Why do you want an iPhone or iPad? Most people want one so that they can do their computing when traveling. What if you could make your trusty old Windows laptop into a 3G laptop?

The iPhone

This is a cool phone with lots of street cred, but its tiny screen makes Web browsing very difficult.

The iPad

To Apple users the iPad is the best thing ever and it is impressive in some respects. It is fast, light and has superb graphics as well as allowing you to access the Internet wherever you can pick up a mobile phone signal. To an unbiased eye the iPad also has some severe limitations; its price, small screen, lack of a proper keyboard and tiny 32Gb hard drive leap out as flaws.

Your Old Laptop

To you, which is all that matters her, it is great. It has a decent-sized, 17in screen, a proper keyboard, all of your favourite programs and a 500Gb hard drive. It also has USB sockets that allow you to attach almost anything.

The killer is that it has no 3G or 4G capability. Wifi is nice, but using insecure free wifi hotspots is a major security risk when you are out and about. The rest of its inadequacies you can live with but many laptop users consider buying an iPad just for the 3G capabilities.

Re-invent Your Laptop

If you buy a Dell laptop online you can have a 3G card fitted to it for an extra $250. You could take your laptop into a computer repair shop and have a 3G card retro-fitted at $400 a pop. Retro-fitting is not a sensible option, besides which what if you wanted to change 3G networks? Are you really going to go back and pay another $400 to have a new card fitted?

What you need is a 3G or 4G gadget that can sit in your pocket and that will connect to the network and then will connect wirelessly to your laptop. This gadget exists and only costs $30 from Amazon.

It is called a mifi. It is the size of a matchbox, sits in your bag or pocket and turns your laptop into a 3G laptop. In fact it will turn five laptops into 3G machines because you can connect up to five devices to it simultaneously.


Mifi boxes are battery powered wireless hubs that connect to the Internet over a 3G or 4G phone network. The service you get depends on the phone network you connect to, so choose one that you can use a sim card from any network in. If you want maximum 3G coverage get a sim card from one of the major phone networks with wide coverage, though, with any network there are always areas with poor cell phone service.

It allows you to allow any computer with a wireless card, like your old laptop, to access the Internet over a mobile broadband network connection.

You have been able to get 3G USB dongles for your computer for a long time, but they stick out at odd angles and are very easily damaged. A mifi device connects wirelessly to your computer so you avoid the sticking out dongle problem.

The battery is mains rechargeable just like a phone battery and you can use one laptop on it for up to four hours. The more devices you connect to your mifi the harder it will have to work and the shorter the time will be before the battery needs to be recharged.

If you travel a lot then take your mifi with you and buy a local sim card to stick in it. This will allow you to access the Internet at local rates rather than paying exorbitant roaming fees on your home network

To Sum Up

For $30 you can have a 3G-capable laptop that does everything a $800 iPad does except look cool. Most people would say that was a great deal. An iPad beating laptop for £30!