It might be relatively new to the Aussie market, but Xiaomi has been taking the rest of the world by storm with its innovative yet inexpensive products. The Mi Wi-Fi is the latest such gadget, and it’s a rather impressive piece of kit to say the least. Combining an 802.11ac router with a 1TB hard drive, all at a ridiculously low price, this thing is likely to fly off shelves once word spreads.
Considering the large size of most Wi-Fi routers, the tiny dimensions of the Mi Wi-Fi is the first thing you’ll notice, it’s approximately 170mm tall by 120mm deep by 64mm wide. It’s got an incredibly simple design, with none of the huge external antennae normally associated with 802.11ac routers. Yet this doesn’t seem to have hampered its ability to broadcast at lightning fast speeds. It’s packing a 2×2 antennae configuration that wiped the floor with several routers we’ve tested that are several hundreds of dollars more expensive. Our initial speed test was run at a distance of approximately 15 metres, with several concrete walls in the way. We used speedtest.net to see if it could max out our NBN fibre to the home connection, and measured an impressive 18Mbps down, 3Mbps up. However, there’s an optimisation tool that is part of the free Smartphone application (available for both Android and iOS) available for the router. Running this caused the device to search for the best channel and protocol, switching to the 2.4GHz network as it had automatically detected interference on the 5GHz channel. The speed jumped to a whopping 45Mbps down, while the upload speed increased to 7Mbps. Considering the huge range we tested this at, not to mention the number of concrete walls it had to penetrate, this is fantastic performance.
This is partially thanks to the Broadcom BCM4709 ARM Cortex -A9 dual-core CPU inside, paired with 256MB of RAM. As an 802.11ac router, it’s a dual band router, one on the 2.4GHz band, the other on the 5GHz band. The former delivers up to 367Mbps of bandwidth, while the latter delivers up to 800Mbps, giving a total theoretical maximum of 1167Mbps.
On the outside you’ll find a single USB 2.0 port, twin Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single WAN port. The USB port can be used to connect an external hard drive, printer or 3G modem. Residing within is a 1TB hard drive, making this a handy little media server. We were able to stream three HD video streams simultaneously from this device – wirelessly to both a smartphone and laptop, as well as a wired connection to a PC, and there was nary a stutter or glitch on any device. To put it bluntly, we were astonished at the performance considering the range it also exhibited. We wish there was a 4TB version, as 1TB will be rather easy to fill, but that’s likely a limitation of the 2.5-inch hard drive’s form factor. At least you can use the USB 2.0 port to attach an external drive for extra storage capacity.
As mentioned previously, the free Smartphone app is fantastic for automatically optimising the performance of this router, but also delivers the usual controls for your router. There’s QoS optimisation, Firewall maintenance including blacklisting devices, scheduled reboots and Wi-Fi sleep modes, and automatic photo backup.
We were expecting the software to be a little rough around the edges but we were wrong. Not only does setup take mere minutes, but both the web-based and smartphone interfaces are incredibly easy to use. It’s even possible to stream content remotely to your device, without the need for any complicated settings, though performance does nose-dive, as it doesn’t appear to transcode the content in the process.
Given the excellent performance, tiny size and fantastic pricing, we simply can’t help but give this the highest score possible. Xiaomi may not be a household name in Australia yet, but if it keeps releasing innovative products like this, it soon will be.
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