What is it? A wireless hub for internet connection via wi-fi, 3G or satcomms. Red Box is an impressive new device that should work with everything, says Toby Hodges
Wherever we go now we expect to be able to get online – indeed many even depend on it. Being afloat is no exception. The proportion of skippers, crew and guests who want to be able to check emails, etc is growing daily.
There are a variety of devices on the market that create a cellular network hub (2G, 3G or even 4G now) or wi-fi hotspot on board – or both. This new Red Box from Mailasail does all that and more because it also allows for satphones to be plugged in to the ‘router’ along with electronic instruments – and without breaking the bank.
With Red Box any wireless mobile devices or computers aboard can get an internet connection via three potential sources, as well as show charting systems and instruments wirelessly. This means it also integrates with the other onboard electronics automatically, including Raymarine’s Seatalk network and any NMEA instruments.
So it even allows you potentially to view the water tank level on your phone. Crucially, though, Mailasail’s Ed Wildgoose says he put simplicity first when developing the Red Box, and that customers can start with as little complication as they like.
The Red Box makes getting online cheap and simple. It works out dynamically what options you have to get online and shows these on a start-up web page. Smartphone, tablet or laptop users select how they want to get online to ensure they are not needlessly using 3G roaming or satellite airtime if wi-fi is available. “Equally, if the kids are watching Youtube, sucking up the wi-fi, and you want to send an email at the same time, you can select to do so through 3G,” says Wildgoose.
This could help save both cost and time. An email and website compression feature optimises internet speeds, cutting airtime cost by up to 90 per cent, according to Mailasail. Also, typical marina wi-fi will see the Red Box as one person, so only the first user has to log on for everyone’s devices on board.
“The Red Box doesn’t come with anything, but should work with everything,” explains Wildgoose. So although Mailasail sells 4G cards, a ‘wi-fi Bat’ booster aerial and various satphones, other branded wi-fi or 3G boosters and any NMEA devices will also work with the Red Box.
“It’s all about integration, not replacing other devices.”
Price £449. www.mailasail.com
Other ways to get online
Another economical solution for setting up a hotspot aboard, the Wirie Pro looks a promising solution that combines a wi-fi router, a long-range wi-fi adapter and a 3G and 4G router in one waterproof box. Powered by a 12/24VDC cable, it needs no software. Like the Red Box it allows all wi-fi-enabled devices aboard to connect wirelessly through a local wi-fi connection.
Price US$599. www.thewirie.com
Many of us don’t have superfast broadband at home, yet for those who need a high-speed connection, S@ilink makes 4G mobile internet available aboard. By connecting to 4G networks it can provide 100Mb speeds up to 20nm from land. Designed to be robust for the marine environment, its antenna radiation is unaffected by pitching and rolling. You’d hope so for the price… Price €929. www.microwavevision.com
Digital Yacht iNavHub and WL510
The iNavHub is a wi-fi router/NMEA wireless server combined, designed for multiple users to log into. It also has a dedicated socket for DY’s WL510 long range wi-fi adaptor for creating a real hotspot.
Price iNavHub £360/WL510 £582. www.digitalyacht.co.uk
Yacht Router Mini
The Mini is perhaps the closest competitor in terms of features to the Red Box, but at higher end and cost. It creates a wi-fi hotspot, has a high power 2G, 3G and 4G module, a port for satcomms and it integrates with most onboard electronic networks.
Price £1,569. www.yachtrouter.com