As more an more services move to data-only, I think we’re going to see more and more of these kinds of technologies. The Huawei E583C device is a WiFi router that connects to your cell phone network and provides data access to that network by way routing data (using NAT, like your typical home router would). The typical way cell data access happens is to use a USB flash stick in your computer, but the idea of providing local WiFi to a number of devices is actually quite new. If you were going to do this in the past, you would have to turn on a “Tethering” service on your phone. I decided to take a closer look at this device, how it works and whether it’s worth the cost.
The E583C is slightly larger than a credit card in size. On the front is a glass screen that has a small basic lcd that mainly shows icons when you connect to different services or the Internet. The thickness is where you’ll probably hate this the most. Since the battery is pretty thick, the device is much thicker than a credit card in size.
|Compare it to a credit card, and it’s huge|
There are also very few buttons on the device. One labelled “WP ” that handles the WiFi Protect Setup of the device. In addition, you have a power button on the front that tends to blink what the device is on. There is no way to actually turn off the LCD to save power, you’ll have to wait for the 10 or so second timeout. Other than that, there is a power/USB plug in port and that’s it.
The default web user name is admin, and the default password is admin. A good thing to know if your manual is not handy.
The E583C was best sitting in a cool open area. I found leaving it in a pocket would cause it to get very hot. Since this is the winter time, I can only imagine this device overheating in the summer. Heat is a real issue for the E583C. Perhaps the device is not efficiently using battery?
The E583C comes with a Micro SD card slot, which supports up to a 32 GB card. This allows you to place this storage area on the local WiFi network and share it will al devices that can see it.
While this device was clearly meant for those users that have authenticated data stick accounts. It is possible to use your current SIM Card and APN (for example: internet.windmobile.ca) on this device. Once setup, you can make it an automatic connection fairly easily. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to send and receive sms messages through the web interface.
The web interface also has a mobile-formatted version. While configuration functions are limited, you’ll appreciate the ability to use SMS messaging through this interface.
|The mobile site|
Battery life on the E583C is poor at best. I generally found that the device would last no more than 3-4 hours on a normal charge, even less if it gets hot. You’ll want to look into some portable batteries to push the battery to a full day’s use. Compare this to tethering through a phone, you’ll find the phone gives you more time – but at a price upwards of 10x what the E583C costs, that wouldn’t be justified.
Since you’re using a device that’s highly reliant on cell tower poisoning, location, number of people using the signal at any given time; you are going to need to have a certain amount of tolerance for dropped connectons, buffer fails and general network instability and slowness. For a mobile device like an iPhone, this works great. Not so much for a laptop where more of a decent connection is required.
One test I did was measuring the speed of 3G while having the E583C in my coat pocket:
Once I remove the device from my pocket and positioned it near a window sill, the speed changed quite dramatically:
The E583C 3G router is actually rated for 5.67Mbps upstream and 7.2Mbps downstream, although it’s unlikely you’ll ever see that kind of speed from your provider.
One of the nicest features of this device is the range it offers. From fairly steady usage, I found that I could easily leave the E583C plugged into a charger in on my car’s dashboard and then walk into a client’s office for a coffee shop and still get decent wifi signal. I would suspect that if you had line-of-sight on the E583C you could get up to 50 feet of range out of it.
In Toronto, you’ll find the E583C is selling for $120 plus taxes (13%) from WIND Mobile. I’ve found lower prices in other locations (Craigslist – $80, Amazon $50). You will, of course, want to get the lowest possible price since the device just needs to work.
- HSPA/UMTS 2100/900 MHz
- EDGE/GPRS/GSM 1900/1800/900/850 MHz
- HSUPA (UL) data service of up to 5.76 Mbps
- HSDPA (DL) data service of up to 7.2 Mbps
- Plug and play (PnP)
- Internal memory: 128MB Flash, 64MB Memory
- Power supply: AC: 100V~240V; DC: 5V, 1A
- Battery : Type: Li (Rechargeable); Capacity: 3.7V, 1400mAh; Maximum working time: 3.5 hours;
- Maximum standby time: 100 hours
- LED: OLED screen
- key-press: power switch, WPS switch
- Dimensions (D * W * H): 96.0mm*57.0mm*11.5mm
- Weight: about 90g (including the battery)
- USB Extension Cable, easy to connect
- Standard mini USB interface
- Built-in WCDMA and WLAN high gain antenna
- External main diversity antenna interface
- Micro Secure Digital Memory (Micro SD) Card