Optus Mini WiFi Modem

Optus' Mini WiFi has some impressively shiny hardware, but the carrier's charging regime remains a significant roadblock to our recommendation of it.


8.0
CNET Rating
5.2
User Rating

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Design

The concept of a multifunction device is nothing new in the technology sector. We're more than bored with most multifunction printers, computers are multifunction by design, and although it wasn't that long ago that mobile phones only really did one thing, we couldn't go back to those days now. The Optus Mini WiFi Modem is perhaps the first try we've seen at a portable 3G modem-router that incorporates multiple functions, although not in a way you'd expect. The incredibly reflective surface of the modem also doubles as a compact mirror. So if you've been dying to check the status of your lippy while surfing the web, you now can.

It's a curious decision on Optus' part to use the word "Mini" in relation to its 3G modem, as compared to models such as Telstra's Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot, Vodafone's Pocket WiFi or Virgin's Mobile Broadband WiFi modem the Mini WiFi Modem simply isn't. At 96x57x11.5mm, it's the size of a small smartphone.

Features

Optus is still a service rather than a hardware company, and while it bears prominent Optus branding on the front, the rear of the Mini WiFi modem reveals its true hardware origins. It's a re-badged Huawei E583C with Optus-specific firmware, and more specifically, an HSPA-capable 802.11b/g router that works, not surprisingly for an Optus product, on the 900/2100MHz wavelengths. Up to five compatible devices can connect to the Mini WiFi at any one time. Huawei's page for the E583C suggests top speed range of up to 7.2Mbps for this particular model. Like many portable modem routers, it's also capable of acting as a storage device via microSD card. If you're working from a system that lacks Wi-Fi, it's also possible to use the Mini WiFi Modem as a tethered USB modem from the unit's mini-USB port.

Despite having such a large display screen, the one thing you won't see much of on the front of Mini WiFi Modem is connection detail. The OLED display takes up a tiny fraction of the front display, and once it's shown the Optus splash screen, you'll be given three small lines of information relating to the current connection.

Optus provides "up to" 8GB of data with a relatively generous six-month expiry, although there's a sting in the tail of that offer, which we'll cover shortly.

Performance

The Mini WiFi comes with security enabled out of the box via a password that's permanently printed on the back, inside the cover. Once you've set up the account (our review unit came with a pre-configured account), you could just fire it up and surf securely. The in-built web-based configuration utility isn't particularly hard to deal with if you want to tinker or set your own unique SSID and password.

The Mini WiFi is powered via a 1400mAh Lithium-ion battery. In our tests, we managed to keep the unit running and providing data to an iPad and a pair of mobile phones for four hours and 10 minutes, which is pretty impressive for a portable router. It's not quite a full day's work if you use it all at once, but if you're moving between other data sources, it could supplement them nicely. Likewise, Wi-Fi range was decent for such a small unit, and we found we could easily move between two rooms and maintain a decent connection.

Mobile broadband is, by definition, quite variable depending on location and service usage. In our tests in Sydney and Adelaide, we managed variable speeds from 1.67Mbps up to a maximum of 3.40Mbps using the Speedtest.net utility on an iPad connected to the Mini WiFi Modem.

There's only a single factor in the Mini WiFi's hardware that we're not that fond of, and that's the display screen. While it makes a nifty backup mirror, that same reflective surface and low brightness OLED screen is almost impossible to read in direct sunlight. If you need to check the status of the connection during daylight hours, it's a case of squinting, holding your hand over it to block the sun or just plain giving up.

The other major catch with the Optus Mini WiFi has nothing to do with the hardware at all, but more to do with Optus' current data provisioning rates. The Mini WiFi works on a prepaid basis, and at the time of writing, Optus' standard for data charging, irrespective of the recharge value on the modem is to charge in 10MB blocks. The first 30MB per day is only charged as 10MB, but still, if you used the device only intermittently, you'd burn through a lot more data than you might expect, even if your connection and actual data usage was quite low. What's truly odd here is that while Optus is charging data at 10 times the rate that Telstra or Vodafone do, if you use Virgin Mobile's broadband, it's charged at a per kilobit rate, a full one hundred times less than Optus does. The weird thing there is that Virgin Mobile's a fully owned subsidiary of Optus. There has to be a happy medium somewhere in there, but we're certainly not happy with the concept of being slugged 10MB per data per session.

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TeohL posted a comment   

A lot of people complain about drop out/disconnected every 5mins or 30mins or so. When I first use this WiFi a year ago, It got disconnected once in a while and I have to restart the modem without charging. If I restart with the modem charging the successful rate of restarting is 10%. the 90% failed rate with no signal. I thought it was the modem fault. I stopped using it last December. And i started to use it back since last month. No prob for me. Signal is stronger than last time. Could be due to my new area a year ago. and no more disconnected. Could it be due to sim card problem? for those who had auto-sleep modem it can be configure under the modem settings.

FrMichaelG Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Great"

FrMichaelG posted a review   

The Good:Fast (in my area at lest). Value!

The Bad:None so far.

