If you believe today's tech marketers you not only need a smartphone and a laptop, but a tablet and an eBook reader as well. Keeping each online can quickly become expensive, but Three's latest MiFi package offers a far more graceful solution. Vitally, it also offers the fastest…
For those not in the know, MiFi devices are portable WiFi hotspots. They are pocket sized and battery powered, connect to a mobile network and send out a security protected WiFi signal to which you can connect all your portable devices. The downside is all your devices share a single connection. The significant upside is you pay for just one tariff leading potentially to considerable cost savings.
Now in launching the Huawei 'E586' MiFi, Three has become the first UK carrier to sell an HSPA+ compatible device. The HSPA+ or Evolved HSPA specification has an increased theoretical download speed of up to 21.6Mbps, while maintaining the 5.76Mbps theoretical upload speed of HSUPA. This compares very favourably to the 7.2Mbps theoretical maximum download speeds of rival MiFi products. Needless to say 'theoretical' has little to do with reality, but we'll come back to this in a few paragraphs.
Speed isn't the only feature on the agenda though, the beauty of the E586 is its simple design. Front and centre is the small, but wonderfully clear, OLED display which provides at-a-glance information to everything you need. From top left to bottom right (see image below) these are: signal strength, connection type, the number of connected devices (up to five), connection status, new messages, battery level, total data usage and roaming state ('R' shows if enabled). Meanwhile on the right side you have power and security buttons, the latter of which displays the SSID and password and on the left there is a 32GB compatible microSD slot which turns the E586 into an elaborate memory key if plugged into a PC. This can be done via the micro USB port on the bottom of the E586, which is also used for charging. Helpfully Three supplies not just a charging cable, but also a matching dock.
Setup is as simple or as complex as you like. Out the box the E586 only requires the sim card and battery to be inserted and you are ready to go. For more advanced users, however, they can enjoy a slew of advanced settings by connecting a device to the E586 and visiting http://3.home in a web browser (for image see page two). This includes everything from changing the SSID and password to the type of encryption (up to 'WPA2-PSK' as well as AES TKIP WPA encryption) plus the option to enable or disable the MiFi's automatic connection to a network when switched on (useful abroad). The E586 can also send and receive SMS from here, a clever trick, but one unlikely to get much use in reality.
So on paper, or should we say 'theoretically', Three's latest MiFi appears to be a real contender and the good news is in reality it is also excellent.