Three has launched the latest version of its MiFi mobile broadband device, and kindly sent us a test unit to have a play with.
Visually the MiFi E586 is a refinement of the previous model, retaining the same overall shape and black colouring.
The two buttons handle power and the device’s network (SSID) name and passphrase meaning you never need to scrabble around for the manual to setup your devices to work with it.
Along with the refreshed look, the device has been given a performance boost – the company says it’s the first device to use HSPA+ mobile broadband technology, offering 3G speeds of up to 21.1Mbps.
For this review I used the MiFi with my iPad 2, eschewing my normal fixed line broadband and the device’s own T-Mobile powered 3G connection.
On a typical day I use my iPad mostly for tweeting, emails and browsing, all of which the MiFi took in its stride, giving speedier performance than I normally get on my T-Mobile 3G.
To help put the device through its paces I added some video watching and apps downloading to the mix.
I started with watching some music videos on VEVO’s iPad app, these played fine without any pausing. Feeling optimistic, I then did a quick tour of some other video playing apps with mixed results.
Despite being connected to the MiFi via a WiFi connection the BBC iPayer app (and website) spotted I was really using a 3G connection and refused to play, however Auntie’s news app was more than happy to play the streaming version of the News Channel.
ITV Player did work but the few minutes of DCI Banks I watched was peppered with pauses and buffering. I had more luck with 4oD which played back Fresh Meat without any mishaps.
I also tested the MiFi with the App Store by downloading a large app (Monopoly World Edition).
Although the store was happy to download the app – if it detects a 3G signal it usually refuses to download anything over 20MB – the download was pretty slow and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the entire 98MB file to download.
Overall I was impressed, the MiFi is easy enough to setup and use that even the most technologically challenged of us will have no problems and it’s great to see Three improving on an already impressive product.
If you’re looking for high performance, always-on broadband you’re still better off opting for Virgin Media’s cable service or a reliable ADSL provider (if you can find one!).
But if you’re looking for a flexible, reliable mobile solution that allows you to pay once yet access the web on any of your devices, Three’s MiFi continues to be an unbeatable buy.
The MiFi E586 is available from free on a £18.99 a month contract or on pay as you go for £84.99.