on 14 August 2013
I've been using a 3G dongle for mobile data access for years. It can work very well - for example it has given me continuous Internet access on long rail journeys. Unfortunately, it has not always worked that well and there is always the issue of having a dongle sticking out of my netbook which risks accidental damage to both.
I wanted to switch to a Mi-Fi device to get rid of the dongle and to support portable devices such as my Kindle that have only Wi-Fi. My provider does not carry a Mi-Fi device so I purchased a TP-LINK M5350 for my personal use. It arrived today and I am already very impressed by it.
It is an exceptionally well thought through device that does not rely on any external hardware other than a SIM card. This is really important to anyone like myself who uses the Linux OS on their laptop. It is also incredibly easy to set up. You just pop it open, put in your SIM and an optional micro SD memory card, add the battery, note the SSID and password on the label on the inside of the cover and then replace put the cover back on. For most people that will be it. Job done.
You can plug in the M5350's charger and connect up to the mains to start using your device straight away. With the charger connected you will see a large charging icon appear on the display. Press and hold the single button on the M5350 for a few seconds to turn it on. The single charging icon will be replaced by two rows of smaller icons. These are well described on the quick start leaflet and give you all the information you need to monitor the operation of the device.
Personally I would always recommend changing the default SSID and password of any Wi-Fi modem. The M5350 has a wizard to make this process easy, the instructions to access it are on quick start leaflet. If you want to do more to secure your device its settings like turning off the SSID broadcast then the built in firmware makes this easy to do. Again, I am very impressed by this software, it is actually simpler to use than that on my home modem.
Everything is there including support to send and receive SMS messages - watch this it could incur additional charges if not included in your data contract. There is also an impressive manual that you get at through the help icon on the device's control panel. The M5350 also records total data throughput, the manual warns that this may not coincide with your data provider's figures but it will be good enough to warn you if you are in danger of going above your data allowance.
Against these positive points there are a couple of things to be aware of:
- The back does not appear to be designed to be taken off and replaced on a regular basis so it will be better to use this device with a contract or re-chargeable pre-pay SIM card;
- The lead provided with the supplied is short so you may need to replace it;
- The micro SD card is only accessible through a physical USB link to your computer or other device.
That last point implies that the modem can be used as an independent, portable backup device that is not going to be easy to accidentally corrupt. I actually think this is another well thought out feature of this device although not everyone will see it this way.
on 11 August 2013
Bought it primarily to use on holiday in Spain in a few weeks time.
I bought a Vodafone Tablet Sim to test it and it all worked flawlessly.
(the Vodafone sim comes with 256MB for £2 but is then £5 to top up with another 256 - work that out.)
I tried it with my Smartphone's Tesco Mobile Sim (uses O2s network) and with the work phone's O2 phone sim and neither of these will work. Didn't realise they blocked mifi/tethering which is a shame but not the fault of the Tp-Link unit.
Only one flaw to my middle aged eyes is the size of the display. Even with the reading specs it's a bit of a squint.
Whilst my phone has a tether mode, it destroys the battery life. Went camping recently for the weekend and took this, slipped my SIM card from my phone in here and used this for our groups Wifi Access in the middle of field. Because my phone wasn't using 3G, it's battery life improved, and I survived the whole weekend without needing to charge it. At this point I was already won over with this product :-)
Setup is dead easy. Slip your SIM card in, the wifi code is under the battery cover, and connect to it like you would any other Wifi access point. The is a display that shows you how many users are connected, battery life etc and even how many text messages you have (you have to log into the web interface to view and send text messages).
There is a MicroSD slot, but it's mostly pointless, you can't access it wirelessly, you can only access it via cable, I would treat this as a bonus feature, it's not really core functionality. However I feel there is a lot opportunity, as it's a shame there is no embedded SAMBA server running for Android users to access the SD card as a network drive over Wifi.
It should also be noted that it takes full size SIM cards, not the micro or mini SIM cards, so if you have one of the smaller ones, then you may need an adapter. It's a shame they aren't included in the box, as the cost would be close to zero for the manufacturer to included these.
Signal-wise 3G and Wifi were VERY solid, and I got more than the 6-7 hours quoted battery life, which I guess is part dependant upon how much data is being transferred.
