3UK Mobile WiFi device Hands On

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

3UK Mobile Wi-Fi Device (MiFi)

I’ve had access to one of these devices since yesterday, and I am quietly impressed by the device, and it’s capabilities; it’s not perfect (more later), but it certainly is a very useful device…

Although it costs a little more than a standard 3 Mobile Broadband USB Modem, the extra facilities it offers may make it worthwhile for many.  Basically, it shares it’s 3G connection over Wi-Fi to upto 5 devices at the same time.  Now, the 3G network speed is not enough for all 5 devices to be streaming audio or video, but would cope with all 5 checking mail and web surfing.  In fact, I’ve been sat here with 2 laptops connected to it, with one streaming Spotify music for over 2 hours now without any glitches or problems.

One problem with the device is that it is 3G / HSPA only; it will not fallback onto the Orange 2G data network (like a 3UK Handset would), so if you are out of coverage of 3UK‘s own 3G network, it will not work at all.  3UK claim to be at 70% population with 3G, which is still one of the highest (if not the highest) for pure 3G connectivity, but the lack of fallback may leave you stranded in the short term.  Last night, 3UK showed their plans for a “monster” 3G network for 2010, which fills in a lot of gaps in their current coverage, so as this better network comes online, this problem will fade to some degree.

One key use of this device is for Wi-Fi only devices, such as the iPod Touch, the Nokia Internet Tablets, PSPs etc. and certainly all these devices gain extra features with connectivity, and it’s very easy to just turn the device on and be able to access the internet anywhere (with signal).  The battery is claimed to last 5 hours, and althougwe haven’t yet got to 5 hours of usage, it’s certainly a plausible figure.  If needed, you can turn off the wireless to limit it to local wired USB connection only, or you can turn off 3G to just give you a local wireless network hub for file sharing.  The network name (SSID) is quite obviously a 3UK device, so you may want to change it (all mangement needs to be performed via a wired cable connection).  You can also change the encryption key, although given this is listed under the battery, it may be easier to leave this alone for convenience.

Other positive points? 3UK are trying to ensure nothing (legal) is blocked by their Internet connection, and certainly everything we accessed worked fine without any issues.  As 3UK have good support for Skype, they are happy for you to run the client on your laptop.  Also interesting to note is that iPhones and iPod Touch can also use a MiFi to allow full access to Skype for calls; whether or not you are allowed to make calls on the Skype client is based on whether the connection is 3G (from the phone) or WiFi (from the phone); the fact that the WiFi access point then uses 3G is not factored in to the switch within the application, so these functions work fine too.

The only other downside we can find is that when you turn it on, you then seem to need to turn on 3G every time; it’s a shame it needs 2 buttons presses, and not just one, but this is a minor point.

The 3 MiFi will be available on Friday in Stores (and available to order online on Thursday)with two pricing options; the “Broadband 5GB 1 month” service will cost £69.99 upfront and then £15 per month for 5GB of data (with a rolling 1 month contract), or you can select the PAYG “Ready To Go” option at £99.99, which will include 3GB of data to be used over a 3 month period, and then it will move onto standard Mobile Broadband PAYG pricing.  3UK have indicated that there may be more tariffs in the future, and they will also review the 5GB limit over time too.

If you are worried about “Bill Shock” with this device (you will get warning SMSes, but as these are only available if you have the connection software installed and connect to the device via the wired USB cable, most people will never see these), 3UK have a “hard block” of £25 per month; once you hit this limit (comprised of the original tariff and then the overspend), 3UK will block the SIM for the rest of the month.  This is a nice feature to limit exposure, and you can ring up 3UK to increase or decrease this limit if you wish.  Of course, the My3 portal is accessible from any connected device (even on wireless) which gives you a live data usage figure should you wish to check how much you have used.

All in all, a useful device, and one you should consider if you want to have the capability of easily sharing your Mobile Broadband and have sufficient 3G coverage in the areas you want to use it.


