Friday, 4 January 2013

Mobile WiFi ('3' Huawei E5331 Value MiFi)

I spent a few days in the UK recently and I needed access to the internet. On previous trips I'd used a USB dongle that connected my notebook PC to the mobile network on a pay-as-you-go tarif. That USB dongle was dead and I needed something new. Of course I could use my mobile phone and create a WiFi hot-spot to connect my notebook PC to the internet - but this would cost too much using the roaming data tarrif (I live in Switzerland using Swisscom for my mobile phone). Therefore I needed a solution and I didn't have much time to get it. I walked into a '3' shop and bought something that looked like it would do the job:


The Huawei E5331
Huawei E5331 Value MiFi
GBP 50 including 30 days, 1GB data download [04/01/2013]
http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Devices/Huawei/E5331_Value_MiFi/ [04/01/2013]

This little device fits in the palm of your hand. It has a battery and charges via a USB cable that connects either to your computer or to the mains. I found it gave me about three hours of use from a single charge. There's just one button, to switch it on/off. There are some icons on the front that light up to tell you some basic information, whether you are connected to the mobile network, if WiFi is on, etc.

Here are the full specs on Huawei's website:
http://www.huaweidevice.com/worldwide/productFeatures.do?pinfoId=3272&directoryId=5009&treeId=3619&tab=0


What is Mobile WiFi or MiFi?
MiFi Diagram

A MiFi (My WiFi) or mobile WiFi device such as the E5331 has a SIM card inside it (like a mobile phone) and connects to a mobile data network to reach the internet. The MiFi (the E5331 in my case) creates a wireless hotspot, it's a mobile WiFi router/access point. As long as you can get a mobile signal you can use this anywhere. As it's a WiFi hotspot you can connect your mobile or a tablet as well as your PC. It makes life easy because you don't have to install it onto a computer as you do with a USB mobile dongle. The one I used before was a real pain as the driver software sometimes crashed my PC (blue screen of death). With a mobile WiFi device you just switch it on and you have a local WiFi network!


Setup
The set up was straightforward and no trouble apart from getting the back off the E5331. It's one of those that you have a small gap to put your nail or a small coin under and pull it off. Of course you feel you might break it but don't worry, a bit of elbow grease and it'll pop off. Add the battery and the SIM card, away you go. The name of the WiFi (SSID) network and WiFi password are written on a label inside the cover, there's also a small label that you could stick somewhere to remind you. The default IP address is the usual, enter http://192.168.1.1 into your browser to get to the router admin software. A small paper instruction booklet is included, you'll be hooked up to the internet in no time. The simplicity was great!


Conclusion
I found it easy to set up, simple to use, reasonably priced and the internet speed was sufficient for casual use including Skype. It's much better than a USB mobile dongle. There's no installation issues and you can use the mobile WiFi to hook up all your devices to the internet. I didn't have to use my mobile roaming from my phone. I just walked into a shop in the high street and bought this, you don't need to give your credit card to use it, it's excellent. The next time I'm in the UK I can top up by spending GBP 10 (1GB over 30 days). I think this is a flexible and simple solution. Of course I didn't do any research before purchasing this particular model from '3', maybe there's something better out there? In any case I can say this is a nice solution.

Recommended: 9/10


References
Full review of the Huawei E5331:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/three-value-mifi-huawei-e5331_Peripheral_review [04/01/2013]

'3' Value:
http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Devices/Huawei/E5331_Value_MiFi/ [04/01/2013]

MiFi at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiFi [04/01/2013]

Huawei website:
http://www.huaweidevice.com/worldwide/productFeatures.do?pinfoId=3272&directoryId=5009&treeId=3619&tab=0 [04/01/2013]
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