I just got one of these devices, I would not recommend it, it is just sooo slow... I also have a 3 USB Dongle and that is much faster- this brings me to thinking that even though the MiFi and my Dongle are made by the same company, the WiFi is a poor product
Review: The MiFi from 3
|Summary: 3 MiFi|
|Price:||from 'free' on a £9.50 per month 18-month contract or from £49.99 on PAYG|
|Pros:||wireless; great size/weight; so much better than a dongle!|
|Cons:||steep learning curve; a bit ugly; slow mobile broadband speeds|
|In Brief:||The MiFi from 3 receives a mobile broadband signal, just like a dongle. However, it's a Wi-Fi device, meaning you don't plug it into your machine - it operates wirelessly, so can be set up to send the broadband signal to up to five devices at once. It will work with any Wi-Fi enabled device and is small/light enough to slip into a pocket.|
Out of the box
It's a nice little box, with plenty packed inside: The MiFi unit (the Huawei E5830), battery, two cables (one USB, one charger) and the SIM pack (like a cardboard CD sleeve), plus loads of little bits of paper. Really, loads - practically a whole tree, we reckon (see the end of the review for a full run down).
Chopping down a tree (the box packaging is multi-layered and over fancy too) seems a little ridiculous for a plug and play device - especially when all the bits of paper don't do an awful lot to demistify the MiFi itself. New users may well have trouble getting started if not familiar with using Wi-Fi.
The MiFi itself is a cheap looking device - but then it is free (at the moment). It's plastic and 80s looking, with a black/scrubbed silver front and white back. There's a simple layout, with three buttons on the right edge, microSD slot on the left edge, button to open the unit on the top and cable input on the bottom. It's about the size of a thin mobile phone, slipping easily into the hand. It's a little bigger than a dongle, but still pocket sized at 86x46x10mm (weighing 99g).
The unit is straightforward to open up and put the battery/SIM into and should be fine for anyone who has set up a mobile phone. However, it's a shame the instruction book is made for both the MiFi or a dongle, meaning repetition of some of the stuff on the included help cards, which could also cause confusion. Also, you need to charge it to get going - but there's no indication the unit is charging. Or of anything else for that matter. more on that later.
As long as you're confident about setting up a wireless network on your computer (again, the included tree isn't much help in this department), you should be up and running pretty quickly. And, once you are, as long as you can get a signal the unit works surprisingly well. One of the big criticisms I've had with dongles before is they tend to lose connection for no apparent reason, seemingly going down at the slightest gust of wind. I'm not so worried about slow speeds - that's unfortunately par for the course with mobile broadband right now - but a slow, steady connection can be preferable to a quick but dodgy one when it comes to web browsing and file downloading. Thankfully the MiFi did a good job in this department.
Battery life isn't perfect, but at 'up to' five hours (uh oh, it's that 'up to' thing again) you should find it can comfortably keep up with a laptop for battery life. However, it isn't helped by the fact it gives no indication that it's on at all - no lights, no nothing. This may help preserve the battery - but makes remembering to turn it off (or actually know its off) difficult. In theory, you can connect up to five devices at once - in theory. Any regular users of mobile broadband will know that keeping one device connected via a dongle is hard enough, and even when you can you're lucky to get a speed much higher than 1Mb. Try to split that between five connections and you're looking rightly down both barrels of crushing disappointment (it supports only wireless 'B' and 'G' too, not the improved 'N' standard).
That said, I'd take the MiFi over a dongle any day. You can leave it in your bag, pocket etc (without the annoyance of having to plug it into your machine, which can be awkward and time consuming) and if you've got a half decent signal its perfectly adequate for you and a colleague to get online.
Speed and coverage
While not as bad as it could've been, speed on the MiFi was as we expected: mostly poor. We didn't try it out on the move, but in the two static locations we used 3's MiFi our speed tests picked up the usual problems. The first location was, according to 3's coverage map, in a 'good coverage' area. In four attempts we only got above 1Mb once; upload speeds were woeful, peaking below 0.2Mb. The second location - in a 'not good coverage' area - fared slightly better, making a mockery of the map (which obviously doesn't take into consideration amount of users). Here we averaged over 1Mb, peaking at 1.95Mb. Upload speeds were also significantly up, averaging over 0.5Mb.
