BARCELONA — VPNs (virtual private networks) are pretty powerful technology that can help keep your data safe and secure. Unfortunately, they can be hard to set up, tricky to use, and — if you choose the wrong provider — can open you up to hackers, scammers and worse. At Mobile World Congress 2016, the Keezel portable VPN machine, due out in June, is hoping to make those issues a thing of the past with its $99 (plus $5 per month subscription).
I went hands-on with Keezel to see if it lived up to the company's claims. The device acts as an intermediary between you and a potentially dodgy Wi-Fi network, similar to what you might run into in public. To connect to a hotspot, you first connect the Keezel to it, and then connect whatever devices you want to use to the Keezel.
You simply open up the app on your mobile device (Android and iOS), select the Web connection you want to secure, pick your country of origin, and off you go. Now all the data you’re sending and receiving from that hotspot gets routed through you very own virtual network, instead of on the potentially vulnerable data stream that everyone is using.
Since you can change your country of origin, you could still dodgily skirt country-based restrictions for streaming content from Netflix or YouTube (I’m looking at you Australia). When you’re in a place, like a hotel, where you may only have access to Wi-Fi for a single device, you can use the Keezel as a tiny portable router by connecting the Keezel first, and then all your other devices to its new network.
Keezel features partnerships with well-known VPN providers such as PureVPN, LeVPN and ProXPN to ensure your custom private network remains fast and reliable. Inside, Keezel is powered by a dual-core ARM CPU and features one full-size USB port (for wired tethering, one micro USB port (for sending power to other devices) and a pretty sizable 7,000-mAh battery.
The one thing the Keezel can’t do its make its own Internet, as it doesn’t have a built-in LTE modem. It’s meant for Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi networking only.
But for its price, portability and ease of use, the Keezel is remarkably powerful device. And if you pre-order Keezel’s $109 package now, the company will eliminate its $5 monthly subscription, which is already a pretty good deal, for the whole first year.
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Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).