At the beginning of 2015 we reviewed the Osprey Mifi produced by EE. This post would go on to be one of our most popular very quickly and has stayed consistently among the most popular for the last year. EE came out with a replacement – the Osprey 2 and the Osprey 2 mini in the Autumn last year and we have finally gotten our hands on an Osprey 2.
The Osprey 2 takes a mobile phone signal from EE’s 3g and 4g network and makes it into a little battery powered wifi network that you can carry with you. This means that you can have your laptop, tablet and action camera with you and they’ll all be online.
Physically the Osprey 2 is a 9cm by 9cm square 2 cm deep and it weighs 178 grams. The outside edge is surrounded by a bright yellow slightly rubbery plastic that gives a little protection from drops. Going around the edge one side has the power button that also serves as a 4 LED power level indicator, the second has a sim draw for the nano sim – this takes a tool to lever open. The third side has a microUSB and full size USB port as well as a recessed reset switch and the fourth side is blank.
The top of the 2 has the EE logo and LEDs that show the strength of the network you’re connected to, whether it’s 3g or 4g and if you have any SMS messages on the account. The bottom has a sticker showing the name of the wifi network and its password – you’ll want to remove this and store it very carefully.
To use, put in a sim card, switch on by holding the button in for a couple of seconds and the button will briefly show you the battery level the LED’s on the top will show when it’s established a connection how strong and what type of signal it has. At this point is starts a wifi network and you can connect to it just like any other network.
Sign onto this wifi network with your device and have access to the internet. Up to 10 devices can join the wifi network at once and depending on permissions they can see each other and communicate without going online. I was able to get laptops, Chromebooks, phones, tablets, a Chromecast and a wifi enabled NAS working on the same network at the same time. The wifi network is physically smaller than you will be used to with a normal wifi hub to and to get good speeds they all needed to be in the same room in close proximity.
Price: £0 – £49.99
Included in the box: Osprey 2 Wifi, MicroUSB Cable, neoprene pouch, a keep me card with security details and a quick start guide.
Paid Extras: To use a mifi you need a sim card with an active data plan. This could be prepay or as part of a contract and can either be purchased directly from EE or via a third party like Amazon. The Osprey 2 is sold locked to EE’s network, but codes can be purchased either from EE or via ebay to unlock it.
EE is the UK’s biggest mobile network. They are proud of their 4g network and claim that it’s faster than the alternatives and reaches 95% of the population with 3g covering 98%. I’ve had good results with signal for the Osprey 2 although it should be noted that the 95% figure is outside not inside. If you are going to be in one place a lot of the time I’d recommend checking your postcode in the coverage map to make sure you can use the Osprey 2.
EE is a subsidiary of BT and runs the brands EE, Orange and T-Mobile. They have a range of environmental, and social policies that seem well rounded but unremarkable for a large company. It employs roughly 15,000 in the UK and has revenues around £6 billion a year.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Osprey 2 Mifi is versatile and lends itself to a number of scenarios.
If you are using the Osprey for a single PC and are able to connect it via USB it will automatically install a driver that will allow Windows to treat it as a network connection over the USB. This is potentially battery saving for the mifi (as it will take power from the PC), does not count towards the 10 device limit and is very simple.
The battery is claimed to last for 20 hours of use and 60 hours standby time with it’s 5150 mAh non-removable battery. It’s hard to quantify how accurate this is, but it does hit the biggest requirement – it gets through the day with plenty to spare.
The Osprey 2 can also send and receive SMSs which can be written and read via the web interface. The LED notifies you of a new SMS but does not let you read them.
EE sells the Osprey 2 as an on-the-go internet connection, but if you have very low requirements or short term needs such as when moving house, it will work as a house internet connection. One quirk of the firmware that should be noted is that if nothing is connected to the wifi it turns itself off – even if plugged in – after an hour. This does make sense when running on a battery, but is a problem if you’re trying to use it in one place.
The Osprey 2 also has a hidden party trick – it can be used as an external battery to charge other devices like your phone or tablet. EE have built restrictions into the firmware that only let this work when you have more than 50% charge available in the battery for tablets and more than 25% for most phones. I tried using this and while I’ll admit that the figures do add up to let it work well as an external battery, it’s more something I’d recommended as an emergency use rather than day to day.
I would not normally think of a mifi as something that would benefit from good ergonomic design but the Osprey 2 is surprisingly sensibly thought out. The rubberized edges make it comfortable to hold and provide some extra protection if you drop it. EE have chosen to go for single LEDs to indicate battery life and signal strength which is simple and makes for the maximum battery efficiency.
The software is a little less well designed. It does what it’s designed for and there is a decent startup wizard, but it’s both too simple for an expert user missing some features that would be appreciated and in places too complicated for a novice. EE appear to have taken the Alcatel firmware and adapted it to their needs.
If you need to be connected on the go, you can rely on wifi public internet access points, get a mifi or use your smartphone. Public wifi can work for very occasional use but you are always at the mercy of what you can find and security is always a worry.
Your phone can technically become a wifi hotspot, but your contract will probably not allow it without big extra and long term costs and there is also a big impact on your battery life to concider.
That leaves a mifi. A quick search on Amazon brings up different specced devices costing between £30 and £80. The Osprey 2 compares favorably in cost to the market with a larger battery and better specs in general than its price range.
Battery: 5150 mAh Lithium Ion
Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
Configuration: Via web browser
Charge: Via MicroUSB Connector
Compatible systems Via USB Mode: Windows and Mac
Size: 9 x 9 x 2 cm
Weight: 178 g
Warranty: The Osprey 2 is warranted for 24 months for defects of workmanship or materials and is refundable for the first month.
To get your device online it needs to be able to connect to the mifi. This means either via wifi or USB. In reality this means almost any modern device with the exception of some smart TVs that only have ethernet ports.
Once upon a time a mifi was considered something that would only be of interest to a very small number of people. It’s still somewhat of a niche product, but that niche has gotten an awful lot bigger. If you fit in that niche, the Osprey 2 is a great and solid choice. It is well made and designed, has just enough bells and whistles to keep you happy, but not so many as to be complicated and it has an all day all use battery life.
Before you buy check, the signal in your area and assuming that EE has you covered, the Osprey 2 is just what you need. Highly recommended.
The review is based on the EE Osprey 2 Mifi kindly provided by EE. It is a review of the Osprey 2, not the Osprey 2 Mini, but from reading the technical specifications they are near identical with the exception that the mini has a smaller battery, is physically smaller and cannot be used as an external battery. This article was first published on the 7th March 2016.