Glomex WebBoat 4G Lite EVO, compact internet access with a hitch
There’s a lot to like about Glomex’s WebBoat 4G Lite Evo. It’s a small device with easy mounting, a 4G LTE cellular modem, an easy user interface, and app configuration. These features make the WebBoat 4G Lite Evo easy to install and easy to use. But, like so many other marine-specific internet access equipment I see, it lacks 5ghz WiFi, limiting its performance out of the box.
Five plus years of relying almost entirely on mobile internet have taught me that the key to success is multiple connectivity sources. I typically rely primarily on a 4G LTE cellular internet connection and augment with a mix of additional connections. If I’m in a marina and finding poor results with my cellular connection, I’ll give the marina WiFi a try. If I’m in an anchorage and my primary LTE provider isn’t doing well, I’ll switch to another. The WebBoat interface makes this sort of connection hopping quite easy.
The WebBoat product line consists of two products, the $619 list price WebBoat 4G Lite EVO and the $1,095 WebBoat 4G Plus EVO. The Lite is a single SIM, dual cellular antenna, single WiFi antenna router with one wired WAN interface and one wired LAN interface. The Plus is a dual sim, quad cellular antenna, dual WiFi antenna router with one wired WAN interface and three wired LAN interfaces. Although the Lite carries a $619 list price, Hodges has it available for just over $330. That’s a serious value for the capabilities, marine mounting options, and support you get from the WebBoat.
Installation and connection
The system is powered by a 12 or 24 volt DC pigtail that exits through the center hole in the base of the unit. If you plan to use WiFi to connect to the unit, power is the only connection required to get started. It’s just over eight inches tall and just under six inches in diameter. It comes with a removable 1″-14 threaded mount compatible with many marine VHF, GPS, and other accessory mounts. If you’re going to connect to the WebBoat via Ethernet you will need to run an Ethernet cable through the 1″-14 hole along with the power pigtail.
Access to wired connections and the SIM card slot are under the dome. So, you will need to loosen the four small Philips screws that secure the cover and remove it. Under there you will find three antennas, the aforementioned network connections, and a SIM card slot. There are two LTE antennas in a MIMO array and a single 2.4ghz WiFi antenna. These antennas may look small, but they’re both bigger and better placed than the internal arrays of nearly any other cellular device on the boat.
The Teltonika RUT240 router found inside the WebBoat EVO Lite has a category 4 LTE radio. I stumbled across the above video from Teltonika describing different categories of LTE radios. It’s cute and does a nice job of explaining the differences between various categories of LTE equipment.
The cat-4 radio in the WebBoat is on the lower end of the LTE performance spectrum. But, the 150 megabit-per-second maximum throughput of cat-4 is likely to be plenty for most uses. Although, in areas of lower coverage, higher-performing radios can still deliver more throughput.
Getting started with the WebBoat 4G Lite EVO
The WebBoat comes out of the box equipped for three different internet source connections: Cellular 4G-LTE, WiFi, and Satellite. The WiFi connection can be used to connect to any 2.4ghz 802.11b/g/n network. Cellular connectivity supports GSM carriers. So, in the U.S. that means AT&T and T-Mobile, but not Verizon. The satellite connection is what Glomex calls the 10/100 megabit Ethernet WAN interface on the router. You can connect any modem or router with an Ethernet port.
The connectivity options in the WebBoat make switching providers pretty easy. First, when you insert a SIM the device will automatically recognize the provider and set the correct APN. I inserted a T-Mobile SIM for my testing, and everything just worked.
In automatic mode, the system will change between available internet connections based on a factory-defined priority. If a WiFi connection is available, the WebBoat will select that connection, if that’s not available the system will then use 4G-LTE connections, finally, if there’s no cellular connection, the system will then use the satellite connection. The instruction manual references these priorities as the default but I wasn’t able to find a place to change the priorities.
I’ve used a wide variety of internet access devices and come to appreciate a reliable and straightforward interface. Like many other marine-specific internet access products, the WebBoat 4G Lite EVO uses off-the-shelf, general-purpose hardware running custom firmware to provide a user interface and feature set that makes sense for use aboard a boat. Glomex has delivered a simple interface that hides a lot of the technical details but makes frequently completed tasks easy.
Glomex also offers an app to control and configure your WebBoat. The app allows remote configuration of the system, so even if you’re off the boat you can change its connection mode as long as it has an internet connection. It looks like the app allows the exact same control as the router’s web interface. I didn’t find anything I couldn’t do in the app.
WebBoat 4G Lite EVO performance
I’ve done much of my performance testing while on the road in the RV. It’s provided me the opportunity to try the WebBoat in several rural and urban areas. The lion’s share of the comparative testing I’ve done has been in the panhandle of Florida with a T-Mobile SIM. As you may have seen from some of the screenshots, it’s an area of fair to poor coverage. My iPhone 13 Pro, also on T-Mobile, has shown one bar of signal strength while the WebBoat generally shows three out of five bars.
Looking at the diagnostic information furnished by both devices also shows stronger metrics for the WebBoat. I don’t think this is too surprising given the larger antennas and better (higher) physical placement of the WebBoat.
Speedtests performed via 2.4ghz WiFi:
Speedtests performed via Ethernet:
But, cellular performance isn’t the only story. The biggest shortcoming I’ve found with the system is the inclusion of only 2.4ghz WiFi for both access (connecting to other WiFi networks as a source of internet connectivity) and broadcast (the router broadcasting a network for devices on the boat to connect). 2.4ghz WiFi is notoriously congested and typically lower performing than 5ghz WiFi. I lamented the same WiFi limitations in my review of Wave WiFi’s MBR-550 three years ago.
The two charts above showing speed test results compare the performance I got when connected via WiFi versus when connected via Ethernet. Download speeds were roughly doubled when using Ethernet. The only difference between the two sets of tests is the connection between the computer and the WebBoat. The system was in the same place for all tests and connected to the same T-Mobile cell tower.
I should also note that I did these tests in a relatively low density area with minimal other networks. In fact, there were only four total networks visible. I often assume others will have better results because Have Another Day is a larger boat with gobs of RF congestion. But, these tests were done in the RV with far fewer sources of interference.
The good news is that with the wired LAN port on the system, you can easily connect a dual band (2.4ghz and 5ghz) WiFi access point (WAP) to provide higher performing WiFi in the boat. The Netgear unit linked above is available on Amazon for less than $100. With a WAP connected you should be able to enjoy all the performance you would with a wired connection. But, this comes with a little extra expense and complexity. Most notably, undoing the simplicity of the power only installation the WebBoat offers.
For just over $300, the WebBoat 4G Lite EVO represents a good value and a simple option. I don’t mean to harp on the lack of 5ghz WiFi, but its inclusion would make this system a no-brainer to recommend. It’s simple, it’s been reliable, and it has the features most boaters need. Even without dual-band WiFi I think the system has a lot going for it and is likely to be a great option for many boaters (and RV’ers as well).