As for performance the 3 Value MiFi is no slouch either. As always when testing mobile Wi-Fis it is worth remembering doing so in real life is no firm science. Network congestion will vary from area to area, day to day and even minute to minute while every network has different coverage blackspots. Needless to say always use a carrier's coverage checker to see the strength in your home and/or office before making any purchase.
Caveats aside we had previously found 3's Premium MiFi to be consistently the fastest mobile Wi-Fi device we had tested and the Value MiFi was equally good. In areas of strong signal we recorded a maximum speed of 7.9Mbit and averaged 4-5Mbit. This is a hefty increase over what can realistically be achieved by older HSPA 7.2Mbit mobile Wi-Fi units and given these devices are effectively large antennas they will typically outperform phones, tablets and laptops with integrated 3G dongles too.
Equally important with any mobile Wi-Fi is battery life and again the Value MiFi matches up to the competition well. With moderate usage we found it achieved Three's quoted 4.5 hours of usage dropping to roughly four hours when used intensively. This is better than what we achieved from Vodafone's new HSPA R205 and within touching distance of 3's Premium MiFi. Unlike the latter though it doesn't come with a convenient charge dock.
So what about value for money? The Value MiFi uses the same tariffs as its Premium stable mate meaning 5GB of data per month for £18.99 over 18 months or 5GB of data per month for £15.99pm. As for heavy users £18.99 per month for 24 months gets you a healthy 15GB monthly data allowance. This is far stronger than Vodafone's 2GB of data for £15pm on an 18 month contract or 2GB on a thirty data rolling contract for £20pm.
Subsequently the big difference comes on the aforementioned pre-pay price tag: £50 for the Value MiFi compared to £85 for the Premium version. Given the long term costs of a MiFi this is a relatively trivial amount in our opinion and the absence of roaming and data use indicators on the Value MiFi could ultimately mean it costs you far more long term.
With a price tag 40 per cent cheaper than its premium alternative the 3 Value MiFi seems tempting on paper. The problem is the loss of a detailed screen for data, signal and roaming information means it could accidentally cost you far more than the £35 saving you put in your pocket. Performance is every bit as good as any MiFi we have tested though and battery life is strong. Still we can't help but think penny pinchers will regret scrimping long term.