Airlive N.Plug comes with a white 3dBi Detachable Dipole Antenna with RP-SMA connector. Airlive N.Plug is compliant to IEEE 802.11 B/G/N standard hence it is able to reach 150Mbps speed with this antenna. Additional information of Airlive N.Plug is its power consumption; 2W maximum or less than 1W during standby mode.
Airlive N.Plug is powered by Realtek RTL8196C + RTL8188CE which is 802.11n 150Mbps AP/Router. This device has active-ECO power saving mode and it also supports Realtek's Green Ethernet. Besides that power consumption of this device is also one of the lowest in the industry where it can be either operated on USB bus or external power.
Installation, Testing & Performance
Installation for networking device could be difficult due to its complicated working mechanism and Airlive N.Plug could be even harder since it is a rare device. However this is not really impossible to do it without help from expert as all the step by step installation guide is provided by Airlive in the user's manual; let us go through some important notes together.
Before we discuss further about Airlive N.Plug, here are some of the basic information of the LED indicator, hardware mode selector, USB and other Ethernet ports (WAN/LAN1 and LAN2). This information is a very useful overview especially the LED indicators which tell us whether the setup has been done correctly or not.
Airlive N.Plug can be accessible via any system's internet browser (web configuration) as long as they are under a same network segment and its default IP address for Airlive N.Plug is http://192.168.1.253 with username (admin) and password (airlive). Wizard setup is a step by step setup guide to provide appropriate configuration. SSID together with the password of the router/AP are required prior any setup and wired LAN connection is also required for router mode configuration.
In router mode, the device is supposed to be connected to internet via ADSL/Cable Modem or with 3G/3.5G USB dongle then follow by some configurations. User name and password that are provided by the ISP are required in this router mode. Besides that LAN cable has to be connected from the router to the Airlive N.Plug's WAN/LAN1 Ethernet port and the PC's IP address must be under same network segment (192.168.1.xxx) in order to do the web configuration.
When acting as an Access Point (AP), Airlive N.Plug basically connects all the stations (PC/notebook with wireless network adapter) to the wireless network. Hardware setup for AP mode is same with router mode which requires LAN cable setup but AP mode setup is even easier than router mode as only Wi-Fi SSID and encryption key are required then follow by some simple configuration; reboot is required before the device is ready to function as an AP.
There are three sub selections under repeater mode; repeater (extend the wireless coverage), repeating router (ISP subscriber sharing) and client (wireless station). Repeating router mode behaves just the same as client mode for wireless function with routing function. Client mode is just like a wireless device where it can be connected to any system and provide wireless function. Quick setup is available for repeater mode since it is the default mode of Airlive N.Plug. The linking between the Airlive N.Plug and the ADSL router can be done with the WPS push button. Manual configuration can be done via web configuration for those routers that do not come with WPS one-click function.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8300 @ 2.83GHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3/Gigabyte G31M-ES2L
Heatsink: Noctua NH-D14
Memory: Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR2 8500
Hard Drive: 250GB 7200RPM 8MB Seagate
Graphic Card: Galaxy GeForce GTX260+
PCIe: Aten IC320U USB 3.0
Casing: In Win Maelstorm
PSU: OCZ ZX 850W
Optical Drive: HLDS DVD RW +/-
Controller: Aerocool Touch 2000
Monitor: Dell 22" Wide Screen LCD
Speaker: Edifier R501
Mouse: SteelSeries Ikari Laser
Mouse Pad: SteelSeries QcK+
HeadSet: SteelSeries 3H
Router: TRENDnet TEW-639GR
Operating System: Window XP Pro SP2/Win 7 HP
Ambient Temperature: 27 Degree Celsius
There are plenty things can be discussed about the Airlive N.Plug's configuration and setup but we will stop here, more details can be found in Airlive's website where there is a free downloadable copy of user's manual. We have covered most of the feature testings of Airlive N.Plug such as repeater, client, router via ADSL modem and so on. Our experience with Airlive N.Plug is pretty up and down as we have met some troubles during the initial test but it was solved after some study and many trial & error. Since repeater is the default manufacturing setup of Airlive N.Plug so we have tested it first with our router that comes with WPS. This repeating feature works pretty well and it can be confirmed with the LED indicators; Internet LED off while WLAN LED flashing. Besides that we also manually configured it with other repeater options - client. Our ASDL modem is 802.11n modem where it has pretty strong wireless coverage area and with Airlive N.Plug, the coverage distance is even further. This could be even improved by maximizing the distance between the ADSL modem and the Airlive N.Plug. However this function is highly recommended for commercial usage or if there is problem with the wireless coverage where the signal could be disturbed by the building or other signal interference.
We also tested Airlive N.Plug on a media player with an Ethernet port where it just turns the media player to be a Wi-Fi device and can connect to our wireless network easily; sharing the multimedia files are even greater now. However it is not logical to use such expensive device to function like a 10USD wireless dongle; temporary usage is ideal in this case. Next we have also tested Airlive N.Plug in router mode which is another existing feature and we have connected Airlive N.Plug to our ADSL modem and we managed to create another wireless network after some configurations. Hopefully we will get our 3G broadband soon then we will test Airlive N.Plug in router mode again via 3G dongle as this is a very existing feature and it will be widely used in the coming future. Our experience toward Airlive N.Plug's web configuration is pretty satisfied because everything are designed pretty simple and straightforward and the wizard provides a great help for newbie like us and greater flexibility is available for manual configuration. Overall we are impressed and satisfied with Airlive N.Plug as it is able to deliver its purposes and features without compromising.
This is the first time we have tested such interesting and impressive networking device; single device with multiple of solutions; Airlive N.Plug. There are too many great stories can be shared with Airlive N.Plug and extend the wireless network coverage is one of the most valuable features where no additional or stronger wireless device is required to achieve the same result. Besides that Airlive N.Plug is also can be worked as router, access point or even client when it is required; just reconfigure and convert the Airlive N.Plug to be something else. Airlive N.Plug comes with reasonable and affordable price even though it is capable to do multiple of roles. If you are struggling to get a device that fulfill your need which are exactly being offered by Airlive N.Plug then you may give it a try but prepare to pay attention to the user's manual and get ready with some trial and error; once the setup is done then you will be rewarded.
+ A great & interesting device
+ Impressive features; router, repeating & AP
+ Sub featrues of repeating; repeater, repeating router & client
+ WPS quick connect function
+ WiFi coverage can be extended easily
+ Reasonable & affordable price
- Some study is required for installation & setup
Thanks to Airlive for providing this sample for us to review.
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