CradlePoint PHS300 Portable Hotspot Review

March 18th, 2008

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As time goes by, more and more personal devices are able to connect to the internet. Devices like your iPod, laptops, phones, etc. With the exception of phones, the connection of choice seems to be WiFi.

Now it’s cool when you’re at home where you have WiFi but when you’re out you won’t always have internet access. You also have to deal with the dilemma of which of your devices you want to pay to get on the net when you’re out. You could connect your phone to your laptop via Bluetooth but what about your iPod? If you pay for WiFi at a coffee shop what happens when you leave?

Here’s where the Cradlepoint PHS300 comes in. You connect your USB cellular modem (or certain phones) to it and then it allows you to share the connection with all of your WiFi enabled devices. It’s a brilliant idea.

It’s portable so you have to throw a battery into the mix. There’s a removable (sort of) Li Ion battery that lasts for around 90 mins if you’re using a USB modem. So you have to charge the PHS300 when you’re not using it. If you’re close to a electrical outlet then you can connect the router to the wall and won’t have to worry about battery life.

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The reason I say it’s sort of removable is because it’s virtually impossible to remove without using tools. It’s just such a tight fit. To make matters worse, the battery that Cradlepoint includes doesn’t have a ‘lip’ for you to use to pry out the battery. It seems a Kyocera Model TXBAT10073 extended battery is compatible and fits plus it has a lip though in practice the lip doesn’t help. To remove the Cradlepoint battery, I had to gouge the plastic with my car keys to remove it. The Kyocera battery is a little easier. I haven’t changed batteries since.

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There’s no network jack – which is fine by me since it makes the unit smaller but some may miss this.

There isn’t much to compare the PHS300 too but I thought it was acceptable as far as size goes. It’s not tiny, it’s not large. It’s similar in size to a portable notebook hard drive which means it is not an awkward shape (very important if it’s portable).

You charge the PHS300 with the included AC adapter. It’s slightly bigger than the average phone AC adapter. Since it’s a portable router it would be nice if you could also charge it using your computer’s USB port. There is also an optional cigarette lighter adapter for your car.

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There are 3 status LED’s; power, phone and WiFi. If the phone LED is red there’s a problem with the connection to your phone. Try unplugging your modem or phone and plugging it back in.

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I tested the PHS300 with a Novatel U720 EVDO modem. It works well but I often found that I could not get online if I left the modem plugged in when I powered the router on. I found I could get online sometimes if I’ve used the modem recently (like in the past 30 minutes) otherwise I’d have to wait till the router is on to plug the modem in. It’s not a big deal but can get annoying.

The router admin panel is pretty much exactly the same as a Dlink router’s. Option for option, page for page. Before I describe it I found it to be missing 2 important pieces of information; battery remaining and a cumulative data counter. These 2 things are pretty ‘portable EVDO router’ specific so I’m pretty disappointed they’re not included.

Otherwise you get lots of router-y options. You can find a complete map of the PHS300′s menu options after the review.

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Speed wise the PHS300 is pretty transparent (it doesn’t slow your connection down). Unfortunately my U720 modem broke half way through the review so I don’t have any numbers. The PHS300 has Wipipe technology that’s supposed to speed your connection up. I suspect it’s just packet prioritization software so that if you’re downloading a number of things and try to stream something, the stream packets will get priority.

Besides wireless security (WPA/hiding the SSD/MAC address filtering) you can require users to type in a password before they can access the net.

Battery life is claimed to be 60 to 90 minutes. I didn’t get a chance to test this (since my modem broke). I will update this review when I get it replaced.

There’s a chat function that people can use to talk with other people connected to the router.

One use I didn’t really discuss is if you’re somewhere where you have very weak network signal. You can put the PHS300 where there is a strong network signal (like in another room by the window) and get service elsewhere.

While not perfect, the PHS300 is a really useful device. Probably the worst things about it are (in order): Sometimes you have to plug your modem in AFTER you’ve turned the PHS300 on. The battery life is too short plus the battery is not easy to remove (would make the battery is too short point less important). There is no battery meter and cumulative data counter info in the router control panel.

