Three’s latest broadband gizmo is touted as ‘broadband in a box’. According to the network, it’s also the ideal solution for student households and consumers who don't want to get tied into lengthy contracts. We put the Web Cube through its paces to see how it measures up.
With its boxy shape and white metallic top, the Web Cube looks like no other mobile broadband dongle, Mifi or router. In fact, with its frosted glass finish and the gentle blue glow it gives off, it’s closer to a nightlight or decorative nik-nak that you might pick up in a high-end gift shop.
That’s not to say we don’t like the look of it. The Web Cube’s decorative flourishes mean it looks immeasurably better in your home than a functional router in gun-metal grey or black.
Like a wireless router of a Mifi, the Web Cube generates a localised broadband connection. This can be shared by up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices (your smartphone, games console or laptop, say) simultaneously.
Intended to be used around the home rather than while you’re out and about, the Web Cube features a standard domestic plug attachment. It can’t be powered off your laptop and does not contain a battery for it to juice up. The device’s dimensions also mean it’s far from pocket-friendly.
Although there’s no screen to show you specifics of connection speed and on the device itself, the vibrancy of the Web Cube’s light gives you a rough indication of how strong your signal is.
If you need to know your speed, though, there’s web browser-based interface where you can get that gen. This also lets you switch off the light, check how much of your monthly data allowance you’ve been tearing through, and fiddle with your security settings and sent text messages.
But it’s in speed-stakes where Web Cube scores. And that’s thanks to the fact it contains HSPA+ technology to enable 3G speeds of up to 21Mb. Or at least it does on paper. Whether it fulfils its promise is something we’ll be finding out below….
Speed test & performance
In tests carried out in locations around north, south and central London, we got an average upload speed of 2.48Mbps and a download speed of 10.2Mbps.
Although that’s about half the advertised headline speed of 21Mbps, it’s still massively impressive for a mobile connection. Especially given that we were connecting between two and five devices simultaneously.
According to Three, the Web Cube has a range of up to 30 metres. We found it easily connected devices in that vicinity across uSwitch’s open-plan office.
At home in a flat where walls separate our rooms, the signal dropped on occasion. But only to three bars or so, so it didn’t compromise our working day unduly.
The Web Cube has much to recommend it. Chiefly, its speed and superior range compared to a MiFi. Priced £60 and available on one-month rolling contracts at £15 per month, or free when you sign up for a 24-month deal, it’s keenly priced and flexible too.
Restrictive allowances mean that the Web Cube, which is currently only available in the trial locations of Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow, isn’t quite the cheap solution for multiple occupation student households that it’s sold as. But it’s a welcome addition to the UK’s gadget landscape even so.