Dimensions: 62 x 98 x 15.3mm
Connectivity: 802.11b/g 2.4GHz (WEP/WPA/WPA2), built-in assisted GPS, HSDPA 7.2 Mbps / HSUPA 5.76Mbps, GPRS & EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz, DHCP Server, NAT/NAPT, DNS Support, VPN Passthrough
Expansion slot: 1x microSD
Where to buy:
Pros: Not only is it incredibly small and light, it’s a turn-key solution too
Cons: The price tag is its weakest point, followed by fairly short battery life
While more and more devices are capable of a 3G mobile broadband connection out of the box, the vast majority of standard laptops, eReaders and Wi-Fi capable media players are unlikely to ever have this functionality. This makes surfing on the move with such devices difficult unless you’re one of the lucky few with free Wi-Fi hotspots covering your town or city. This is exactly the market Novatel’s MiFi 2352 is designed to cater for.
It’s a tiny, but surprisingly versatile little gadget too. Despite being smaller than your average mobile phone and weighing little more than 80 grams, with a 3G-enabled SIM card fitted it’s capable of churning out home broadband-beating speeds of 7.2Mbits/second through its own wireless hotspot. Stick it in your pocket and become your own walking Wi-Fi connection for you and your friends to share.
We were lucky enough to be able to test the MiFi out in the field – quite literally – on a recent holiday to a remote area beyond the bounds of standard broadband connectivity. With the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot more than 15 miles away, the MiFi’s 3G capability really came into its own, serving near-home broadband speeds to two computers simultaneously (it’s actually possible to connect five Wi-Fi enabled devices in all).
Setup is a cinch too, requiring a suitable 3G SIM card to be fitted and a solitary (power) button to be pushed. After the briefest of initialisations, a Wi-Fi connection notification popped up on the netbook and we simply connected using the 64-bit encryption key noted on the underside of the battery compartment. No software installations and no web configuration to worry about – it just worked.
Should you want to bypass the Wi-Fi aspect, it’s also possible to connect the MiFi 2352 directly to your computer with a standard mini-USB cable to turn it into a traditional 3G dongle. This requires a short and simple software installation routine allowing access to deeper functionality also found in a simple web configuration screen.
It’s clear we’re fans of Novatel’s gadget then, but assuming you’ve already glanced at the score it’s obviously not without its faults. By far the largest of these is the price. At just under £200 it’s an incredibly expensive piece of kit and there’s not enough separating it from its few peers to warrant it.
Besides the price, the only other real drawback is battery life. While, with sparse use it can just about live up to its advertised four-hour runtime, under the stresses of file downloads and multiple connections, however, this timescale can be practically hacked in half. The 1530mAh lithium ion battery perhaps isn’t as large and chunky as it could be – though had Novatel gone for a denser battery, its impressively small size would certainly have been compromised.
Were it £50 cheaper, or bundled with a 3G SIM card and 12 months of unlimited mobile broadband it would have easily scored 4/5. This and a stronger battery might have even pushed it to top marks. Wish list aside, though, Novatel’s breathtakingly simple approach to convenient broadband connectivity is still second to none.