Shaw reviews Verizon's Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L.
The scoop: Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 5510L, by Verizon Wireless, about $200 (currently on sale for $20 with online sale, $50 rebate and two-year service agreement), plus monthly data plan.
What is it? Like previous mobile hotspot devices, this one lets you connect to a wireless WAN (in this case, Verizon's 4G LTE network) with your PC/Mac or other connected device like a smartphone or tablet via that device's Wi-Fi connection. Multiple devices (up to 10 devices with 4G, up to five over 3G, Verizon says) can share the MiFi unit's 4G connection, making this useful for small groups on a business trip, or if you're traveling alone and you need fast access for your phone, tablet and computer at the same time.
[ IN THE NEWS: FCC eyes Wi-Fi expansion, approves mobile signal boosting rules ]
The 5510L has a small display that provides you with some information about your connection -- it's not a touch screen like the AT&T MiFi Liberate, but there are three touch-enabled icons that let you navigate through menu options and make selections. There is a tactile on/off button on the side of the device, next to a USB charging port. You can charge the 5510L via your computer's USB port or use the included wall connector. The lithium ion battery is replaceable should you need a new battery.
The screen provides information such as how much data you're using (very important if you have a small data cap on your monthly plan), the name of the SSID and password (in case you want to easily share with colleagues), how many devices are connected, an area for text messages (the device can accept SMS texts if you want) and a software update area that lets you check for firmware updates.
Why it's cool: Like other 4G LTE devices, the MiFi 5510L can be a life-saver for mobile workers who have to suffer through bad hotel or conference room wireless Internet connections. I conducted speed tests of the 4G network in two locations (one from our Framingham, Mass.-based offices, which includes a 4G cell tower on its roof, the other from my home outside Worcester), and found the speeds much better than what I'd get from a typical hotel connection. For example, at work I averaged a 16.5Mbps download rate and 12.23Mbps upload rate. In my home tests, I averaged 15.8Mbps download and 11.81Mbps of upload speed. In both cases, especially for upload, this would far surpass your hotel Internet connection. At the current price ($20), this is a great device to give to mobile workers who might need some better upload speeds.
Some caveats: Like other 4G LTE devices, your two big concerns are coverage area and data caps. Those faster speeds are only worth it if you are within a good 4G LTE area -- if not, you're back down to 3G speeds. Furthermore, you (or your end users) will need to carefully monitor your bandwidth to make sure you don't go over your data limits. Verizon offers plans that start at $50 monthly ($20 line charge plus $30 for 4GB) and go up from there, depending on how much data you want to pay for. At the top end, Verizon is charging $355 per month ($335 plus $20 line charge) for its 50GB plan. Of course, most users won't likely hit those caps, but it could get costly if you're doing mega-downloading or mega-uploading.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)