75 / 100
Compared with the complexity of converged devices, like smartphones and tablets, a review of a device like the Pocket WiFi 4G is seemingly simple. There’s no camera, no headphones, no carefully crafted user experience.
So, what should there be?
Vodafone’s Pocket WiFi 4G tells you everything you need to know about it right there in its name. Designed to take advantage of the telco’s new 4G network, the Pocket Wifi is a modem capable of serving data to up to five connected devices simultaneously, with a throughput maximum of 150Mbps (though you’re unlikely to see speeds near this in real world use).
It’s design is distinctly utilitarian. Made by Huawei, the modem is a small black plastic box, about the size of a packet of Extra gum, maybe a little thicker. There is a single button on the top of the unit, beside a monochrome screen - like you might have seen on your first Nokia phone way back when.
The Pocket WiFi has a single micro-USB port, used for charging the battery, but you can also tether the modem to a PC if you like. Two extra ports on the side of the modem are used for connecting signal extending antennas, which could be a necessity depending on Vodafone coverage in your area.
Setup and connecting
Everything you need to get started with the modem is stored in its own memory. Once you plug it in, it should be pretty easy to figure out what you have to install. We tested the modem on a Mac, and while it didn’t auto-start the installation, it was easy to find the drive mounted on our system.
Once installed, the software launches a page in a web browser, with options similar to the ones you’d find in the admin software for any modem/router. You can fiddle with options, create a new WiFi password and monitor your usage in here.
But actually, you don’t even need to install anything if you don’t want to. In the box, with the modem, you’ll find a card with a password for the WiFi printed on it. Just turn the Pocket WiFi on, enter the password, and you should be away.
The modem itself works well, with a reasonably quick boot up and easy setup. The display is only for the basics, but it is sufficient to tell you how much data you have used, how many devices are connected, and whether or not you have a strong signal.
As you’d expect, the network performance differs greatly. In the WhistleOut labs, we are blessed with outstanding Vodafone reception and regularly see speed test results ranging between 10 and 30Mbps for both downloads and uploads.
Taking the modem out of our labs produced varying results. Connecting a Samsung Galaxy S5 to the modem and moving through the CBD in Sydney was fine, but we did find our fair share of black spots. It got worse when we jumped on a train and headed West, with a few large dropouts in coverage affecting streaming music and video.
Battery life tends to range between 5 and 6-hours of use, which is fine, but we would have liked to have seen more. If you consider how you might use this modem; on and off throughout a day at work or Uni, it'd be nice if you didn't have to worry about running out of charge through the day. It'd also be nice if you didn't have tor recharge the modem every night.