Mobile WiFi units first arrived on these shores late last year when early adopters 3 launched its so-called MiFi, along with non-network affiliated versions, such as the Novatell Wireless 2352. Since then these smart bits of kit, which allow a single mobile broadband connection to be shared between up to five web enabled devices, perhaps haven’t had the impact one might expect.
The most likely reason for that is that the mass market simply isn’t aware of them yet. However, attempting to change all that comes Vodafone’s snappily named Mobile WiFi R201.
So how does it make out? Pretty good, as it happens. With its simple rectangular form factor and shiny all-white coating, it’s appealing to look at. And at 90x60x12mm, it’s a compact device, that’s for sure. Although it’s slightly larger than 3’s rounded offering, it’s considerably smaller than the Novatell effort.
Connecting was pretty easy. You need only remove the back and punch in the security password concealed in the device’s innards. After which you can slide the single large top-mounted button to the left to enable the connection and you’re good to go.
Connection speeds around the home were impressive, even when we shared it between an iPod, smartphone, PC, iPad and laptop. And perhaps more impressively, the battery lasted about four hours when the maximum number of devices were connected.
When left alone, we found the connection timed out unduly hastily. But reactivating it isn’t tricky; you simply give the device a gentle tap on top.
Handily, there’s plenty of information on the LCD display, which indicates your network, the number of devices connected, signal strength, battery. Plus it shows your network and indicates if you’re connecting via GPRS or a faster 3G network.
There are some extra features to sweeten its appeal too. Those of you of a security conscious bent can also set a more watertight connection. This is simply a case of pressing the WPS button located on the side and selecting from a list of options.
And to save you carrying around a separate memory stick, you can store files directly to the device. There’s 256MB of internal memory and coupled with support for microSD cards up to 32GB (sold separately), there’s ample space for most users.
Vodafone is offering the device for free when you sign up to an 18-month contract. That’ll get you 5GB of usage per month. Alternatively, you can sign up for a £15 per month deal for 3GB with a one-off charge of £49 for the mobile router or choose the £20 per month option.
For that outlay, it’s a terrific gadget that offers the kind of flexibility that dongles simply cannot. And one that we’ve got no hesitation in recommending.