Huawei E5 Wi-Fi/3G modem
Better known as the 3 MiFi
You can set the E5 to instigate a 3G connection when your computer is sending a request for internet data, or have it simply connect when it's powered up. You can also tell it only to connect when you push the tiny Dial button on the side of the modem, but 'auto' is so much easier and saves the inevitable pauses between browser requesting page and modem dialling in to deliver it. They always feel longer than they are.
3 calls the E5 the MiFi
Huawei is a past master in the art of 3G modem creation, so we weren't surpised at the E5's ability to establish a mobile broadband connection. The device's Wi-Fi abilities aren't bad either. As long as you don't expect expect the house-filling coverage a regular, mains-powered router can provide, you won't be disappointed. This is an on-the-go product for meeting places, hotel rooms and the like, and the coverage it provides is enough for that.
Our only beef with the unit is its display. Brightly coloured LED icons are great for photographs. But to conserve power, they have to be switched off, so you have to press a button on the E5 every time you want to check the battery status, 3G signal strength or even if there's a 3G connection present. We'd rather have a low-power LCD readout, please, even though it wouldn't look as good.
The E5 will set you back around £180 for an unlocked, Sim-less unit, or less if you buy it with an airtime contract. 3's prices vary from nothing to £50 for the E5, plus £7.50-23 a month for 18 or 24 months. Data allowances range from 1GB to 5GB.
The E5 is a great gadget, but how often are you likely to need it? There's no shortage of Wi-Fi hotspots, and many hotels rooms have it too. Those that don't often have wired links instead, and these you can set your notebook to share through its own Wi-Fi adaptor. Its utility depends on how often you need Wi-Fi coverage when there's only 3G to be had. It's a pricey device to buy on the off-chance. ®
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