Novatel’s succinctly named Wireless Intelligent Mobile Hotspot 2352 is a little black box of tricks and nothing short of witchcraft. The small but powerful device connects to the newer, faster HSPA mobile internet (download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps on the T-mobile network) and broadcasts a wifi signal which can be used by any wifi-enabled device such as a laptop, smartphone, handheld games console or portable media player. This isn’t hugely innovative – we’ve had wireless routers for some years now – until you consider that it's rechargeable and could fit easily in your back pocket creating a portable wifi zone, a hotspot on the trot if you will emanating from where ever it happens to be hidden, without the need for any wires whatsoever.
The mind boggles at the possibilities of such a device (a wifi hotspot anywhere you want it for you and your chums), but is it too good to be true? To answer that question, we asked a team of testers armed with laptops to put the device through its paces.
The verdict? It’s easy to install (plug and play), compact and portable, and the many wireless standards offered allowed for widespread compatibility with a range of devices, so far so good. At a push the device provided multiple wifi connections at a maximum range of around 20ft, not exactly all-encompassing but more than enough for a meeting or hotel room which lacks its own internet facilities, wired or otherwise.
The device also has solo user applications, and no doubt this is its intended use. For example you could pay for one mobile internet contract and use that to connect any number of devices, you’re not limited to one Blackberry and one laptop (with a dongle). Just imagine, you could check your emails on your Blackberry and shop on Ebay at the same time as downloading music to your portable media player while you think about thrashing the kids at Nintendo DS where ever you are in the world (connectivity and roaming permitting of course), and all this through one mobile internet contract.
There are a few minor cons, such as the device’s battery life which only lasted around three hours. That’s long enough for meetings, but it’s a far cry from the holy grail of a mobile “cloud” of connectivity emanating from your briefcase for days at a time, if that’s what you want. But then only the most recent laptops have a longer battery life, and smartphones would be pushed to last that long if used constantly. The security key is also inside the device which means you have to remove the case to get at it, but you could always write it down. We found that the unit runs at a high temperature too, not a major concern, it’s not going to explode, but it could spoil your sandwiches if it's in your briefcase.
Our team of testers, keen to overload the device and weasel out any major flaws, thought they’d had the last laugh when they connected three laptops causing the device to lock up. However, instantly regretting what they had done, they managed to reset it easily and the incident proved a one off as it was able to handle three connections happily from then on.
Overall, it worked well in its basic function as a mobile wireless hotspot, compact and with a decent connection speed. It’s also worth mentioning that the device can connect to UMTS, EDGE, and GPRS networks, has inbuilt GPS for location-based services, a microSDHC slot so it can effectively be used as a 16GB external hard drive, and it can be plugged into a USB slot and used as a traditional dongle.
With data costs slowly coming down it could become an alternative to fixed line broadband, especially at speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps in excess of many home connections. Its range also makes it perfect for use in a hotel room. The data charges are the only possible hindrance but then that’s the same with all mobile contacts and not a fault of the device.
Pros Extremely portable, provides multiple wifi connections, high connection speed
Cons Short battery life, data charges still high
Price £199 on its own, or £20 per month with a T-Mobile contract from the Carphone Warehouse