Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem
Vodafone's Pocket WiFi modem offers mobile broadband access for up to five devices
- Up to five simultaneous connections, large OLED display, good battery life, easy to set up and use, can be used while charging
- No external antenna jack, locked to Vodafone (it can be unlocked, however)
The Vodafone Pocket WiFi is a 3G mobile broadband modem that's easy to use. It also acts as a wireless hotspot for up to five devices.
Price$ 99.00 (AUD)
Vodafone's battery-powered Pocket WiFi modem allows up to five devices to connect to it wirelessly for shared mobile broadband access over a telco's 3G network. It's a similar device to the Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Modem, but the Vodafone Pocket WiFi has a monochrome OLED status display.
The Vodafone Pocket WiFi's display shows signal strength, battery life, the amount of data used (both downlink and uplink), network status (GSM, 2G, 3G) and how many devices are currently connected to the unit. The screen makes it much easier to see this kind of information at a glance — most other Wi-Fi modems, including the excellent NetComm MyZone 3G, use basic LEDs instead of a display.
Vodafone clearly considers simplicity a virtue, as the Pocket WiFi takes less than a minute to set up — you simply insert your SIM card and the battery, turn the unit on and it is ready for use. The Pocket WiFi has just one button on the left side (a power key), while a microSD slot on the left supports memory cards of up to 32GB in capacity. When connected over Wi-Fi multiple computers can access the content of the microSD card. A reset button can be accessed by removing the rear cover.
The Pocket WiFi charges via a standard microUSB port through an included AC adapter or USB cable, and the device can still be used while it is charging. One missing feature is the external antenna jack to boost reception, often found on regular USB modems.
The Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem has a wireless range of up to 15 metres, but we found the signal strength started to rapidly deteriorate after about 10 metres. It worked fine up to this distance through the internal walls of an office. Up to five separate devices can connect simultaneously to the Internet on the Vodafone network — we didn't notice much slowdown with two smartphones and a notebook connected simultaneously.
As is always the case when it comes to mobile broadband, the speed of the Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem will depend on a number of factors, including the mobile network, the area you're in, the time of day and network congestion. We found speeds relatively stable while in a 3G zone, but coverage can be quite patchy outside major suburbs.
Using our Broadband Speed Test, the Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem managed to achieve download speeds of up to 3.7 megabits per second (Mbps), but it regularly hovered around 2.5-3Mbps in North Sydney. Upload speeds were also stable at around 1.4Mbps. With multiple devices connected and running the speed test simultaneously, these figures dropped to around 2Mbps, which is still a respectable result.
The Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem comes with a default SSID and WEP key, but you can change these settings by typing http://pocket.wifi into your browser. The simple interface allows you to change the name of your network (SSID), change your password, and configure advanced wireless and 3G settings, and it can be accessed through an iPod Touch or iPad.
Vodafone claims the modem has a battery life of up to five hours, but we managed almost a full day's use (primarily using it for basic Web browsing) before the battery needed recharging. The Pocket WiFi modem has a sleep function to preserve battery life when not in use, but will awake as soon as it detects a connection.
The Pocket WiFi modem is available through Vodafone for $99 and includes 1GB of data with a 30-day expiry. Alternatively, you can sign up for a number of 12- or 24-month plans — the Pocket WiFi is available for $0 upfront on a $29 plan over 24 months, with 4GB of data to use per month.
The Vodafone Pocket WiFi modem is locked to Vodafone's broadband service, but can be unlocked for $50 (or $25 if you unlock online).
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