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I’m not normally one to “review” new pieces of hardware writing about my experience while doing so, but thought I’d break with tradition so far and document my thoughts on this mobile broadband router or “MiFi” as it’s been termed.

The Huawei E585 is a mobile broadband data dongle with a difference – in that unlike most usb stick type devices, it includes a WiFi radio alongside the usual 3G connectivity. This is used to great success to provide a secure wifi hotspot with all the usual encryption options to which you can easily connect your laptop, iPod, games console, iPhone or any other WiFi-enabled device you choose.

Once switched on using its single button, the device automatically tries to establish a 3G connection to the mobile network, and once online routes data from connected WiFi clients out to the internet via the 3G connection. It can also act as a more traditional USB-connected dongle and uses a virtual CD drive to store the relevant drivers for easy installation once plugged into a host computer.

If you don’t want to or are unable to install the drivers the WiFi connection doesn’t need anything special other than a working WiFi connection on your computer, so will work with anything that can connect to a WiFi network.

The E585 supports up to 5 connected WiFi devices at the same time and will share your 3G connection between them. Obviously you may find browsing the web is a little slower with 5 active clients than if you just connect one device.

Connection speeds seem to be pretty good, but obviously your mileage may vary as performance will naturally depend on your choice of mobile network & signal strength etc.

The E585 is a fairly good looking device as far as mobile dongles go, and sports an extremely helpful OLED status screen on the front which shows you various key pieces of information such as which network it’s connected to, signal/battery strength, and the amount of data transferred over the active connection.

It sports a single power button on the side of the unit which switches it on & off, and will activate the display if the device has turned it off to save power.

The dongle has a rechargeable battery that seems to be good for 4-5 hours of browsing and can be charged by plugging the dongle into a host computer via USB or using the included mains charger.

If you haven’t installed any client software, all of the devices configuration settings & controls can be accessed over WiFi using a web browser.

The admin interface allows you to control nearly every aspect of the device from the name of the wireless hotspot to encryption keys, to setting the DHCP address ranges it should use through to enabling uPNP or mapping ports from your public IP address to a local device. More or less everything a normal user might want to do with a typical broadband router can be accomplished with this device.

If you access the admin interface with a mobile browser the device presents a highly optimised version of its pages offering access to the key settings & status pages – ideal if you’re accessing it via an iPhone or iPad for instance.

As is fairly obvious from the branding on the front of the unit I sourced this device from “Three” in the UK. They’re available on a variety of contracts or as pay-as-you-go, and offer great value for money.

The main reason I opted for this unit though was because they’re also readily unlocked, and will work across other UK networks. If for example you find yourself without coverage from 3, you can simply then pop in a SIM card from another network for which you have an account and get yourself online using the same device… with no need to hunt for a different dongle or change the drivers installed on your computer or alter any settings etc. I haven’t had the opportunity to try, but I’d imagine you could happily use the same device abroad if a compatible network was available & you sourced an appropriate sim – much cheaper than paying expensive data roaming charges for a UK based provider.

As may of the mobile broadband dongles are made by the same set of manufacturers, drivers from one network’s dongle can sometimes conflict with those from another meaning you can only have one of them installed at any one time… Not ideal if you’re switching between networks looking for coverage!

All in all, I’d highly recommend this device.
The combination of the E585 MiFi and a collection of Pay As You Go mobile broadband SIM cards seems to be a winning one to ensure you can get online whereever you happen to be with the minimum of fuss – providing there’s some form of 3G coverage available!!

Available from Three stores, or online from Three’s website.

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