Dodo Buddy Box 3G wireless router
Dodo Buddy Box review: A 3G wireless router that also lets you make phone calls
- 3G failover feature, built-in phone port for analog phones, well laid out interface, set up was simple
- Interface of our test unit was slow and buggy, 3G connection was slow and unreliable in our test location
The Dodo Buddy Box is a 3G wireless router that can also be used for phone calls. It's easy to set up and use and it will primarily suit people who have no desire to acquire a landline, and business users who want an easy way to distribute an Internet connection when they are on the road. The Dodo 3G connection we used was inconsistent in during our tests, so do your homework to make sure that the areas you want to use it in are covered by the Dodo network.
Price$ 179.00 (AUD)
The Buddy Box is a simple wireless router designed to work with the Dodo's mobile broadband plans. The Buddy Box doesn't have a built-in modem, but it does have a USB port on the front so that you can plug one of Dodo's 3G dongles for shared mobile broadband access.
The Dodo Buddy Box is pitched to users who don't want a phone line and who would rather make use of a mobile broadband connection, but at its heart it's a wireless router that can also be used to distribute a wired Internet connection. If you use it with an ADSL2+ modem or cable modem and that connection drops out, then the Buddy Box will revert to the 3G modem. It's a useful feature for home offices and small businesses that require a constant Internet connection, and you can use it with mobile broadband modems from other vendors.
The major selling point of the Buddy Box is that it can be used without a landline and will not only distribute a 3G Internet connection but will also let you make phone calls. The Buddy Box comes with a SIM card that's already plugged in to it, and once you attach a regular phone into its phone socket you can easily make and receive calls. This SIM card for phone calls is separate to the SIM card that you will use when you plug in your 3G mobile broadband dongle.
With these features, the Buddy Box is an interesting proposition for anyone who wants a mobile office solution. You can easily set up a network to distribute a 3G connection when you are working out of a hotel, for example, which means you won't need to be tethered to a desk with an Ethernet cable.
However, be aware that the speeds you can achieve with Dodo's 3G mobile broadband service will vary greatly depending on your location. At our test location in North Sydney, the Internet browsing experience was terribly slow and Web pages that load in a few seconds using ADSL2+ sometimes took well over a minute using the Dodo dongle. Be sure to check the coverage in your area before you commit yourself to a Dodo plan. Dodo uses the Optus network, which can't hold a candle to Telstra's Next G network, so it's worth having a look at the coverage maps.
Setting up the Buddy Box isn't difficult, and as long as your SIM cards are activated, then everything should work straight away once you plug in the power supply. The only inconvenience is that it does take a few minutes for the 3G service to connect to the network — and if the signal is especially weak in your area, it might not connect at all. The phone service should also work straight away and its quality for voice calls is decent.
You can use the Buddy Box's wireless network straight away, too; you are supplied with a network name and password to use. Its wireless range is typical of an 802.11 draft-n wireless router, which means you'll be able to get a useable Internet signal 20-25m away from the unit. But this will depend on your environment. The Buddy Box has a 100Mbps (megabits per second) 4-port Ethernet switch, to which you can attach desktop computers (or laptops, if you wish). In our tests, transferring files from an attached server to a wireless notebook 10m away returned an average speed of 5MBps (megabytes per second) which isn't a blazing speed compared to other wireless routers we've reviewed, such as the ASUS RT-N56U, but it's good enough for basic file transfers and even video streaming.
The advanced features of the Buddy Box can be accessed using a Web browser, and the Web interface is very clean and simple. You can manage the wireless network, port settings, security filters, QoS, and even check the call logs. It was a very slow and sometimes buggy interface in our tests, though Dodo reps informed us that we had a pre-production sample.
The Buddy Box is the type of product that should suit anyone who wants to be able to distribute Internet access in their home or office, and also make calls using a desk phone, without going through the hassle of setting up a landline. The added benefit is that you can pack up the Buddy Box and use it at remote locations. It would be useful to have while working out of hotels or even when manning kiosks at events where Wi-Fi isn't good enough.
If you're interested in the Buddy Box, you can check out the range of plans that are available on Dodo's Web site, which consist of standard plans plus data add-on packages, and also the cost of the Buddy Box, which varies based on the term of the contract you select. On no contract, with a $29.90 phone plan (with $50 worth of calls) and a $40 data plan (with up to 10GB of data), the initial cost of the Buddy Box will be $249, with an ongoing cost of $70 per month.
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