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Verizon MiFi: a Review

06.09.09 | Permalink | Comment?

Verizon MiFiI was very excited when I read David Pogue’s May 6 review in the New York Times about a new “personal, portable [...] wireless hot spot” that I could take with me anywhere. The Verizon MiFi was released about 10 days later. With three planned trips coming up and hotels charging $10 to $15 a day for Internet access, buying one was an easy decision.

What Is It?

The MiFi is a stylishly designed credit card-sized device. It connects to the cellular network much like laptop cellular cards, with a difference: the MiFi is wireless, and a router. Simply turn it on, wait about 15 seconds, and you are online. That simple. And being a router too, you can have up to five devices (laptops, iPhone, etc.) online at the same time.

The subscription cost is $40/month for up to 250MB of data or $60/month for a generous 5GB/month quota.

My Experience

The installation requires that you connect it to a computer via the supplied Micro-USB cable, resulting in a disk appearing in the Finder or Windows Explorer. The disk contains all the needed software. In my case, I had to unplug and re-plug the MiFi a couple of times before the Mac could see it (Engadget had to try a different Mac, see their review). Once installed, you’re done. Running the VZAccess Manager afterwards is optional.

The MiFi worked largely as advertised. Speeds are decent, and once installed, using it is trivial — just turn it on. I have used it in two hotels and two airports so far without a hitch. I’ve also used it with my iPhone in an area where there was no AT&T EDGE data signal.

Sleepless Nights

Once upon a time, turning a device off did what you thought it should do: cut off power so that not a single milliamp continues to flow. Not so anymore: turning a device off or on these days is like submitting a request and asking it to please, kindly do so. It may or may not. And the MiFi flat out refuses to honor your request if it’s connected to anything.

I had the MiFi connected to my MacBook to keep it charged then I closed the MacBook to get some sleep. But I kept hearing the CD-ROM spinning briefly every minute or so, indicating that the MacBook was starting up. I waited to see how long this would go on and gave up after some time. I got up, unplugged the MiFi from the MacBook and plugged it into the wall charger. The power LED light turned on. I tried to turn it off, to no avail; it kept turning on again! The MiFi will only sleep if it’s running on battery.

Another thing, really minor: I found the two green LEDs to be too bright. I mention this because reducing the unnecessary brightness is also an easy way to increase battery life.

Overall, if you are on the road for any significant length of time, the MiFi is well worth the subscription cost.

[This article was posted using the MiFi]

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