So, what exactly is a Mi-Fi? It sounds a bit complicated but in reality it’s not that hard to grasp. It’s a small (and in this case, rather pebble-like) unit with a SIM card inside. The sticker on the front of the box sums it up best – it “Makes Wi-Fi from Mobile”. Basically it converts the 3G mobile data signal into a WiFi hotspot for you to connect to.
The R205 has a few tricks too, and we’ll go into that later.
Up front there’s a display showing you your signal type and strength, network, battery life and whether you’ve received any text messages. It’ll also show how long you’ve been online and how much data you’ve pulled down. Tap the power button twice and it’ll let you know what the name of your mobile hotspot is, plus the password.
By the way, there’s no real danger of you losing this information. It’s on the back of the battery cover, under the battery and on a piece of card that Vodafone have provided too.
What’s that I hear you say? You want the video overview? Well OK, here’s our hands-on …
The device itself is simplistic, with just one button to press. It also has an auto power-off feature, which I was really grateful of. This thing is intelligent enough to say, “Hey, nothing is connected to me and hasn’t been for quite some time, I think I’m going to turn off”. Little touches like that do impress me.
On the top, the battery release catch. It was a little fiddly to get the back off, but we found that a spoon or something similar helped to push this catch down because I just didn’t have the nails for it. As I mentioned before, if you take the rear section off you’ve got the SSID (Hotspot name) and password, plus the battery and SIM card. I also found it a lot easier to access the microSD card slot with the back removed.
Pressing the power button wakes the device from it’s slumber, plus you can tap it again to show the screen and check your data usage. The device is good for around 4.5 hours of WiFi access, but you can always charge it off your laptop if you’ve got a laptop that’ll last longer than that. Double-tap the power button and it’ll show you the SSID and password once again.
To the left, that microSD card slot. I popped in my 32GB microSD card and it seemed quite happy with that. You access this over the WiFi hotspot that is created by the R205, creating a mobile storage device – like a USB pen, but with a lot more flexibility. The flap covers the slot but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s best to try and pop it off with the battery removed.
At the bottom there’s a miniUSB port for charging – you get a cable and charger for that. You can of course plug the cable into any other USB port for charging too.
The display is two-tone and does a reasonably good job in direct sunlight.
I took this snap just to show you how big the device is…
As you saw in the video, getting connected is pretty easy – you just look for the Hotspot named “VodafoneMobileWiFi-XXXXX” where the “XXXXX” is the ID of your device (this is displayed on the card, the screen and on the device itself, just in case you’re in an area with several of these in the vicinity). Connect your laptop, iPad, Android WiFi tablet, iPod or whatever. Five devices can connect at once.
However, the fun part happens when you browse to a special URL. The R205 has its own web server, and immediately it’ll show you signal strength, time connected, bandwidth use. But hey, the best bit – you can access your microSD card and all the content. Grab pictures, movies and music from a central mobile storage device.
You can enter a password on the upper-right and get into more advanced settings too. Here you can alter the IP address that’s dished out, DMZ and NAT settings etc. A nice touch.
Then there’s a stack of settings for WiFi options too…
Then, if you go into Messages you can easily send and receive texts from a nice web interface. Just bang in a number and enter your message. Done.
So, it’s simple, it’s easy to setup, it’s got a great battery life and the pricing isn’t bad either. To be honest I can’t find a thing wrong with this. It does exactly what it says on the tin and I loved the microSD “NAS box”-style storage facility that you can have in your pocket. It’s well built, well designed and does the job perfectly. Connections are quick, the WPA security is secure and it’s easy to manage through the web portal that comes within the R205.