First presented to the world last December and then at CES, Novatel wireless calls its MiFi an "intelligent mobile hotspot." Starting May 17, the device will be offered by Verizon Wireless as the MiFi 2200. After spending time with an evaluation unit, the CRN Test Center found it to be a useful addition to the typical road warrior's arsenal.
About the size of eight, stacked credit cards, the MiFi 2200 is literally pocket-sized, measuring 3.5-x-2.3-x-0.4 inches and weighing 2.05 ounces. It has a sleek-looking, glossy black (and fingerprint attracting) finish that is totally void of any markings, except for the red and white Verizon Wireless logo on the top and a small, silver-foil credentials sticker on the bottom. A micro-fiber cloth is included to keep the device smudge-free.
The simplest way to describe the MiFi 2200 is that it is the convergence of an EV-DO Rev A cellular modem and a battery-operated 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi router. When fully charged via the micro-USB port, the removable Li-ion battery is rated with a usage time of four hours (with one Wi-Fi client attached) and 40 hours standby. To preserve battery life, the unit will automatically go into standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. Charging is estimated to take approximately 2.5 hours.
Before its first use, the MiFi 2200 needs to be activated. This is done via Verizon's VZ Access Manager application, which is installed directly off the device after connecting it to a PC or MAC with the included USB cable. Once activated, no further wired connection is necessary.
Using the MiFi 2200 couldn't be any easier. After pressing the power button, which is molded into the top of the case, the side-mounted LED soon glows green. At this point, the MiFi's SSID can be discovered by any Wi-Fi device within about a 30-foot radius. When trying to connect, the user will be prompted for a password. The SSID and password are conveniently printed on the aforementioned foil sticker on the bottom of the case.
When Test Center reviewers tested the device, everything worked smoothly, exactly as expected. Besides using a laptop, we easily connected an iPod Touch to our personal cloud without any issues. Because of its minuscule size, the MiFi can be kept in a pocket, creating an invisible, mobile cloud that is always within range. Up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices can be connected at the same time. The speed and range of the MiFi is truly amazing considering its size. We could easily find numerous uses for it and, with a little thought, probably dozens more.
If there is any downside to the device, it is Verizon Wireless' outdated and expensive data plans. Reasonably priced at $99 after a $50 rebate with a two-year contract, users have a choice between the same two-service options as Verizon's wireless modem customers. There is a $39.99 per month plan that allows for up to 250 MB of data transfer, or 5 GB of use can be had for $59.99 per month. Those who will only have an occasional need for it can avoid the service contracts completely by paying the full retail price of about $270. Going this route, usage can be purchased under Verizon's Broadband DayPass at $15 per 24-hour period.
The MiFi 2200 is a technological breakthrough that definitely has a "wow" factor to it. With everything from media devices to portable gaming making use of Wi-Fi now, its power and portability expand the possibilities. Although a longer battery life would be preferable, the fact that it is swappable means spare batteries (and their chargers) will be just around the bend. If only Verizon would step in line with data pricing similar to that of its competitors, the device would be a grand slam.
Still, with Verizon's stellar network, anyone even considering a cellular modem should look no further than the MiFi 2200.