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

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.

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.

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.

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 and in select retail stores.

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

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.