Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G hotspot

Vodafone's latest mobile broadband hotspot packs 4G speeds and dual-band Wi-Fi in a device not much bigger than a credit card

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Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G
  • Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G
  • Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G
  • Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Easy to setup/use
  • Quick switch between 2.4GHz/5GHz
  • Antenna ports
  • Accepts 10 device connections

Cons

  • Inconsistent 5GHz performance
  • Poor range

Bottom Line

The Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G is a very easy to use device and is available on affordable plans. It puts up respectable speeds, and is consistent while in one location, but will trouble you during commutes.

Would you buy this?

The Vodafone Pocket WiFi 4G is a Huawei-manufactured, to-the-point dual-band hotspot. It employs a simple design, setup, and operation to get you online via the telecommunication provider’s 4G (LTE) services in not much more than a minute.

Design and features

The Pocket WiFi 4G is slightly bigger than a standard credit card (it’s only 99x63mm), and it’s 15mm thick. As a reference, it’s twice the thickness of the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone.

A small, 25x25mm monochrome screen is located on the front face. The Pocket WiFi 4G has two buttons; a power button on the front face to the right of the screen, and a Menu button which sits on the top edge of the device. These control all of the limited commands on offer. The only other features include a microUSB port on the bottom edge, which is flanked by an external antenna port on each side.

After you’ve unboxed the Pocket WiFi 4G, pop off the rear cover (via the indent on the bottom right-hand corner), and pop in a full-sized SIM card and then the battery; there is also a microSD card slot. The inside of the back cover contains the SSID and password for the product’s network, so these need to be noted. Once that is done, pop the cover back on, and charge the device (it will have some juice out of the box, but it’s best to be safe).

The Pocket WiFi 4G contains a 1780 milliamp-hour battery. If you are using the hotspot for periodic Web browsing, social media, and some video streaming, it can last for a full business day. If you only use it during commutes (about three to four hours a day) for the same purposes, you won’t have to charge it more than once every two days. More demanding tasks will of course drain the battery a lot faster.

To get the Pocket WiFi 4G online, press and hold the power button for about 3sec, and then let the device do its thing; it takes 20-30sec to switch on and connect to Vodafone’s towers. The display will very briefly flash the word ‘Connected’ once the process is complete, before displaying ‘Vodafone AU’ branding. From there it’s just a matter of connecting to the Pocket WiFi 4G with your smartphone (or otherwise).

While the Pocket WiFi 4G is switched on, the top of the screen will show (from left to right) current reception status and connection type, the number of devices connected to the device (up to 10), an unread messages counter, and battery levels. The bottom indicates how much data has been used in total, and how long you have been connected in your current session.

Tapping the Menu button will bring up three options: Info (which lists the SSID, key, IP, firmware version, and homepage URL), Fast Startup (checked by default), and Wi-Fi Band (from which you can choose 2.4GHz or 5GHz).

Performance

The Pocket WiFi 4G has a maximum throughput of 120 megabits per second (Mbps). We tested the device using a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition tablet running the Ookla Speedtest app from both our North Sydney office and in the Western Sydney suburb of Parramatta. We recorded speeds on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands from 1m and 3m away. We attempted to run tests from a distance of 5m but were met with a “network communication issues” notice on the Speedtest app, despite our tablet indicating two bars (out of four) of reception. The 2.4GHz band still allowed for Web browsing from 5m but we often faced dropouts, whereas the 5GHz band was completely unreliable.

The Pocket WiFi 4G was generally very reliable while in close proximity of a connected device, and more so on the 2.4GHz band. Speeds are respectable, but Vodafone’s network speed is not as good as its competitors, Telstra and Optus. We did notice that 5GHz connection fluctuated continuously. Similarly, while commuting on a train to and from the office, we faced multiple dropouts, and received quite a few “unstable connection” messages from our tablet while browsing the Web or streaming videos. We also downloaded large files while on the go and experienced spikes and drops in speed, but this can be expected from all mobile networks.

The results we achieved are as follows:

Note: the left column represents results from North Sydney, and the right from Parramatta. Figures are in kilobytes per second (Kbps).
Note: the left column represents results from North Sydney, and the right from Parramatta. Figures are in kilobytes per second (Kbps).

Performance of the 2.4GHz band at 1m.
Performance of the 2.4GHz band at 1m.

Performance of the 5GHz band at 1m.
Performance of the 5GHz band at 1m.

Performance of the 2.4GHz band at 3m.
Performance of the 2.4GHz band at 3m.

Performance of the 5GHz band at 3m.
Performance of the 5GHz band at 3m.

Pricing

The Pocket WiFi 4G can be purchased for $169 up front on Vodafone's $20 month to month plan which includes 2.5GB of data (equating to $0.0078 per MB). It is also available for $7 per month on Vodafone's 24-month $20 plan.

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