A couple of weeks ago, I was sent the newest flagship device by Skyroam, the Solis X. Many of our analysts at Moor Insights & Strategy travel in and outside of the United States and are always on the go. Between impediments like bad Wi-Fi connections in hotel rooms and aboard airplanes, reliably accessing the internet away from home is not easy (especially with the trouble of using your mobile device overseas). That is where portable hotspots, or MyFi devices, come in. But you heard it here first: Myfi is officially a word of the past as we welcome the first ‘smart spot.’
I have tried a few MyFi's before and, admittedly, did not have a great deal of luck. Some required endless troubleshooting; others failed to deliver sufficient battery life. The rest were too unreliable—a cardinal sin in our modern world, where Wi-Fi is as vital as water to our survival. Now, users can do even more from anywhere with the first-ever smart spot, from sharing and browsing to photographing and live streaming. The pocket-sized Skyroam Solis X can connect you on-site across over 130 countries with a speedy 4G connection to power your devices. What’s more, it boasts a 4700 mAh Power bank to keeps your devices charged, a remote camera to capture candid moments, 16+ hours of battery life, and a smart assistant to help keep your day on track. Let’s dive deeper into the Skyroam Solis X.
What is the Solis X and what is included?
The Solis X is a small, highlighter orange hockey puck-sized device that weighs 11 ounces and measures 3.5 inches by 1.25 inches. Slim (like its predecessor, it can fit in your pocket with ease) and simply designed, it comes with one USB-C to USB adapter, a USB charging cable, and instructions on how to use the device and set up the application into your iOS or Android device. It also provides enough power for the Solis X to attach to 4G and LTE. Spitting out a Wi-Fi network for up to 10 devices for around 16 hours, its internal 4,700mAh battery can be shared via USB-C. A USB-C to USB-A adaptor is supplied in the box, which is a nice touch. The battery can be used as a power bank to charge your phone but, just a heads up, it charges rather slowly at 5V/1A. One of the best parts about the Solis X is its simplicity: As in, it has only one button for use. Beyond a single recessed power button on its top, the device has a white lined battery indicator and three different indicator lights to establish data transmission and connection. It is that easy. There is also an 8MP camera, used for, as the company describes, those “candid moments," which I doubt anyone will use. I sure did not. But that’s not where this device’s strengths lie. The Solis X is the Cadillac of MyFi's, the first on-the-go smart Wi-Fi ‘Smart Spot’ with a built-in smart assistant powered by IFTTT. Like most intelligent assistants, you can use it to purchase an additional unlimited internet day, month, or pay as you go per gigabyte via your voice. All you do is activate a deal, and it begins counting down the 24 hours or the data. Rest assured, Skyroam has 300 carrier partners worldwide and promises to always use the network offering the fastest connection wherever you are.
The flexibility this device offers can’t be underscored enough. As a premium, go-anywhere smart Wi-Fi hotspot and breakthrough tech gadget, the Skyroam Solis X is an all-in-one tool for travelers, digital enthusiasts, consumers who are always connected, and business-oriented professionals. Whether you’re down the street or across the globe, the device's unique combination of global 4G LTE Wi-Fi, remote camera, power bank, and smart integrated assistant now gives you the ability to simultaneously see, listen, speak, and connect no matter where you are. Just as importantly, Solis X is easy to set up. Unlike similar competitor devices I’ve tried in the past, I had zero issues setting it up and remaining connected to Solis X. To get started, all you need to do is press the only button on the device or download the Solis app and scan the QR code on the Solis X's bottom to connect (you’ll know you're paired with it when its lights are no longer flashing). You can pair to the Solis X's internet connection via your mobile device through the Solis Wi-Fi application or Wi-Fi menu for Android or iOS. The application is straightforward and provides additional features and tutorials. If you happen to be using a device that doesn't have a camera or is no longer working, then the network name and password are printed on the same sticker at the bottom, and you can connect to the hotspot just like you would with any other Wi-Fi network.
In addition to the smart assistant and power bank, Solis X has a few interesting, intelligent features. As I mentioned before, the camera has an f/2.4 aperture 8MP wide-angle lens, which is controlled by the shutter button in the Solis app. The app also contains the camera but does not mind that it will not work if the Solis X is recharging. The camera, which features 720p HD resolution, auto-focus, flash, two microphones, and a speaker, is easy to activate and provides a solid picture—certainly a level of quality that exceeded my expectations for a hotspot. It is a wide-angle lens for those “candid” awkward group photos to capture everyone and some scenery. The device even has its own Dropbox link in case you want to upload videos and pictures to the cloud straight from the Solis X. This goes for any videos you film as well, although I personally use my iPhone to capture photos and videos. Unfortunately, I did not test it out for streaming purposes, but you can activate the smart spot from the Solis application or on the front button of the hotspot. There were a few neat add-ons, too, like being able to use social media to ping your location using the hotspot’s GPS and finding your phone, which can all be activated by pressing the device’s button.