Nokia announce their move into laptops

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Nokia Booklet 3G

This is the new Nokia Booklet 3G, a small form factor laptop (similar to many other devices, like the Vodafone netbook / Dell Mini units).  This, however, as well as featuring what appears to be a Windows OS, will also include some special features.  Firstly, like some other units, it will have 3G capabilities built in, possibly via a hot-swappable SIM card slot (allowing you to change or remove the SIM with the machine booted up).  It will also have A-GPS facilities for location based services.  Now, let’s remember that other devices, such as the Dell Mini 9 have similar capabilities, so this isn’t yet a unique device.

It will though, ship will access to a number of the Ovi Services, which will make a difference, including Ovi Maps (device widget), Nokia Music Store (including music streaming), Ovi Files (cloud based file storage), and Ovi Suite, allowing syncing with your mobile.

The spec, what little is currently known, looks good on paper: 10″ glass fronted screen, 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 120GB Hard Disk, HDMI port, integrated SD card reader, stereo speakers.

If you want to know more about this device, head over to All About Symbian.  More information is likely to be revealed by Nokia next week at their Nokia World event, where we expect a number of the phones we’ve covered recently to be announced as well.


Interesting Secondary Display

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Nanovision MIMO 710-S Display

This is an interesting looking secondary display to add to your PC.  The Nanovision 710-S display features a 7″ 800 x 480 screen; what’s most intersting though is that there will be two version of this USB-connected screen, a normal screen and a touch screen version.

Both versions feature a dual hinge mechanism, allowing it to be used in portrait or landscape mode (but still fold flat for travelling).  It’s due to ship next month, and one UK site apparently has it on pre-order at £130 (although that may well be the non-touch screen version), but it’s definitely an interesting device for adding a secondary display to your PC (it may well be Windows only), especially for the likes of the smaller laptops with 3G that are often in desperate need of a bit more screen estate…

Some content courtesy of Slashgear (via Engadget)


Vodafone reduce roaming data charges

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Vodafone square logo

A week or two back, 3UK informed us they were cutting their data roaming charges to just £1.25/MB, claiming that was the lowest rate available in the UK.  It may well have been, but I’m afraid it seems to me that Vodafone‘s new rates make that look pretty poor…

If you are using a Handset (as opposed to a Mobile Broadband USB Modem), then in Zone 1 (roughly the bigger countries in Europe) you will pay £4.99 for each block of 25MB (ie go 100k over 25MB and you will pay £9.98).  Outside of Zone 1, you would pay £14.99 per block of 25MB.

If you are using a USB Dongle (actually Vodafone‘s terms are “on phone” and “on laptop”, not explaining where a laptop or PDA tethered to a phone comes) then it’s £9.99 for each block of 50MB in Zone 1 (so the same rate per MB, just only available in bigger chunks) and £29.99 in Zone 2.

All these charges are per day, and end at midnight *UK* time (although Vodafone will send you texts when you get close to the end of a block of data and when it’s close to midnight), and Vodafone do state the charges are based on browsing and emails, and not file sharing, downloading music or video or streaming media either (as these will quickly eat up those blocks of data).

So, if we do our sums properly, it looks to us like Vodafone works out a lot cheaper per MB than 3UK are when roaming, but of course if you use a really really small of data per day, then 3UK will be cheaper, but where’s the fun in that… 🙂

With the aide of a handy calculator, we think the following would apply:

  • Using 1MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £8.75
  • Using 1MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £34.93

So, 3UK comes out best, until you start using more data…

  • Using 4MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £35.00
  • Using 4MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £34.93

Of course, as the numbers go up, it still starts to add up for both…

  • Using 15MB a day for 7 days on 3UK in France: £131.25
  • Using 15MB a day for 7 days on Vodafone in France: £104.79

Now, 15MB a day for 7 days is only 105MB, and, to be honest, with both networks offering over 500MB (3UK offering 1-2GB) for £5 per month, all these charges still look ridiculously high, but let’s hope the price war between the networks continues to drive down data charges before the EU has to act and set limits on roaming, like it has for calls and texts.


