In short: a jack of all trades hoping to be master of most. The M5360 is an all-in-one portable 3G modem, micro SD card reader and capacious power bank. It is also compact, rugged and aggressively priced so has TP-Link created one device that lets us ditch three?
With the best will in the world, the M5360 is not much of a looker. It’s blocky, angular construction looks like an Apple side project from the 1980s, but it is well built with a durable gloss exterior that is both scratch and fingerprint resistant.
At 100 x 44.4 x 28.5mm and 200g the M5360 is also fairly portable. It will create a bigger bulge in your pocket than a 3G dongle (no sniggering), but it is only about 30-50g heavier than a standard MiFi despite packing in plenty more features.
The 1in, three line OLED display could be larger, but rivals are similar and text is clear and bright so unless you wear glasses for reading it shouldn’t be a problem. This clarity is vital though since there is a lot of information squeezed in. WiFi status, connected users numbers, real time connection speeds and uploaded and downloaded data plus battery life are all shown at the same time.
But looks are not what TP-Link expects to sell the M5360, features are and this is a veritable do-all device. That said there are holes.
The 3G is HSPA which is capable of 21.6Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload speeds – enough for most, but not 4G like some network providers’ MiFi products. Furthermore 3G is a far more crowded band, so while these speeds may be fine on paper you are less likely to achieve them as regularly as top speeds using 4G.
Despite this the M5360 is unlocked so it will work with sims from any cellular provider across WCDMA: 900/2100Mhz and GSM: 850/900/1800/1900Mhz bands. TP-Link also wisely opts to fit the M5360 with a standard sim card slot and provide micro and nano sim adaptors so any size sim will work.
As you might expect WiFi is paired down. It ditches the 5GHz spectrum for 802.11n 2.4GHz. This doesn’t really matter given the point of a MiFi is being close to you at all times and even 4G speeds currently won’t top peak 2.4GHz WiFi speeds (circa 11MBps – 88Mbps). The argument against is 802.11ac is more power efficient.
Then again power is not really the M5360’s problem and here is where the device packs its core selling point. Somehow TP-Link has managed to cram a substantial 5200mAh battery into the M5360 along with a fast charge USB point. This means not only can the M5360 charge an iPhone from flat to full more than twice, it can charge the likes of a Galaxy 3 Note 1.5x and even an iPad (supported thanks to the M3560’s fast charge point) will get a 50 per cent power boost.
Should you leave the M5360 on its own that massive battery will keep it running continuously as a portable 3G modem for 17 hours.
Last we have the micro SD card reader. This seems a strange addition, but it supports cards up to 32GB and allows you to connect the M5360 to your computer to access the card. Dedicated card readers are obviously smaller and this is clearly a bundled on feature, but it is invaluable when you have nothing else.