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3 mobile Wi-Fi wireless modem: Hands-on with the MiFi mofo

We can't live without the Web, even for a moment, and the 3 wireless modem means we don't have to. It eats 3G and spits out Wi-Fi, and we took it for a wireless spin

We're not sure what to call it -- mobile Wi-Fi, MiFi, or wireless hotspot -- but we love the idea of taking our own Wi-Fi with us wherever we go. A mysterious little box takes a SIM card and connects to the 3G mobile network, then beams out a tasty bubble of Wi-Fi so we can connect our laptops, iPods and other wireless gadgets to the Internet anywhere there's 3G.

Our trusty Novatel MiFi 2352 was a life-saver on holiday abroad, for example. Instead of going cold-turkey on surfing or racking up huge data-roaming costs with our locked-down iPhones, we just picked up a local SIM card and popped it in the MiFi. We still used our phone for calls and texts, but those crucial Wikipedia searches, iPlayer episodes and Spotify streams all went through the sweet, sweet local Wi-Fi goodness provided by the MiFi.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to roam the world with 3's version of the MiFi, since it's locked to the 3 network, but you can bring the wonder of Wi-Fi to the park or on your staycation. And instead of the Novatel MiFi's £210 price tag, the 3 version costs £70 from 3.

We took the 3 MiFi for a spin and found it was a breeze to set up. We had no trouble surfing over its connection from a good 15m away. The modem comes ready to go, but you can also connect it to your computer with its USB cable to configure it to your own tastes with 3's management software, which was a doddle to use.

We liked that the 3 MiFi has a microSD slot that takes up to a 32GB card, but it doesn't come with one included. If you pop your own card in there, you can share the files over the wireless network, which could be very handy for tasks such as getting photos off your phone. Sadly, the modem doesn't have 7.2Mbps HSDPA like its Novatel cousin, only 3.6Mbps, but does promise up to 5 hours of battery life, depending on how many things are connected, which is a gain of an hour. It also has the confusingly sexy good looks of EVE from Wall-E.

3 is offering it with a £15 one-month rolling contract that nets you 5GB of surfing each month. That's the same contract on offer with their USB modem, which only costs £10, but the MiFi gives you the freedom to tether without a USB connection and support up to five devices.