Pay-as-you-go 4G hits the spot; Flip gets an add-on port

Keith Shaw reviews the Rover Puck, a mobile hot spot device from Clearwire, and the Flip UltraHD video camera, by Cisco.

The scoop: Rover Puck, by Clearwire, about $150, plus prepaid pay-as-you-go options for service.

What it is: The Rover Puck is a mobile hot spot device (think of a flattened-out hockey puck) that includes a 4G WAN connection (WiMAX) and a Wi-Fi connection. Users can prepay for the 4G connection with a daily ($5), weekly ($20) or monthly ($50) rate. The rates allow for unlimited data, and the Wi-Fi connection also provides guest access, so local users can share the Puck's 4G connection.

Why it's cool: The pay-as-you-go option is very appealing to mobile workers who don't travel enough to warrant a monthly mobile broadband plan, but still want the speeds that WiMAX offers. For example, in my tests in New York City, I was able to achieve an average of 3Mbps download and 0.45Mbps upload speed. This data rate allowed me to consistently check e-mail, browse the Web and even stream audio at the same time. The $5 daily option was also a welcome relief over hotel Wi-Fi options, which can get as high as $20 for sometimes unreliable connectivity. The Rover Web site also lets you easily "re-up" when your prepaid time runs out.

One caveat: You're limited to WiMAX coverage -- if you're not in a WiMAX area (like my central Massachusetts home), it doesn't drop down to a slower option. There's no indication about what your WiMAX coverage area is; a map or other utilities from Clearwire would help.

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).

The scoop: Flip UltraHD video camera, by Cisco, about $200 (for 8GB, two-hour version).

What it is: The entire line of Flip video cameras by Cisco was recently upgraded, with the most notable update the inclusion of its FlipPort and the Designed for Flip program, which lets third-party accessory makers to create add-on devices for the Flip camera. The two-hour Ultra HD model includes the FlipPort, and Cisco says future models of the Flip will also include the port. Accessories include things such as microphones (such as the Mikey from Blue Microphones), battery chargers, waterproof cases, a pocket projector and even backup storage. The new UltraHD also is about 25% lighter than before, and can be customized visually in the same way that the company's mino line of Flip cameras can. The FlipShare software has also been improved, allowing for videos to be uploaded to Twitter (it could already upload to Facebook, Myspace and YouTube).

Why it's cool: The FlipPort addresses some of the complaints about the Flip, such as a not-so-great microphone and so on, by letting users buy the add-on instead of waiting for Cisco to add a better one (or a microphone jack). In addition, by default the camera now shoots high-definition video in 720p at 60 frames per second, so you don't need to adjust any settings manually within the camera (like with some Flip competitors).

Some caveats: I'd love to see a better zoom lens (although Bower is planning a wide-angle lens attachment). On the FlipShare side, I'd love to be able to do some additional editing of clips.

Grade: 4.5 stars

Shaw can be reached at Follow him on Twitter - @shawkeith.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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