Vodafone kindly supplied us with their Mobile WiFi HotSpot – the R201. The Mobile WiFi is a glossy white device, with the Vodafone logo on the on/off slider switch on the front, and a small LED screen, which looks larger than it is due to the surround. It measures 90mm x 60mm x 12mm making it slightly bigger than competitors, but its still small enough to be tucked away in a pocket or laptop bag without being noticed.
A Mobile WiFi HotSpot allows several Wi-Fi enabled devices (from laptops to smartphones) to share a secure mobile internet connection. This makes it better than a USB dongle, as it doesn’t require any device drivers, and can provide mobile internet to several devices at once (although the shared bandwidth can reduce the experience if one device is hogging data).
Under the Mobile WiFi’s backplate is a SIM slot, a MicroSD card slot and the 1400 MAh Li-Ion battery. Powering up the device it conencts to the Vodafone 3G network (subject to coverage) and makes it available via its own internal WiFi network allowing up to 5 devices to share the theoretical maximum HSDPA bandwidth of 7.2Mbps. The WiFi network name and access key is printed on a sticker on the inside of the backplate meaning you can be up and running instantly. The connection status is shown on the front screen, and the built-in display power-saving function meansthe information is displayed for 20 seconds, then the display powers off to conserve the battery charge. Vodafone state up to 4 hours battery life with 5 users connected, and a standby time of 100 hours.
Once connected you can update these settings if you want using the on-board control panel by entering http://192.168.0.1 into your web browser.
The MicroSD card slot (Up to 16GB) allows you to carry data or files on the card which can be accessed by any of the connected devices, however they have to get to the files via the web browser configuration panel (above) which makes sharing slightly clunky.
The device is charged via a Micro USB connector and will charge from either a USB wall plug adapter or a laptop USB socket. It will also act as a USB modem if connected to a laptop or computer if for example you don’t have built in WiFi.
The Vodafone Mobile HotSpot is available for free from contracts starting at £15/month.