Review: The Samsung Galaxy S II's Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Feature

The Galaxy S II's mobile Wi-Fi capability makes it a smart choice for techies and non-techies alike.

Lavon Peters

April 12, 2012

4 Min Read
Review: The Samsung Galaxy S II's Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Feature

As managing editor ofWindows IT Pro, SQL Server Pro, and Dev Pro, you might think I'd be a gadget girl—but you'd be wrong. I'm super organized, probably far too detail oriented, and I love language. These skills make me a great managing editor. But I confess to being a bit overwhelmed at times by technology. Even my kids have far more gadgets than I do. They make fun of my iPod "mini." (If you even remember what that is, you know why I put it in quotes; the "mini" is a gargantuan piece of hardware that houses a mere 4GB of songs—which I've never exceeded.) I don't have satellite TV or a DVR; in fact, I don't even have cable. I actually—honest to God—have rabbit ears on top of my TV. I've read books on my daughter's Kindle, but I still prefer to hold a printed volume in my hands. So, as you might imagine, when I do use technology, I want it to work—intuitively, and correctly the first time.

Related: Smartphone Security & Nomophobia

I recently took a Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone with me on a trip, to test its portable Wi-Fi capabilities. (Jeff James reviewed the Galaxy S II recently; he loved the phone and recommended that I try it out.) I had a trip planned to take my kids to visit family in Illinois and Missouri for spring break, but we're right in the middle of our first digital editions of Windows IT Pro, SQL Server Pro, and Dev Pro, and I couldn't afford to take a week off work. I needed a fast, reliable, and preferably portable Internet connection.

The Galaxy S II lets you create a portable Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to the Internet either wirelessly or via tethering. To use the tethering feature, you need a USB cable. The advantage of this method is that your smartphone charge will last a lot longer, because it's pulling from your laptop battery. Connecting wirelessly drains your smartphone battery pretty quickly. Luckily, I had a charge adapter with me, so I could plug the S II into a wall outlet and never worry about it going dead.

The portable Wi-Fi hotspot feature is a breeze to set up. You simply open the Settings menu, tap Wireless and network, scroll up and select Tethering and wireless hotspot, then tap Portable Wi-Fi hotspot settings. Click OK on the introduction screen, then select Configure portable Wi-Fi hotspot. You can enter a network SSID, choose a security level (open or protected), and set a password. After you save your settings, you're ready to connect. Simply select Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. The next screen warns you that using this feature "consumes much battery power and increases your data usage." I clicked OK and was connected within seconds.

Figure 1: Setting up a portable Wi-Fi hotspot on the Galaxy S II

Figure 1: Setting up a portable Wi-Fi hotspot on the Galaxy S II

The Galaxy S II's mobile Wi-Fi feature worked great for my needs. Everywhere I used it, I had a strong signal and a fast connection. Sending and receiving files via email was just as fast as over the Penton T1 lines. (Getting onto the Penton network was another story, but I can't blame the Galaxy S II for that. Our VPN is notoriously slow. You can literally start an upload, then go make—and drink—a cup of coffee before your upload is complete.)

T-Mobile was the mobile carrier on the Galaxy S II that I tested. I've always found T-Mobile's service to be fast and reliable, and their 4G network is no exception. T-Mobile's Smartphone Mobile Hotspot service, which lets you use the S II's mobile Wi-Fi feature, is an additional $14.99 per month above and beyond your regular data plan—a very small price, in my opinion, for a good Internet connection.

Related: Smartphone Security & Nomophobia

The S II can share its data connection with up to eight other devices. I was able to test this capability after my trip, using all the laptops and iPod Touches in the house. It worked, although the connection speed was pretty slow—more like a dial-up line.

I definitely recommend the Galaxy S II. In addition to being a cool device with some nifty features (I loved the TeleNav GPS navigator), this smartphone's mobile Wi-Fi capability makes it a smart choice for techies on the go—and those of us who are still trying to catch up with the lightning-fast speed of changing technology.

(For a more general review of the S II, see Jeff James's Samsung Galaxy S II review, as well as his "First Impressions: T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II 4G.")

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