Saturday, 26 March 2011

Review: Three MiFi

You might have noticed that I'm a bit of a social media addict. Admittedly, I'm not big on Facebook these days, but I tweet a lot and I blog. Since I got a fancy new phone in January, I love the fact that I can tweet write blog posts, read other blogs and do pretty much anything wherever I am. After a fashion of course - there are times where you'd really love a bigger screen so that you don't go cross-eyed looking at the screen and there is a lot of typing to be done so only your laptop will do. Then comes the problem of how to get it online - unless you want to sit all day in certain chains all day long where free WiFi is on offer.

Three sent me a MiFi mobile to try out for a couple of weeks. It's a small wireless modem/dongle that you can use to connect up to 5 devices to mobile broadband. The dongle is small - it will easily fit into a pocket or a handbag - and needs very little set up from scratch - just a SIM inserting and switching on. Devices connecting to it to access the Internet don't need any special software installed - they just need to enter the password when they first connected.

I did have a problem with my laptop the first time I tried to connect it. It connected fine to the modem but couldn't see the Internet beyond it. However, I think it was just my laptop as the next time I tried, it worked fine. My phone and my husband's MacBook both connected and worked OK straight away.

Once connected, you do notice that download speeds are slower than being connected to a standard WiFi connection but that was to expected. My phone also works as a WiFi hotspot too so I did a comparative test of speed and performance with the MiFi. I found they had similar download speeds but we seem to have good reception on both networks in the area where we live.  (My phone is on O2)

Two things I did notice about the MiFi are worth mentioning. Firstly, when in use, it could get quite hot to the touch. Secondly, the battery indicator can catch you out - it can seem like it is adequately charged, then be showing low battery after a short period of use and you're left wondering what happened! When fully charged, it should give you around 5 hours of browsing. As It charges via USB, if your laptop is connected to mains power, you could charge it up whilst it is in use. When connected via USB to a laptop, it loads on-board software which allows you to manage your Three account and even send text messages.

Overall, we liked the MiFi. My husband found it particularly useful as he took it to his parents and showed them videos of him running in the Barcelona Marathon - which was great, as my father-in-law has only just returned home after a 3 month hospital stay and they don't have a home computer or Internet access. It also seems reasonable value - the cheapest being £9.91 per month for a 1Gb data allowance on an 18 month contract.

I won't be buying a MiFi because I have a phone that does the same thing. However, if you do travel around a lot and need to connect your laptop anywhere, or can't get broadband any other way, this is a pretty good option and we found it easy to set up and its performance was good. A big thumbs up from us.

(I was sent a Three MiFi to try for free for a trial period and have received no other compensation. The opinions stated are my own, and have not been affected by the aforementioned compensation.)
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