The original Telstra Prepaid Mobile Broadband Hotspot (itself a rebadged ZTE MF30) was a nice enough and fast enough hotspot, but compared withto the offerings put out by Optus and Vodafone, it was still not the prettiest or the best modem at displaying information. The Elite Mobile Wi-Fi (itself a rebadged ZTE MF60) makes up for most of the original device's shortcomings with the inclusion of an OLED panel which that displays the network (Telstra, naturally), battery status, connection status, Wi-Fi strength and even the number of connected clients. Other than the OLED panel and the switch from mini to micro USB for charging, you'd otherwise be hard-pressed to pick the new Elite Mobile Wi-Fi from the original, although in best Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy tradition, Telstra has printed "Elite" on the front in big friendly letters.
Just printing the word "Elite" on a Wi-Fi modem isn't enough to convince us that it's necessarily so. Telstra's claim for the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi is that it's capable of up to 21Mbps download, in line with its other "Elite" products, which translates in real world performance to around 8Mbps download speed. Presumably, if the branding is consistent, we may see "Ultimate" Wi-Fi modems in six months or so.
Like the previous generation Wi-Fi Modem, the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi will support up to eight connected Wi-Fi clients, and, as noted, a counter in the OLED display shows you the current number of connected clients.
Telstra pre-secures the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi with a password, printed on a card that it'd be a very bad idea to lose. It's possible to reconfigure the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi through the basic but passable web interface, but if you do a factory reset on the unit, the supplied password is the one that it'll default to. It is a positive step, however, that it's secured at all, especially at the prices Telstra charges for data. For an AU$129 modem — even one that comes with 5GB of data on a 90-day expiry &mdash the data charges over even a couple of months will quickly outstrip the cost of the device itself.
On that note, it's also time to note (as we did with the original) that you can't just whack any Telstra-provided SIM into the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi. Not surprisingly, it's locked to Telstra only, but specifically to pre-paid SIMs if you're a consumer customer. Business customers can pop a Business SIM into the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi, or even buy a special Blue model of the Elite Mobile Wi-Fi on contract, but if you're a prepaid mobile broadband customer (which covers anyone on a BigPond Mobile broadband SIM distinct from those simply labelled as "Telstra" SIMs), you're out of luck; Telstra doesn't currently have a Wi-Fi Hotspot product for you.
We tested trialled the Elite Wi-Fi using a couple of different clients and the Speedtest.Net service in a number of locations to test its real- world speed. We tested indoors in North Sydney, outdoors at Martin Place in the Sydney CBD and the far north of Sydney at Hornsby, indoors. As we still had the original Wi-Fi modem to hand (although it's now technically obsolete) we tested with that as well to see how much of an upgrade (if any) the Elite provided over the same network at the same time.
|Telstra Elite Mobile Wi-Fi||Average Ping (ms)||Average Download (Mbps)||Average Upload (Mbps)|
|Telstra Prepaid Mobile
|Average Ping (ms)||Average Download (Mbps)||Average Upload (Mbps)|
As with the original hotspot, the name "hotspot" is rather apt; like many of these devices, if you've stowed it in a handy pocket, you'll find it gets warm rather quite quickly. Battery life is stated at the "up to" four hours level, and we averaged around three and a half hours in our tests with multiple connected client devices.
The Elite Mobile Wi-Fi does fix up a lot of the issues that bugged us with the original pre-paid mobile hotspot, especially with the new display, and it does also offer speeds that the other networks can't match.
There are issues present within Telstra's current data pricing and with many more phones now supporting ad-hoc hotspot modes, including the iPhone 4, there's perhaps less call for the device. If you want to swap networks around or use a post-paid Telstra SIM, we'd still advocate for Netcomm's excellent MyZone product, but if you want the fastest available Wi-Fi hotspot on the Australian marketplace today, this is clearly it.