Novatel MiFi 2352 Portable WiFi Hotspot: First Look [UPDATED]

by Ben Smith on 8th September 2009

This new Novatel device first broke cover at Mobile World Congress in February and is intended to be a replacement for the 3G data dongle.  The MiFi’s  both a dongle (you can plug it into a PC or a Mac via USB) and a WiFi hotspot that’s about twice the size of a normal dongle.  The WiFi shares a 3G connection with up to 5 users and, because it’s battery powered, is easily portable.  It also includes a micro-SD slot which can share a memory card between users via a web-interface.

MiFi 2352 - Front and Back

The MiFi 2352 next to a Huawei E169 dongle for comparison... the portable hotspot is about twice the size of a 'traditional' dongle. The MiFi charges via mini-USB and the micro-SD card inserted in the back can be used to store and share files between connected users.

In use it’s a fuss-free experience – there’s a single on button on the top and once the WiFi connection has been configured via the web interface it’s ready to go. It was out of the box and working for me in less than a minute.  The value was immediately apparent too… several other laptops where quickly connected to the WiFi without need for drivers, passwords or re-starts.  Consumers will love the simplicity, businesses will love the lower support costs.

Speed-wise I set my expectations suitably low, remembering a similar (but not portable) device from 3 I had tested previously (epicly slow), but was pleasantly surprised – over a 3 connection it achieved a usable connection at a good speed, although I was disappointed with performance over USB which was, strangely, slower.  Side by side with a Huawei USB dongle also on 3, the dongle still wins speed-wise on some occasions, but it’s not enough of an impact to dim the appeal of the simplicity and portability for me right now… I’ll be testing battery life and longer-term performance over the next few weeks to see if those first impressions hold.

Expect to see this on Vodafone UK soon as Vodafone Germany already have it or get it now SIM-free for £209 from Expansys.  Also, watch-out for a first review of 3′s competing device which launches later this month – we’ll have a hands-on test before the launch. [Vodafone Germany tip via Andy Abramson]

MiFi 2352 on 3 (via WiFi)

The MiFi 2352 on 3 (via WiFi) - this was the result in the first 3 tests, whilst it matched the USB dongle twice in the next 3 tests.

Huawei E169 on 3 (via USB)

The Huawei E169 on 3 (via USB) - the fastest and most consistent performer, this was its result throughout testing.

MiFi 2352 on 3 (via USB)

The MiFi 2352 on 3 (via USB) - An unexpectedly disappointing result... usable, but consistently slower than via WiFi.

Testing notes:  The same SIM was used in the same location on the same laptop in one session of testing.  Each result was collected 6 times from test servers in London, Mancherster and New York. Typical results are shown above.  Only longer-term testing can validate if this snapshot is really representative of real-world performance.

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