What Is it: The XCom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot, a small device that you can rent and use to access the internet in over 175 countries on your web-enabled devices.
Price and Where to Buy: $14.95 flat rate per day for coverage in up to two countries; $14.95 per day plus a $30 surcharge per additional country if traveling to three or more countries. A Europe Travel Plan is also available, which charges just $14.95 per day for access throughout 40 countries in Europe with no surcharges. A monthly package is also available at $395 per month for coverage in up to four countries.
* Never be without WiFi even while you're traveling!
* The hotspot fits in the palm of your hand, and is extremely lightweight—you could carry it in a pocket without feeling weighed down. It's about half the size and weight of an iPhone 5.
* At $14.95 per day, renting this hotspot is much cheaper than using international data on your smartphone plan.
* A fully charged battery can last up to four hours with nonstop use—turning it off while you're not using the WiFi can make one charge last all day.
* Unlimited data (subject to a fair usage policy) means you can use as much internet as you like.
* The WiFi is fast (the device usually runs on a 3G network, although drops to 2G if coverage is spotty.) I was able to use it to download an hour long TV episode to my Kindle Fire in less than five minutes while waiting at the airport.
* The hotspot can be used with multiple devices, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
* Unlike using a public WiFi connection, your data will be secure with the XCom Global hotspot. The network is password protected.
* The plug that comes with the hotspot is a little bulky—it's a universal plug that can fit outlets in the UK, Europe, USA, and Australia. I tested this device in Australia and experienced trouble finding a spot to charge my hotspot in certain hotels—most outlets in Australia have a switch next to them that turns the power to the outlet on and off. The size of this plug made it hard to plug into the socket without accidentally flipping the switch that turns the power off. However, you can also detach the cord from the wall outlet and charge it via USB.
* Check the coverage map before purchasing—in remote areas, you may not have service. (I found that I didn't have service in isolated parts of Australia, but it was indicated on the map that I wouldn't have coverage there.)
How it Rates:
* Usefulness: 10/10. Being able to use your smartphone on the road as you do at home (minus the voice and text calls—you'll have to use apps that run off of WiFi, like Skype, for that) is invaluable for most travelers.
* Portability: 10/10. I was surprised at how lightweight this hotspot is—you can easily carry it in a pocket, purse, or briefcase without noticing any extra weight.
* Value: 10/10. If you don't have an international roaming plan, you'll get hit by extremely high charges by your cell phone provider if you use data overseas (as much as $23 per MB.) The XCom Global Mobile Hotspot lets you use as much data as you need, all for as low as $14.95 per day.
* Durability: 9/10. Since this device is a rental, maybe I shouldn't admit this—but I did drop the hotspot a few times. The battery cover popped off, but once I put it back on, the hotspot worked as normal and was none the worse for the wear. The hotspot should withstand normal bumps and drops, but would be ruined if you were to get it wet or drop it from long distances.
* Cool Factor: 10/10. The hotspot is unobtrusive, which we appreciate, as it wouldn't be a standout target for thieves. And, what's cooler than being able to hop on the internet whenever you want, wherever you want?
Final Verdict: Fast, secure WiFi that goes wherever you do (even across international borders) all for under $15 a day? We're sold!
Editor's Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and "cool factor." Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email email@example.com.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Product Review: XCom Global Mobile WiFi Hotspot.
Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo: XCom Global)