06.22.2011Personal Tech

Review: Verizon 4G LTE mobile hotspots

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The Tag Team Tech bloggers share an in-depth review of the Samsung 4G LTE mobile hotspot and the Novatel 4G MiFi mobile hotspot.

I really wanted to call this review “The Fast and the Not-at-All-Furious” but I decided that would be dumber than the movie I’m referencing. More seriously, I’m making reference to the carrier in the title rather than the products themselves because right now you don’t get one without the other. Specifically, this is a joint review of the Samsung 4G LTE mobile hotspot and the Novatel 4G MiFi mobile hotspot.

Carla and I have been big fans of the original MiFi for a couple of years now. We travel whenever we can, and our usual routine has evolved to me driving and Carla working online as we head to our destination. We’ve gotten to the point where we expect to have network access in the car. We’ve made and changed hotel reservations. We’ve booked travel. Carla has graded her students’ online work. Once we’re at our destination we pretty much just laugh when a hotel wants to charge us for Internet. At home it’s served as backup on more than one occassion when our ISP was down. I’ve used it as alternate network access when I’m out on a freelance webcasting gig. It’s a part of our lives now. When LTE was rolled out in Cincinnati, the first question I had for a Verizon rep I spoke with was when there’s be an LTE MiFi. She assured me they were coming. I was thrilled when I learned that there would not only be a Novatel MiFi, but a Samsung alternative as well.

The bottom line is that both devices work very, very well and, given that they cost the same, are both excellent buys. You can’t go wrong with either. I have a preference and I’ll explain what that is, but this is a case where it’s strictly personal taste. A person could strongly prefer the other and I’d be fine with that. As I said, you can’t really go wrong here.

The main thing to understand about LTE is that it’s stupid fast. My bandwidth test of choice is our Slingbox. With it, we can stream the video that’s coming out of our TiVo (live or recorded) to our laptops or an iPad. Our particular model is capable of streaming at about 3-megabits per second, which is adequate for a very good, not perfect, 720p HD picture. Our ISP gives typically gives us anywhere from 1 to 1.5-megabits per second outbound from our home, so the Slingbox is perfectly capable of saturating our link. In practice it doesn’t because the Slingbox is repectful of available bandwidth, but it will push a lot of data down the wire when it has the opportunity.

Read the rest of the review here.