The Solwise 3G-183n is a fantastic tool for sharing 3G broadband to multiple users and offers plenty of configuration options. The only major downside is its size and weight, but those are very minor problems.
Good battery life, flexible, good configuration options, easy to use, fast
Large and heavy
802.11b/g/n, 3G (UTMS, HSDPA, HSUPA), WEP/WPA/WPA2, WPS, 2200mAh LI-ON batteries (included) 225g, 91mm x 78mm x 33.2mm
Internet access is not only a human right these days, but essential to people's business and social lives. The problem is that, with so many devices needing internet access, how do you give provide this when you're on the road?
If your devices have 3G built in, then great, but do you have a data plan for each one? It's likely that so doing would be prohibitively expensive. The best solution is a portable hotspot, but for various reasons these often aren't all they are cracked up to be by the manufacturer.
We took a look at one hotspot that's a lot more than most, the Solwise 3G-183n.
The Solwise isn't the most sophisticated looking device we've ever seen. It's quite large and reasonably heavy and it's finished in shiny white plastic. At the bottom of the router, there's an ethernet socket (which has two uses) and USB 5v out for charging mobile phones. There's a WPS button, which will help you get the router connected to other devices.
You can charge the router via USB, from a PC or via a proper 12v input. We strongly suggest you use the 12v socket, as the USB charge times are twice as long. The supplied lithum-ion batteries are large, but hold 2200mAh of power. This should keep you online for several hours at a time.
There are several status LEDs that tell you what the device is up to. If it's connected to 3G and using data, the 3.5G light will illuminate and flash. A status and power light tell you that the device is switched on, and the power light changes depending on the level of the battery.
A decent physical slider switch on the side turns the power on or off. It's well designed, and would be nearly impossible to activate in a bag accidentally.
At the top of the router, you'll find the most important part: the socket for the SIM card. Solwise sells this device unlocked, so you can put any card in here, but just make sure you've arranged a data package first or the charges could be steep.
What makes it different?
Most portable hotspots are quite limited in the number of simultaneous users they can support. The Solwise device is far more sophisticated, as implied by the fact that it's called a router, not a hotspot.
So there is no limit on the number of users that can connect to it. Of course, bandwidth on 3G is pretty limited, so adding too many will render the connection unusable.
Its larger, physical size also means that there's room for some pretty substantial batteries too. The 3G-183n uses two lithum-ion cells, which can hold 2200mAh. This adds to the weight, but means you get decent battery life too.
To share the 3G signal, you can use an Ethernet socket to connect a laptop or just simply connect to the wireless hotspot that the device generates. The 3G-183n can create 802.11b/g/n networks, and supports speeds of up to 300Mbit/s.
This can be handy when it comes to sharing files between several computers on the network, but we're not likely to see speeds over the 3G network that make use of that level of performance.
The Ethernet socket is also useful if you want to turn a wired network into a wireless one for people to share. It requires the device be reconfigured slightly, but this takes just a few clicks. This gives you Wi-Fi access to a wired network, but also gives you 3G fail-over in case your connection goes offline.