UK Gadgeteer Offers Page

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

Although we update the UK Gadgeteer Offers page most weeks with new deals we have found / agreed with companies, we thought we would draw your attention to the last update, which added a couple of exclusive 3UK offers.  Both offers include a white USB Mobile Broadband Dongle, which are currently very rare on 3UK, to the extent that if you head off to the 3Store website, you will only be offered the black ZTE modem.  However, we can provide you access to the white Huawei modem with two options; either a 24month 15GB contract for just the USB dongle or with an Acer laptop.  Head off to the UK Gadgeteer Offers page to see these two offers and links to the offers direct at 3UK.

Please note these are time limited offers, and will be removed once they are no longer available from 3UK.

We try to provide access to deals such as these (ie not available to the general public) as often as possible; if this deal does not interest you, please keep an eye on the UK Gadgeteer Offers page in case something else catches your fancy.


Datawind release UbiSurfer

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009


If the new Pocket Surfer 3 from yesterday was not your cup of tea, then maybe the new UbiSurfer is more your thing…

This is a small form factor laptop sized device, running Linux, but benefitting from both Datawind’s GPRS web compression technology, and their experience with the Pocket Surfer to bring an interesting, and well priced device to our shelves (and it’s available in Maplin already here at £149.99 until 4th August when the price goes back up to £159.99).

Just like the Pocket Surfer 3, the device comes with an embedded Vodafone SIM, and offers 30 hours of internet access per month for 12 months, and just like the Pocket Surfer 3, costs £29.99 for an additional 12 months, and can additionally have unlimited browsing for £5.99 per month.  It also benefits from the same 5p/25p per minute roaming data charges.  It, however, is not eligible for the lifetime unlimited browsing option at this time.

As well as featuring built in GPRS, it has built in Ethernet support and Wi-Fi (to allow connection via Hotspots, although it’s not clear whether you are limited to free hotspots, or whether Datawind have some agreement in place for wider access), a 7″ 800×480 screen and features local storage of 1GB, with access to a free 50GB online storage account.  At 222 x 165 x 29.5mm and 700g, it’s bigger and heavier than the Pocket Surfer 3, but it does also support video playback and audio too (and even has a microphone, which makes us wonder if VOIP could ever be made an option…).  As well as mic and headphone sockets, it also features 3 USB ports and an SD card slot.

As well as a web browser, it features Calendar, Media Player, XIP Office (Word processor, Spreadsheet and    Presentation), PDF Viewer, Email, IM support, Paint, and finally even a few Games.  Just like the Pocket Surfer 3, it features a QWERTY keyboard and touchpad (although it’s much larger than the Pocket Surfer version), yet still offers 4 hours active usage or 4 days standby, and because the device is Linux/GPE based, it even offers built in software updating capability.

This makes for another interesting device, although it does seem to offer a conundrum; do you go for the smaller, lighter audioless Pocket Surfer 3, or have the fuller multimedia experience of the UbiSurfer at the expense of size and weight…


3UK Updates on Mobile Broadband

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

3UK seem to try to remain at the forefront of mobile deals, and it appears that they are in the process of two new deals which should help…

Firstly, yesterday 3UK dropped their 12 month Mobile Broadband contracts.  3UK have stated that their 1 month Mobile Broadband Contracts offer sufficiently good value to not need to tie customers into 12 month contracts.  Now, 18 and 24 month contracts still exist for those who want even better value (at the cost of the tie-in).  This is a good move, and here at UK Gadgeteer we believe we are starting to see some large shifts away from longer contracts, with many people looking at shorter terms contracts.

