Vodafone Pocket WiFi Pro Review

11 July 2012

The Vodafone Pocket WiFi is essentially a small, dedicated WiFi hotspot device capable of supporting up to 5 devices with wireless internet simultaneously.

The Pocket WiFi Pro is a pleasantly compact device. In fact, when not streaming broadband we found that we often forgot which pocket it was in, even when it was jammed in with other items such a smartphone or wallet.

Setup is relatively easy once you know how, although the instruction manual could use a little streamlining. First insert whatever SIM card you intend to use in to the Pocket WiFi Pro. The SIM card slot is regular, so Micro SIMs that don’t have an adapter will not fit.

Once you’ve turned it on it’s time to plug it in to your computer and download the installer software. Once completed a browser window (for us it was IE, even though that isn’t our default) should open with the settings and usage menus. To access advanced settings you’ll first have to log in. The default password is ‘admin’, something that took us a bit of reading through the manual to find. Make sure you change your password immediately after signing in. You shouldn’t have to adjust any settings, but it’s important to personalise your password and check what options are available.

After it’s all set up and installed it’s time to connect a device to your new portable WiFi network. The network should be called VodafonePocketWiFi with some numbers on the end. It will be locked, but don’t worry the password is easily enough retrieved if you know how; once again this took a bit of reading. To get your WiFi password simply double tap the power button on the side of the Pocket WiFi Pro. This will activate a screen with the name of your WiFi network on top and the password below. Our password was comprised entirely of numbers, but memorising it wasn’t an issue because you can always just double tap if you need to add another device.

The screen does time out rather quickly to save battery, but if it’s too fast for you to enter all the numbers just double tap it again to bring it back up. It’s also extremely low resolution, but don’t be fazed by that. The low quality screen is to save on battery, as there really is no reason to supply crisp images on a device that is purely designed to distribute wireless internet.

Once we got everything running reception was fairly good, actually better than we got by putting our SIM straight in to a device. We seemed to receive superior speeds when using just one handset on the Pocket WiFi’s network than the device would regularly achieve alone.

In our area (North Sydney) we got a max download speed of almost 5.5Mbps and a minimum of just under 3Mbps. This is after walking around for a considerable amount of time through uncluttered back streets and between some of the larger office buildings where interference is abundant.

Utilising the same speed test on devices working under their own 3G (the Galaxy S2 and HTC One S) we achieved worse results in the faster areas and similar results in the high interference zones. The max we got without the Pocket WiFi was just over 3.5Mbps, while the minimum was around 2.5Mbps.

Adding more devices obviously cut down on speed and efficiency, but we managed to get three smartphones streaming HD video from YouTube with only minimal pauses. When we cut that number down to two devices streaming in HD (up to 720p) there were no problems in our area. Alternatively, running all three handsets with SD streams was handled with ease.

One thing to be aware of is that many mobile devices will stream HD by default when connected to a WiFi network. As such you may find yourself burning through your data cap much faster than you would when just using a traditional 3G connection. If you want to save data make sure you set videos to SD or Standard Definition after opening them when using the Pocket WiFi.

We did notice that the Vodafone Pocket WiFi Pro did tend to heat up a little in the pocket. It didn’t reach painful or even unpleasant levels, but it was definitely noticeable. This only happened when we were using multiple devices at once for extended periods, but it’s worth a mention nonetheless.

It’s important to remember that the Pocket WiFi Pro operates on Vodafone’s new 850MHz network, so even if you have poor Vodafone coverage on an older device you still may get reception with a this newer device as it supports the 850MHz band. This is generally only for folks who live within or around metro areas and not for rural users, as the 850MHz network hasn’t reached some of Australia’s more remote locations just yet. In other words this is not a device for regional use.

Overall the Vodafone Pocket WiFi Pro was a handy little device that functioned well for us. Of course experiences will vary depending on network coverage. We’re in a pretty well-covered area for Vodafone so we got great speeds, but always make sure that you have adequate coverage from any specific provider before making purchasing decisions. If you live in a well-covered Vodafone area and are after an easy solution for providing 3G to multiple devices then you might want to consider something like the Vodafone Pocket WiFi Pro.

Technical Bits

  • The Vodafone Pocket WiFi Pro is compatible with both Mac and PC.
  • Battery life is around the 4-5 hour mark, assuming continuous use, and charging can be done from either a wall socket or USB port.
  • 3G connectivity works ok the 850, 900 and 2100MHz bands with a theoretical max speed of 21.6Mbps on HSDPA and 5.76Mbps on HSUPA, keeping in mind that real-world speeds will likely be significantly slower than this.
  • Dimensions are 97 x 50 x 15mm with a weight of 80g.
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n support.
  • The range of the WiFi signal was difficult to measure, but we found it to be roughly equivalent to our office WiFi. In any case it should be easily enough to completely cover any home, although interference from walls or between different floors may be an issue.

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