Review: Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 and $40 unlimited 3G Broadband2Go plan

virgin mobile mifi 2200 review

This morning, Virgin Mobile flipped the switch on their new $10 and $40 Broadband2Go plans. We mentioned them earlier this week, but as a quick reminder – for $10, you get 100MB of data, or unlimited data for just $40. These new stand-alone plans make Virgin Mobile the cheapest nationwide 3G operator. Best of all, these new plans are contract free, do not require activation fees or a credit check.

The Broadand2Go service is available on the Novatel MiFi 2200 WiFi 3G hotspot or Ovation MC760 USB modem. The USB modem is like every other on the market – you plug it into an open USB slot, install the software, and get online.

The MiFi 2200 is what deserves some attention. Even though this device is not brand new (we reviewed the Verizon Wireless version last year), the Virgin Mobile MiFi is the only prepaid version available in retail stores.
virgin mobile mifi 2200 review

Using the MiFi 2200 involves a one-time activation. The process guides you through a couple of steps, including a few fields for personal information, and picking a Virgin Mobile account password. You then pick a payment method, and activate the modem. The Virgin Mobile network uses Sprint – who actually own Virgin Mobile. The advantage of this is that you’ll have access to a reliable nationwide 3G network.

Connecting to the modem is simple – it broadcasts a WiFi network name called “VirginMobile MiFi 2200” making it easy to locate. Its password is printed on the bottom on a label, but you are free to change that using its configuration pages.

Up to five devices can connect to the MiFi at the same time, which makes it ideal for conference rooms, or sharing a single connection in a hotel room.

virgin mobile mifi 2200 review

I performed several speed tests with the MiFi, and usually saw no more than 700 Kb/s – which is on the low end of what I’d like to see on a 3G connection. As a reminder, the Verizon Wireless version we tested last year easily hit 2.5Mb/s, or over three times faster than on Virgin Mobile.

Of course, all kinds of factors can impact 3G speeds, and Virgin advertises the speeds as “between 600Kb/s and 1400Kb/s” putting my speed tests within their promise. One plus for them is that there does not appear to be any kind of limit on the amount of data you can transfer, nor do they limit your speeds once you exceed a limit. To them, unlimited really does appear to mean unlimited.

Update: I’ve been performing more speed tests since this review went live, and have experienced speeds up to 1300Kb/s several times. As always with broadband – your mileage (and speed) may vary.

Still, the speeds are quite usable for web and email, but they may be a little on the slow side for data intensive apps like video streaming. Bottom line is simple – you are saving $240 when compared to most other mobile broadband solutions.

virgin mobile mifi 2200 review

At $149.99, the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 is a decent deal (Walmart has it on sale this week for $119.99.) At this price, it becomes a handy tool to carry if you regularly run into $20 WiFi at a hotel and need to get online. The $10 plan offers 100MB for 10 days, which should be enough for a couple of web and email sessions.

The MiFi 2200 charges off MicroUSB, and an AC charger and USB cord are included, as is a protective pouch. If you’d rather not use WiFi to connect to the unit, you can plug it into your laptop and install it as a regular USB broadband modem.

Update: For some reason, Virgin chose to disable the wired USB option on their MiFi.

The Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go MiFi 2200 is available at Virginmobileusa.com and in select retail stores.

Virgin Mobile surprises mobile broadband world with $40 unlimited 3G data plan

In the U.S., the mobile broadband market is relatively boring – very few operators offer prepaid service, almost all of them stick to the same pricing method, and in most cases, there is no such thing as a bargain. Sure, there may be a few exceptions, but when compared to say Europe, the mobile broadband market over here is really dull.

Last year, Virgin Mobile entered the market with the first widely available prepaid broadband solution – but did so with fairly mediocre prices. Earlier this year, they upped their top tier data allowance from 1GB to 5GB, but the price was still the same as all the other big players. Starting soon, their plans are set to change again – but this time, the move is actually quite revolutionary.

For $40, you’ll be able to activate your Virgin Mobile adapter and get 30 days of unlimited data. Low usage customers will get 100MB for just ten bucks. At the moment, your choice of mobile adapter is for their $79.99 USB modem or the $149.99 WiFi hotspot enabling MiFi. And just like with the current offering, their plans are contract free, no credit check required and no recurring charges.

