Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem

Virgin's WiFi Modem is the first 4G mobile broadband device to launch on the network but speeds aren't the best

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Virgin Mobile Australia 4G WiFi Modem
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • Decent battery life
  • Good value 4G pricing plan
  • Easy to read display

Cons

  • A little chunky
  • 4G speeds aren't impressive
  • Non-removable battery

Bottom Line

The Virgin Mobile WiFi Modem is the first 4G mobile broadband device to launch on the network. It's a little heavy, the battery isn't removable and the speeds it produces simply aren't as fast as competing devices.

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Optus MVNO Virgin Mobile has offered a 4G service since late 2012, but its WiFi Modem is the first 4G mobile broadband device to launch on the network. It's a little heavy, the battery isn't removable and the speeds it produces simply aren't as fast as competing devices.

A gloss black brick

The Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem is a battery powered, portable wireless modem that's manufactured by Chinese company Huawei. The E5576 device is a little heavy at 150g and certainly not as slim as a modern day smartphone at 15.5m thick. As a comparison to devices already on the market, it's smaller than the Optus 4G Mini WiFi modem but not as slim as Telstra's pre-paid Wi-Fi 4G modem.

The glossy front effectively hides the OLED display when its not in use, but it's slippery and attracts plenty of fingerprints.

The Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem has a gloss black front and a matte black finish on the back and sides. The glossy front effectively hides the OLED display when its not in use, but it's slippery and attracts plenty of fingerprints. Unlike many other Wi-Fi modems on the market, the 4G WiFi Modem's internal battery isn't removable.

The Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem is reasonably straightforward to use. The highlight is a small but readable OLED screen that displays plenty of information including signal strength, the network type (3G/4G), the number of devices connected and a battery level indicator. There's also connection time and how much data you've used displayed along the bottom of the screen.

There's a large, single power button on the front that is recessed into the case of the modem. The silver button has an attractive white light that pulses when the modem is connected, which is a nice touch. On the top you'll find a standard sized SIM card slot, a reset button and a microSD card slot, while a standard micro-USB port for charging, a WPS button and an antenna port that can be used to boost reception in flaky coverage areas are on the bottom. If the battery is flat the Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem can be connected to a computer via the included USB cable and used as a wired modem.

The Virgin Mobile WiFi Modem is manufactured by Huawei.
The Virgin Mobile WiFi Modem is manufactured by Huawei.

To change any of the settings, you'll need to access the modem's Web interface. It's accessible by pointing your browser to http://192.168.1.1 and logging in using the default password supplied. The Web interface is both straightforward and functional. Options include editing the SSID name and password, editing the APN, changing the screen time and a host of other advanced networking and security options.

4G speeds aren't as quick as rival networks

The 4G WiFi Modem is obviously marketed as a 4G device, but will switch over to Virgin's (Optus) regular 3G network if 4G coverage isn't available. According to the telco, Virgin 4G coverage stretches up to 10km from Sydney's CBD to cover suburbs like Little Bay and Arncliffe in Sydney's south, Dee Why north of Sydney, Vaucluse and Bondi Beach in the east and Silverwater and parts of Homebush in western Sydney.

Like all mobile broadband products, the speed of the 4G WiFi Modem will depend on a number of factors.

The 4G network also services parts of Newcastle, including areas like Maryland, Edgeworth and Cessnock, parts of Wyong and Tuggerah on the Central Coast, and selected areas in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Toowoomba.

When you're in a 4G coverage zone, the Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem promises maximum theoretical download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps), which is around seven times faster than what you can achieve on the 3G network. These are maximum, best case scenarios, however, and the results we achieved were significantly less. Like all mobile broadband products, the speed of the 4G WiFi Modem will depend on a number of factors including time, location, network coverage, signal strength and congestion.

The above map shows Virgin's 4G coverage in Sydney, denoted in purple.
The above map shows Virgin's 4G coverage in Sydney, denoted in purple.

When using the Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem in a 4G coverage zone, we only managed to achieve download speeds of up to 12Mbps but generally found speeds hovered between 6Mbps and 8Mbps on most occasions. We tested the device at multiple locations including the Sydney CBD and North Sydney, both areas served by Virgin 4G coverage. Despite testing the device with full 4G reception, we were unable to achieve speeds of over 12Mbps, a disappointing result. Upload speeds were also less than stellar, generally hovering around 3Mbps.

We found the 4G WiFi Modem's battery lasted around four hours before needing to be recharged. This is a better result than Telstra's Mobile 4G Wi-Fi modem, which lasted around 30 minutes less when we reviewed it last year.

The Virgin Mobile 4G WiFi Modem is available now for $0 upfront on the $59 plan over 12 months. The plan includes 13GB of included data to use each month.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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Read more on these topics: wi-fi modem, lte, mobile broadband, 4g, virgin mobile

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