The IFTTT-powered Solis X assistant allows you to download applets that can be used to control your phone for tasks like checking the weather, sending an emergency SMS, or posting pictures to various social media accounts. Still, I did not find much use for the smart assistant component here. That speaks to a larger issue, though: Right now, the virtual assistant ecosystem is still largely undeveloped, especially when it comes to lesser-known programs like Skyroam.
I am convinced that smart home appliances and mobile intelligent assistants have a lot to offer us all as I use Alexa and Google Assistant every day, but many companies are just making them to try and stay ahead of the curve. Obviously, the biggest names in the market right now are the aforementioned Google and Amazon devices but, given the past cybersecurity issues with Amazon’s Alexa, I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to sharing too much personal information with companies. That’s why, for me, I’m hesitant to use Skyroam’s intelligent assistant understanding more about its security measures. At the end of the day, it all boils down to money. I am usually not too skeptical about profit motives with the products I review, especially the first smart spot Solis X, but having to pay more just for the convenience of using a portable smart assistant to use with my already smart mobile assistant seems rather pointless. I am confident I will find Skyroam’s virtual assistant more useful in the future as the IFTTT progresses but, at this point, I view Skyroam’s smart assistant as more of a marketing gimmick than I’ll actually use.
Network performance and battery
While smart assistants and cameras are nice, what matters to me most is that this device creates a reliable and consistent internet connection and has the battery life to last. So, I decided to test out the idea of Solis X’s unlimited 24-hour pass. During my test, the Solis X attached to a local 4G network in my hometown of Austin, Texas. (I wish I could have traveled out of the country to test out the 4G international speeds, but such is life). After a few minutes of booting up and searching, I was able to get online using two smartphones, a PC, and a PlayStation 4 to play “Call of Duty: Warzone.” While I did not have issues connecting to any networks, that comes with no surprise given the fact that I live in such a tech-heavy city like Austin. Nonetheless, I found the Solis X to be reliable, straightforward to use, and received close to what I consider accurate LTE speeds. I am sure that if we tested this out internationally, that likely would have changed.
To shake things up, I decided to test the Solis X out with a friend who had moved to Austin and was stuck in a hotel for a few days. This seemed like an ideal testing ground since his internet was going to be over-priced and ineffective. The 4G speeds were by far faster and more generous than the Hilton Wi-Fi (obviously), but with 27 Mbps down and 39 Mbps up, the difference between the device and say the comparison to hotel or a coffee shop Wi-Fi are just over the ‘OK’ mark in my opinion.
Just as importantly, the battery life is superb. After reading that the Solis X could truly pair with up to 10 devices, I decided to give it a shot by linking it up with numerous phones, a PC, PlayStation 4, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. The device easily met my expectations. Unfortunately, when it came time to playing “Call of Duty: Warzone,” its performance was less consistent if I had to host. We did not have any network congestion, either. After the initial test, I did manage to pair it up to our phones and laptop while using it as a backup battery, but It significantly drained the battery within 5-6 hours. As mentioned before, I didn’t have a chance to stream with the Solis X while playing videogames, but my hunch is that it could probably handle it without network issues, even if that meant the battery life would drain dramatically. If someone out there ends up testing its streaming services while having other devices paired up to it, please let me know how your experience went. Overall, expectations around the Solis X’s performance and battery life were met.
One significant development here is that Skyroam and NordVPN have announced a partnership where both companies have teamed up to launch a new VPN service. (Skyroam is known for developing its proprietary virtual SIM (vSIM) technology used in mobile hotspots, while NordVPN is a popular VPN service.) Together, the two companies have launched Solis VPN, which will be available on Skyroam's Solis WiFi app and will boost NordVPN security with a new bug bounty program. In addition to offering the same privacy and security features of other VPN products, SolisVPN is activated via the Skyroam Solis X or Skyroam Solis Lite hotspot.
What bands does it support?
Despite being unable to test out the Solis X in several cities or countries, I never encountered hotspot speeds that didn’t meet or surpass my expectations. The Solis X itself works great, and the quality of the internet service it provides did too. Again, the speeds with the Solis X will depend on where you live—a day Sim card with roaming enabled might serve you better in some parts of the world—but as of now, I can say that I would be interested in taking this with me around the world to challenge that notion.
Solis X supports the following:
Networks: FDD-LTE; TDD-LTE; WCDMA
FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/20/25/26/28/71
TDD-LTE: Band 38/39/40/41
WCDMA: Band 1/2/4/5/8
Is the Solis X worth it?
