Review of TP-Link M5250 portable 3G WiFi Hotspot device


Are you looking for a portable 3G mobile WiFi hotspot/router? Read my hands-on review of TP-Link M5250, which is an excellent 3G Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless router with great build quality. Read my experience with this device.

I have been using two broadband services at home due to the intermittent failure of internet services in my area. I am using Asianet cable broadband as my primary internet and BSNL WiMax broadband service as a backup. Unfortunately, there are several instances where both fail at the same time and I will be depending on mobile phone for internet. I have been looking for a good 3G Wi-Fi hotspot device to share my 3G connection with other family members and the TP Link M5250 came to my hand right on time.

What does this device do?


TP-Link's M5250 is a portable wireless hotspot device with a built-in modem, using which you can share your 3G internet.

The basic purpose of this device is to share 3G internet by setting up a private Wi-Fi internet hotspot using a 3G SIM card that can be inserted into this device. Using M5250, you can share your 3G internet with up to 10 people simultaneously.

The portable wireless devices are known in many names like Portable Wi-Fi, Pocket Wireless Router, Mobile Wi-Fi, 3G dongle, Mi-Fi device etc.

Most of the latest smartphones come with internet tethering option. However, tethering will consume a lot of battery life and you may not want your phone to die on long travels. With TP-Link M5250, you can take out the SIM card from the phone and insert into this device to share internet without consuming the battery of your phone. If you want to use your phone and router at the same time, you can buy another 3G SIM dedicated for internet use.

Read our portable Wi-Fi hotspot router buying guide.

How to setup and configure TP-Link M5250


Setting up and configuring M5250 is easy and doesn't require any technical expertise. It took only a few minutes for me to unbox, install and start using this device.

This is what I did to get started with Wi-Fi internet on M5250:

- Opened the box, took out the M5250 device and removed the back cover.

- Took out the microSIM card from my Nexus 4 phone, which has 3G internet activated.

- Placed the microSIM into a SIM tray/adapter that came with the device and inserted it into the M5250 (I had to open the back cover to find the SIM tray).

- Inserted the included rechargeable battery into the device and closed the back cover, after noting down the SSID and the default password printed in the back under the back panel cover.

- Connected the device to the laptop using the provided USB cable so that it can charge the battery.

- Press the power button on M5250 for few seconds until the LEDs start blinking.

- Went to the laptop and connected to the wireless network named "TP-LINK_****".

Voila! I am now connected to the internet with no hassles!

Setting up and getting started with TP-Link M5250 was that easy. Ease of setting up the Wi-Fi and internet is one of the most important aspects you need to consider while selecting a pocket wireless router. TP-Link M5250 lived up to and beyond my expectations and scored really high on ease of use.

Features, design and specifications


Let us take a detailed look into the features, design and specifications of TP-Link M5250.

What is in the box?


The box includes the following items:

1. The M5250 device
2. User manual
3. microUSB cable to connect the device to your laptop
4. Internal, rechargeable Li-ion batter
5. Two SIM adapter trays

TP-Link M5250 Box contents

Design


M5250 is built with high quality plastic with semi-rugged body that gives the feeling of a solid device in your hand. Portion of the body has got a matte finish while the LED indicators and buttons are placed on a glossy surface. The right blend of matte and glossy surfaces combined with the curved shape gives an excellent aesthetic appeal to the device. The device is light weight and fits well into even a small pocket, making this pocket wireless router a real travel companion, even though this is not the smallest pocket routers I have seen.

M5250 hands-on review

How to open the back panel

The back panel blends so well with the body of the device and that makes it a bit difficult to identify how to remove the back panel cover. To open the back cover to insert the battery or SIM, follow the steps below:

1. Look at the top edge of the device where the microUSB port is located.

2. Look for the narrow split next to the microUSB port where the back cover joins the body of the device.

3. Hold the device on your left hand. Place your left thumb on top of the microUSB port and hold tightly.

4. Use the nail of your right thumb on the small split between the body and back cover and try to pull the back cover apart from the body of the device, while still holding the body with your left hand by placing the left thumb on the microUSB port.

Features


microSD card slot - The device comes with a microSD card slot, expandable up to 32GB. You can insert microSD card to this slot and use it as a USB storage for your computer. However, you can access this only when the device is connected to your computer using a microUSB cable. I'm not sure if many people would need this feature since there are several better storage options available.

SIM card - You can use the SIM card from your phone. This device takes a full sized SIM and not a mini or micro SIM. However, if you want to use a small sized SIM, you can use one of the two SIM adapters included in the package. I used the microSIM from my phone using the SIM adapter and it worked flawlessly.

