|At a Glance|
|Product||D-Link DIR-506L SharePort Go Mobile Companion [website]|
|Summary||Battery-powered Ralink-based single stream portable 802.11n device with router, AP, repeater and hot spot modes.|
|Pros||• Runs for up to 4 hours on a rechargeable Li-ion battery
• Multiple modes designed to accommodate most travelers
• Extensive user guide available online
• USB port can be used to charge cell phones from the battery
|Cons||• Lacks external mode change switch
• Android/iOS SharePort apps not particularly useful
• No Ethernet bridge mode
• Power supply not included
• 1 amp power requirement exceeds 500ma capacity on USB 2.0 ports
If you’re a road warrior and need a portable router, you now have an new choice. Recently, we reviewed the D-Link DIR-505, a small, portable compact travel router in a wall-wart form factor. We concluded that it was a good router, but faced stiff competition from less-expensive brands.
In mid-September, D-Link announced its latest compact router, the DIR-506L SharePort Go. The “Go” undoubtedly is a reference to the ability to run the device for up to four hours from a built-in Li-ion NP-120 1700 MaAh 6.29 Wh battery. And, in a pinch, you can use the battery to recharge your USB-powered devices.
The NP-120 is a fairly standard battery used by some Fuji and Canon cameras, and is easily replaceable by removing a slide-off battery door on the back of the router. While the battery is the main feature that functionally differentiates the DIR-506L from its wall-wart sibling, it significantly impacts the cost.
The DIR-506L carries a list price of $129.99 as compared to a $99.99 list price on the DIR-505. However, there’s a promotional offer on the D-Link site the drops the price of the DIR-505 to $69.99. On Amazon, you can find the DIR-505 for $64.99 and the DIR-506L for $94.99.
The SharePort Go has a significantly different form factor than the DIR-505. It measures 4.05” x 0.88” x 3.14” and features a swing-out bottom foot that provides additional stability when vertically oriented. Unlike the DIR-505, the DIR-506L has four indicator lights. Like the DIR-505, there’s a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button, a PIN reset hole and a standard USB 2.0 port that can be used to share files from a USB storage device, or to charge USB devices such as your smart phone.
Figure 1 shows an overview of the Front/Top. The left side of the DIR-506L has an Ethernet LAN/WAN port, a power switch and a mini USB port for charging the battery or providing continuous power. This port is only for power—the sole full-sized USB port on the topside is where you attach storage for sharing.
D-Link notes that the battery must be installed in order for the device to work. A standard USB to mini USB cable comes with the product and is used to charge and power the device. No power supply is included.
Figure 1: Hardware overview
For a premium-priced product, I had expected D-Link to include a USB supply. While you can plug the SharePort Go into a USB port on your computer or possibly use your cell phone charger, USB 2.0 ports typically only supply 500mA of power. The DIR-506L has a power requirement of 1 Amp – double the capacity of a USB port.
In my testing, I found that the device would run from a standard 500mA USB charger. But, as D-Link noted, charging will take longer if not plugged into a power supply capable of 1A.
The 506L features the same four operating modes as the 505, i.e. Router, AP, Repeater, and Wi-Fi hotspot. But to change any of the modes on the DIR-506L, you have to log into the web-based management UI; there is no physical mode change switch like the 505 has.
Setup and configuration of the DIR-506L is quite different than the DIR-505. The DIR-505 ships with a unique SSID and is pre-configured with a WPA password. An easy-to-use first run wizard helps you set the device mode, configure your internet connection, Wi-Fi Security, router password and time zone. The DIR-506L, however, is more like a traditional router. It arrives with an unsecured wireless network with a common SSID of dlink_DIR-506L. By default, the device is configured as a router and there is no password for admin.
To configure the device, you merely attach a Wi-Fi enabled device to dlink_DIR-506L and point your browser to http://192.168.0.1 or http://dlinkrouter.local. Once you log in, you arrive at the landing page shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Landing page for the DIR-506L
If the device hasn’t already connected automatically to the internet, you can click on the internet setup wizard or configure the internet connection manually. The internet setup wizard guides you through setting an admin password and time zone as well as helping you to configure your internet connection. This process is documented in detail starting on page 20 of the 126 page user guide available from the download tab on the DIR-506L product page.
Here you can setup your internet connection or choose one of the menu entries in the left panel to configure wireless and network settings.Alternatively, if you want to configure the DIR-506L with a portable Android or iOS device, DLink has provided a “QRS” (quick router setup) app. You can scan the QR code found on the included printed Quick Start Guide (and shown in Figure 4) or search for QRS Mobile from the App store or Google Play.
This utility guides you through setting up your internet connection, admin password and wireless security. Since this utility sets up everything, it’s probably a better way to setup the device if you’re going to use it in the router mode. Going through the web UI, you’d have to run two separate wizards to accomplish the same thing.
Figure 4: QR Codes for the DIR-506L QRS (quick router setup) apps.
Since the DIR-506L lacks a physical mode switch, I’ll save you a little time by showing how to switch modes. In the web UI, navigate to Setup, Wireless Settings, Manual Wireless Connection Setup. Here you’ll find the wireless mode settings shown in Figure 5. Similarly, to change to Wi-Fi Hotspot mode (where your internet connection is a wireless connection to another router), navigate to Internet Connection, Manual Internet Configuration and choose Wi-Fi Hotspot from the drop down box. (Figure 6)