The MiFi mobile broadband dongle from 3 has had a facelift, and then some. Is it an essential for the roving gadgeteer?
After the success of its original MiFi, 3 has seen fit to issue a second outing of the 3G wireless mobile web dongle.
[UPDATE: We've just compared the MiFi 1 and 2 side-by-side and it turns out they're exactly the same size. Trick of the light? Or does black really make you look slimmer?]
On first sight, you can tell the MiFi’s spent a bit of time on the treadmill. Even though its predecessor (Huawei E5830, manufacturing fans) wasn’t bulky, the new unit (Huawei E585) is trimmer and has the feel of a smooth black pebble.
It’s still not tiny enough (or light enough) to stow in pockets without a lump, but it definitely couldn’t be accused of habitual pie-eating.
Part of that weight comes from the large battery, which supplies an ample seven hours of 3G broadband. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Surely we’ve missed out the lengthy and complicated setup process?
Turn on, plug in, log on
Nope, the 3 MiFi is about as plug-and-play as they come. It charges via USB (two cables are supplied, a six-incher and a four-footer, plus wall socket adaptor), after which you merely need to tell your PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone or console the password. Two minutes after you pull it from the box, you’re browsing.
Speeds are good – averaging around 1Mbps for downloads and uploads – and we had no trouble streaming from iPlayer or browsing the web while downloading files in the background, although the 3 MiFi was understandably uncooperative with iPlayer HD. We downloaded a 600MB programme from the Beeb in an hour and 10 minutes.
In use, 3’s dongle is a dream. It has one button (power) and a screen displaying signal strength, battery level and session data (usage and time). The original MiFi had an oversimplified light-based display, so it’s good to see that fixed. You can also visit a web-based dashboard to check usage data in more detail and over a longer period.
The price of good
But you won’t bother. You’ll get carried away doing fun stuff and spend a fortune on expensive over-the-air data. This time around, 3 has nailed mobile broadband so well that it’s a joy, not just a handy rescue package.
And that’s the problem. The combination of genuinely useful, highly desirable functionality and that strokable pebble form mean the 3 MiFi dongle is thief-bait. Like all the best things in life, though, that’s a price you’ll be happy to pay.
Data costs on PAYG start at £10 for 1GB, but come down if you buy bigger blocks. The 3 MiFi dongle is also available for free on a monthly contract; various options are available from 3.
3 MiFi (second gen) review
Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots have always been a bit hit and miss. The 3 MiFi is hit and hit