2020 Skyroam Solis Review: Using the Skyroam Solis WiFi Hotspot Overseas
As someone who regularly “workations” and relies on a solid Internet connection to be productive while traveling, it’s kind of crazy that I didn’t have a WiFi hotspot of my own until just a couple of months ago. That’s mostly because I had never come across a particular device that jumped out at me. Well, that was until last year’s CES when I happened to come across the Skyroam Solis. Incidentally, after taking a closer look at the Solis and its bright orange casing, I have to imagine I’d encountered the Skyroam company before. In any case, after speaking to their representatives at the show and later doing some of my own research online, I ended up buying a Solis in anticipation of my upcoming travels.
Now, having taken a few trips abroad with the Skyroam Solis by my side, I’ve discovered some of the pros and cons of the service. How did it hold up to my WiFi demands? Let’s take a closer look at the Solis, Skyroam’s international data options, and more.
Purchasing and Setting Up Your Skyoam Solis Device
Skyroam’s latest Solis devices
Since purchasing my Solis device, Skyroam has actually come out with two new models: the Solis X and the Solis Lite. Not only are these devices smaller than their predecessor but also have some new features. Most notably, the Solis X has a built-in camera that you can now connect to via the Skyroam app. Additionally, Skyroam has upped the number of simultaneous connections you can have on these devices from five to 10.
Sadly, Skyroam doesn’t currently have an upgrade program for their device, so I have yet to try one of these new models out for myself. That said, after seeing it first-hand at CES, I can confirm that they are indeed smaller, allowing them to even be placed inside your back pocket — if not your front. It’s also worth noting that although the Solis X is a bit pricier than the Solis 1 was (retailing for $179.99), the Solis Lite goes for just $119.99.
Because I only own a Solis 1 and the older model is still what Skyroam is currently using for rentals, I’ll be sharing my experience specifically with that device but noting where Solis X and Solis Lite differ when necessary.
Buying the Skyroam Solis
First things first: although there is an option to rent hotspot devices from Skyroam (more on that later), I decided to purchase a Skyroam Solis since I anticipate using it on future trips. The device cost $149.99 on Skyroam’s site at the time — but, as mentioned, Skyroam now offers devices starting at $119.99. If you do decide to buy, you can use this link and enter the code “MONEYAT30” at checkout to save 10%. This brings the cost of the Solis X down to $161.99 and the Solis Lite to $107.99.
Setting up your device
Once your Solis arrives, getting it ready to use is fairly simple. First of all, the Solis utilizes clever packaging to walk you through how to turn on and activate the device. Most of this is done through the Solis app, which you can find in the App Store or on Google Play. This app is also where you can manage your Skyroam account, monitor your device connection, and more.
I did run into one minor snag when I was attempting to connect my Solis for the first time. As I was trying to login, it was saying it was connecting but nothing happened. Luckily, after closing the app and reopening, I was able to login without issue and then could easily cash in my day pass and get started on WiFi. Plus, I also discovered that you can access a similar interface for your device by going to a.skyroam.com in your mobile browser.
Connecting to your Solis
As I just mentioned, you can purchase WiFi passes via the Solis app and can activate your connection from the app. Once the network is live, you can connect using the network name and password found on the bottom of your device. The Solis X and Lite now allow you to connect up to 10 devices to the same network, so if you have other travelers in your party feel free to share this info with them as well.
My Experience Traveling with the Skyroam Solis
Several months ago, I had the good fortune of visiting Hong Kong. While this was my first time getting to try out T-Mobile’s free international capabilities, I was also excited to activate the Solis I purchased shortly after CES. As luck would have it, the perfect opportunity to test the device arose while my wife and I were at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Connection speed on mobile
During my visit to the park, I needed to upload a video I had shot of the new Ant-Man and the Wasp ride. Unfortunately, even with my T-Mobile One Plus plan, my regular mobile data speed wasn’t cutting it. So that’s when I knew it was time to bust out my Solis, cash in an Unlimited Global WiFi day pass and see how Skyroam performed. Thankfully, the WiFi the Skyroam provided helped my upload move along at a much faster clip and was completely uploaded within a few minutes.
Although that task was my main concern, with my day pass activated, I figured I’d leave the Solis on to see how the battery would hold up to a day at the park. To my (somewhat) surprise, it managed to last through the whole thing and still had plenty of charge when we arrived back at our hotel room. Specifically, it went from 96% to 30% over the course of 10 hours under consistent use.
Speaking of “constant use,” I was also impressed by how literally cool the Solis stayed. I’ve heard complaints about hotspots getting too, well, hot — but I kept my device in my bag the entire day and could barely notice a temperature difference when I touched it. Granted, my bag was fairly roomy and airy so it may have been a bit of a different story had it been in my pocket but, nevertheless, it was nice to know I didn’t have to worry about it overheating.
Power bank usage
Something that Skyroam boasts about the Solis 1 is that, in addition to being a mobile hotspot, it can also be used as a power bank. Therefore, when my phone needed a bit of charge, I once again turned to the Solis for testing. At first, I thought I might actually be out of luck as I had forgotten to pack the USB-C to USB adapter that comes with the device, but I actually had an Apple dongle in my bag that did the trick. Still, I have to admit that my experience left something to be desired.
