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Novatel MiFi 2352 review

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
220
inc VAT

A neat way to increase the flexibility of your mobile broadband connection, either at home or on the move, but it's far too expensive.

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Specifications

Routers that let you share access to mobile broadband dongles are becoming ever more common, but we've never seen anything truly portable until now.

Novatel's MiFi 2352 is a pocketable device; it's smaller than most smartphones and weighs a mere 81g. Best of all, it has a rechargeable Li-ion battery so you don't have to be near a mains socket to use it.

The idea is simple: just pop in the SIM from your existing mobile broadband dongle and you'll be able to access your mobile broadband connection via WiFi. Up to five laptops or other portable devices, such as WiFi-enabled cameras, can share the connection in this way.

Novatel claims the battery will last four hours; we managed to get over three hours of browsing via the wireless link without the MiFi running out of juice. It recharges via its USB port and can be used as a normal 3G dongle while doing so.

The first time you plug it in, it installs its connection management software automatically, just like most broadband dongles. You'll need to find out the Access Point Name (APN) for your 3G service (either from your provider or by searching online) and enter the password. Annoyingly, you have to set up two separate profiles, via its web interface, one each for WiFi and USB connections.

There are no wired Ethernet sockets, but there's little else missing. In fact, not only does this box of tricks include an 802.11b/g router with WEP, WPA and WPA2 security and an HSDPA modem with support for download rates of up to 7.2Mbit/s, there's also a microSDHC slot for sharing files and an assisted-GPS receiver. If you don't carry a GPS-capable smartphone, then the latter can be very handy, as it allows you to pinpoint your position on Google or Yahoo! Maps.

The range of the router isn't great, but should suffice for mobile use. Novatel claims a 10m range, and though we connected at this distance, our file transfer test would only run consistently at around half that. Data transfer speeds are nothing to get excited about, but 5.1Mbit/s should be easily sufficient for sharing a 3G connection.

The MiFi is impressive, and ideal if you often work as part of a group on the move, but it's more than twice as expensive as a standard mains-operated router with USB mobile broadband support. If it were available as part of a 3G contract it would be better value, but until that time comes it's bound to remain a niche product. That said, UK mobile provider 3 has launched its own portable 3G router for only £70 plus a rolling one-month £15 contract. It is, confusingly, also called the MiFi - see www.three.co.uk/Mobile_Broadband for more details. We'll bring you a full review of this 'other' MiFi next month.

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