In Review: Pepwave MAX BR1 by Peplink (Mobile Router)

pepwave-max-br1-peplink-mobile-router-review

The (late) 2017 MK2 model of the MAX BR1.

Peplink is a large and well respected company in the mobile networking space - primarily focused on high end applications covering everything from providing cellular connectivity to fleets of vehicles to enabling whole-building network installations for hotels and offices.

While Peplink's Pepwave routers are not specifically designed with individual mobile users in mind, they do offer many solid and well supported products that many advanced users have grown to rely on.

In particular - we've long had the Pepwave MAX BR1 on our radar as an option for those looking for a router with an integrated cellular modem, particularly once it was updated in 2015 to have a "universal" cellular radio which could be easily toggled between Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and even Sprint.

The BR1 is a tiny box with a lot of built in capabilities - including a WiFi-as-WAN capable Wi-Fi router, three wired ethernet ports (2x LAN, 1x WAN), and a built in cellular modem - all capable of being powered directly off of vehicle DC power.

Though it does have some annoying limitations and frustrating software issues, overall the Pepwave MAX BR1 is very worthy of consideration and is deservedly a Top Pick.

Specifications - MAX BR1 MK2

  • Wi-Fi Router: Yes
    • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n - 300Mbps Max (2x2 MIMO)
    • 5GHz Wi-Fi: 802.11 ac/a/n - 900Mbps Max (2x2 MIMO)
    • Wi-Fi Antenna: 1x RP-SMA/Female Antenna Port, 5dBi Antennas Included
    • Wi-Fi as WAN: Yes
    • Guest Wi-Fi Network: Yes
  • Cellular Tethering via USB: No USB Port
  • Integrated Cellular Modem: Yes
    • Carriers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint
    • LTE Bands: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12/17, B13, B20, B25, B26, B29, B30, B41
    • 4G/3G: HSPA+ 850/1900/2100MHz;
    • 2G: No.
    • LTE-Advanced Carrier Aggregation: Yes (2x 20Mhz)
    • LTE Performance Category: Category 6
      (Max Theoretical Speed: 300Mbps Down / 50Mbps Up)
    • Cellular Antennas: 2x SMA/Female Antenna Ports, Basic Indoor Antennas Included
    • SIM Slots: Dual Mini-SIM (2FF)
  • Ethernet Ports: 2x Gigibit Ethernet  (WAN / LAN Configurable)
  • Special Features: Data Usage Tracking, Auto Faillover, Integrated GPS
  • Power Source: 10V - 30V Direct DC Input, 110V AC Adapter Included
  • Dimensions: 5.8" x 5.0" x 1.6"
  • Outdoor Rated: No
  • Retail Price:  $699.99

 

Peplink's LTE-A Product Line (2017)

The Pepwave MAX Transit Duo actually has two fully independent cellular modems, allowing for near instant switching between two different cellular carriers.

Most of the Pepwave MAX product line was updated in March 2017 to include more advanced LTE-A cellular modems, with the exception of the core MAX-BR1 was not updated until later in the year.  They also still offer many of their options in 'Classic' non LTE-A varieties for a lower price point.

The new LTE-A models support the following LTE bands:

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  • B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12/17, B13, B20, B25, B26, B29, B30, B41

This includes pretty much every band currently in use by all four major US carriers, including T-Mobile's "Extended Range LTE" on LTE Band 12 (but not their upcoming 600 MHz Band 71), and AT&T's newest deployments on LTE Band 30.

The downside of this new LTE-A modem is that it drops support for Verizon and Sprint 3G CDMA EVDO networks - so if you regularly run into remote legacy areas that have not been upgraded to LTE coverage you may want to keep a backup way online on hand.

Here is Peplink's newly updated LTE-A product line:

  • MAX BR1 Mini ($399) - There is the new LTE-Advanced version of the BR1 Mini (seemingly initially exclusive to 3G Store) that costs $100 more and which has a faster LTE-A modem with a few more LTE bands supported, but this version is NOT certified for use on Verizon's network. (Members - read on for some insider tips on this version.)
  • Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2 ($699) - After a long delay and finally released in December 2017 (see for details of the differences), this is the LTE-A updated version of our previous top pick MAX BR1.
  • Pepwave MAX BR1 Pro ($799) - The "Pro" version of the BR1 is designed for "enterprise branch networks", and features 4x gigabit LAN ports, and 300Mbps Wi-Fi with support for 2.4GHz or 5GHz 802.11n (one or the other - not both). Though it has gigabit ethernet ports, without 802.11ac it will be lacking for demanding local networks.
  • Pepwave MAX BR1 ENT ($799) - The same small size as the basic BR1, the BR1 ENT has three gigabit ethernet ports and adds a USB port for tethering a USB cellular hotspot or modem. BUT - the BR1 ENT has no built in Wi-Fi capabilities at all, making it of limited use for many installations unless you pair it with a more capable local router.

Review & Testing Status

December 2017: We have just received the newly released MAX-BR1 MK2 Model, and will be integrating it into our testing setup over the coming  months - including some head to head comparisons with the similarly configured Cradlepoint IBR-900.

Here is our unboxing & first impressions video of the MAX BR1 MK2:

 

We have had the 2015 "Classic"version of the Pepwave MAX BR1 in our ongoing testing collection, and have used it extensively as one of the core components of our mobile internet arsenal.

We share our in depth testing notes and analysis with our members in more detail below.

 

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The Rest of this Review is:
Member Only Content

We are thrilled & honored to be primarily member & reader funded - allowing us to present unbiased content. The in-depth review section of this product listing is part of the premium membership benefits of joining. Members can also leave their own reviews on products.

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If you're a member, please log in above to read the in-depth review for this product and/or leave your own review. If you've not joined yet, learn more about membership at:

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Purchasing Options

  • 3G Store
  • SinglePoint - The SinglePoint 'WiFi in Motion' bundles are built around the Pepwave MAX routers, bundled with RV-friendly antennas, service plans, and support.

Related News Center Articles

Pepwave MAX BR1
  • Hardware
  • User Interface
  • Customer Service
  • Overall Performance

Quick Take

The MAX BR1 combines a multi-carrier cellular modem with a very capable mobile router, all in one compact box.

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