XYFI: for digital nomads
A new portable 3G hotspot and range of accessories promise to keep even the most demanding traveller online, but for a price. By Craig Wilson.
Wireless hardware manufacturer Option’s XYFI range of products and accessories, made in Belgium, is aimed at the digital nomad who wants connectivity wherever they are. Billed as the “smallest personal hotspot”, the XYFI unit and accessories aren’t cheap, but they perform well and look great.
With mobile data prices plummeting, 3G hotspot devices are becoming increasingly popular, particularly because they allow multiple devices to connect to them, meaning they’re a genuine alternative to fixed-line services.
The core XYFI unit resembles a USB dongle, the USB portion of which pivots into the body of the device, much like many contemporary car keys. The same USB connector allows the device to work with the various accessories Option offers.
Up to eight devices can connect to the unit at one time and, although it would have been nice to have at least some battery power in the XYFI unit — rather than always having to power it via USB — this would have required a larger and heavier unit.
In addition to a Sim-card slot, the XYFI includes a port for microSD cards. This allows users to stream content or transfer files over Wi-Fi. The unit weighs just 30g and is roughly the size of a standard USB data modem.
Setup is fairly straightforward, with a Web-based interface providing access to security settings, network information and options to share or extend an existing, available Wi-Fi connection using the device.
The real selling point of the XYFI, though, is the selection of attachments from Option. These include a battery pack, charged via micro USB, offering eight hours of charge to the XYFI unit and a USB port so that other items can be charged, too. The unit has a row of white LED lights on one side to indicate power level during use and charging.
There’s also a car connector so that the unit can be powered by a car cigarette lighter. Although having a Wi-Fi hotspot in a car may not be the best idea for a driver, it’s great for passengers using tablets or laptops. It’s also a novel option for taxi or shuttle operators looking to offer customers something extra.
Finally, there’s also an adapter that plugs directly into a two-prong power point. As most modern laptops only offer two USB ports and they’re often located side-by-side, being able to connect the XYFI unit to something other than your laptop makes it that much more useful.
The XYFI and its accessories are all great pieces of industrial design — their white exteriors, clean lines and lack of anything but the essential buttons and displays make them a pleasure on the eye and in the hand.
Pricing, however, is a little less thrilling. The base XYFI unit will set you back R1 799 and the battery pack a further R899. The cigarette lighter and wall plug adapters cost R349 each. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media