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Review: Huawei E5 wireless 3G modem

When I first got the Huawei E5 Wireless 3G Modem, just one thing went through my mind: “Minsan lang ako lumabas ng bahay e.  Kailan ko naman ‘to magagamit?”

Fortunately, the holidays gave plenty of opportunities to put this wireless modem to work!

Share the 3G love!

The Huawei E5 is a mobile Wi-Fi device that allows you to share a 3G connection to a maximum of five devices. Wirelessly, of course, via 802.11 b/g wireless connections.  It has an HSDPA speed of 7.2Mbps and an HSUPA speed of 3.76Mbps.

The good news: open-line siya.  So you can use any SIM card with it.

The maximum number of connections I was able to try with this device was three.  I didn’t really feel any slowdown on the speed until my friends thought it was a good idea to turn on their torrent clients.

At one point, I decided to test how far I could be from the modem until I lost the connection.  I was able to still get a decent connection with my T-Mobile G1 while being some 18 meters away from the device.  That’s with no obstacles in the way.  Pwede na.  I could have gone farther, but there was nowhere for me to go to at that point.  Signal strength drastically goes down when you’re behind walls and doors.  That said, I could see this gadget as a great lifesaver when I’m with a group of people attending an internet-less event.

LAN on the go

When not connected to the net, the Huawei E5 can also act as a mobile wireless router.  That means you can have your own private ad-hoc network and start sharing files among gadgets connected to the E5.  I can imagine using this with a camera that has built-in Wi-Fi.  Bring along a laptop or netbook with a long battery life and you can just keep on taking pictures without worrying about running out of space in your card — just set the camera to send the pictures immediately to your computer via the mobile router.

Then again, you can just forego the laptop altogether.  The Huawei E5 also has a micro SD card slot that can support  a micro SD card.  Think of this as a portable mini NSA.  You can retrieve your files later through the modem’s built-in administrator’s site.

Sige lang. Mag-damot ka!

Yes, this modem can also be tethered to your laptop.  You can turn off the wireless connection on the Huawei E5 and simply start surfing the net without worrying about other people using your connection.  Of course, another way of preventing unwanted users from freeloading on your bandwidth is to set the modem to use WPA.

Incidentally, because you can tether this gadget to your laptop, this means that up to six people can connect at the same time: 5 wirelessly plus 1 tethered.

Like any other router, the Huawei E5 has its administrator’s tools built into the device.  Accessing the administrator’s tools is as easy as opening a browser and surfing to the site’s IP address (192.168.1.1).  With it, you can change the network’s security as needed.  Since it’s a 3G router, this same gadget can send and receive text messages.  You do that through the administration site as well.

You can also specify if the site will automatically connect to the 3G service or if you prefer to manually connect instead.  You’ll also need to use the administrator’s tools when retrieving files from the inserted micro SD card.  I noticed that you’ll need to keep the Wi-Fi service turned on in order to access the administrator’s tools.  If it’s turned off, you won’t be able to access it, even when you’re tethered.

Wait, there’s more…

The Huawei E5 has a decent battery life of 5 hours.  You can charge it by tethering it to your computer via a USB cable.  There’s also a wall charger available, but it’s sold separately.  That said, you can always buy a USB adapter for an electric socket and charge the gadget from there using the USB cable.

Note that the E5 is meant for travel purposes and not as a permanent always-on device.  After some time, I had to turn the E5 on and off to reset the connection.  The E5 also emits quite a bit of heat, so you’d definitely not want to keep this on all day everyday lest you overheat the unit.  Besides, pag nag-overheat yan, mamamatay kusa yung modem.  It’s the E5′s way of making sure that it doesn’t get fried.

The LCD screen clearly shows if the Wi-Fi is enabled and if you’re connected to the internet.  It can also show you the number of text messages you may have received, as well as the number of devices connected to the gadget.

Would I want to have a gadget like this even when I have a phone that can also be turned into a hotspot?  Indeed I would!  The Huawei E5 is a really versatile mobile router, and to be able to use it as more than just a hotspot is a real plus.  Besides, I’d like to save my phone’s battery in case important calls come in.

SRP PhP 5,995.00

Likes:

  • Small enough to put in a purse
  • Can be used as a private ad-hoc network
  • Supports tethering
  • Can do SMS
  • Easy to use

Dislikes:

  • Heats up when used longer than intended
  • Can’t access the administration tools unless Wi-Fi is turned on
Charo

Charo

Charo is a well-known consultant and trainer in Java and Android technologies. She is also a founder of Mobile Monday Manila, and the Philippine Android Community. Her favorite noodles: Pad thai.

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    • gadgetmonger|

      I’ve been using the E5 for a couple of months now and it is very useful and reliable. I even use it all day for weeks on end without a problem. It is perfect for putting wifi in your car. A very useful feature when you are stuck in traffic or lost (Google Maps is your friend) or just bored. You would be surprised how many times you are away from your home hotspot in a typical day. Even though I have 3G on my iPad and iPhone having the E5 has been more economical and practical when you have several computing devices.


    • sparkymarks|

      i like the part about it having an micro sd card slot. does this support HC type na micro sd or there’s a limit?


    • bad_boy|

      What’s the battery life like? This thing is pretty cool but if the hotspot feature of iOS 4.3 gets pushed (finally catching up to Android), it won’t be as cool ;)


    • @bad_boy, it’s mentioned in the post. 5 hours.


    • dhoy005|

      Ang mahal! Haha! And wow, you still have your G1!


    • notinthisworld|

      hi, where can i buy this at that price? thanks

      also, tethering and mini wifi router can be done using android based phones :D


    • While Android (and soon the iPhone) can do hotspot and tethering, I’m worried about an even faster battery drain on the phone. I’d use the phone for emergency access to the net, but would still rather use something like the E5. The phone calls and SMS are still more important to me. :)


    • @dhoy005 re G1: Yup! Rooted and modded to Cyanogen 6.1 :D


    • bad_boy|

      @Charo: Must be going blind in my advanced age :D


    • longgee|

      Its kinda nice :) i want to try it :) but who will share with me :)


    • Pretty interesting device. I currently use my Android as my modem / hotspot, but like you mentioned, it sucks up juice pretty quickly – I try to keep my phone plugged in when I switch on the hotspot. The connection also gets interrupted when a call comes in, and that can get pretty irritating at times.


    • @Luis Cruz, yup! The connection conking out when a call comes in pretty much, well, sucks! I hope to get myself an E5 soon since I’ll need this when I go to conferences and seminars that have bad internet service.

      Oh! The other reason why I’d like to get the E5 instead of using my phone as a hotspot: I’d like to be able to switch across the three telecom’s SIMs as needed. Doing that to my phone will mean I’ll be missing out on important calls and SMS. :)


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