TP-Link, the networking equipment manufacturer, has created a wireless router that doesn’t use ADSL or cable as a backbone but takes a SIM card instead. Exploiting a cellular network for internet access has many benefits from cost to availability and more. With the need to fork out at least £17 in the UK for fixed line rental, in order to have an ADSL connection, some people may ask if it’s worth it if they don’t even use their telephone any longer.
TP-Link’s MR200 is an AC750 dual-band wireless router that can be set up quickly and provide internet access anywhere with cellular coverage. Let’s take a look at what it can do.
What’s in the Box?
Inside the box, along with the router you’ll find:
- Two antennas
- A 12V 1A power supply
- A 1m Cat5 ethernet cable
- A couple SIM adapters and accompanying stickers
The MR200 is a dual-band AC750 router supporting speeds up to 300Mbps (2.4 GFHz band) + 433Mbps (5 GHz band). In terms of cellular support it can use 4G LTE connections with speeds of up to 150Mbps.
The router has three internal Wi-Fi antennas and two detachable antennas for the 4G connection.
For wired connections there are three 10/100Mbps LAN ports and one 10/100Mbps LAN/WAN port which can be used with DSL, fibre and cable connections.
The router itself has a shiny plastic casing which follows TP-Link’s typical styling. On the it has two antenna connectors, a power socket, power button, four Ethernet ports, WPS button, Wi-Fi on/off button and SIM card slot.
The front of the router has LED indicators for power, internet connectivity, 4G access, WiFi status, LAN connectivity (at least one device connected), WPS and signal strength (4 LEDs in 25% increments).
It’s pretty light and portable which makes it great for use as a quick way to gain internet access at any location.
You can also wall mount the router for a fixed position, using screw holes fitted to the base.
Getting Up and Running
The MR200 is very easy to set-up. For our testing an EE SIM card was used – not a data only SIM. It accepts a standard mini-SIM card but offers adapters for mini- and nano-SIMs too. There are stickers in the pack to hold the SIM card in place in the adapter.
Setting up the MR200 takes very little time. When you power it on with the SIM card inserted and connect using the Wi-Fi details under the router (or use a wired connection) you’ll be guided you through a handful of steps to customise your wireless settings before running a connection test.
Using the Router
TP-Link’s router management console has received a recent design refresh that brings it right up to date. The modern design is clean and fresh, with easy navigation. Like most routers, there are a considerable amount of settings available to tweak, but the layout is clear and never overwhelming. We’re big fans.
You’ll find two main tabs for Basic and Advanced settings. When you connect and log in you’re presented with a network map in the Basic settings tab. This will display the internet connection status, Wi-Fi status, the number of devices connected (physically and over WiFi) and any unread text messages.
For the casual user, the Basic settings are sufficient and host a number of useful features, which already set it apart from mobile hotspot routers. These include Internet settings, Wi-Fi settings (Wi-Fi enable, toggle SSID visibility, passwords), guest networks (both 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and some parental controls.
For the more advanced user there is an abundance of configuration options available in the Advanced tab.These include support for Dynamic DNS and IPSec VPN, sending and receiving of SMS, bandwidth control, MAC filtering and UPnP.
Updating the firmware is a fairly standard process of downloading the update from the TP-Link website, uploading the extracted firmware file to the router and rebooting.
In terms of 4G connectivity I was able to get download speeds of up to 95 Mbps and upload of 32 Mbps. Clearly this is mobile carrier and signal strength dependant but with downlink like that it’s clear that it may be better than DSL and cable connections for some.
I had a couple of hours of online gaming using the router and found absolutely no issue with delays. It was, however, great to be able to continue gaming while downloading/streaming video or clogging my bandwidth by backing up GoPro footage to cloud storage.
In the realm of mobile broadband the MR200 stands out with a very decent number of features. While it’s not designed to be carried around it could do with a battery for use without mains power. For rural areas without easy access to wired internet, a quick way to set up internet access or as a fallback connection the TP-Link MR200 is a great piece of kit. The router is currently available around £125.