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September 08, 2011

ZTE MF60 HSPA+ Pocket WiFi Review

We featured this HSPA+ capable mobile hotspot from ZTE a few weeks ago and we’ve finally gotten a review unit to test. Like many other pocket WiFi (MiFi) devices before it, the ZTE MF60 is one pretty kick-ass unit. If only it were more affordable.

The ZTE MF60 looks like your typical portable mobile hotspot device — small, lightweight, bar soap shaped 3G/WiFi router. Unlike the previous ones we’ve seen and reviewed here, this one actually supports HSPA+ networks — just like the Tonino Lamborghini Tattoo stick and the Smart Bro Rocket.

That means you can theoretically reach as fast as 21Mbps over mobile internet. Of course locally, we only have Globe promising up to 10Mbps and up to 12Mbps with Smart on their respective HSPA+ networks.

The performance, coverage and actual street speeds of the telcos are another matter altogether. Here’s our collective speed tests for Globe HSPA+ and Smart HSPA+.

Given these initial test data as control points, we tried out the ZTE MF60 if it can achieve similar or better results.

The MF60 comes with the usual accessories — the wall charger, 1500mAh removable Li-Ion battery, a micro-USB cable. It’s got a microSD card slot on the side (up to 32GB, card sold separately) and a CRC9 port for connecting an external antenna. The SIM card slot is found inside, beneath the battery compartment.

There’s a small OLED display, about 2cm x 1cm, at the front that shows the battery life indicator, signal strength, connection status, cellular network, WiFi status and number of devices connected.

The device supports a slew of GSM cellular networks and frequencies, ranging from GPRS all the way up to HSPA+.

ZTE MF60 4G MiFi Router
HSDPA/HSUPA/UMTS 850/1900/2100 MHz
GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
HSPA+: DL 21.6Mbps, UL 5.76Mbps
WCDMA CS: 64Kbps UL/DL
WCDMA PS: 384Kbps UL/DL
WiFi Standard: 802.11 b/g/n
WiFi Security: WEP/WPA/WPA2/WAPI
Up to 8 concurrent users/devices on WiFi

The WiFi router supports speeds on the local network of up to 54Mbps and can handle a maximum of 8 wireless devices at the same time.

The device performs really well and connects to the network in less than 20 seconds from the Off state. The old MyFi devices can take between 30 seconds to 1 minute to do the same.

It auto-detects the cellular network for the SIM card so when you slap a Globe, Smart or Sun Cellular SIM, it automatically plugs in the correct APN settings.

ZTE used a web-based administration panel for the MF60 (provided by GoAhead Webserver) and supports a lot of operating systems (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc).

Device management and even SMS management can be done via the web interface, which is great since you can send text messages thru the device over WiFi (mostly used for subscribing to data plans or balance inquiry).

The only downside here is that if you’re having problems connecting to WiFi, you won’t be able to access the admin panel and diagnose the problem. I have not yet experienced that with this unit though. (Update: It will still work as long as you plug the device via USB to the PC and run Mobile Hotspot. Would be a problem if you only have a WiFi phone or tablet with you when that happens.)

Our numerous speed tests in the last two weeks were a bit erratic but, in general, they were impressive to say the least.

This is the best one we got with the Smart network (using the SmartBro Rocket SIM):

Done at the same time of day and same location (3AM, Bangkal, Makati) previously tested on SmartBro Rocket.

I was able to connect to an Smart HSPA+ network once in Megamall (PLDT Jump Center) but only got around 2Mbps downlink speed. The uplink speed was great though at 1.5Mbps (highest I recorded ever).

This is the best one we got on the Globe network (using a regular prepaid Tattoo SIM):

What’s surprising with this one is that I only used a regular prepaid SIM card subscribed on Globe SuperSurf 50. This test was done at Starbucks in Paseo de Magallanes at around 4pm.

Note though that results will greatly vary depending on your location and the time of day.

As for battery life, I was able to squeeze a total of 4 hours and 45 minutes on a single, full charge. This is with continuous use with web surfing on two laptops but with minimal file downloads.

The last 2 weeks with this device has been pretty good — the hardware is impressive and the network connectivity has been very satisfactory both on Globe and Smart networks. I didn’t include speed tests for Sun Cellular since they don’t have HSPA+ yet.

The only downside of this unit is the retail price — Php7,500 a pop (it’s unlocked and actually a rare find). Still not that bad considering the unlocked Huawei E5 (supports HSDPA only) could set you back around Php5k to Php6k.

Disclosure: HotGadgets provided us with this review unit. You can find the item being sold in TipidPC here and in Sulit here.

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78 Responses to “ZTE MF60 HSPA+ Pocket WiFi Review”

  1. Conquer™ says:

    Gnet: Mas okay so far ang MF63 and yes, napansin ko rin mabilis nga lang uminit device. Wala pa kasi reviews sa net about dito. Wait na lang natin review ni Sir Yuga. :)

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