I use this with the optus data days plan. When I was at Ipswich it was a little slow but still good for downloading bulk data from itunes or steam, but to slow to stream ivew consistantly. Now that I have moved to near Noosa, the speed is fantastic!

Price is also great, because I got almost as much credit as the modem cost, so the modem was essiently free.

I have had no trouble with drop outs. Start up is fine also. I use it pluged in most of the time, so it does not goto sleep. It does feel warm sometimes, but this does not seem to affect preformance.

All round, great!

LogicPolice
1
Rating
 

"Wake Up Optus You Have Lost Another Customer"

LogicPolice posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Everything

Had this "State of the Art" unit for 1 week after swap from old dongle & am frustrated, angry & downright insulted. Optus just informed this unit preprogrammed to "sleep" after 5 minutes non use to conserve battery! Are we back in 1980's??? Where is the logic? I need to consult my client, I need a coffee, I need to eat, I need constant connectivity!
What I don't need is an expensive "assistant" going to "sleep" every 5 minutes!!!

Wake up Optus, you have lost another customer!

CaroM Facebook
1
Rating
 

"not worth it"

CaroM posted a review   

The Good:small, light

The Bad:drops out every half hour, battery life only 3 or so hours, takes about 5 minutes to turn on, consistently 1 bar of reception, heats up easily, USB cable and antenna always falls off very easily (the jacks are not very well made and sturdy). Overall, it feels cheap for the price

I bought this as part of a plan with Optus a few months ago, and it has been causing me problems ever since.

It drops out every half hour or so
this is no joke. one minute it will work fine, nice and quick, and then out of nowhere the internet drops out for about 5 minutes or becomes really slow that the page doesn't load properly

battery life is 3 hours
i always have to keep the thing on the charger as some days the battery only lasts an hour or some days it lasts a few. But it doesn't ever seem to be fully charged

takes forever to load
all up it takes about 5 minutes to connect with the internet from the moment you turn it on, maybe more

one bar of reception
the computer says its a full bar, but the device always has either no bar, one bar or sometimes 2 bars. Very rarely do I see 3 or more bars of reception

heats up easily
can actually be quite hot even on a cold day or if it is on cloth

USB and antenna jacks aren't sturdy
it takes a small tug at the cords to make it come loose, especially the antenna. They are very poorly made and not sturdy at all.

Overall, it's not value for money
I feel as if it is actually worth $20 instead of $120. on the outside it may look stylish, but it feels like a cheap bit of plastic that has been put together. The display looks like it came from the 90's

 

AdamB3 posted a reply   
Australia

my friend let me point you right direction do not at all go to telstra wi fi version you think you have problem with yours i can tell telstra version is a big beep : (

hagai
2
Rating
 

"waste of money"

hagai posted a review   
Australia

The Good:nothing

The Bad:constant dropouts

doesn't work. one minute you're surfing the next its down. meanwhile the bar says full connection so something is definitely wrong with this thing. totally useless. waste of $100.

Turbotojo Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Pretty good all round"

Turbotojo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Size, weight, range, set up, SD card slot, antenna jack

The Bad:obviously locked including some set up menu items

It's an excellent unit all round. The big thing for me is that it has an external antenna jack, quite handy for those of us that us the net away from cities where Telstra is over subscribed.
Simple to use and it works very well. I'm using it right now with only just one bar on the signal meter.

range1
9
Rating
 

range1 posted a review   

The Good:IT just works well

The Bad:Nothing yet

Had this for about 2 months, easy to set up, does not get "hot" (I keep it mostly in a sealed hard case), best conection to net and other equipment than anything I have had so far. Keeps connection in the car whilst moving in most places I have been. A bit concerned about hardware conectivity - dont know how to do this but I find Optus eventually will solve any equiry I put to them.

pan
9
Rating
 

pan posted a review   

The Good:all of it!

The Bad:nothing yet

had the modem for 3 months, took it with me to Hawks Nest, NSW and worked from there before XMAS, we also had to ipods connected all the time, no issue there. I am now able to work from the train and have not many issues with the quality of the connection.
First purchase of a Optus product, the modem is awesome for me at least.

 

Ladybug01 posted a comment   

I have just purchased the Optus Mini Wi-Fi - constant shut downs and drop outs, device is extremely hot in the first 5 mins of use... Have always had great service from Optus and have always recommended them to friends and family - yesterday talking with customer service i got no where.. $129 down the drain and a very dissatisfied customer.. have no choice to go back to telstra!


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User Reviews / Comments  Optus Mini WiFi Modem

  • TeohL

    TeohL

    "A lot of people complain about drop out/disconnected every 5mins or 30mins or so. When I first use this WiFi a year ago, It got disconnected once in a while and I have to restart the modem without ..."

  • FrMichaelG

    FrMichaelG

    Rating9

    "I use this with the optus data days plan. When I was at Ipswich it was a little slow but still good for downloading bulk data from itunes or steam, but to slow to stream ivew consistantly. Now tha..."

  • LogicPolice

    LogicPolice

    Rating1

    "Had this "State of the Art" unit for 1 week after swap from old dongle & am frustrated, angry & downright insulted. Optus just informed this unit preprogrammed to "sleep" after 5 minutes non use t..."

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