- First Vodafone HSPA+ mobile WiFi
- OLED display shows key information
- Connects up to five devices simultaneously
- Intuitive browser setup & mobile apps
- Expensive data tariffs
- Poor battery life
- No charging cradle supplied
Review Price £75.00
Few sectors are more competitive (or more hostile) than the telecoms industry and it seems remarkable the Three HSPA MiFi has been without direct major competition for eight months. Thankfully Vodafone has now stepped forward with its own HSPA 'Mobile WiFi' to bring some much needed rivalry…
The Vodafone Mobile WiFi R205 comes from familiar stock. Like Three's HSPA MiFi it is built by Chinese networking giant Huawei and is based on the E586 design. From the outside the R205 therefore follows the familiar river-smoothed-pebble design of MiFi (though it uses a different case) and is packed with MiFi battling specifications. These include HSPA/3G compatible theoretical download and upload speeds of up to 21Mbit and 5.76Mbit respectively and 802.11bgn WiFi. In addition at 95.5 x 50 x 14.1mm and 80g it is almost exactly the same size as the MiFi, but 10g lighter.
Take a closer look at the R205 and there are additional similarities. Like the MiFi the R205 uses an OLED display and its onscreen information is easy to read and identically laid out. From top left to bottom right this is: signal strength, connection type, number of connected devices (up to five), new messages and battery life while along the bottom is total data usage, time of the current connection and roaming state ('R' shows if enabled).
To bring up the display you tap the power button on the R205's right side. To switch the R205 on or off hold down this button for up to five seconds, a useful feature which stops it accidentally reacting to bumps in a pocket or bag. Meanwhile on the left side there is a 32GB compatible microSD slot which turns the R205 into a memory key when plugged into a PC via the microUSB port on the bottom, which also doubles as the charge point.
One significant omission appears to be that of the MiFi's dedicated security button, which brought up the SSID and wireless key. In actual fact double press the power key and this information comes up. The problem is this isn't very intuitive and we can see many customers not realising this for the life time of their devices. This lack of clear labelling is irksome, but forgiveable if performance and pricing whet the appetite.
From the off we have to say testing mobile Wi-Fi is far from a science, even when its nearest rival uses the same core chipset. Coverage strength varies wildly from place to place, network to network and even time of day while a single heavy downloader nearby can skew results completely. Furthermore without undertaking a nationwide tour we can only test in a limited number of areas. As such we would recommend you take the time to check the network reception in the places you are most frequently and along your most travelled routes. Saying all that, the results we received do make for interesting reading…