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3 Value MiFi review

Gordon Kelly



Our Score



  • Fast HSPA+ (21.1Mbit) compatibility
  • Good battery life
  • Low upfront cost


  • No screen
  • Questionable build quality
  • No quick way to check data usage

Review Price £50.00

Key Features: HSPA+ 21.1Mbit compatible; LED icon display; Connects up to five devices; 4.5 hour battery life

Manufacturer: 3

Much like Cloud computing and the latest smartphones, one of the products most evangelised by techies to mainstream users is mobile Wi-Fi. These small devices allow multiple products to connect to their mobile internet connection, removing the need for numerous network contracts and saving hard earned cash. Yes we would always welcome even cheaper tariffs, but interestingly Three seems to think the mobile WiFi units themselves needs a cut price option.


Consequently we now have the 3 Value MiFi - which is at its core a Huawei E5331 mobile Wi-Fi device. Like its more expensive sibling, the excellent Three Premium MiFi, it provides HSPA 21.1Mbit compatibility, connects up to five devices simultaneously and has 30 minutes less battery life at 4.5 hours. More radically, the 3 Value MiFi does away with the Premium's detailed three line OLED display in favour of five simple LED icons, but aims to make up for this by costing 40 per cent less at just £50.

Three Value MiFi (Huawei E5331) 1

So does the argument make sense? Out of the box we're not convinced. Despite being the more fully featured device the Premium MiFi has a smaller footprint (95.5 x 49mm versus 92.8 x 60mm) while being only fractionally thicker (49mm versus 60mm) and at 80g is five grams lighter. We also have issues with the Value MiFi's build quality. The white finish is more prone to marks and there is a rough join between the device and its removable rear cover that feels cheap.

In terms of connectivity the 3 Value MiFi is a victim of cut backs since it loses the Premium MiFi's 32GB compatible microSD slot - which allows that model to function as memory key when plugged into a computer. Meanwhile the move to a basic icon display (network strength, Wi-Fi signal, battery and new mail) omits key information which could prove costly long term such as a roaming indicator and the amount of data you have downloaded. Furthermore each icon's colour system of green or orange to signal strong or weak gives the user a somewhat binary level of information compared to the Premium MiFi's strength bars.

Three MiFi 4


There is another frustrating complication too. Whereas the Premium MiFi has a dedicated security button which displays its SSID and WiFi key, the Value MiFi has just a power button so obtaining this information means removing the rear cover and the battery and making a note of the information elsewhere.

This all sounds like a lot of negatives, but in truth the Value MiFi is far from a poor product. Setup is simple, just insert the sim card and switch it on. It connects to the Internet automatically and you can then add devices and get going. For those who prefer to dig a little deeper enter the device's IP address ( in a browser and the web interface will show detailed signal strength, data usage and connected devices. You can also access network sent SMS, check for firmware updates and change the SSID, password and authentication type (WPA, WPA2 and AES TKIP encryption are all supported).

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June 18, 2012, 3:39 pm

'(95.5 x 49mm verses 92.8 x 60mm)'

I think 'versus' rather than 'verses'.


June 18, 2012, 5:11 pm

Thanks Allan, you have an eagle eye for spotting linguistic slip-ups ;) Changed. (may take time for the site to update)


June 22, 2012, 5:03 pm

"With a price tag 40 per cent cheaper than its premium alternative". Grrr! The price tag isn't 40% cheaper. Even the PRICE isn't 40% cheaper. It's the PRODUCT that's 40% cheaper. The price tag is 40% LOWER! (in just the same way as speeds can't be fast or slow, temperatures can't be hot or cold, etc.).

The sentence should read "With a price tag 40 per cent lower than that of its premium alternative" (or just "price" instead of "price tag").


June 22, 2012, 5:05 pm

And "Still we can't help but think penny pinchers will regret scrimping long term" has to have a comma or the words "in the" after "scrimping".

Poor English in reviews significantly reduces their credibility.

sean coleman

August 17, 2012, 9:39 pm

The broadband service from 3 is fine and reliable but my goodness the battery on my Mobile HUAwei unit would not charge and 5 days later it has not even reached the repair station even though I personally left it into a 3 shop last monday it is now friday. In other words after sales diabolical. I have taken up with regulator as I am new start up business.


December 15, 2012, 9:00 pm

how can i get the mobile wifi software for mac?

Johnny Law

December 19, 2012, 5:27 am

You don't really require any software. Simply enter in your browser and that will take you the the Huawei admin screen.


February 13, 2013, 2:23 pm

WARNING !Rubbish don't waste your money on this device dropped it on the floor and it wont work 3three refuse to replace or fix the item don't waste your money WARNING !

Golden Block

February 15, 2013, 8:02 pm

I went from using a mobile phone tethered back in 2007 through the 3 USB Dongle and now on this device.... Never had a problem with them. The dongle could do with a longer battery life, but 4 hours on the dongle matches the 4 hours on my (circa 2008) laptop.

anil Reddy

February 27, 2013, 11:15 pm



March 6, 2013, 12:59 pm

So you broke it, therefore it's rubbish? Drop your laptop on the floor and see if anyone replaces that for free.

Miro Santos

May 8, 2013, 6:06 pm

had this unlocked piece from amazon.. and bought a three from ireland... the problem is, it doesnt work when im in UK.. meaning the roaming status is always disconnected.. although its open line or unlock ( u can use any sim) when it comes to roaming, it disconnect itself.. anyone can help me with this problem?
tried to reset it and still no use... pls help


May 14, 2013, 12:11 pm

Never managed to get HSPA on this device. Yet in the exact same spot in the E586 it picks ups H with no problems at all. Been back to three and got a replacement but had the same problem. It isnt the sim card as this has been checked in the E586.
Try speaking to customer serices and all I get is the same old scripted answers. "your area may not be able to provide H or "your neighbour may place his in a better location"
and each time I say they are placed in the exact same location.

Sharon Ding

November 2, 2013, 11:01 am

How do I know whether the battery is dying or it is fully charged?


February 7, 2014, 7:59 am

having a problem deciding on the mifi with 5gb or a sim card one plan that tethers, with unlimited data ........mifi is £10,05 a month the sim is £23 a month . cost not a problem just want the best option

Robertas Vaitiekunas

April 19, 2014, 12:02 am

Please explain: "
Questionable build quality'


May 23, 2014, 9:27 am

If you have an iPhone, look up on the Apple Store for
HUAWEI Mobile WiFi
The app gives that monitoring functions which lack on the Huawei itself.


May 23, 2014, 9:27 am

If you have an iPhone, look up on the Apple Store for
HUAWEI Mobile WiFi

The app gives the monitoring functions which lack on the Huawei itself.


August 14, 2014, 3:44 pm

it is exactly as stated - the plastic casing is cheap and nasty - the lugs on the battery cover break off easily when changing SIMS : and the build quality is not as good as the previous version , and as others have said it does not connect to the network as well as the previous version


August 14, 2014, 3:48 pm

exactly the same here - (same trip in for replacements) : from what I can see the output signal is weaker as well, leading to bad mast handshakes when you do get HSPA

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