Three UK announce HSPA+ E586 MiFi (with 802.11n & US 3G?) [Updated]

[caption id="attachment_1102" align="aligncenter" width="522" caption="Three's new E586 MiFi. Due in September."]Three E586 MiFi[/caption] Three  have finally announced the details of their much anticipated (well, by me) new HSPA+ MiFi - the E586.

Need To Know

The device launches in September. A price hasn't been officially announced yet, but Dan Carter from CoolSmartphone.com points out that retailer Argos is listing it in their catalogue for £69.99 with a pre-pay SIM and 3GB of data - that's the same price as the existing MiFi bundle currently retails forbut I expect both pre-pay and contract availability immediately - probably at a slight premium over the current device.

This is Three's first MiFi to ship with a cradle for home use.

The E586 has the same form-factor as Three's current E585 with an improved finish. Battery life is claimed at 4.5 hours, but based on Three's current claims of 5 hours for the E585, expect something closer to 3.5hrs in real-world usage.

[caption id="attachment_1103" align="aligncenter" width="373" caption="The E586 ships with a cradle for home use."]The E586 ships with a cradle for home use.[/caption]

Like the current E585 device and Three's original MiFi (the E5830) the E586 is made by Huawei. The device (although not Three-branded) was first shown in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. From information provided then, the  E586 appears to support 1900MHz frequencies (US 3G) which the E585 was previously lacking, but its Vodafone equivalent - the R201 - offers (although data roaming in the US on Three's current tariffs isn't recommended anyway).

The E586 also appears to support 802.11n which - if Three have retained this option - will improve performance and adds the option to use WiFi in the 5GHz signal range... useful for avoiding the normal (overcrowded) 2.4GHz range.

[caption id="attachment_1107" align="aligncenter" width="522" caption="The Huawei E586 was first shown in February at Mobile World Congress"]Huawei E586[/caption]

Performance is likely to be in-line with Three's other HSPA+ device - the E367 dongle. Three claimed a 40% performance improvement for HSPA+ (with theoretical top speeds of  21.1Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload) when launching the E367 and this was reflected in my real-world testing. Three expect 80% of their network to support HSPA+ by the end of 2011.

The E586 includes an updated browser-based management interface and also adds a new feature displaying the MiFi's WiFi key on-screen at the touch of a button. Although simple this last feature is incredibly useful - all my current MiFi devices have their keys taped to the back for quick reference now.

Initial Verdict

Although other networks are also investing in HSPA+ upgrades in the UK Three's tariffs are still - in my opinion - the best option for using high-speed 3G data. They're also the first to ship a high-speed MiFi in the UK and real-world testing shows the recent network upgrades do deliver the promised performance improvements - a crucial point because higher speeds 'over the air' are pointless without the wider infrastructure to deliver data quickly...

I've been using Three's current MiFi (the E585) alongside a similar Huawei device (Vodafone's R201) daily since it was launched in June 2010. They're brilliantly reliable with better radio performance than many other similar devices I've tested. I've yet to test an E586 but if it's anything like it's predecessors this will be the device for mobile data into 2012.

Image credit: mobile-surfstick.de