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Thoughts on the Gl.iNet Beryl (GL-MT1300) travel router

I wanted to add a travel router to my gear as as a portable firewall, so I bought the Beryl from Gl.iNet. The marketing materials lean heavily on its ‘advanced security features’, but TLDR it doesn’t have any, unless you think VPN capability is something special. It’s just a small, portable wireless router that can accept a WIFI signal as its WAN input. So you can use it in a coffee shop and have a firewall between you and their network, but the firewall is just like any other home router firewall. You can forward ports and so on, but that’s about it, and it doesn’t provide any visibility into the traffic or what’s going on.

If you do want a travel router with advanced security features, check out my thoughts on the Firewalla Purple, which can also accept a WIFI signal as WAN input and provides excellent insights into network activity, although it is an expensive device.

The admin interface does have a reasonably useful dashboard, but beyond that it's pretty much like every other home router admin. It's not good or bad, just average. You fill in forms and press 'submit' a lot to get things done. In some areas the interface is lacking and clunky, for example if you want to manually add a 5GHz network you are presented with a 2.4GHz channel list and no way to change it. You can access OpenWrt by installing the LuCI web interface (an optional download/package) which gives you access to some more detailed configuration.

As a travel router, the Beryl (and the rest of the Gl.iNet range) has one major shortcoming that is sufficiently bad that I would say go buy something else: It does not support the dynamic frequency selection (DFS) channels on fast 5G WIFI, ie. channels 52 to 140. The problems is that, when traveling, you don’t get any say in what channels the hotel or cafe WIFI uses. If they are using a DFS channel or have set their channel selection to ‘auto’ then you may be out of luck. The router won’t see the SSID, nor will it be able to connect. And you won't know until you get there.

I discovered this problem while setting up the Beryl at home. The Beryl only supports channels 36-48 and 149-165. My Synology RT2600ac router has two 5GHz radios. I was using 5GHz-1, which covers channels 100-112 and is therefore incompatible. So I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out why the Beryl could see other people’s 5GHz access points but not mine. After much scraping around on the internet, I found out about the channel limitation/incompatibility, and discovered that my 5G-2 radio supported channels 36-64 and also had an option to disable the DFS range. So finally, I got it working, but the fix required a change on the access point, not on the Beryl.

This is not ok.

Not supporting DFS in a travel router where people will be relying on third-party access points is just poor form. This is the core advertised functionality of the device and it needs to just work. You can’t expect consumers to go scraping around the internet trying to figure out why their travel router can't see the 5GHz access point in front of them. They'll just give up and/or return it, and there are a fair few unhappy comments in the support pages that reflect this.

So I don’t recommend it. If you can live with the above shortcomings, it is not too expensive and the size/portability is nice but the functionality is probably the same as any modern router you have at home. But I would suggest going with the cheaper Opal model, I don't think you're gaining much by forking out for the more expensive Beryl.

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