WRAP BOX Review - Great Value Outdoor case for PC Engines WRAP board

WRAP Box with Lid onThe WRAP-BOX is a great value outdoor metal case built by www.mini-box.com designed for a PC Engines WRAP,2A board and made specifically for wireless applications. It comes in various configurations, but the most popular $60 case-only version has twin N-Female connectors on the top and an ethernet connector on the bottom and includes RP-N pigtails and cat-5 connectors. The case is Nema 67 rated - i.e. submersible - and is very solid. Read on for the details...

Kit Contents

WRAP Box accessories - though not allThe mini-box website is short on exact details, so here's a quick breakdown on what you'll get. FYI, I ordered the WRAP-BOX 4A2E because they were out stock of the 2A1E that I really wanted. In the surprisingly small white packing box comes:

  • The WRAP case itself and a rubber gasket seal
  • RP-N female to U.FL pigtails for the number of holes the box has. Note these are NOT normal N connectors.
  • Ethernet jack with short cable and plug
  • Waterproof Ethernet plug to be crimped onto a cable end
  • Ethernet jack with standard punchdown connectors
  • Waterproof cover for the ethernet jack
  • Pole mount bracket with 2.5 inch stainless steel (looking) U bolts.
  • Bolts and washers for all hardware

To this, I added a WRAP2C board and two of their outdoor 5.5 dBi omni antennas. Total cost including 8MB CF card ($5), 200mW 802.11b radio ($65) and PoE injector and PS ($20) is around $310.

First Impressions

Mini-box.com WRAP-Box kit partsFirst impressions are very positive for this enclosure. It has a solid feel and everything snaps together just right. The board mounting posts were at exactly the right place, al lthe screws lined up. There was also the absolute minimum amount of hardware needed to do the job - a very good thing. For example, the case is threaded so you only need a bolt to close the lid. There are no nuts to drop and lose while climbing on a roof. Similarly for the pole mount bracket.

The N and cat-5 connector holes are all keyed, so you won't need to worry about shearing a pigtail when tightning a cable. The pigtails themselves appear to be of high quality and are a reasonably size 6" length.

Pricewise, its interesting to compare this box with the Metrix enclosures which are designed for the similar form factor Soekris 4526 boards. The WRAP-BOX 2A1E is $60 and comes with 2 pigtails and Cat-5 connectors. The Metrix box is $40 but doesn't include pigtails or Cat-5 connectors, which easily cost more than the $20 difference.

Assembly

WRAP Box with WRAP 2C card, CF card and Senao 2511MP3+ radio cardAlong with the case, I also ordered a WRAP2C board and I already had on hand a CF and a Senao 2511MP3 Plus radio. I added two of their $12.50 5.5 dBi outdoor omni antennas.

WRAP Box loaded. Ready to close.For once, I followed the instructions that came with the kit, and that was a good thing. You need to put the connectors into the box before you mount the board as the board sits on standoffs above all the connectors. As mentioned above, everything went together smoothly. The pigtails aren't quite long enough to completely 'fold' the WRAP board out with the miniPCI card installed, but its simple enough and I like shorter connectors so its worth the tradeoff.

Pay careful attention to the gasket instructions that cover 2 of the 4 small instruction pages. You might otherwise accidently install it upside down.

Note that the WRAP board will accept power over its cat-5 connector, but only the range of 8-16V (approximately, don't quote me). Do NOT plug in a 'standard' 48V PoE adapter! With a reasonably sized 12V plug pack and some parts, you can quickly build a simple PoE injector. Or just pay $9 and buy one.

Summary

Reverse side of complete WRAP Box, showing pole mount hardware and bottom holesThis case is a great addition to the outdoor wireless world. Its reasonably priced, as pre-built cases go, great quality and a nice compact form factor. I should add that they shipped the day I placed my order.

If mini-box can keep up with demand, I expect this enclosure will become a popular item in the WiFi community. The WRAP board is less well known here than the Soekris boards, but earlier supply problems seem to be solved and various distro gotchas (with Pebble, WISP-dist and similar) appear to have mostly been worked through, so I expect the board will drive enclosure sales and vice versa.

Nothing like new toys to play with!

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