For those not so technically minded, you might wonder just what the hell it is! Well the Huawei E5331 High Speed 3G 21.1Mbps Mi-Fi is a Mi-Fi unit.
What is a Mi-Fi?
Well put simply a Mi-Fi is a battery powered device that you put a SIM card into and switch on and it creates a Wi-Fi network for your devices to connect to the internet with by using the data allowance on your SIM Card. So your Wi-Fi only devices, like an iPad, Nexus 7, Laptop etc can have an internet connection wherever you have a phone data signal! They are fabulous for having in the car for a long journey to give an internet connection across different devices, the E5331 allows you to connect eight at a time.
The version I’ve got is fully unlocked and unbranded, which means I can put any SIM in it and happily use it, it will also do data over 2G. You can get a ‘Three UK‘ version, which is branded and locked to their network and doesn’t fall back on to 2G (and you can only connect five devices maximum).
I’ve used several different MiFi Units over the years (there is a review of one of the first, a Huawei E5830 here), and this is the fastest of them all, it’s able to use HSPA+ (which is supported by Three UK in a lot of areas) which should give you data speeds of up-to 21Mbps – which is faster than a lot of home broadband.
The unit itself is very small, not much bigger than a credit card, and about 1cm thick in the box is a Micro USB charging cable and a Quick Start Guide, you just crack open the back, slot in a SIM, and switch it on. On the back of the battery cover is the name of the default SSID (name) of the Wireless network, and the Key required to connect to it. Once the device is switched on and the ‘WiFi’ icon on it is glowing you can then find the name of your Wireless Network on your device and enter the key and you’re online!
The device itself has 4 icons on it, you have a signal, wifi ,battery and SMS, it doesn’t have a screen like the more expensive MiFi’s, the icons tell you pretty much all you need to know! They glow green for good (good signal, good battery) and amber for bad (low signal, low battery). These don’t stay on the whole time, they switch off after 30 secs, and the battery icon flashes continuously. You can just tap the power button to make them light up again so you can check the signal quality etc, The battery life is quoted at around 5 hours, which is pretty much spot on, and you can charge the MiFi and use it at the same time as well should you need to.
To make changes to the MiFi configuration you can either do it via your web browser by visiting 192.168.1.1 or by using the Huawei Mobile WiFi app on your Android / Apple device. The interface on either is pretty simple and straightforward to navigate (the default username and password is admin and admin by the way!). It also logs all the data you are using so you can keep track of it so you don’t go over your allowance, and you can also read and send text messages via the interface too.
The Huawei Mobile App on Android has a home-screen widget too, which gives you a live indication of the state of your device, with the data used, the amount of devices connected, signal, battery and text message indicator on it. Very smart!
All in all the Huawei E5331 High Speed 3G 21.1Mbps Mi-Fi is a wonderful bit of tech for almost anyone with a WiFi device. You could tether on your phone, and get a similar effect, but tethering does rinse your phone battery something chronic, this will give you 4-5 solid hours of tethering easily. My MiFi really is very handy on long journeys up north when Loz and G are on their WiFi Nexus 7’s, I also use it for my Nexus 7 when trekking in to London, I just switch it on and forget about it. If you’re a regular traveller as well it can also get you out of paying extortionate Hotel WiFi charges too! At £43 this really is a cheap little product that is extremely useful for a whole range of applications!
If you want the next model up, I’d recommend the Huawei E586E, it’s essentially the same device, with the addition of an AMOLED Screen that displays the status of the connection. The addition of the screen adds another £30 to the price sadly, but it is a more ‘premium’ device.
Top Tip – If you want a cheap data sim to go in this device grab one of these – 3GB of data which lasts for 3 months from when it’s activated. If you get one of these directly from Three UK it will cost £21!
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