For the cool factor of having a Wifi access point in the middle of a field, and the kudos from friends for supplying it, it's worth every penny! :-)
on 11 October 2013
I bought a Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet with wifi rather than 3g. This device allows me to get on the internet anywhere I like.
Itwas the simplest device I've ever used- just popped in a broadand sim, switched it on, and then put in the password supplied. Now, whenever I need wifi, I just switch it on and it connects automatically. It turns itself off after I've turned off the tablet too.
Its easy to charge via micro usb (not suppied) or using the adaptor (supplied) and a usb plug or pc (not supplied). Battery seems to last ages, but I have a backup portable battery charger thingy too for longer trips away.
I haven't been able to go into the browser using my tablet. It doesn't seem to support android for that. You need Windows or ios if you want to read the messages or change settings. I'm just using it as it comes for the present, but will connect it up to a laptop when my data sim expires so I can see what the isp offers for another payg period.
I love the intuitive display that tells you how much data you've used (I'd better use it more often before my time is up!), what your signal is like, how many devices are connected etc.
Appearance wise, this looks great. It slips into a pocket or pouch or you can place it out on a hard surface on its non scratch back panel. Cool!
on 3 December 2013
It worked out of the box as expected and was very easy to quickly connect several devices to it. I did tests with different network SIM cards and they all worked (you don't need a data only SIM by the way), and with a good 3G signal it zips along for use on holiday in the middle of Devon.
However, at some point the internet had dropped and I discovered that the device was red hot and overheated. So hot that it was hard to hold! It was running on battery at the time and not physically connected to anything, so I switched it off, allowed it to cool and then re-booted - all OK. As it happened once it's likely to re-occur so I am sending it back for a new one. It drops the one star because of this problem, otherwise an excellent piece of kit. I love the simple display and the on/off system.
PS. I have discovered how to easily get the back off - stick your finger nails in between the casing at the top corner, not in the USB socket as they suggest, and the back pops off. It's a lot easier!
on 4 March 2014
I got this so I can use my Wifi-only tablet when I'm away from home. I got a Giffgaff data-only SIM as the cheapest way to get 3G data (for me), and the two work fine together. With a good 3G signal, this device gives you a very easy to set up and use WiFi "hotspot" all of your own. The WiFi has a decent range and seems to connect to my devices well. (A Samsung Galaxy Tab and an old Dell Notebook).
The device will fall back to a 2G service if 3G is not available where you happen to be, which works, but is obviously very slow. I think the 2G fall back depends on your mobile provider's service.
On a good 3G signal it is fast enough for general browsing and e-mail stuff, but i wouldn't want to use it for streaming video.
Note it doesn't do 4G even if you have a 4G enabled SIM.
As others have noted, the SIM and battery cover is a bit flimsy, and doesn't seem designed for frequent swapping of the SIM in and out, if you want to use your normal phone SIM for example.
When it is all assembled, it is a very smooth "pebble" design with just one button for on/off. There is a micro USB connector to connect it to your PC for setting up the WiFi parameters or the charger supplied.
It comes with some built-in parameters for common ISPs, but these didn't work for me on Giffgaff. It was easy to fill in the parameters supplied by GiffGaff though, and it connected to them straight away once I'd done that.
I haven't pushed the battery life, so I don't know how long it lasts. The longest I have used it in one session is two hours.
All in all, I am happy with this gadget. It does what I bought it for, and it seems well made as if it will last.
I already own a Huawei E5331 MiFI which I have used for the last year and so was anxious to try this new TP-Link M5350 mobile hotspot. As I see it these are the pros and cons of this TP-Link device;
- It is attractively packaged and the pocket hotspot itself is a stylish pebble design in black with a white OLED display - it feels nice to handle and is genuinely pocketable.
- The on/off switch is easy to use as it is quite large and the display, although small, is sharp and informative - it indicates the following; signal strength; 2 or 3G network; WiFi status and the number of clients; SMS message; connection to the internet; battery power; automatic or manual connection mode; and current/total traffic.
- A UK mains charger is supplied and the connecting cord doubles as a USB charger.
- Battery life is good and I got around 6 hours use out of my first charge.
