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DiGi MiFi: Read this before you pre-order

(UPDATE 1838hrs 16062010) Things are getting interesting with the Huawei E5830. We highlighted earlier that in DiGi’s FAQ about the device they’ve mentioned that it can’t function as a router while being plugged into a USB port. We even noted the question number – it was Q20 (Google Cached). We’ve discovered that DiGi have recently changed that question to now say that the E5830 can function as a router while being plugged in.



Wonder if we can get our hands on one to really find out.

DiGi also added 2 more FAQ items clarifying that the MiFi device uses normal SIM and that it is not SIM-locked to DiGi’s network.

Original Post: When DiGi first announced that it’s opening pre-orders for the Huawei E5830 MiFi device, we’re pretty sure many of you were stoked.

Having reviewed a similar device – the D-Link DIR-457 – we’re convinced that a MiFi has its uses for those who run with multiple devices. We noted in our review that a MiFI type of device gave us tremendous flexibility and not need to fiddle with USB dongles every time you want to connect to the Internet is simply a joy.

Back to the Huawei E5830. At first sight the device is much better looking that the albino DIR-457. It looked much more compact as well. Performance wise it edges the DIR-457 slightly being able to deliver HSPA speeds of up to 7.2Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up. And by that criteria alone the E5830 would have been a been a better buy. But it’s not that simple.

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In our earlier posting about the device, a number of readers have raised the question – can it be used while being charged? We set to find out what the deal is with the E5830 and clear the confusion once and for all.

So, can the E5830 be used while being charged? Well, yes and no. We found out that once you plug the device into a USB port (be it straight into a computer or into a power socket via an adapter), the E5830 stops functioning as a router and start working more like a USB dongle.

Based on our usage patterns, this is rather unacceptable. We would still want the device to function as a router even its plugged in. The flexibility of being able to keep the devices powered while still using it as a router is one of the strongest point of the D-Link and we’re perplexed with Huawei omitted such a key feature. With a battery life of a claimed 4 hours, you will come across situations where you need to charge the device while still using it. And when it comes to that, take it from us, you’ll find not being able to use WiFi a major pain.

And that’s not all, even when connected to the E5830, you do not have access to a web-based admin page. This means you’re not able to change the settings of the device on the fly via WiFi. If you wanted to change you SSID or enable MAC filtering, you’ll have to first plug the device into a USB port, open up the connection manager and then change the settings. We find this tremendously over complicated and completely unnecessary. We’d expect a MiFi to function in very much the same way as a WiFi router would and in this case, the DIR-457 delivers with ease. We can’t say the same about the E5830 though.

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With the ability to double up as a storage device with a MicroSD card installed, we’re not to sure if the device needs to be plugged in for you to be able access the stored data. In contrast, the D-Link, which also takes in Micro SD up to 8GB, allows you to access that storage effortlessly via WiFi. We’ll only be able to tell you if this is the case with the E5830 when and if we get our hands on one.

In the Huawei, the flexibility of having a portable hotspot is severely hampered by all these weird functional limitations. We’re even more confused as to why would DiGi want to peddle such a compromised device. Perhaps they have their reasoning and we’d have to look at the plans that come with the device to see if we can close an eye to it’s limitation.

But for now, these are the basic necessity that we can’t live without in our router. That’s why the D-Link DIR-457 has now found a permanent spot in our gadget grab bag and it’s something we never leave home without. It is also the reason why we feel that if you’re looking for something similar, you need to read this first.

So, buyer, beware.