First of all, while I neglected to time my before and after battery level, it seemed that my iPhone charged fairly slowly while connected to the Solis. Conversely, the battery level of the Solis dropped considerably faster while I was charging my phone than when it was only doing single duty as a hotspot. For those reasons, while it’s nice to know the Solis has power bank possibilities if you need them in a pinch, if your main concern is WiFi, I’d pack a dedicated charger instead.
FYI — while the Solis X still supports power bank usage out of the box, users of the Solis Lite will need to purchase a Power Bank Kit in order to use their device in this manner. These kits are $19.99 on the Skyroam site.
Connection speed on desktop
When I returned to my hotel room, despite having WiFi, I decided to try out the Solis’s connection on my laptop. While it didn’t feel as speedy as on my phone (probably because I’m more used to waiting for things to load on mobile), it was capable of streaming YouTube without issue. Additionally, this connection test on my laptop came as we also had both of our mobile phones still connected to the network. Admittedly, I didn’t run too many other speed tests as I was exhausted from my day walking around a theme park, but I can report my speed sampling provided satisfactory results.
Other Skyroam WiFi Hotspot Data Options
Day passes, monthly passes, and GoData
In addition to their $9 per day Unlimited Global WiFi option, Skyroam also offers a $99 per month option. Similar to how your day pass is good for 24 hours from when you activate, a month pass is not a calendar month but, instead, allows you to use your hotspot as much as you want during a 30-day timeframe. Doing some quick math, if you plan on using your hotspot for more than 11 days in a month’s time, this plan will save you a bit of money compared to the per day price.
Another option is Skyroam’s GoData plans. For $9 a month, you can utilize 1 GB of data on your hotspot in any country Skyroam supports. If you need more than that, you can purchase another gig for the same $9. While GoData plans will renew automatically, you can cancel at any time.
What’s even better is that Skyroam recently introduced new GoData plans for the United States and Europe. Now you can choose to subscribe to a 1GB U.S.-specific plan for $6 a month or a Europe-only 1GB plan for the same monthly price — or add additional GBs for $6 each. For those venturing to other parts of the world, the $9 a month option is also available.
For context on how much 1 GB of data is, I used just under a gigabyte during my day in the park — but that’s mostly because I uploaded a 545 MB video. Therefore, if you’re using the hotspot with some discretion and, you know, not Dropboxing HD videos on a regular basis, you can make your $9 worth of data go much further.
Throttling and slower connection speeds
Something important to note about Skyroam’s unlimited plans is that they are subject to slower connections speeds or “throttling” should you go consume more than 1GB of data in a day. These limits are actually not put in place by Skyroam themselves but by the carriers whose networks they utilize. Thus users in less congested areas may be able to use far more than 1GB of data before experiencing diminished speeds while those in higher-traffic areas may encounter this issue after crossing that threshold.
On a trip to France, I actually encountered this throttling issue for myself. Somehow I blew through my 1GB and, soon after, my connection was rendered all but unusable. Thankfully, these limits are daily and so, if you have a monthly plan and end up getting throttled on one day, you should return to normal the following day.
Personally, because of the potential for throttling, I’ve become a bigger fan of the GoData plans myself. This is especially true in Europe where you can get 1GB for $6 instead of the regular $9. Of course, if you do sign up for a GoData plan, just be sure to cancel it unless you want to renew it for another month.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Skyroam also has hotspot rentals available. According to their site, you can rent their Solis 1 device for $8.99 a day, which includes your data. Plus, standard shipping (3 to 6 days) is free if you’re in the United States. In the event you need the device a bit sooner than that, you can also elect to pick up your device at select airports, including ATL, MIA, OAK, IAH, and SFO. Regardless of which shipping method you choose, you’ll be able to return the device via an included pre-paid envelope.
Obviously this could be a pretty good deal if you don’t intend on traveling enough to make purchasing your own hotspot worth it. However, if you do plan on traveling more, buying a Solis Lite or Solis X may actually save you money in the long run thanks to the 30 day Unlimited Global WiFi deal as well as the GoData option, which isn’t available for rental devices just yet. That said, if nothing else, renting your device could be a good way to test out Skyroam before plunking down $120 or more for a Solis device of your own.
After months (if not years) of considering different WiFi hotspot options, I’m glad to have found the Skyroam Solis. While the $120+ devices are a bit of an investment upfront, the various data plan options make it so the device can easily fit your travel needs. Plus, if you don’t feel like shelling out that fee, you can try the rental option instead. Personally, I’ve been using the Solis as a backup for the times when my hotel WiFi lets me down or when I inevitably need to work while visiting a Disney theme park. So, if you’re looking for a WiFi hotspot to take along on your international travels, I can now honestly recommend Skyroam and their Solis device.
Skyroam Solis Discount: If you are interested in purchasing or renting a Solis I was able to secure a 10% discount for my readers. Just use this link and enter the code MONEYAT30 to get your discount.
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Originally published at Money@30.