Howard Chui

Menus

  1. Basic
    1. WAN
      1. Cellular Modem PPP Settings
      2. DNS and Advanced Settings
    2. LAN
      1. Lan Settings
      2. RIP
      3. IGMP
      4. DNS Relay
    3. DHCP
      1. DHCP server enable
      2. DHCP settins
      3. number of dynamic DHCP clients
      4. add DHCP reservations
    4. Wireless
      1. Basic wireless settings (network name, visible/invisible, 802.11b,g,b/g, auto channel select, rando channel select, super G Mode, channel, transmission rate)
      2. Wireless security mode (WEP/WPA)
      3. WPA (WPA or WPA2 or both)
  2. Advanced
    1. virtual server (aka port forwarding)
    2. special applications
      1. application level gateway configuration (IPSec VPN, RTSP, FTP, SIP, Wake-on-lan)
      2. Add special applications rule
    3. gaming
    4. traffic shaping
    5. routing
    6. access control
    7. web filter
    8. mac address filter
    9. firewall
    10. inbound filter
    11. advanced wireless
    12. schedules
    13. modem settings
  3. Tools
    1. Admin
      1. Admin password
      2. Internet access password
      3. Administration
        1. gateway name
        2. enable remote managment
        3. remote admin port
        4. remote admin inbound filter
        5. admin idle timeout
      4. UPnp
      5. Save and restore configuration
    2. Time
      1. Time configuration (time zone, DST)
      2. Automatic time configuration (NTP server)
      3. Set time and date manually (set manually, copy computer’s time settings)
    3. Syslog
      1. enable (enable logging, specify server to send logs to)
    4. Email
      1. enable email notifications
      2. email settings (from, to, SMTP server address, enable authentication)
      3. email log when full or on schedule
    5. System
      1. system commands (reboot device, restore to factory settings)
    6. Firmware
      1. firmware information
      2. firmware upgrade
      3. firmware upgrade notifications options
    7. Dynamic DNS
      1. enable
      2. dynamic DNS (changeip.com, DNSomatic.com, DynDNS.org, easyDNS.com, EuroDynDNS.org, no-ip.com, ods.org, OpenDNS.org, ovh.com, regfish.com, tzo.com)
  4. Status
    1. Device Info
      1. General (time/firmware version)
      2. WAN (connection type, connection up time, ip address, subnet mask, default gateway, primary and secondary DNS server)
    2. Wireless
      1. Number of wireless clients
    3. Routing
      1. Routing table
    4. Logs
    5. Statistics
      1. WAN statistics
      2. Wireless Statistics
    6. Active Sessions
    7. Modem Info

Entry Filed under: Latest Accessories,Phones

19 Comments Add your own

    Schuchwun  |  March 19th, 2008 at 2:49 am

    This is kinda lame if you think about it…usually there are A LOT of open access points especially in the TO core. Now you have waay too many devices to carry around; cell phone, usb EVDO card, router, etc. Also how is SIP a useful feature when you have a cell phone in your pocket? So your going to set this contraption up and then connect your laptop and use a softphone to place a VOIP call using a cellular internet connection? I think not. Oh and do you really want to share your cellular internet connection with the coffee shop your in? I wouldn’t…

    For $40 i can get a router thats just a small has 4 Ethernet ports and the same features as this product (other then connecting to cellular internet) not to mention it can be modded to run DD-wrt or OpenWRT in a few minutes to make it even MORE powerful best part no screwdriver required.

    Thanks for the review Howard! Neat idea just not practical (for me anyways).

    Howard  |  March 20th, 2008 at 3:20 am

    I actually tend to use mine when I’m shopping with my wife. Mall’s don’t generally have a wifi access point that you can you can use from store to store so the portable router is really useful in this situation.

    Deren  |  March 20th, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Sorry im not really understanding. Does this turn your phones internet access into wifi?

    Richard L  |  March 25th, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    This is pretty slick. I know of a lot of motorhome users that will probably pick this up.

    T Randall  |  March 25th, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Howard,

    I am one of those MH users that also has a Verizon USB 720 and use it evertime I travel. I was planning on getting a Kyocera Router so I could locate the modem in the most advantages place? This has nearly the same functioanlity and is smaller. Very interesting? It my well make it into my “gaget bag”.

    Thanks for the report!

    T Randall

    Marc Faux  |  March 29th, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Great review Howard!

    Cradlepoint has a new one coming out that looks to be the same size and pretty much the same features. No battery but it will accept Express or USB Modems, and it also has an RJ45 that can function as a WAN or LAN.

    Has some very cool features like auto fail-over etc.

    Specs are at wirelessnwifi.com

    Marc

    Marc Faux  |  March 29th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Oops, the new one is the CTR500

    HowardChui.com: Batteries&hellip  |  March 31st, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    [...] go out when my wife noticed a funny smell. It turns out I put one of the batteries in my homemade PHS300 battery holder backwards. My batteries exploded, my man purse has a nice hole in it and now [...]

    Howard  |  March 31st, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    that’s great, I’m definitely getting a CTR500 when they’re available.

    TechnoCat  |  April 9th, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Ironically I want the exact opposite: I want something that will create an instant hotspot out of a live CAT5 connection or a USB connection to a PC with internet. Portable, but not requiring much configuration.

