Portal Router Review: The Future of WiFi
Ryan Bloom / Dec 16th, 2016 No Comments
The router market has long been dominated by brands such as Netgear and D-Link, but a wave of startups and outside companies has been emerging recently to challenge the top-rated wireless routers. This new trend is built on sustaining great wireless speeds while providing sleek, modern designs and easy-to-install networks.
Following in the wake of the Starry Station and Google OnHub is Ignition Design Labs’ Portal router, a minimalist device that packs a big punch. Portal is the latest evidence that a great router doesn’t have to look like it fell from a space station.
Clean on the Outside
Portal’s biggest draw is its restrained, contemporary design. There are no antennae protruding from the device to make it look like it’s trying to communicate with a deep space satellite, and it isn’t a massive hunk of material.
Featuring a clean white with understated edges and a simple logo, the Portal router is small enough to hide away on bookshelves or furniture but stylish enough to leave out on desks in plain sight. The device’s nine antennae are neatly tucked into the router’s shell to make them invisible, but they do exist, so it is best to place the Portal in an area where it can effectively communicate with your wireless devices.
All connections are on the back of the Portal, where it has a spot for power, five gigabit Ethernet ports (one to communicate with your modem) and two USB ports. The packaging includes a matching white power cord, but it is only four feet in length. The short cord can make it difficult to position the router, but it helps reduce cord clutter and can be replaced by any power cord if necessary.
The only design flaw is the lack of USB 3.0 ports. The Portal router’s two USB slots are equipped with USB 2.0. At this point, most of Portal’s competitors are USB 3.0 ready. It’s not a deal breaker, but routers at a $200 price point should be future proof.
Setting up the router is extremely easy thanks to the free Portal app. The app guides users through the setup process and allows them to customize their WiFi settings. No computer is required, although advanced users can go through the installation process the old-fashioned way if they desire. The app also helps Portal owners with maintenance and any issues that occur (which I did not experience during testing).
Of course, the elegant design and ease of use is meaningless if the router sacrifices performance. That is not an issue with the Portal router. Boasting an AC2400 wireless speed rating, the Portal router delivers high speeds by allowing a smooth flow of traffic.
Tests consistently showed high WiFi speeds, even with multiple devices connected to the internet at the same time. I experienced little to no lag during long multiplayer gaming sessions and no buffering while streaming shows and movies. However, speed test results showed slower speeds the farther my devices were placed from the router.
A Mac set up in the same room as the router ran at top speeds while MacBooks and iPhones 20-30 feet away produced slower results. While this did not seem to impact internet connectivity much, devices placed some distance away from the Portal ran 5-15 mbsp slower than the D-Link AC3200 router it was replacing. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if it is worth sacrificing a bit of speed for better looks.
The Portal router delivers solid performance and features a sleek design and small footprint. This is extremely appealing in a market dominated by ugly pieces of plastic that take up large amounts of space.
If most of your internet use occurs in one room or a small area, you will have no regrets giving up your laptop-sized router for the Portal. Other users may have to sacrifice some speed to take advantage of the beautifully simple design of the Portal, and this may be easier for some to do than others. It may not be the fastest router I’ve ever used, but it is the prettiest.
The Portal wireless router was reviewed using a unit provided by the company for review purposes.
tags: portal , Portal Router , Portal Router Review , Portal Wireless Router , review , router