launched a device called the Mobile Wi-Fi R201. It is the first mobile router to use the Windows 7 compatible ploatform. It's
also the size of a credit card -- so it fits in your wallet -- and creates an instant mobile hotspot for up to five devices.
Let's examine the specs on the Mobile
Wi-fi R201. Windows 7 will automatically recognize the mobile router and ask you if you want to connect. A user simply enters
the WiFi authentication key for the device and is connected. The router also supports the Digital Living Network Alliance
standard, which lets DLNA-compatible devices share digital content like music, video and photos, while preserving DRM restrictions.
You can insert a memory card and share
content with WiFi connected devices that way. Amazingly, Vodafone has also embedded Samba Software. So it can also "function
as a mini Linux server once an SD memory card is inserted. The device supports SD memory cards of up to 32GB which can be
purchased separately," and that's a plus too.
There are obviously a number of mobile routers that let you share the 3G USB device over WiFi to connect multiple
devices to a cellular connection. But this unit is truely bringing the Cloud to the pocket.
Now, we all
see that Mobile Broadband has come a long way since the early (and expensive) attempts at integrating 3G modules into laptops;
today, cubicle dwellers are freed by less expensive mobile data, along with the abundance of 3G dongles and the emerging mobile
WiFi aka Mifi hotspot devices
start off with the appearance. If you're familiar with Vodafone's competing Huawei dongles, you'll no doubt recognize the
carrier's classic signature on the R201 MiFi -- white plastic body around which is a transparent red band on the side.
Many like the style, but upon touching
the device, some notice some light weakness when the MiFi is grapped by the hand at certain points -- probably something to
do with the removable back cover (for access to the SIM slot, microSD slot and battery). The fingerprints left on the glossy
coating are not nice, either, but it's better than most.
You won't find many buttons on the R201 -- on one end there's a
dual-purpose push button for toggling the display (short press) and enabling a quick WiFi Protected Setup connection (long
press); next to the screen lies a massive power switch garnished with a red light indicator.
What's missing is the old "Connect" button
-- as found on the older, smaller units -- that lets you disable the cellular connection, in order to save battery when you're
only using the MiFi as a USB storage device (by means of a microSD card).
Some doubt this would be a real issue for anyone; the bigger problem
some have stems from the power switch -- most of the time people are worried about how to hold the MiFi (like
the recent iPhone hassles!) so that the unit wouldn't accidentally turn it off.
Unlike Huawei's previous-gen
MiFi products, the R201 -- as well as the E583C-- has discarded the old LED indicators in favor of the more informative
monochrome OLED screen. Once switched on, you can natively see the device status, signal strength, 3G connectivity (whether
EDGE, 3G or HSPA), battery life, and the number of connected devices -- all of which can also be seen in the supplied desktop
software. Alas, as with most OLED screens the R201's display also is poor in bright light.
are two ways to use the R201: wired and wireless, and you can connect up to FIVE WiFi devices plus a physically tethered client
at any instance. For wired connectivity, you need to install a desktop client (compatible with PC and Mac; preloaded on the
MiFi); for wireless, you'll have to wait for about 75 seconds from power-up before the R201's WiFi network shows up.
Once the SSID appears on your WiFi client device, it's just a matter of logging in using
the password printed behind the battery door. If necessary, you can change the parameters and encryption settings by pointing
to http://vodafonemobile.wifi and log into the admin panel (default password is "admin," which you should change