During the last couple of months, I’ve been testing out one of the Three Mobile MiFi devices (the Huawei E585 wireless modem to be exact) which allows you to create your own personal internet-enabled Wi-Fi hotspot wherever you may be.
I initially had mixed feelings about its potential usefulness given my current HTC Desire Android-based smartphone allows you to set up wireless tethering to share your mobile phone’s internet connection — however, I was pleasantly surprised with how I ended up using the MiFi in practice.
Do I Need A MiFi?
One of the major selling points of these devices is that you’re no longer tied to relying on finding public Wi-Fi hotspots such as those found at Starbucks and similar locations, or perhaps you’re staying at a hotel that has poor or non-existent internet access and need to do some work online with your laptop or you just want to use your non-3G iPad.
Over the past year, I’ve been using the wireless tethering features of my mobile phone to try and ensure I have internet access while away from home, however, I’ve come up against a couple of issues, firstly, the quality and usability can vary widely depending upon which mobile network your phone is on, sometimes in certain areas I just couldn’t get a usable connection and would end up having to give up.
Secondly, by using your mobile phone for yet another additional function, in this case as a personal WiFi hotspot, that means that your battery life will be even shorter if you aren’t able/forget to charge it regularly — trying to make my battery last a full day as it is can be quite a struggle, so it’s even worse when travelling and also needing to use the personal WiFi hotspot feature.
The MiFi In Use
I was rather impressed with how easy the MiFi device is to use, you simply press the single button on the device to turn it on, it then connects and your internet-enabled WiFi hotspot is ready to use. Once your computer connects to it, you enter the 8 digit code found under the battery cover (which prevents other people from using your hotspot) and you’re good to go.
Whilst you’re using it, you can check to see how much your data you’re using by checking the small screen on the device which displays how much you’ve downloaded/uploaded
Obviously, with the device itself, being so small and light (you could quite easily carry it around in a shirt pocket unnoticed), you’d perhaps be concerned about battery life, however, the stated 4.5hrs certainly seems realistic from my experience and can easily be charged/powered by USB or mains power.
In terms of indoor WiFi range, you get around 10 metres when using the battery/USB charger, but that then increases to around 30 metres if you’re powering it from the mains.
Other than the simplicity of usage, the other thing that impressed me most of all was the 3G mobile coverage that Three Mobile provides, I used it in areas I would normally use O2 or Orange as they are historically the best local non-3G coverage (any 3G is a big ask around me since I live out in the country), however I found that Three consistently gave 3G coverage and impressive download speeds of over 1Mbps and quite often above 3Mbps. I even used it on some train journeys and found I got 3G speeds most the time too — which is especially good given most train companies are now starting to charge for WiFi access again.
I would say that the MiFi device is great for those looking for an easy-to-use mobile internet access solution; also if you work online from home, then this makes for a really good backup option for when your landline broadband goes down.
Depending on the strength of your local Three Mobile 3G signal and the amount of bandwidth you use, it might even be worth considering as your main broadband connection, although that obviously depends on your requirements and personal circumstances — you probably wouldn’t want to be gaming on a mobile internet connection!
Overall, the Three Mobile MiFi has really impressed me and is definitely worth considering if it will fit your needs, I personally think they’re much better than the other alternative mobile broadband USB dongles you can get, mainly since it is wireless, it can be positioned further away near a window for better reception for instance and allows up to five devices to connect to it and share the internet access, which could be great for those at home, on the road or attending conferences together.
You can get a MiFi on either an 18 or 24 monthly contract, a monthly rolling contract or on a pay as you go basis.
Simon Barker is the founder and editor of Zath and has over 25 years worth of experience of using computers and technology in general. He can normally be found researching or testing the latest in technology products.
He has provided IT consultancy services to both home and small business users for over 15 years, building PCs, fixing hardware/software problems and providing comprehensive training.
Simon always likes to get the best out of the technology he is using, by both making informed decisions of what products to purchase and also optimising how it is then used to get the most benefits possible.
If you’d like to follow and/or contact him on Twitter, please feel free to do so – @SimonBarker.