This obviously makes Virgin Mobile the perfect solution for tourists visiting the U.S. or domestic travelers who need a short-term data solution. For $150, plus $40/month, you get yourself a mobile 3G broadband solution that will allow up to five devices to work at the same time, all on a network with excellent coverage and speeds (Virgin Mobile is owned by Sprint.)

In keeping with their smart marketing, Virgin Mobile announced the new plans on Facebook of all places. Their Broadband2Go adapters are available from Virginmobileusa.com or Bestbuy retail stores.

Fry’s Electronics and Verizon Wireless offer no-contract broadband hotspot plan

The United States has always lagged in prepaid and no-contract mobile broadband plans. Especially when you compare things to Europe, where you can walk into any phone store, and walk out with a cheap USB data adapter.

As of today, we may actually be ahead – way ahead. According to an article on Phonenews.com, Fry’s Electronics has entered the mobile broadband world with a $49.95/month no-contract plan.

The plan offers 5GB of data each month, on par with all other operators. What makes this plan special is that it comes with the Verizon Wireless MiFi adapter. This mobile broadband to Wi-Fi device allows any Wi-Fi enabled device to connect to the nationwide Verizon 3G network. Best of all – the MiFI is on sale at Fry’s for just $69.95 – which is $200 cheaper than the normal no-contract price.

Access to mobile broadband at this price point is perfect for travelers, though it’ll only be interesting for those that can actually visit a Fry’s store, which rules out most of the East Coast. More information on the Fry’s MiFi can be found here, and all the information you need on the access plan is posted at Phonenews.

Gadling gear review – Eye-Fi + MiFi + WiFi = wireless camera uploads

I love it when technology works – and I love technology even more when great technology works together with other great technology.

A good example of this, is the combination of the Verizon Wireless MiFi personal hotspot, and the Eye-Fi wireless SD memory card.

We covered the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 several days ago. As a quick reminder, the MiFi lets you connect to the Verizon Wireless broadband network using any WiFi enabled device.

The Eye-Fi passed through Gadling last year, and was picked as one of our best travel technology products of 2008. Eye-Fi is a normal SD memory card with 2GB of storage and an integrated WiFi adapter. This allows you to take photos, and upload them to the Internet (or your own PC) any time you are in range of a suitable WiFi signal.

Smart readers will already see where I am heading with this article – Eye-Fi + MiFi + WiFi = instant uploads of your photos, no matter where you are (as long as you have a Verizon signal).

The combination works surprisingly well. The upload speeds on the Verizon Wireless MiFi are sufficient to upload a photo in about a minute, which means you can snap a photo, and it’ll be available in your photo album right away.

Technology like this has been available for some time on mobile phones with applications like Shozu and PicPush (and even with the Eye-Fi application for the iPhone). But the Eye-Fi and MiFi lets you upload “real” photos – not just camera phone pictures.

Getting the combination to work is surprisingly simple. You plug the Eye-Fi card into your computer, and open the Eye-Fi manager. Then, with the Verizon MiFi turned on, you let the Eye-Fi scan for a wireless network. Once you detect the MiFi, you add it and enter its password.

That is all there is to it – next time you are out making photos, you can simply turn the MiFi on, and shoot away.

In order to let your camera stay on long enough to upload all the photos, you may need to disable or alter its power saving mode, but thanks to the Eye-Fi service, you’ll get an email when the photo transfer start (or stops).

Being able to offload your photos as soon as you take them, means you can show people back home what you are doing, and it provides a safe way to work with your pictures – even if you happen to lose your camera, your photos will already be back home on your PC or in your photo album. Eye-Fi supports uploads to 25 different photo sharing services.

I did notice one thing that was not working correctly – the Eye-Fi geotagging feature does not work when you use it in combination with the MiFi. Eye-Fi uses your WiFi location system to determine where you are, but since it is constantly connected to the MiFi, it won’t get an accurate fix on where you are.

And if you happen to be in the market for a very affordable way to get your own Eye-Fi card, check out this deal at Costco.com for their 4GB anniversary edition card, selling for just $60.

All in all, a great combination of technology, and one that works extremely well. Plus, just how often do I get to write an article with so many funny sounding buzzwords? EyeFiMiFiWiFi would make a great name for an 80’s pop band.

Gadling gear review – Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot

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:

The speed is impressive, and perfectly acceptable for almost any web or email application you’d want to run. In fact, the speed is fast enough for 5 people to get online and surf the web, without any noticeable delays.

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.