UPDATE April 20, 2011: Can’t get the thing to connect and stay connected on a consistent basis. Am going to return it. Everytime I started it up I had to reboot 3 to 4 times before I could get it to work. My WiFi connected to the device but it wasn’t connecting me to the web. It’s a shame. I really wanted to like this device. I’ll have to give the new Novatel MiFi a try next.
I have the new Samsung 4G LTE SCH-LC11 Mobile Hotspot and I think I’m liking it OK. It’s definitely fast but seems to be a bit inconsistent. I’m not sure if it’s the device or Verizon’s new 4G LTE network in New York City. It’s fast, has reverted to a 3G connection a few times and has mysteriously shut down three times in the last 10 minutes on its own. We’ll see.
My verdict on the original 3G MiFi back in 2009 was summarized in the headline of the post: I love my Verizon MiFi. I did then and still do. It has been an indispensable device for work and play away from the office or my home.
The Novatel version, the original MiFi was on Verizon’s 3G EVDO network. On a good day I was able to get 1+Mbps down and about that up as well. It really varied and I found depending on the city I was in could range from anything 0.4Mbps – 2Mbps (hit that in Boston once). Not bad. The convenience was terrific and the speeds were decent.
A few weeks ago I got a call from Verizon Wireless, on a Saturday no less, saying that I was eligible for an upgrade to a 4G LTE device. Ah…I’ve been waiting for this. The conversation with the rep took longer than it needed to, I felt like saying to her: I know what I want, you don’t have to sell it.
New data plans
The only pause I had was that I was on an unlimited data plan with the 3G MiFi and was now told that they no longer have that option available for LTE devices. Oh how sneaky.
Verizon has rolled out a couple of new plans for their 4G LTE data devices: 5GB/$50/month and 10GB/$80/month. Granted I rarely went over 2GB in bandwidth per month in the time I used the 3G MiFi, it was too slow to do much in the way of data intensive activities, like streaming movies on NetFlix or downloading lots of large movie files. The new Samsung 4G LTE hotspot could be a total different story though.
So, we’ll see how this goes. I opted for the 5GB plan. Cheaper than what I was paying for unlimited ($60/month) and we’ll see if my consumption habits change now that I have faster bandwidth.
Setting up the Samsung 4G LTE mobile hotspot
Looks like Verizon has figured out that it’s different setting up a data device and a phone. I didn’t have any of the trouble I experienced setting up the original MiFi that I did with this device. The documentation was very clear and it was a simple process of dialing the activation number and following the voice prompts. The only thing you’ll need is the phone number associated with your device. Not that intuitive since you don’t naturally think that a data device has a number associated with it but I supposed that’s how Verizon keeps track of things.
OK, so this thing is pretty fast. It seems to take a few tries to get it on the LTE network, literally. My first couple of connects didn’t result in anything special. Finally, I was able to get a pretty decent downlink speed at my office in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan. By decent I mean this:
That’s pretty fast.
It gets better. When I tried it at my apartment, I was able to get this:
That’s faster than my cable averages even though RCN claims that I have the 15Mbps package.
Here’s the problem though. The first time I tried it home it connected to the 3G network. It was painfully slow and didn’t really connect. Switched it off and tried it again. Same thing. Finally, after a few goes it connected to the 4G network and it worked!
It seems that it’s still a bit inconsistent. I’m not sure if this is the device or the network. I’ll see how it goes in the days to come as I use it here. I’ll have a chance to test it in a few major cities in the coming weeks as well.
Mysteriously shuts down
The other thing that is happening is that the device keeps switching off! As I’ve been writing this for the last 30 or so minutes, it’s switched off by itself three times. Not sure what’s going on here. I went into the device configuration and have switched the power option to never go to sleep so it shouldn’t be that. My guess is that they’ll issue a firmware upgrade to address this at some point. It looks like there have been a number of reports of this on Verizon’s own review section of the website.
So far it’s mixed. But, it’s only been a few hours. That said, here’s what I like:
1. Set up was painless.
2. Speed is promising, in fact, if it stays like this, I love it.
3. Size and form factor are much like the original MiFi. Slightly larger but great.
Questions I’ll be asking in the coming days:
1. Will this auto-shut down ‘feature’ be resolved?! If not, it’ll be a problem and a return.
2. Will the speed hold up?
3. Battery life? Is it useable?
4. It doesn’t use Verizon’s VZ Manager, which I think is interesting. Meaning it can’t be tethered and can only be used via WiFi. Not sure what this means yet and if I’ll miss it.
5. Will the 5GB limit hurt?
UPDATE April 18, 2011: The auto-shut down ‘feature’ seems to have subsided. The 4G LTE bandwidth works much better at home than it does at the office where it was pretty bad today. I suppose the network is new and still rolling out, so that can be expected.