Telegraph Tested: is this new travel gadget the best way to get Wi-Fi abroad?

Emma Cooke
Skyroam's new Solis X is the world's first global 'smartspot' - we took it to remote India to see how it performed - Skyroam

Amid the chaos of Delhi airport security, my phone vibrated. “You’ve arrived in India!” a text from my network provider stated, before informing me that I’d be charged £3 per MB of internet usage while there. 

Off went my data roaming, and after 20 fruitless minutes spent trying to connect to the airport Wi-Fi, it was time to test my new toy: the Solis X, a portable Wi-Fi ‘smartspot’ that promises to keep travellers connected abroad with high-speed internet all over the world.

India, where nothing seems to run smoothly, felt like a good place to challenge the little orange device. In less than five minutes, I was connected and able to order an Uber to our hotel.

How it works

Skyroam launched the Solis X this year - an upgrade on their previous model and lauded as the 'world's first global smartspot'. It works in over 130 countries and uses virtual SIM technology to provide an encrypted 4G LTE WiFi network, with a built in VPN for security purposes.

Up to ten devices can connect to the hotspot, and the battery lasts for about 16 hours - regardless of the number of phones or laptops connected. Weighing 313g and measuring 2.3 x 8.8cm, it’s also small enough to be genuinely ‘pocket-sized’.

India, where nothing seems to run smoothly, was a good place for our test Credit: istock

Extras include an 8MP wide-angle lens camera that can be used to livestream or take photos remotely, a speaker, microphone, Bluetooth, and the ability to charge a phone from its 4,700mAh battery via the USB-C slot. A charging cable and USB-C to USB-A adaptor is also supplied.

‘Smart’ features also include a function which enables you to track your travels using the app, and to set-up SMS alerts to your chosen contacts whenever you land somewhere - a boon, perhaps, for uneasy parents.

Running costs

This technology doesn’t come cheap, at £179.99 for just the hotspot device. A less dear option, the Solis Lite, is available for £119.99, but doesn’t come with the camera, smart assistant or Bluetooth. 

Upon receiving the device, users are required to download the Skyroam app and purchase a data plan, with options including Wi-Fi by the day, month or gigabyte, as follows:

  • A monthly GoData plan costs £7 for one GB a month, with extra top-ups charged at £5 per GB. 
  • A Global DayPass costs £7 for 24 hours of unlimited data. 
  • For unlimited global Wi-Fi all day, everyday: £79 a month - only really worth it if you do a lot of travelling.
You can buy or rent the gadget Credit: Skyroam

Realistically, the GoData plan is the best option for those who’ll be using the hotspot (very lightly) at home as well as abroad, while the Day Pass is better for those who only need it for holidays. It's worth noting that the data rolls forward on the former, so paying £7 a month for five months would leave you with 5GB for a holiday. 

You can also rent the device for £7.49 a day, which includes unlimited WiFi and is likely the best value option at only 49p a day more than the DayPass package, but includes the faff of having to return it when you're done.

In action

I've had my fair share of struggles with the internet abroad in the past - a 15-minute emergency roaming session in Malaysia that resulted in a truly eye-watering bill being one - and was concerned the Solis X wouldn't be straight forward to operate. 

I was pleasantly surprised. It had taken less than half an hour to charge before my departure and all I had to do when I landed in Delhi was switch it on and scan the QR code on the back using my phone's app to connect.

The internet itself is, while not completely infalible, noticeably strong and fast compared to other portable hotspots I've used. During a 12-hour train journey from Udaipur to Delhi, I had connection for close to 80 per cent of the journey, even trundling through deserted landscapes. Streaming a movie on my laptop and simultaneously uploading Instagram stories on my phone provided a welcome slice of home comfort.

A five-hour drive from Jodhpur into the countryside proved slightly less successful, with patchy reception that made it annoyingly difficult to get work done. But in hotels and restaurants, I found the hotspot frequently out-performed the free Wi-Fi on offer. 

The verdict

Over a two-week trip, we used about 9GB of data, most of it during long train journeys. If you’re travelling with a partner or in a group, splitting the cost of an unlimited DayPass is probably the best package to go for, if you know you'll require heavy internet use. Split between our group of four, it worked out at £1.75 per person daily. 

The Solis X came into it's own on long train journeys Credit: istock

Though renting the device is cheaper, I'd purchase it outright, just for the reassurance of knowing I’m always sorted for internet no matter where I am. It's proved useful even back home, where I frequently find my phone's 4G doesn't work well in London's busy stations. 

If you've got a decent smartphone, I'd say the extra features the Solis X has over the less expensive Solis Lite model aren't worth the extra price.

Overall, this gizmo provides an effective, accessible way to get internet abroad. Anything to avoid buying foreign sim cards or getting stung by surprise roaming charges gets my vote, and it's the best device of its kind that I've tried.

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