Review: Sprint MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot (Video)

With the Sprint MiFi 3G/4G mobile hotspot from Novatel, gone are the days of searching out for free or paid hotspots at cafes and bookstores.Users of Sprint’s MiFi 3G/4G mobile hotspot can connect and share the same mobile broadband data access plan with up to 5 other devices over WiFi with speeds of between 3-6 Mbps and peak speeds of 10 Mbps on 4G WiMax, according to Sprint, and where 4G is not available, the device can default to 3G CDMA/EV-DO connection, which is more ubiquitous.

I’ve been testing out the Sprint MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot since CTIA Spring 2011 several weeks ago, and the device delivers as promised. In actual use, I routinely get around 2-4 Mbps in the San Francisco, California Bay Area. I’ve been able to successfully connect a Mac laptop, a PC, an Android tablet, and several other WiFi-capable devices to the MiFi.

Check out the review video, embedded below, to get my full thoughts and conclusions about the MiFi:

The device continues the excellent tradition of the original Sprint MiFi, also made by Novatel, but this time 4G is added. What really sweetens the deal here is Sprint’s ability to truly deliver unlimited data access over 4G. When users are using the MiFi 3G/4G on a WiMax connection–you’ll be able to determine this by the blue LED indicator light on the front side of the unit–you can enjoy unlimited internet access each month–no data caps, no speed caps unlike other carriers.

The MiFi retains its compact form factor and is smaller in footprint than the original Overdrive made by rival Sierra Wireless. The new E-Ink display on the top gives users access to important network information–wireless signal strength, battery level, and GPS–but you’ll still need to rely on the multi-function LED indicator light at the front side to determine things like if you’re connected to 3G or 4G.

With a larger and more capable 1500 mAh battery, the MiFi was able to deliver me over 4 hours of Internet connectivity over 4G in a sitting. Unlike the original Overdrive, I didn’t notice any issues of overheating, which is nice as the original Overdrive battery expanded and is bulging due to heat issues. In my test, I left the MiFi on and powered through a wall charger for a period of two weeks where I used the device exclusively as my home Internet connection. During that time, the device got slightly warm, but not hot. When I had done the same test with the Overdrive about a year ago, the Overdrive’s battery bulged out and I was afraid it might explode or catch on fire. Also, though the competing Overdrive has a removable battery, neither Sprint nor Sierra Wireless–its maker–provided a way to purchase spare or replaceable batteries. With the MiFi, you can find batteries for the device online through a number of retailers, and though the AT&T MiFi 3G battery isn’t slated to be compatible with the Sprint mode, I find that it does work fine.

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The benefit that the Overdrive has over the MiFi 3G/4G is that the Overdrive is able to deliver a lot more information about connectivity, how many users are on your mobile hotspot router, and if you’re on a 3G or 4G connection, I think that the severe overheating problem outweighs the benefits of the more capable LCD display. Additionally, given Xavier’s problems with the device–slow startup time, un-reliable connections, and slow data throughput–I would recommend the MiFi over the Overdrive. Of note, Sierra Wireless and Sprint now has a second-generation Overdrive Pro since the original Overdrive was released.

Though speeds were generally a bit slower than Verizon’s comparable 4G LTE MiFi device–made by Novatel–Sprint’s unlimited 4G data plan may offer a better overall value for mobile road warriors who rely on their mobile routers for Internet connectivity. Additionally, unlike the Verizon model, the Sprint MiFi 3G/4G also has a micro SDHC card slot, which allows users to share files on their network, which can be great for using the MiFi in a small conference room or hotel room with work colleagues.

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Comments

  1. slbailey2 says

    1. Do the Verizon version of this MiFi has the same battery life (4-5hours).
    2. Can I leave the Verizon version of this MiFi plugged in without warping and overheating the battery?
    3. Is there an off/on switch on this and the Verizon MiFi?
    4. How much do this and the Verizon MiFi weight, with the battery?
    5. Can I setup this and the Verizon MiFi using a tablet (Android or BB Playbook)?

    • Chuong Nguyen says

      Answers to your questions:

      1. Yes
      2. Still testing the Verizon MiFi, but the answer is yes, and very similar to this Sprint version. There Verizon version appears to me to run a bit hotter, but so far the battery doesn’t overheat like my experience with the Overdrive.
      3. Yes, there is a single button on/off switch on the Verizon 4G LTE MiFi, like the one on the Sprint model.
      4. Weight and size: Please see http://www.novatelwireless.com/content/pdf/MiFi4510NVTLDatasheetRev2.pdf
      5. Yes, the MiFi is easy to setup and can be used with a any WiFi-capable device in which you can enter in a password.

      • slbailey2 says

        I’ve been reading in the last day or 2 that Verizon LTE devices are having problems running on Verizon’s 3G network. Do you see this problem during your testing of the MiFi? Will I have problems seting the MiFI to run only on Verizon’s 3G network?

        My area is a 3G area and will be one of the last areas converted to LTE. I’m looking at buying a 4G MiFi becuase I don’t want to purchase another one when my area is converted to LTE.

  2. masimons says

    Have had the Spring mifi for almost 4wks now. Only issue with it is that it occasionally loses wifi connection with my pc, and I’m only 10′ away. Tried more than one pc. It does this up to 3 times, then finally back running. LED shows connection with Sprint entire time.

  3. Orbeavhawk says

    Chuong,
      THANKS MUCH for the Excellent verbal and visual report on this unit. 

    Can you PLEASE tell me IF this or a similar product would enable me to part company with Frontier for DSL and Phone service [would just start using my cell phone all the time].  I presently have a Desktop, non-wifi, PC, a Kindle Fire, and a LG Tracfone. 
       IF I add one of those USB WiFi adapters to my PC – purchase one of these mifi units could I then receive Internet etc. on my PC and KF all thru the mifi?  THAT is the BIG ?

    THANKS,  michael

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