Over last few years I used two Mobitel 1290 packages to connect two computers to internet. We used two mainly for extra bandwidth and speed. With introduction of Mobitel Mega plans, After dropped one connection and upgrade the other one to 20Gb package. It let you use multiple SIMs with same connection.
Our 3G dongles were from stone age, and speeds were limited to 7.2Mbps down-link and about 300kbps up-link at best. Ofcourse these are theoretical numbers and the down-link was much slower. One of the dongles was too old to work with windows 7 and we are down to one. It was time to upgrade devices.
New device of choice was Huawei E3551 portable 3G WiFi router. Here is what I liked about it.
First of all device is quite small and easily fit in your pocket. It has a really solid build unlike some cheap dongles out there. However try to find the black version if you can. White has a mat finish which makes its surface a dirt magnet. But it’s not a big deal. You can just wipe off if you happen to handle it with dirty fingers.
It support HSDPA+ with 21Mbps down-link and 5.6Mbps up-link. Obviously you will not get that full speed, as speed depends on lot of other things. But for me, it did improve internet access noticeably, compared my earlier setup. Down-link speed doubled and up-link increased at-least five times.
I am not sure if it will hit speeds faster than 7.2Mbps for me. Guys at Mobitel call center did not tell if that’s supported on my connection. Mobitel site do not list maximum speeds for mega plans. Fastest results I got from speed test was 7.49Mbps down, and 1.52Mbps up, during low traffic time. On average I get down link speed around 4Mbps and up link speed around 1Mbps.
E3551 comes with a built-in battery. Which means you don’t have to keep looking for charging outlets all the time. USB interface let you connect it to a charger, power bank or a computer. When connected to a computer it register as a USB network adapter and connect you automatically.
WiFi is ok. Mobitel says it can connect 5 WiFi devices. But the one I purchased at Unity Plaza has 8 as supported number of devices on the packaging, manual and in the web interface. Signal strength is good enough to cover a small house.
I am using same device to set up a home network over WiFi. Even though it support IEEE 802.11 b/g/n, fastest speed its WiFi can handle is 72Mbps. When copying files between computers it gave about 2 mega bytes per second speed. One of my laptops is having a 54Mbps WiFi card. With a faster card it might be a little bit faster. And I was able to play 720p and 1080p movies without any trouble over a network share.
It comes with basic DHCP, Nat, DNS Cache and Firewall services. So you have most of the things you need.
And following is what I didn’t like
There isn’t much info on the web about WiFi performance of this device. Therefore I had to take a risk when I bought it. WiFi performance is ok. But for a home network you would need a little more speed.
WiFi speed and range depends on supplied power. It goes to power saving (reduced WiFi range) when on battery or connected to a computer. You can disable auto WiFi shutoff feature, which kick in when running on battery. But you cannot disable or configure power saving mode.
It has a very easy to use, simple web based configuration and management interface. This is a negative because it is too simple. And does not allow some troubleshooting that you might want to do.
For example, Mobitels own DNS server is sometimes too slow, and it affect entire internet experience. Your connection gets lot better if you override DNS settings to use google DNS server. E3551 don’t seems to let you change DNS settings. So you are stuck with whatever that is there. But its built-in DNS cache fix slow DNS problem most of the time. Therefore it is not that bad unless you want to change DNS settings for some other reason.
Device comes with a very short USB cable (less than 6 inches). And no power adapter. It is ok, if you want to use the device connected to your lap top or USB hub. If you connect it to a desktop, device will keep hanging by its cable, as it is not long enough for the device to rest on the table. In case you don’t want to wire it to a computer, you will most likely end up getting a longer USB cable and a power adapter. In my case I used an existing USB data cable and a charger that I had left from an old phone.
It gives what it advertise and does what they say it does. A portable 3G WiFi router. Its small, and light enough and has enough battery power to go wherever you go. If you want to get more out of its WiFi, like setting up a home network, you will have to go easy on data transfers and multimedia. You will be able to share files and watch movies. But probably not at the same time. And it does not let you do too many tweaks in the back-end.
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