Three's Huawei MiFi (E5331) - £29 plus £15.99 per month for 5GB of data
I am constantly adding devices to my life that are in need of fast connections to the internet in order to perform at their best. Gartner research stated that apparently we will carry an average of seven devices by 2015. We failed to be able to count seven in the office, but at moment, I do have at least a smartphone, tablet, laptop, e-book and iPod around me most of the time.
While on the move it is sometimes difficult or impossible to connect those devices, often rendering them useless. Portable WiFi devices attempt to solve this problem and Huawei/Three's latest offering is the E5331 MiFi, described as a 'high-speed, multi-mode wireless terminal.'
I have used a Three dongle in the past, which I found fairly useful and was used intermittently until I purchased an iPad and the USB-connected device was left in a drawer.
A MiFi is a portable device which can provide internet via WiFi, meaning you do not need to physically connect the device to the MiFi. This one in particular claims to be able to provide Wi-Fi for up to five devices.
A network outage at the Computer Weekly offices proved a fine testing ground for the device. At one point we managed to connect two PCs, a laptop and a tablet to the device, but we stopped there, as the quality of connectivity did decrease the more devices we attached.
I found the quality of the network when using one of our web content management systems, Vignette, did vary depending on which browser we chose to use and we experienced intermittent problems. But on the whole when the rest of the office was sat twiddling their thumbs, we were able to continue relatively as normal.
The MiFi is very sleek, weighs less than a phone and fits easily in your pocket. It has an LED screen and just one button to switch the device 'on' and 'off'. The screen informs you of signal strength, battery life, connection and whether the SIM has received any SMS messages.
Its battery lasts around 4.5 hours, but when you're based in a fixed location you can power it from the power point.
During the test, I also took it on a train journey to Norwich, during which I was able to stream video with intermittent disruptions - as I expected while moving at high speeds. However, the big test was taking the device into the depths of the country. While visiting family in Wales - where the internet is painfully slow and reminds me why I left the country-bumpkin lifestyle a long time ago - the MiFi was a god-send. Connecting two phones and a tablet was no trouble and I was able to stream video with ease.
Interestingly, I used the MiFi while moving home recently, but I had trouble using it in parts of my new flat. Like with any mobile network, I expected the device to work well in some areas and not so much in others, but this often proves a little frustrating.
I was told that the device was likely to download at a speed of up to 21.1Mbps using HSPA+ and you can monitor how much data you are using and read any messages by logging into the MyThree account.
Available from Three, you have to pay £29 upfront for the device and you then take out a one-month rolling contract which offers 5GB of data for £15.99. Alternatively, it can be purchased for £49.99 on a pay-as-you-go basis.
A device like this, depending on your day-to-day activities can be very useful. If you travel a lot for work and spend a lot of time outside the office, then it may be worth investing in a contract.
And even for myself, with fixed internet at home and at work, a pay-as-you-go option would ensure I have a 'back-up' for those generic network failures or the occasional trip, meaning my ever growing family of gadgets is always connected.