You should know by now that I can’t resist interesting new gadgets. The latest temptation was the Verizon MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. This sleek, sexy gadget looked my way and gave me a “come hither” look. I couldn’t resist. It’s not my fault.
I know. I need to get out more often. So I did. I went to my Verizon store last Sunday and bought the just-released MiFi.
The MiFi connects you to the Internet via the Verizon network. There are two different connection scenarios.
The first connection scenario is traditional tethering; you connect the MiFi to your laptop via a USB (to MicroUSB) cable. I often need 3G connectivity for my laptop outside my home or office where plugging in to a wired network is not an option and WiFi is unavailable or flakey. However, this tethering scenario isn’t much different than connecting a USB EVDO modem like the Novatel USB760 reviewed here. Indeed, it’s not as good. The MiFi has the dimensions of a thick credit card. That’s small, but still larger than a USB modem. Further, the MiFi needs a cable, whereas the USB modem just plugs into your USB port.
It’s the second connection scenario that sets the MiFi apart from USB and ExpressCard modems. The MiFi also is a WiFi hotspot! It shows up on your laptop like any other WiFi hotspot. You just connect to it as you do any other WiFi hotspot (there is a security key which you can change).
This WiFi capability is a game changer.
First, it enables Internet connectivity, where a WiFi connection is not available, for a number of smaller devices (MIDs, iPod Touch, Nokia tablets) which have WiFi capability but not an operating system such as Windows for which drivers exist for the USB modem. Now, with my upcoming MID purchase (the subject of an upcoming post), I don’t need embedded 3G.
Second, up to 5 different computers can connect to the MiFi at any one time! This will be ideal for vacations with “his and her” computers. There are other EVDO routers, such as the Cradlepoint CTR350, PHS300 and MBR1000. But none have an embedded modem like the MiFi; you still need to connect the CradlePoint to the Internet.
The MiFi, like most good things in life, isn’t free. The street price is $149.99 with a $50 rebate. Then you need a plan. $59.99 per month gives you an allowance of 5GB. The overage is a relatively modest $.05 per MB. That isn’t cheap. But no worse than the data plan you would have for dedicated embedded 3G in a laptop. And unlike dedicated embedded 3G, you can move the MiFi from device to device. The same is true with USB and ExpressCard modems. But using the MiFi in WiFi mode eliminates having a modem sticking out the side of your device. Even more important, a USB or ExpressCard modem only can connect one device at a time. The MiFi can be used to connect up to 5 devices at a time!
The MiFi is very portable. Indeed, it is truly pocketable. It also has decent battery power (supposedly about 4 hours).
The MiFi isn’t perfect. This review makes several valid criticisms. No cellular antenna to improve a weak EVDO signal (it happens). No WiFi antenna if you want to move around a room without having to carry the MiFi around with you. Verizon, unlike Sprint which has a similar MiFi, chose to disable the GPS functionality (boo hiss).
The MiFi definitely is in my gadget bag, if not pocket. Indeed, when in my pocket, I’m a mobile WiFi hot spot!