The amount of data could also be problematic for many users. When the emphasis is on a shared connection, giving data allowances of either 1GB or 5GB per month seem pretty tight, especially as 3s it's a key Christmas product. That total will be gone in a flash for many users, especially the kind of 'early uptake' geeks they will be relying on to lead the charge.
Portable Wi-Fi is definitely the way forward and this is a reasonable first offering from 3. That said, you can't help but think that the whole thing comes across as a little rushed: the 'manual' is poor, the design cheap and as soon as anything goes wrong you're struggling. You only have to look around at other devices coming onto the market to see that this could go down as the ugliest member of the MiFi family.
But 3 has prided itself on leading the way in UK mobile broadband, and should be credited for getting a solid, working product to market ahead of the pack - again. We can only hope it is putting as much effort into improving its HSDPA coverage as it does into being 'first'. If you want mobile broadband, and are happy to be on the 3 network, the MiFi is the way to go. The fact the unit is available from 'free' right now makes it even more of a no-brainer. Although perhaps you'll want to buy it a little bag to hide in! But overall, to the MiFi we say 'yes'! Check out all the MiFi deals on our 3 price comparison pages: both PAYG and contract.
Appendix: that tree in full...
1) A weird little credit card sized 'useful things to know about 3' card.
2) A credit card sized info sheet, with unique codes (SSID, Wi-Fi key)
3) Warranty sheet
4) Copyright and safety info sheet
5) A pack of odd help cards which can be used to set up the MiFi unit (not numbered).
6) Set-up Guide
The SIM pack has the SIM (natch), plus another bunch of pieces of paper you can litter the room with:
7) Terms of purchase sheet
8) T&Cs sheet, including returns policy
9) An info book, duplicating a bunch of the stuff on the cards
10) A guide to how to make sense of all the cards and guides (OK, we made this one up)
I brought a Zoom 4506 3G mobile router that works a treat with all mobile broadband dongles.
With the Zoom you are not tied to a network, you just plug in your dongle (contract or PAYG ) and connect your iPod, laptop or anything that's WiFi able, to the internet.
The device is set up to work straight out of the box if you don't mind the lack of WEP or WAP security but this is easy to set up when the router is connected to a computer.
The device can be mains powered or run on it's internal, removable, rechargeable battery and the batteries are obtainable camera batteries that are easily available in many places.
To me, network besides, the 3 Mifi has many disadvantages over the Zoom, the fact that the devise is locked to the network being just one.
Chris above is right. The Zoom 4506 offers many advantages over the various MiFi units around. It's a remarkable device. You can plug dongles from different operators into the Zoom and it connects - you don't have to set the operator's APN. I don't know how it does this, but it does it. It's also better at reconnecting after loss of signal (for example in a car) than any other device I've tried.
Not a good product. I had the old black and green dongle from 3 and I was quite happy with the speed ect. I got myself a new wireless laptop and upgraded to the Mifi dongle as I was sick of the cables. The battery life is pathetic and three months in it died on me over xmas. I went to visit a 3 shop and they arranged a replacement (not battery or charger as this isn’t included under warranty) Ok its working but I never understood why it kept on loosing signal. I mentioned this to 3 and the device has a very stupid "time out" setting that can not be changed by the user. So if you come home, turn on your lappy check your mail and then busy yourself for 30 mins your Mifi switches it self off to save you money! This I find totally annoying....does anyone know how to change this?? I am now stuck on a 12 month contract with a dongle that is inconvenient and really slow!
hi could anyone give me some advice on something please. ive been given a yrs free internet subcription from 3g by my parents, it came with a dongle and my question is if i upgrade to the mi-fi so i can connect ipod and xbox360 will i be able to insert the paid subscription sim card into the bought mi-fi device and use my credit on the mi-fi?.many thanks in advance.
Respond to eco-friendly - You can purchase a SIM free mobile router, Zoom now also do these - Google search Zoom We3G - works with ANY network!!