Product: Huawei E585
Specifications HSDPA, HSUPA, 3G, WiFi 802.11 b/g, microSD slot, microUSB port, Li battery
Price £49.99 on pay as you go
OBTAINING AN INTERNET connection for devices such as a laptop whilst out and about was once only restricted to hotspots in Internet cafes or similar outfits providing such connections. Then came along the 3G dongle, which was all well and good for a single device but was useless when it came to offering up connections for multiple pieces of kit - until the mobile broadband WiFi router came along.
The Three mobile network got in there first with a truly portable device that we reviewed at the start of the year; it was also first with a name change to the more friendly MiFi. It's a name that came from Novatel, which also make similar devices to Three's Huawei E585. Three grabbed the rights to use the MiFi name within the UK, where now every other network that puts out a similar product can't call their device MiFi and have to opt for something less friendly instead.
Three's original Huawei E5830 MiFi device was launched on Friday the 13th at the end of 2009. While that date might be unlucky for some, it wasn't for Three as it went on to become a best seller within the realm of mobile broadband.
Prior to the Huawei E5830 coming along, WiFi-based mobile broadband devices were largely clunky pieces of kit that required a power point where a regular USB 3G dongle slotted in to provide the necessary 3G/HSDPA access. It was hardly a portable device, although it did offer up a WiFi connection to a mobile data broadband network for five devices in much the same way as the more portable MiFi device now does.
Three went shopping for a more portable mobile broadband WiFi product, where it bought an off-the self-unit by Huawei that was just ready to go. This time around, Three had a lot more input into the successor of that unit, with the result being its new Huawei E585 MiFi mobile hotspot.
The mobile phone network undertook a three-month-long program developing their latest MiFi device, where they polled customers, resellers and just general users as to what they really want in their next MiFi product. It also appears they listened to The INQUIRER, as what we listed as faults in the original review under ‘The Bad' have now been resolved within this new MiFi device.
The basics of the E585 itself came courtesy of the original designers of the kit Huawei. The interface for connecting to the Three MiFi device was worked upon jointly between them both, along with the way it operates too, with vast improvements being made over the first product.
The way of connecting to the device for changes and monitoring comes from the dashboard; this came largely from Three's input and the results of the polling. Beforehand, there was just a generic piece of software that was only Windows-based, which left out Linux and Mac users if they wanted to connect to the MiFi unit to change anything. This time around the dashboard is now web-based, accessible from a browser and by any system no matter what OS - this wasn't present in the first MiFi unit which we noted as a big issue. There's even a mobile phone optimised version of the web-based dashboard, accessible only from a handset with the appearance of an Iphone menu, but we can live with that.
Three's original Huawei E5830 mobile hotspot required three buttons to be pressed for the device to be up-and-running as well as ready to connect. Users found this bothersome, including The INQUIRER. A power button turned on the product, another button powered on the WiFi part of the MiFi whilst a third connected the E5830 to the data network. Each stage required a pause in between each action, which just added to the frustration of the device when booting up.
Indicating all these parts are connected were a couple of lights in four corners of the display, which weren't the most informative of LEDS at the best of time as they tended to time out quickly. This resulted in us being unable to tell if the device was powered on. In turn, this often led to the device being inadvertently left running, with a massive battery drain making the E5830 unusable when it's needed the most.
The new E585 MiFi has just one button that powers on the device, where it automatically attaches to the data network and enables the mobile hotspot's WiFi. It's much better to use compared to the original Three unit. It also doesn't require constant monitoring just to see if you've remembered to power off the device since there's a power light.
Three has abandoned the four LEDs and has instead opted for a more comprehensive OLED display, which shows signal strength, speed of connection, how many users are connected over WiFi, whether there's an Internet connection present and the power level of the E585. Besides these, which all appear along the top rung of the display, there are two counters. These show exactly how much data has been downloaded during that session, along with how long it's been connected to the Internet. What the screen doesn't show is an accumulative data amount, the counter only displays the amount used for that particular session; if the device is rebooted, the total is sadly lost from the screen. However, there is a great deal of information on hand this time around, much more than a couple of useless bright lights can show.
The OLED screen does automatically power down over a period of time, but the power-on button is lit showing the device is still alive - something that was missing from the first MiFi. Unfortunately, the device does still need to be powered off manually as it doesn't automatically shut down after a prolonged time of non-use. The E585 also has a lower standby time of 12 hours, as the E5830 could power down the WiFi module of the unit when not in use to prolong life, which doesn't happen on the newer model.
Unlike the first model, this new version can both charge and operate at the same time. The battery also appears to have been reworked in this new model as it can charge faster too, but the screen does pull more power than the basic LEDs on the older device. However, the new model holds a charge longer when powered down, which we experienced for ourselves. As a bonus, the battery from the first MiFi model fits into the new version, just in case you wish to hold on to the original model.
Under the covers we've been told Huawei has improved the chipset used on the E585 from the E5830, especially in regards to the ‘edge of cell' coverage - moving between cell towers is therefore meant to be much more seamless, with less of a coverage loss. We tested this out with both devices on a train journey, but we didn't really experience any major loss in signal whilst travelling or even dips in reception on either MiFi unit.
There are also some minor changes. Huawei and Three have moved on from the mini USB slot used for charging to a micro USB version. They've also bundled in the box both a wall-charger with a removable cable, along with a shorter cable for portability. The WiFi standard used remains the same, with 802.11n still not built-in in the Huawei unit as it only supports b and g.
Connecting to the MiFi device doesn't mirror the distance a home or office wireless router could provide, but there does appear to be some improvements from the E5830. Previously, at half a metre distance the connection dropped from an 'Excellent' 54Mbps to a 'Very Good' 48Mbps. On the 1.5m mark the signal dropped even further to just a 'Good' 36Mbps, at the 2m point a 'Low' 24Mbps signal was obtained. The new E585 trumped those tests, where even at the 1.5 metre mark the signal only dropped to a 'Very Good' 48Mbps and we only witnessed a 'Good' 36Mbps at 2 metres. It's even possible to reach the device at 10 metres - according to 3, 30 metres could be possible if plugged into a charger.
Three says the battery life between the two models hasn't significantly changed, but our tests showed something completely different. The original Huawei E5830 lasted for three hours in continuous use, where this time around the battery on the new E585 MiFi device lasted for four hours and twenty minutes. It's a significant improvement we think, when you take into account that both devices have a similar 1500 mAh battery and both sets of tests were in the same location using HSDPA too.
The Three Huawei E585 is a great improvement over the original device with an easier connection methodology and much better way of reporting what's happening with the OLED screen. Many faults have been corrected and there are some notable improvements. We can also see how useful a MiFi device can be, especially now that networks have stopped their unlimited data allowances. With many phones now offering 3G tethering, the need for a MiFi device could be questioned. However, the average mobile phone contract doesn't have a massive data allowance and the battery of a MiFi isn't impacted as much as a phone would be. µ
An improvement on the original MiFi device, informative screen, great accompanying data allowance, improved battery life.
No 802.11n, doesn't show accumulative data sessions on screen.
Doesn't automatically power down when not in use.