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Skyroam Solis Global WiFi Hotspot review

Colin
November 26, 2018

Having been on the road for roughly 10-months one of the most significant issues I came across was the need for data. Whether it be maps, emails, catching up on work, or entertainment; through Europe, North America, and New Zealand staying connected was more difficult (read: expensive) than expected.

Before I left Australia back in February, the folks at Skyroam sent over their latest unit, the Solis, for me to put through its paces.

On paper, the service that Skyroam is offering sounds like the perfect solution to buying sim cards, navigating prepaid wireless/data plans around the world, or searching out free wifi. In practice, however, the Solis comes up a bit short

Highlights

What is it?

Sky Roam Solis

The Solis was able to pick up a signal on the ferry trip from Iceland to the Faroe Islands

With the Solis, SkyRoam advertises unlimited 4G LTE data 24-hour day passes which cost US$9 or US$9per GB credit which lasts up to one month — the unit itself will set you back US$149.99. There are no contracts to sign up for, and you only pay for what you use which is convenient.

Using what SkyRoam calls ‘vSim technology,’ there isn’t an actual sim card you need to install, simply fire up the orange hockey puck and it will connect to a wireless network in a claimed 130 countries and provide wifi for up to five devices at a time.

The Solis is, in fact, a tad larger than a hockey puck measuring 90mm across and weighs 186g. There are only two buttons on the device, an on-off button on the side and the wifi button on the top to be honest; I’m not totally sure what the second button does.

It’s here where the SkyRoam’s cracks begin to show, for starters the power button does not work every time. At least one out of every five times I went to turn the device on or off, I would hold the button down, and nothing would happen. When it does work, you’re going to have to hold it anywhere from three to ten seconds to make anything happen. On a few occasions, the device would turn off and on every five seconds for a period of about 15-minutes after only one button push.

The Solis utilizes a USB-C connection port and takes eight hours to charge fully the battery life is in line with the claimed 20-hours. With such a large battery, the Solis can be used as a powerbank to charge your other devices too.

The Interface

SkyRoam Solis

Unless you download maps ahead of time, you’re going to need data to get around. This is where the Solis shines

To get started, you either need to download the Solis app or go to a.skyroam.com. Here you find a mobile-optimized dashboard where you’ll register the device and can go on to buy day passes. The Solis gives you 20-minutes of free wifi to for registration only.

To be frank, the interface could use a bit of work. Quite often the web portal comes up with a popup written in Mandarin, and the device would regularly disconnect from devices with a prompt saying the password was incorrect, even though I’d already been connected to the Solis seconds prior. In the months of using the unit, I never discovered a workaround to this, other than turning it off for an hour and trying again.

There were also many times where the unit would get stuck halfway through its boot up process, and no amount of turning it off and on again would make any difference.

SkyRoam has recently released a Solis app, which is an improvement, but in my experience some of the same issues still present.

The big problem

Even light social media usage between two people leads to your connection being throttled

I’ve used the SkyRoam all over Europe, North America and even in New Zealand and Australia. Provided there was cell service, the device would connect to the network once properly booted up.

SkyRoam explicitly advertises the Solis as ‘offering unlimited high-speed internet around the world,’ however, this is not exactly what’s on offer. With each 24-hour day pass, you get roughly 1gb of high speed 4G LTE and then your connection is throttled to 2G.

Pulled directly from the SkyRoam website. The claim about unlimited fast data is misleading

I asked SkyRoam directly about the drop in speed and Laura Sebastinelli from the brand’s marketing team had this to say.

“As for speeds/data, please note that there are a variety of different factors that can contribute to connection and speed such as crowded places, the buildings surrounding you, structures that don’t give you direct access to antennas, etc. With that said, our day pass model is optimized for average data use. Our fair usage policy states that in order to deliver on our promise to provide the best high-speed connectivity experience to our community, we may need to reduce data speeds after a certain amount. With each new day pass, the data limits reset.”

This is fine if you’re the only one using the hotspot for checking email and scrolling through social media for a short period of time. However, if more than one person is connected, or you’re trying to use the hotspot for work you will FLY through this data, and be stuck with dialup speed internet.

Final thoughts

SkyRoam Solis

The Solis will connect to a mobile network in a claimed 130 countries

Ultimately for intermittent use, the SkyRoam Solis is a convenient solution for the need for data while traveling. Being able to hit the power button to and within a few minutes have portable secure wifi is handy.

But, I would not rely on the SkyRoam as your sole source of data. The brand’s claims of unlimited high speed 4G LTE data are a bit dishonest, and the recent launch of the pay per Gb program  where 1Gb costs the same as a day pass  is quite telling.

The long battery life and the device doubling as a power bank set the Solis apart from similar hotspots on the market. However, the data slowdowns make me hesitant to rely on the device as a solution to keep connected while on the road.

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