Secondly, and to show their committment to Mobile Broadband, we can exclusively reveal that as from tomorrow 3UK will be offering SIM Only Mobile Broadband contracts, which are aimed at users who have laptops with built in 3G capabilities in their laptops.  Now, this covers a whole range of machines, not just the small form factor laptops such as the Vodafone Netbook (Dell Mini 9), and it will be interesting to see further details of these deals when they are released tomorrow…


Fancy a Dell Mini 9, with 3G, but without a contract?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Vodafone Dell netbook

Ever since we tried the Vodafone netbook, aka Dell Mini 9 with 3G, we have been impressed by the device; it’s small, lightweight, but still powerful enough for most needs.  However, until recently the only way to get one with the 3G module was via the networks like Vodafone, but now, to offer a choice, they are available from PC World.

PC World are selling the Dell Mini 9 for £299 with 3G, Bluetooth, 8GB SSD, 1GB RAM, and a webcam, although they are also selling the Dell Mini 10 for £329 (which offers the larger screen, and a much larger 160GB HDD, and it’s available in a range of colours too). Even better, most of the networks have yet to offer the Dell Mini 10 with 3G, so this may be a way to upgrade to a larger screen whilst still in your existing mobile broadband contract…

News of this deal courtesy of MyDellMini.com.


Lenovo dual screen Thinkpad

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Lenovo Thinkpad W700ds

Lenovo will apparently start selling this dual screen laptop from today in the US.  As you can see, it main feature is a secondary slide out screen (the primary screen is 17″, the secondary 10.6″), but is a fairly feature rich laptop anyway, with optional RAID / SSD, DVI / Display port / VGA display support, 5 USB ports, Wi-Fi, optional WiMax, a 7-in-1 card reader, a smartcard reader, upto 8GB of DDR3 RAM.

The secondary screen can be adjusted by up to 30 degrees, giving some control over the exact viewing angle.  Lenovo also state “Ideal for digital content creators and users, the optional digitizer provides high resolution, pressure high resolution, pressure sensitive control of the primary screen, the primary and the secondary screen or a specific defined area of either screen. Select models also come with a color calibrator that quickly and automatically adjusts the screen’s color to give true-to-life images and rendering 2D and 3D images, which are important items for digital content creators.”

The laptop with start at around $3700 and go up from there, so it’s not a cheap solution, but certainly shows some good innovation.  We expect the laptop will be available in the UK shortly.

Information courtesy of jkOnTheRun.


Vodafone launching TopUp and Go Mobile Broadband special offer

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Vodafone have just started a promotion on their TopUp and Go USB Modem Stick for £39 (down from £49 yesterday), which includes the first free TopUp of 1GB (worth £15).  Unlike 3UK, this TopUp will not expire, and we understand nor will any subsequent TopUps.  The K3565 Modem Stick offers downloads of up to 3.6mbps, and includes a microSD slot.

This may be an interesting competitor to the 3 USB Modems, especially with the non-expiry of the TopUp vouchers; but is it good value…  Let’s compare the main networks:

  • Vodafone: £15 buys you 1GB of data, but with no expiry
  • 3UK: £15 buys you 3GB of data, but it will expire after 30 days
  • T-Mobile:£20 buys you 30 days of usage, with a 3GB of data cap (includes Wi-Fi access too)
  • O2: £15 buys you 3GB of data, but it will expire after 30 days (it does also include “unlimited” Wi-Fi)
  • Orange don’t offer PAYG Mobile Broadband

So, is this a good deal?  Well, we think for those who want to occasionally take their laptop out and about it could be wonderful, removing the need for TopUps unless the data has been used up; for those who need more data, we would probably recommend the 3 Mobile Broadband Starter Kits or any of the contract Mobile Broadband deals.

In other news, we’re hearing Vodafone has an offer on their Vodafone netbook (Dell Mini 9) laptops; half price line rental for the first 3 months; we are finding our netbook very easy to use, and you can read our first impressions of it here.  Full details of this should appear on the Vodafone website soon.