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Alfa R36

The Alfa R36 router is no beauty but solid for uncommon conditions. It connects to many UMTS GSM networks and Wifis focusing on signal quality. The interface and feature list are outdated.

Dimensions

The box weights 100g. Dimensions: 10cm x 7,5cm x 2,5cm

I connected a usual high gain Wifi antenna with 15cm length.

Internet connection types

GSM modems with up to 3G UMTS speed are allowed. The vendor provides a list of modems. LTE is not possible. Surf sticks with built in router are not possible, just plain modems. This simplifies the setup, you do not need a web page for setting up GMS. But it also prevents SMS messages.

Alfa has their own USB wifi adapters with large transmitting power. This would be perfect in remote locations. I don’t know if this works. I bought two of the recommended adapters and both made no better connections than my phone.

ADSL and Ethernet are also possible but I did not test it.

switching Internet connection

To switch from one Wifi to another or to GSM is some work. This might be fine when staying in the marina, but if you move to new harbours you first have to switch to GSM and after arriving to the new Wifi. I pulled one USB adapter out and the other in every time. Then I had to change many settings in the web interface. Every morning when leaving and every evening when arriving.

List of Wifi access points available. You have to choose encryption and the exact access point, not just the Wifi’s name.

 

List of already know Wifis for a quick connect

Internet connector hardware

For GSM the R36 needs an USB modem. This is a bit unusual but using a modem leads to just one internal network and one web interface making things simple. There is no support of SMS text message or LTE.

For Wifi the R36 needs an external USB adapter. I can be mounted somewhere else, modern tranceivers are possible, so this has some advantages.

SMS

As explained, this is not possible. I had to put the sim card in my phone to read messages from the provider. Very often contract things are sent via SMS so this is a real problem.

Power

There is a 12V plug. As everything in this device, this works even if the supply is not perfect.

Battery

No battery is included. You would need a 12V power bank.

Local network

The device provides a 2,5GHz Wifi with some encryption options. There were never issues. You could change the antenna if you want. There are also two Ethernet sockets.

Operating system

Alpha has it’s own proprietary firmware lacking so much features. There are no updates.

Configuration interface

For configuration there is a web interface that looks a bit ugly but works even on small screens. Switching from GSM to Wifi means changing the “WAN Network Settings” to “USB Wireless Card” and then looking for the correct Wifi in different other tables. One a Wifi is added, it is possible to use it again without entering the password.

DHCP

It is possible to change the IP address range for DHCP. It is not possible to set a fixed IP address for a server. The “Expires in” for IP address binding sounds a bit unreliable as it expires as soon as the router looses power.

This shows what the router is built for: A fixed setup. The device is simply not useful for traveling.

   

NAT, NAS

There is no NAS server.

Traffic monitoring

Nope. There are a lot of settings for filtering by IP address, time or even domain name. But no monitoring except a rough sum of traffic.

Reliability

Besides forgetting IP addresses, the box works in a lot conditions. You can save configurations and missconfigurations are usually correctable. The missing updates emphasize the low overall quality.

Local domain name

The DNS does not even lack a network domain but also ignores the device’s hostnames. There is no way to reach a server in the network except by IP address. This leads to some usability and security issues.

GPIO

Nope.

Webcam

Nope.

Overall rating

The R36 wants to build a local network using different networks. But the designers forgot to allow fast switching between the networks. What remains is a simple Wifi router available in much better quality by a lot other brands.

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