Your phone can tether? That’s great! Don’t come crying to us for a charger when your phone battery bottoms out though. If you’re planning to do a lot of work that requires a lot of devices to connect to the Internet for a considerable amount of time, you’ll need a pocket Wi-Fi device. ZTE, a solid name in the pocket Wi-Fi device market, has just the ticket in the MF93D, a device with a huge battery and LTE connectivity. We got to give the MF93D a spin. Here’s what we learned.
The ZTE MF93D is simply designed. It’s a smooth pebble of a device, just about the size of your palm. Though a little thick, it’s surprisingly light, even with its internal, non-removable battery. There isn’t a single sharp edge on the router, and very few controls. There is a main power button, beside the LED display, two doors on the top edge for the mini-SIM and microSD card, respectively, a single WPS button at the top, and a microUSB port at the bottom for charging. Everything else is handled via the device’s web configuration page.
The modem is, quite pleasantly, LTE-capable, allowing it to ride on your carrier’s LTE network, with all the requisite speed bonuses fast connections give. It does take the older-style mini-SIM cards, which is something to bear in mind when you get yourself an LTE SIM. It has a large, 2800mAh battery, which is about the same size as that on mobile phones, allowing it to give you a lot of up time between charges. The screen on the device is a 1.4-inch, monochrome TFT, with plenty of brightness, and just enough room to clearly, conveniently display connection info. It doesn’t really need a lot of screen to get the job done. The use of a standard microUSB port is convenient, allowing you to trickle charge from a USB port, should your off-site work go on longer than you planned.
User Experience: 3.5/5
The MF93D is simple to get going. Charge it, pop in a SIM card, and you’re off. I had a micro-SIM card, and needed to use an adapter tray, which can sometimes catch on the spring-loaded SIM card slot. This was a minor problem that really only happened once, when I failed to seat the micro-SIM properly, so to avoid messing your precious line up, take a little extra care with that step.
A long press on the power button powers the device up, and within a minute, it should start broadcasting a wireless signal. For the initial setup, you will find the SSID and password on a sticker on the back of the device. This is also the information the device resets to, should you perform a factory wipe, so it would be in your best interest to keep this information handy, should the sticker come off or fade.
Once connected, you can hop over to the device configuration page through your browser at 192.168.0.1, use the default password and username “admin,” and you’re off. The device configuration page is extremely straightforward, and anyone who has had any experience with setting up a router should be able to help you change the SSID and Wi-Fi password. The screens also let you do a whole host of things such as enable 5GHz broadcasting, set the broadcast power from short to long range, disable auto-connecting on device power-up, and quite a few other useful things, such as allowing the MF93R to stream media. You can also configure the microSD card to act as networked storage, should you have a need for that sort of thing, which is a pretty nice touch. Should you forget the SSID and password, you can tap the WPS button and see both displayed on the screen.
Using the device is pleasantly unremarkable. As long as you’re in an area with decent LTE coverage, it holds the signal very well. There were times that I found my connection to be intermittent. A little looking into it revealed that it was because the device was flip-flopping between 4G and 3G connectivity. The problem was easily remedied by heading to the settings page, and setting the device to LTE only. Bear in mind though that this will disable the device from connecting when there isn’t an LTE signal in the area, so you may have to switch it back occasionally.
Battery life on the pocket device is enough to get me through about a workday on a full charge, unless I have all me mobile devices connected. Then again, a laptop, a tablet and two phones might be putting an unreasonable amount of load on the battery. It should be plenty for most users, and if you need a little more endurance, you can always switch to the more battery-friendly short-range broadcast mode.
Value for money:
The ZTE MF93D is a great device. A large battery, great reception and a simple, easy to use configuration screen all make it worth approximately PHP 4000 cost of admission. All-day performance, multiple device connectivity, and best of all, LTE support make it a great addition to your mobile gadget arsenal.
Easy to use
Can get a little warm
May flip-flop from 3g to 4g, causing a spotty connection
Sure, you can tether off your phone for a quick minute, but if you need a constant mobile connection, the MF93D is the way to go.