Hello, I discovered GL-iNet through the LTT review and I was blown away buy their products. openWRT and VPN built in support, so cool, and just what I needed because I had a trip planned in Japan. My usual setup was an Xiaomi A2 hotspotting with a powerbank attached, local SIM inserted and oVPN that connects to our enterprise network in Europe. E750 could be a step up, sparing us the use of the powerbank and giving us a less “ghetto” solution for working while traveling.
I then ordered a Flint for the “VPN server” part and an E750 eg25-g for the Japan part.
With Flint, it was love at first sight: it took seconds to set up everything, and it just worked. It is a really awesome product with a really affordable price.
The E750… I had high hopes, but after the 2 weeks in japan I am finding it somewhat disappointing. It’s not a bad product, but it misses a couple of things that could make it a killer product.
THE UNDOUBTELY GOOD
- openWRT is such a good thing to have.
its capabilities are endless and the possibility to do everything is a godsend for the power user. ghetto Phone 0 - E750 1
8-10 hours. That’s what you get. is it a lot? is it too little? it depends by the situation. It was too little for us - we exited from the hotel at worst at 8, usually at 7, and came back after dinner. This meant that we needed to use a powerbank, a disappointing thing when you have a dedicated, powerbank sized, device. Nothing changes between the ghetto phone and the E750, it’s a draw: ghetto Phone 1 - E750 2
GL-inet states that E750 should not be used with powerbanks and different chargers from the original one. And I discovered the reason: this brick heats up like mad. And then, after the 70°C more or less, it shuts off. To be fair, GL-iNet warns you, so I can’t be mad at the product for doing what they told me that it would have done. But the ghetto phone doesn’t overheat, so it wins this round: ghetto phone 2 - E750 2
- SIM compatibility
Japan seems to really hate giving network connection to the tourists. No SIM without residence other than prepaid SIM cards that can’t call or send SMS, limited speed and lower priority than the local SIMs when connecting in a dense area. But the E750 did not help: we tried 4 SIM cards, 2 italian ones (Iliad IT, TIM IT) and 2 Japan ones (Mineo JP and a smaller MVNO carrier I can’t remember that also used Docomo network. We bought it in Yodobashi Camera). Of 4 SIM cards, the 2 italian ones can’t connect, Mineo JP worked fine, the other MVNO took around 30 minutes to connect when we booted up the E750. Needless to say, the SIMs all worked fine while connecting through Android. All the APNs needed to be inserted manually in the E750 - in Android, just one SIM of all 4 needed a manual APN insertion. So… ghetto phone 3 - E750 2.
- GL-iNet App
this is really confusing: GL-iNet has an app, but you cannot do everything through it. It has little sense: why creating a limited app when your customer are power users? I avoid putting points for this because it did not matter, but it really confused me.
- speed and traffic limitation
This was a major issue; out of the box, the E750 can’t limit traffic, because it does not keep the statistics. Maybe there’s a way through openWRT customization, but I was on the go and I didn’t want to spend half a day in a Starbucks solving this problem. But the ghetto phone can do it easily. so it’s 4-2 for the ghetto phone
- public hotspots and captive portals
Again, maybe there’s a way, maybe not, but out of the box we could not connect to public hotspots that used captive portals. We tried connecting, then going to the page where there should be the captive portal from a client, but it did not work. This was a major setback, because the idea of having oVPN is also to keep the connection with our work servers secure even through public hotspots (we use telnet - I know it’s not secure, you should tell to the IT guys of our company, not to me). The A2 wins this round too. 5-2
- the WiFi bug
Maybe it was a bug, maybe it was PEBKAC. But sometimes the 5g wifi disappeared. So we had to keep both the 5g and 2.4g activated because we could not risk to being cut out from the control panel (it happened once and we needed to go back to the hotel and use the ethernet adapter). But whatever, maybe it was our fault, maybe it was the overheating, so no points here.
So the experience was really frustrating. We ended up using the connection without oVPN because of some issue with the japanese SIM cards that were too unreliable and so we needed all the bandwidth we could have, and the management of the E750 became another chore we needed to do. I just woke up, better powering up the E750 because it needs half an hour for connecting. Oh it’s 3pm, time to put the powerbank on the E750. It’s 5pm, time to move the E750 in my pocket for dissipating some heat through my body. Better check the battery, internet acts weird, maybe the E750 lost the connection and needs another half hour for connecting again? etc etc
The product clearly shows that it could be THE mobile router to take during holidays in foreign countries. But right now, the old Xiaomi A2 still wins.
WHAT I WOULD DO TO FIX THE E750:
It doesn’t change anything if the product is bulkier. It goes in the backpack or in the pocket, you don’t keep it in your hands, and going to 10k or 12k with a life of 13-15hrs could make it more usable without changing anything else, even though making it more efficient could still be a good idea because it really heats up.
seriously, you made the difficult part GL-iNet, just add the rest of the options that you can find in the web portal.
the speed / size limitator should be there and should be as fine tuned as possible. time schedule, customizable per client size limits. I’m a power user, I need to set stuff.
wireless power limitation
sometimes I need a 10m radius, but the usual case scenario is of a 1m radius. make me lower the power of the antenna. Less heat, more life for the device.
captive portal support.
I have no idea why they did not already solved this. I know you can’t have a browser on openWRT, but I find it difficult to believe that there can’t be a way through the app to authenticate the device.
SIM card support
if you want to be THE best 4g mobile router, you need to be the best in compatibility, period. Issues can happen, but at least storing a file with the APNs of the major companies… It’s just a web scraping job, it takes a couple of weeks of an intern’s work and then it’s pretty much done.
Also, eSIM. why not?
So, as of right now, for the next travels I’m switching back to the A2. Maybe I’ll change to a 5g phone if I can find one used at a price. It’s frustrating, but it clearly is the best solution right now.
PS: I’m not hating on GL-iNet - in fact, I’m going to order another Flint. Those are just wonderful devices, no string attached.