Vodafone has launched a device dubbed the Mobile Wi-Fi R201. It is the first mobile router to gain the Windows 7 compatible stamp of approval. It's also the size of a credit card -- so it fits in your wallet -- and creates an instant mobile hotspot for up to five devices.
There's a lot to drool over with this device, but the bummer is, it's not available in the U.S., only in the countries where Vodafone operates. So I looked around for anything comparable, and found a few options.
But first, let's look at the specs on the Mobile Wi-fi R201. Windows 7 will automatically recognize the mobile router and ask you if you want to connect, according to a post by Sarah Zenz on the Windows Blog. A user simply enters the WiFi authentication key for the device and is connected. The router also supports the Digial Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard, which lets DLNA-compatible devices share digital content like music, video and photos, while preserving DRM restrictions.
You can insert a memory card and share content with WiFi connected devices that way. Interestingly, Vodafone has also embedded Samba Software. So it can also "function as a mini Linux server once an SD memory card is inserted. The device supports SD memory cards of up to 32GB which can be purchased separately," says Vodafone.
But none of this does you much good in the U.S. There are obviously a number of mobile routers that let you share the 3G USB dongle over WiFi to connect multiple devices to a cellular connection. (The Alfa 3G Mobile Router, the Edimax Wireless -- pictured to the right), but these don't fit in you pocket (unless you have very big pockets).
While a quick look around didn't turn up any precisely comparable mobile routers, either, though a couple came close. Verizon's MiFi 2200. At 3.5” x 2.3” x 0.4” and 2.05 ounces, it might not fit in your wallet, but can fit in a pocket, or a backpack, purse or laptop bag. Verizon says its about the size of eight stacked credit cards. It creates a WiFi hotspot with up to five devices sharing the 3G connection and costs about $50, or free on a two-year contract. But no mention of DLNA software (or a MicroSD slot at all) , no SAMBA and so it isn't designed to be converted into a media server.
The maker, Novatel, sells an unlocked version, the MiFi 2372 that adds a microSDHC slot capable of up to 16GB, and lets you drop your SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile right into it -- no need for a dongle. But it costs about $250.
The unlocked Cradlepoint PHS300 Personal Hotspot competes with the unlocked MiFi, but it weighs a full pound and measures 9.7 x 6.1 x 2.5 inches, so I wouldn't categorize that as pocket friendly.
For Sprint customers, you have the Sierra Wireless Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot. It's slightly bigger than the MiFi at 3.14" x 3.14" x .61" and weighs double ... but that's only 4.5 oz. So it's still pocket friendly (but probably better off in your laptop bag/purse/backpack). It costs about $350, although with a two-year contract and mail-in rebates you can get it from sprint for $99. It creates a hotspot for up to five devices, and includes a MicroSD slot that lets all connected devices access that storage. But an unlocked device isn't yet available.
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