International roaming is expensive, pre-ordered SIMs don’t make sense unless you will be making at least $30 worth of cellular calls, and buying prepaid SIMs can be a hassle. So, during a recent international trip to Europe, I checked out XCom Global’s MiFi rental service in part due to the stellar Engadget review. Longtime Switched On readers know that I’ve long admired the Novatel portable hotspot, and it performed incredibly well on HSPA+, holding up through long days of use both in hotel rooms and used on the go for smartphone-based walking navigation.
Standard definition streaming sometimes buffered and I had at least one Skype call where the other party gave up, but several others where the other party heard me perfectly. XCom Global ships you the MiFi in a nice carrying case with a few different country adapters, an extra battery, and a FedEx return envelope for when you arrive back home. They support many different countries and will will definitely be on my to do list the next time I go abroad for any extended stay.
The service is about $18 per day – cheaper than what many hotels charge for Wi-Fi you can’t take out of the building – and you can also save a few bucks by renting only a USB modem for $15 per day.. My one complaint is that XCOM Global starts the clock the day of your departure, even if you won’t arrive at your destination country until the next day. Even with amortizing that day over the rest of a trip, though, it’s still a good value.