In this product review, I’m going to show off the hottest gadget from Verizon Wireless this summer. In fact, the Verizon MiFi 2200 is so hot – that it is currently one of the hottest gadgets from any mobile operator at the moment.
The MiFi is an “intelligent mobile hotspot”. That may sound complicated, but the entire concept behind the device can be explained in just a couple of sentences.
The MiFi 2200 allows you to connect to the Verizon Wireless broadband network using the WiFi adapter in your laptop, smartphone or PDA.
Before the MiFi, connecting to a broadband wireless network involved a USB modem, a PCCard modem or an Expresscard modem. It did not matter how you wanted to get online, you would always need a modem. The MiFi combines that broadband modem with a wireless router in a small battery powered device. This combination means you can keep the MiFi in your bag, and connect to the Verizon network using WiFi.
This means you and 4 other people can connect to the same connection, at the same time. You do not need to install any software on your device, and getting online is as easy as finding the WiFi network name, and entering the password printed on the bottom of the device (or whatever you changed the password to).
Here on Gadling, we covered a fairly similar product in the past, but that device still required a modem, and was considerably bulkier than the MiFi.
The MiFi 2200 is tiny – in fact it is so small that you could almost carry it in your wallet, as long as you give up a bunch of your credit cards. The device is also as simple as it can get – one button, 2 lights and a USB/charging port is all it takes to get online.
As I mentioned earlier – getting online is as simple as turning your device on, searching for the hotspot name being broadcast by the MiFi, and entering the password. That is all there is to it, the connecting device does not require any software or other settings, and as far as your device is concerned, it is just connected to the same kind of wireless hotspot found in a hotel or coffee shop.
Of course, behind the scenes, the MiFi is doing quite a bit of hard work, but none of that is of any importance to someone who just wants to get online.
Once connected, you can access the Internet, and can even connect to a corporate VPN. Of course, Verizon Wireless does limit the kind of activity you can do on their network, and data intensive applications like file sharing and TV streaming are not permitted.
As far as the speed is concerned, I’ll let these numbers speak for themselves for a moment:
Practical applications for the MiFi are endless – you can use it on the road, and get online without having to worry about expensive data roaming fees or overpriced hotel broadband. And since Verizon Wireless offers the largest 3G broadband network in the nation, you’ll find a fast and reliable signal almost anywhere in the country.
The Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 runs off a removable 1150mAh battery. The device can be charged using the included AC adapter or USB cable.
If your laptop does not come with WiFi, or you just want to get online using USB, you simply plug the unit into your computer, and it starts installing the Verizon Wireless VZAccess manager.
The smart thinkers that built this device actually included a small amount of USB storage inside the MiFi to hold the Verizon access software, which explains why there is no CD included.
Advanced users can tweak a large number of settings on the device, including the security features.
Once you are connected to the MiFi using WiFi, you simply point your browser to the home page of the device and enter the administrator password.
The web interface allows you to change most of the settings on the device, and also lets you turn the device into an open hotspot, which lets anyone connect to it, without a password. This is of course great if your are using it in a meeting, but this is still limited to 5 users.
The web interface also shows how much data you have used, though it does warn that this is just an estimate, and not something you should rely on 100%. Still, it is a handy way of checking how close you are to your monthly data allotment.
The MiFi 2200 is currently on sale through Verizon Wireless retail stores, and Verizonwireless.com.
The device costs $149.99 with a 2 year data contract. Data plans start at $39.99 for a 250MB/month bundle, and $59.99/month for 5GB of data. The final purchase price drops to $99 when you purchase online (after an instant rebate). On a 1 year contract, the price is $169.99 and without any contract commitment, the price is $399.
If you decide to purchase the MiFi without a contract, you can still get online, but it will cost you $15 per 24 hours. Still, this could be a great solution for anyone that does not need more than 2 days of online access per month.
When compared to a “normal” USB modem, the MiFi really does make sense, and is a far smarter choice. Because it uses an internal battery, it will not drain any power from your laptop, and it allows any WiFi enabled device to get online.