Web admin - This device has a built-in web server that allows you to access the settings and configuration using any web browser. Using the web admin screen, you can change the SSID, password and various other Wi-Fi settings. The web interface is very simple and easy to manage if you know the basics of Wi-Fi settings. If you have no clue how to configure Wi-Fi settings, there is no need to worry and your device and Wireless connectivity will work just fine without any configuration on the admin screen.

You can go to http://192.168.0.1 on your browser to access the admin screen. The default login and password is "admin", which you can change through the settings.

M5250 web admin screen

How to change SSID and Wi-Fi password in M5250?

To change the SSID, login to the admin screen, click on "Advanced" icon, click on "Wireless" and then select "Basic Settings". You will see the SSID on the right side which you can edit and change. You can change the Wi-Fi password from the same screen.

SMS feature - If you take out the SIM from your phone and use with your wireless router, you will miss your phone calls but not the SMS messages, thanks to the SMS feature in M5250. To use SMS features through M5250, login to your web admin screen, click on the SMS tab and send/receive SMS messages from there.

SMS feature in TP-LINK M5250

Performance of M5250


Speed: The speed of internet depends on several factors including your service provider, type of service you are using, your location and so on. I compared the speed of internet by using the Wi-FI on M5250 and USB tethering on Nexus 4 phone, by using the same SIM card on both the devices and M5250 was the winner.

3G Speed on M5250 Wi-Fi router in my location
Speed test results - M5250

Wireless range: I placed the M5250 in the front porch of my home and then tried to access Wi-Fi from the neighborhood. I was able to connect to the Wi-Fi from the next two neighbors' yard. This was an ideal test condition were there were no hindrances like trees or walls. In practical scenario, there will be walls and other structures to block the wireless waves but you will be able to comfortably share Wi-Fi to all the rooms in a large house.

What can be improved


If you take out the SIM from your phone and insert into the M5250, you will miss the phone calls. You will not get any notifications of missed calls in the web admin. I wish there were some ways to get a call notification on the desktop while the SIM is in use on the router.

The newer models of this device have an indicator which shows the signal strength, which is available in this model.

Also, it would have been nice if an A/c power plug was included. With the provided microUSB cable, you can connect the device to your laptop for charging the battery but to connect to an external power supply, you will need to get another power connector that allows you to plug-in the USB cable.

There are no other drawbacks I found that are worth mentioning here.

Overall review of TP Link M5250


I have reviewed many other portable wireless routers like LEO USB WIFI and Huawei E355. After using the TP-Link for a few days, I can confidently state that this one definitely stands out with its excellent build quality, wide range, ease of use and other features.

Watch our hands-on video review of M5250:



Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tripod.com. Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including IndiaStudyChannel.com, Techulator.com, dotnetspider.com and many more.

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Comments

Guest Author: Abinash Mohany13 Oct 2014

I think usb tethering does the same job through smartphone. What is the difference on using this?

Author: Tony John13 Oct 2014 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 6

Abinash,

You are right, USB tethering or Blutooth tethering does pretty much the same, but there are few advantages on using a dedicated device for Wi-Fi sharing:

1. Tethering consumes a lot of battery on your phone. When travelling, saving battery would be very important for most people. If your phone gives an hour or so on tethering, this device can give you 5 to 10 hours battery life.

2. You may not want your phone to be lying on the desk for sharing internet with others. Keep your phone safe in the pocket and leave the M5250 on the table or even locked in a shelf, still sharing Wi-Fi.

3. You may not want the Wi-Fi to be interrupted while you are on a call.

4. USB tethering is limited to the length of the cable. Blutooth sharing too has limitations in terms of the range. On the other hand, the M5250 gives very good range, good enough to share the internet even with your neighbour!

If your goal is to use mobile internet for yourself, I think tethering would be an option. But to share internet with few people, such dedicated devices work out well.

Guest Author: Manu26 Nov 2014

Hey! I am Manu Shukla from http://techgadget360.com, it is good to see a in-depth review of this device. Can you please tell the price of TP-Link M5250 portable 3G WiFi Hotspot device?

Guest Author: TAJUDDIN CHARANIA01 Dec 2014

I agree it is a great model for creating WiFi Hotspot.

Guest Author: Abdul Muqeet20 Mar 2015

I want to know the wifi range of this device.

Guest Author: Mahmood20 May 2015

Can you tell me the price of TP-LINK M5250?

Guest Author: masoomeh11 Oct 2015

I am a software developer. I want to send SMS in my C# application with this modem. How can I do this? Do you have any SDK of this modem?

Guest Author: joyce08 Jan 2016

Hi, how would you know if the battery is already fully charged?



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