You’re probably thinking that any product with a name like Mobile Companion had better be pretty robust, broadly functional, and easy to use. In the case of D-Link’s DIR-505, you’d be right. Mobile Wi-Fi router/access points have been around for some time, but they’ve always been (IMHO, anyway) too big, too expensive, or too limited in terms of what they could do. The DIR-505 changes all of that — it’s tiny (literally pocket-sized with the AC adapter built in, so the whole device is barely bigger than a typical smartphone AC adapter), and includes so much convenience and functionality that you’ll literally want to take it everywhere.
The DIR-505 actually has three modes of operation. It can function as a typical Wi-Fi router, connecting wireless users to a wired network. It can function as an access point, relying on external router functionality. It can also serve as a wireless repeater or Hot Spot, extending the range of another access point or wireless router, and in Hot Spot mode providing NAT for privacy. A local USB drive can be plugged in providing sharable storage to users, and the USB port can also be used to charge smartphones and similar small devices.
So, if your goal is to isolate your laptop or other wireless device from, say, a hotel’s network (wired or wireless), or implement a conference-room network with file sharing for a small number of users, or to extend a weak Wi-Fi signal while traveling, the DIR-505 fills the bill in each of these cases quite nicely.
The specific operational mode desired, as described above, is selected via a slide switch on the side of the unit, and users can be up and running with literally no configuration required. I’d suggest, however, changing the SSID and turning on WPA2 security (or using the included push-button-based Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, feature) before putting this device into use. Extensive configuration options are available via a browser connecting to the DIR-505’s built-in http server, or an iOS app (see below). The configuration options are very similar to those provisioned on other D-Link wireless router products, and quite complete if not robust — tweak to your heart’s content. You’ll wonder how you got along without the DIR-505 after only a few minutes of use.
The downsides? It’s single-stream (150Mbps) 802.11n only (backwards-compatible, of course, to 802.11g), and operates only in the 2.4 GHz band. The Ethernet port (for connecting, if desired, to an external router or switch) is also limited to 10/100 speeds only. The detailed manual is informative, but has to be downloaded, as only a quick-start guide is included in the package.
If you are an Apple user look for the QR code in the manual to download the QRS Mobile app for iOS devices that implements a quick setup for the DIR-505. There’s also a SharePort app for quick access to media. Overall, though, there’s nothing important missing here — this is the travel router I’ve been seeking for years.
A newer version, the DIR-505L with foldable power plugs, is also available. At a surprisingly reasonable price of around US$45, one of these should be on your shopping list.