    Marc  |  April 10th, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    You want the CTR-350, it is the simplest of the Cradlepoints.

    It has an RJ45 port that will auto-detect incoming WAN for your Cat5 connection when you power it up, or if you power it up without a connection, it wil configure as a LAN.

    The USB port supports most ATT, Sprint, Verizon, and works with a lot of Alltel, Bell Canada etc as well.

    It is also the least spendy of the bunch, ~$135 at wirelessnwifi.com

    Marc

    MDillenbeck  |  June 26th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    @Schuchwun

    The whole point to the PHS300 is to use it with a cellular data connection! Your comparison is like saying “Why would I want to buy a Yacht? I can get a Toyota Corolla for so much cheaper!”

    Thus, it may be lame for your purposes – but this is not true for everyone. What would you think of someone with a mobile broadband USB device who bought a router that didn’t work with it? That would be lame!
    ———————————————————————–
    In General:

    Personally, I was sold on the PHS300 because it was the only mobile broadband router I could find that had a battery powered option. I often find myself in a aituation where I need to get online for a little while but have no outlets available.

    Why don’t I just plug the U727 directly into my laptop?

    * Sometimes I get confilcts between my Sprint Connection Manager and my VMWare network adapters – by utilizing a standard wi-fi connection, these vanish.

    * It is easier to set up my VPN clients with a standard wi-fi adapter than with the dial-up connection.

    * It frees up a USB port on my laptops (not that big of a deal, but some USB hubs are just as big as the PHS300).

    * My USB device won’t be drawing power from my laptop – which is a minor enhancement to the very short battery life I get.

    * As an added bonus, I can share my connection with others when needed rather than having to swap a device or laptop between users.

    Some things to note: it has a signal/no signal light but not a strength indicator, the documentation states that the battery light will start blinking red as it runs down (and turns solid red when almost out of charge), and like any other router you can lock it down – meaning you can block the average joe at the coffee shop from using your service!

    If you don’t need a LAN connection or can do without it, but DO need to use a router when no outlets are available, I highly recommend the PHS300. From other review I’ve read, users have seen improved download speeds but decreased upload speeds. It is small, light, and highly portable – being only slightly larger and heavier than a pack of playing cards. However, it was never meant to be a replacement to a home router. It was meant for the “off road” warrior to use!

    Stephen Foskett  |  August 22nd, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Howard,

    I’ve got a PHS300 and U720 just like you and have been having the same irritating bug where it looks like its working but actually isn’t. The only way I can fix it is to plug the U720 into my laptop and update the data profile. Then it seems to work, but just like you when I restart the PHS300 with the modem plugged in, it seems to kill the U720 until I do this again. Weird!

    Did you find any solution for this problem?

    Stephen

    Tyrone Green  |  October 21st, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I got mine from http://3gstore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=35

    They are awesome when it comes to tech support. Now I can connect my motorola Razor and be a walking hotspot.

    NuShrike  |  December 30th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I have found I can get similiar functionality using WMWiFiRouter on Kaiser/FUZE. Just turn on the software, and have all WiFi enabled devices adhoc connect to my Kaiser or FUZE.

    Since the Kaiser (or FUZE) is tri-band HSDPA-enabled, I can then share whatever available data pipe it has. This means traveling in the Japan, or just using the unlimited AT&T data in the USA.

    I only have to worry about powering it since it probably lasts about 2-3 hours on batts alone, or much longer on USB-charging.

    gaston bowling  |  March 25th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I have a Pantech it will not recieve a syg at home or at work all the
    time. will the PHS-300 cure the problem

    Richard G.  |  August 2nd, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    If you want to get access to the internet where there are no power outlets, the PHS300 is the only Cradlepoint device that will allow you to do this. Even their flagship CTR500 device doesn’t have a battery for real portability.

    I can pop the PHS300 into my bag while in the mall, barbershop, or anywhere where there isn’t free wifi and still have my portable devices have access to the net.

    I only have USB dongles so the CTR500 doesn’t have anything more than the PHS300 plus it has no battery.

    David Krauskopf  |  December 3rd, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Your website is ace! I love it!! Do you use Twitter? fance a link trade with Free Windows 7 Themes?

    Billy Kidd  |  November 13th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    There seems to be some sort of incompatibility with the KYOCERA TXBAT10073 battery. When charging, the battery indicator flashes red+green which indicates that there is no battery installed. I have tried this with 4 KYOCERAs. I don’t know if the batteries are actually charging or not, or if it’s just an error signal. I have charged the KYOCERAs in an external charger and inserted them and they work fine. Was wondering if anyone else has had an experience with these batteries. I have two version 2 PHS300s and they both do the same thing.

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