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TCL just launched a 5G dongle at MWC, and I’ll buy one immediately

Published Feb 26th, 2024 1:32PM EST
TCL LinkKey IK511 5G RedCap dongle announced at MWC 2024.
Image: TCL

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The Honor Magic 6 Pro, Xiaomi 14 Ultra, and Samsung Galaxy Ring are some of the best highlights of this MWC 2024. They’re high-end gadgets that are going to be available this year. Both smartphones actually go on sale in the coming days. It’s the new Samsung wearable that doesn’t have a release date.

But I found a different device at MWC that I’m ready to buy immediately, one that I didn’t necessarily expect. I went to a TCL briefing before MWC opened with NXTPAPER devices in mind. They’re the smartphones and tablets that TCL already announced, and which will be available in stores soon. 

I ended up also finding the TCL Linkkey IK511 pictured above, and it’s one of the world’s first 5G RedCap USB-C dongles. I’d buy one in a heartbeat, just to ensure I have a backup connection on hand. One that doesn’t involve sharing my phone’s internet connection, especially when I travel to places that might include roaming fees.

MWC is actually the best example of that. I’ve been going to the show for years, and my worries have remained unchanged. I need a dependable Wi-Fi or 4G/5G connection and enough battery life in my devices to get me through each day.

Things have significantly improved in the last few years. Wi-Fi networks are faster and more stable, so I hardly worry about tethering my phones. On top of that, 5G coverage has improved, though I have to say I’m happy with a 4G link that I can share with my laptop when Wi-Fi isn’t available. VPNs are also faster and more reliable.

TCL LinkKey IK511 5G RedCap dongle.
TCL LinkKey IK511 5G RedCap dongle. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

Even still, I always pack an extra local SIM with enough internet to get me through the busy week. I also carry a backup phone whose only purpose is to be a Wi-Fi hotspot. 

I’ve been looking for something like this new TCL 5G dongle all along. I need something small and affordable, given that I would only use it sporadically. 

Now that it’s finally here, I only have to wait until around the fourth quarter of the year for it to launch in Europe. The US will get it in Q3, and here comes the best part. TCL told me it’ll be available for under $100. It’ll be up to carriers to commercialize it, but the Chinese vendor is already working with a major, albeit unnamed, US mobile operator. 

A closer look at TCL's new 5G RedCap dongle.
A closer look at TCL’s new 5G RedCap dongle. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

The price is so low because we’re looking at a 5G RedCap device. RedCap is short for reduced capacity. It’s a more cost-effective and energy-efficient 5G technology. That means you get speeds of up to 220Mbps, which should be enough for most mobile tasks that require an internet connection.

TCL’s Linkkey IK511 is about as big as a 4G dongle, which is something I’ve used in the past. It’ll connect to your laptop via USB-C, drawing power from the computer. That’s right, you don’t have to worry about charging another gadget.

The dongle’s plug-and-play nature means it’ll work with Windows and Macs directly. You’ll only need a SIM to pop into the gadget and get your 5G internet going. 

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X35 5G Modem will actually deliver the device’s 5G connectivity. As expected, the TCL dongle will fall back to 4G when a 5G connection isn’t available. And we’ve all come to learn by now that 5G isn’t always available.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.