For those who travel often and need consistent, reliable Wi-Fi access on the go, this could be an acceptable investment—especially if your company reimburses you. Given the quality it provides, I highly recommend using the Solis X instead of tracking down Wi-Fi from hotels or airports, especially when having your own VPN will keep your network private. As for pricing and the primary use, it is meant for life on-the-go, international travel, and, in my opinion, nothing more. To be clear, this is not a replacement for Spectrum, AT&T, Google Fiber, or other at-home internet providers. But when you travel to another country, bringing the Solis X with you ensures you will not need to pick up an international SIM card. Rathern, you can simply turn your Solis X on and use it for the duration of your trip. But, again, this is not a simple solution for those who think they should purchase it instead of a router and modem.
Additionally, I would purchase a separate power bank to charge your devices instead of draining the smart spot's battery life. It primarily helps if you consider what you plan to use it for when you travel: If you mainly plan to infrequently connect for web surfing and checking emails, then great. If you plan to stay somewhere in, say, Asia for a couple of months and want this to be equivalent to a mobile Wi-Fi you use at home, it would most likely be a better idea to buy a data SIM for your phone since your Skyroam bill would be rather expensive in those circumstances.
The global bands the Solis X supports are its most outstanding feature. Skyroam's virtual SIM (vSIM) connects to local networks in over 130 countries and counting. To clarify, that is the same thing Google does with its excellent Google Fi MVNO. That said, do not expect blazing-fast 4G speeds worldwide, especially when it comes to its photography sharing. If you are like me, you will post photos when you come back into the States; but some, like globe-trotting social media influencers, that cannot wait. That is where Skyroam Solis X comes in to allow you to share globally with its 4G Wi-Fi. Skyroam does insist that the integrated camera is ideal for families and friends wanting to capture candid moments, but I do not see that happening since most consumers will shove the smart spot in their pocket and use their phone instead. Overall, the camera’s subpar performance is not a deal-breaker for me. Now, if Solis X were waterproof, that would be a spectacular advantage, but even so, this device is an upgrade from the original Solis, which I already loved before this. The only difference between the original Solis and the Solis X is that I would have liked to see a larger batter in the new device. Instead, the original Solis actually has a significantly larger battery at 6,200 mAh, instead of the 4700 mAh.
For a product like Skyroam, convenience is everything. Rather than searching for a SIM card as soon as you arrive in a country, you can connect to the internet with the press of a button (as long as the place you’re visiting is covered by its services). Beyond saving you money—purchasing SIM cards can be costly and confusing, at times requiring you to present documents like your passport—using the Solis X will help you avoid frustrating clerical processes. For instance, in Uganda, you must pay a social media tax to access a SIM card. Every country has different rules for SIM cards so, when in doubt, use the Solis X. The only disadvantage here is if you were to travel to a country that isn’t covered by Skyroam, essentially rendering the device as little more than as a power bank.
There are multiple options to choose from. One: Pay-Per-GB GoData Subscription for $6 per month, or as low as $3 per GB for 5GB. Two: USA Unlimited Data Subscription for $49/month, with data speeds up to 20GB then throttle kicks in. Three: Global Data is $99/month. And finally the unlimited Global Daypass for $9 per day, which provides 24 hours of unlimited Wi-Fi for service on up to 10 devices.
Additionally, according to Skyroam.com, you, the consumer, needs to be knowledgeable about the Fair Use Policy and the GoData Monthly Subscription (where you get 1GB for $6/day) daily throttling limit and its pay-per-GB plans, which applies to Unlimited Monthly Subscription and Global Daypass users. On the unlimited access plans, Skyroam wants to limit how much data you can consume. According to Skyroam, the throttling kicks depending on the daily limits that vary by time, location, and carrier network partners in the area. The point seems to be to give you full-speed Wi-Fi so you quickly blow through your limit and are forced to buy more. Honestly, I am not too fond of that approach, so be mindful of that as you use it.
Overall, I have had a great experience with Solis X over the past several weeks. Given its slightly smaller battery and above-average Mbps speeds it provides, it surpassed all expectations (although, again, I only tested it at home in the United States). I love products that are easy to set up, and this one was remarkably simple. The size difference from the previous Solis was a nice change too. I do find that the price point to have the voice assistant and camera were unneeded add-ons, and it feels more like a 'test run' beta device released into the wild until the actual flagship device has been developed, but it is nonetheless a must-have for consistent travelers. It blows other MyFi market competitors out of the water. Skyroam Solis X is the champion of international smart spots that offer unlimited 4G and LTE data but, at a more expensive price point, is well worth it. Solis X is available on Skyroam's site for $179.99, and the Solis Lite is available for $119.99, which you can rent. I would advise infrequent travels to rent the latter device by the day. Battery life is excellent when not recharging a device.