Pocket Wi-Fi

Written by Pranay Parab | Updated: Jan 30 2014, 07:55am hrs
Do you panic when your internet connection drops When the deadline looms, I do. Many of us rely on the internet to earn a living so whether it is power cuts, poor network coverage or unscheduled downtime, the cost of drops in connection is huge.

During one such deadline-hour power cut, I realised that my phone had run out of charge. I had to borrow a neighbours phone and use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot to send my story. To put it mildly, the editor was not happy.

When I first used Tata Photon Max Wi-Fi last week, a USB dongle that lets you access the internet on up to five devices, I wished Id had it a year ago. The amount of hardware and software configuration needed for a broadband connection makes it unviable for many. If you had a USB stick that you could use to quickly connect five devices to the internet, things would be a lot more convenient than a broadband connection. That is just what the Photon Max Wi-Fi offers.

Setting it up

The review unit we got was pre-configured, so all I had to do was connect it to a power socket and the device started working in half a minute. I couldnt find the installation manual on the Tata Photon website, so I have uploaded it here: http://is.gd/ mg1pr4. Going by those instructions, it looks like the installation process and changing Wi-Fi passwords is going to be difficult for most people. However, its a one-time hassle.

The device works as advertised after you configure it. It is almost identical to the Photon Max, whose coverage I have found to be very reliable in most big cities. The Photon Max Wi-Fi has a blue and a green light. A stable blue light means that the device has connected to the internet, while a stable green light means that your gadgets are connected to Photon Max Wi-Fi. In over a week of testing, I faced no downtime.

When it comes to speed, Tata promises up to 6.2 Mbps speed on the Photon Max. The speed we got ranged between 1.4 Mbps and 2.6 Mbps, when tested on speedtest.net. By no means should this be considered slow. Three to four people had connected phones and tablets to the Wi-Fi network and were constantly browsing, chatting and updating apps. The connection did not slow down much during that test.

The most surprising aspect that emerged during testing was the range of the device. The Tata website says the range is up to 100 metres. In our tests, we got a range of up to 20-30 metres in The Indian Express office. As is common, the signal went weak when there were thick walls between the Photon Max Wi-Fi and my phone. This means that the

device may not be best for homes with more than two rooms. But most offices dont have those walls, so the range should be much better there.

One more thing. It has been quite some time since we last came across a device that is so obviously useful, but as reviewers, our job is to find a catch. While using the Photon Max Wi-Fi, I wished that the device had a battery or that Tata had offered a battery pack as a bundle offer of some sort. While youre travelling, sometimes you may not find a power socket or working USB port. For those cases, we recommend purchasing a portable battery packone that lets you plug in USB devices.

Should you buy it

If you need a stable, portable Wi-Fi connection at home or office, then the Tata Photon Max Wi-Fi will be an excellent purchase. The price is reasonableR1,999. Plans range from R650 per month (up to 3 GB) to R1,500 per month (up to 15 GB) excluding taxes. However, if you use more than 15 GB data per month, then it would be better to get a broadband connection as Tata curtails speed to 153.8 kbps once you hit the limit..

Estimated street price: Rs 1,999