- Easy wireless connection for tablets, iPads, laptops - just switch on and enter the wireless password and you're away - no problems with my iPad, Samsung Galaxy(7") Tab 3(imported) or Toshiba laptop.
- Performance is fast (up to 21.6 Mbps is claimed) and it supports HSPA - even though I used the same 3 Network SIM card from my Huawei the performance of this device seems noticeably faster.
- Supports Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP, Mac, IOS, Android and the following browsers - Explorer, Firefox, Safari & Chrome.
- Has a factory settings reset switch and, can, if you want, be manually configured.
- It takes full size SIM cards and has a Micro-SD card slot for up to 32GB of storage.
- Three year warranty and claimed 24/7 support from TP-Link.
- Takes full size SIMs only - needs an adaptor for Micro or Nano SIMs.
- A small case would have been a great finishing touch.
- Nothing else I can see.
This is a well designed and easy to use device which delivers good performance - it's one of those products I know now I'll just use and use. Recommended.
While USB dongles are only useful for laptops, Mi-Fi units are a must have for tablets and smartphones, and this TP-Link unit is a smart choice.
It has good build quality, a useful display, and as others have noted, serves as good backup for if your home broadband goes down. Works great with a giffgaff SIM (make sure to add a giffgaff profile in the admin page with the right APN settings [search] and set the region to UK from the default of US).
Battery life is perfect. Recommended.
on 8 September 2013
I bought this Wi-Fi modem as my galaxy tablet's internet was Wi-Fi only and not 3g. This modem was so simple to set up, all I needed to do was type in a number code which is located inside the cover of the modem into the tablet and I was connected to the modem in less than a minute. When I connected the modem again the next day it automatically connected without the need of the code number. The modem comes with charger and quick user guide. Once charged it runs around 4-5 hours if used for short periods. Was not cheap at £45 but well worth the price and works with my galaxy tablet 2 and galaxy s3 phone without any problems. This modem is nice compact size, will fit into your trouser/shirt pocket.. will take a standard sim card from any network providing the modem is unlocked. IF you only have a micro sim then you will need a sim card adaptor which are available on Amazon/Ebay or your network provider themselves. I would recommend buying this excellent piece of kit.
on 21 July 2013
This is a neat physical design, like a pebble made in black ABS plastic with a textured finish, and small enough to go into a pocket. The only control is the power button, and a black and white 6-line OLED display tells you what is going on. The single connector at the top is for the micro-USB 5V adapter included with the product.
Flipping the back off you can see a chunky 2000mAh Li-ion battery, which should give it a good long run time (they claim 6-7 hours). Underneath the battery is a SIM card slot and also a micro-SD memory card slot.
Using this for the first time was as simple as installing a SIM card (I used T-Mobile but it is not locked to any network), attaching the USB charger and powering on. The power-on button takes about 4-5 seconds, which seems long but perhaps this is to guard against accidental switch-on in your bag or pocket.
The default settings were all good, but you can reconfigure it via a web interface. To do this, attach a computer via the WiFi access point and then use the browser to connect to 192.168.0.1, where you can log-in with admin/admin. Here you can change all the usual WiFi access point settings, and you can also manually enter parameters for the 3G network such as the APN (although it seems to learn these automatically). By default the security is turned out, which is a good idea since you don't want random strangers to connect to your WiFi and spend your data credits. The default wireless password is written on a sticker just inside the device back cover.
In operation, you can see the status from the web interface, giving a count of sent and received traffic and connection status for 3G or GSM. This information is also on the OLED display, which summarizes signal strength, operator details, traffic counts and battery status.
The console allows you to see SMS messages received on the number of your SIM card, so you can use this for texting. This turns out to be quite useful, as T-Mobile send texts telling you when your data credits have expired. For sending texts, I found that you must use the full international number, i.e. starting with +447... (for UK numbers), otherwise the send fails. There is also an indicator to tell you that a micro-SD card is present in the slot, although I was unable to find out how to access the contents of the card and I'm still not sure what having a card plugged-in enables you to do.
Overall this is a very convenient and easy-to-use mobile WiFi, and I'm looking forward to using it on the move with my WiFi devices.