Wireless Product Review: Novatel Wireless MiFi

As someone who lives off the beaten path, it turns out that some sort of wireless Internet was my only possible solution to higher than dial-up speeds. After spending some time comparing services and contracts carefully, I decided against satellite in favor of cellular based wireless Internet. I ended up with Sprint, because they were the only ones at the time offering 3G speeds in my area with a plan that included unlimited bandwidth.

Recently, I had the occasion to purchase the new Novatel Wirelss MiFi at a greatly reduced price (provided I renew my contract, of course ), so I felt it a premium opportunity to share my experience with you. Sprint’s retail on this nifty little do-dad is listed at $299, but I ended up paying $99 after contract and $50 mail-in rebate.

If you haven’t seen the ads on television, the MiFi 2200 is a small cell-phone sized gadget that works as a mobile WiFi hotspot for up to 5 enabled devices. This happens to be perfect for my house, which has two desktop computers, one laptop and two PSPs, all using wireless networking.

I followed the directions and let it charge for two and a half hours, even though the charge light said it was completely charged as soon as I plugged it in. It really was a seemingly simple device, a slim silver rectangle with one button, obviously marked as the power button. The only other decoration was the prominent Sprint logo and a very small light on the side, which happens to be the hotspot indicator light.

According to the directions, all that was required was to power on the device, wait for the hotspot indicator light to turn solid green, and then connect using my computer’s standard wireless networking setup. The MiFi turned on and showed ready in about five seconds, and readily showed up in my wireless network list with 100% signal strength. So far, so good. I connected to the hotspot, and all of a sudden, I was on the Internet.

That was about as easy as it could get, but I was curious, is that all there is to the device? What kind of security does it offer? I decided I should break out the manual.

With a little reading, I managed to log into the web interface for the MiFi, and was surprised to see a complete mini-router. Features include port forwarding, port filtering, Mac filtering and security that runs from 64 bit WEP to mixed- mode WPA/WPA2. You can even enable GPS on the MiFi, and any user connected can do local-based searches using the device’s interface.

After some poking, prodding, speed testing and general hammering at it, I am happy to report that the MiFi 2200 is a nice little piece of equipment. It remains to be seen if it will have the longevity of my old Pantech PX500 pc-card. I don’t know if it was designed to be a full-time access point. Only time will tell. I may give an update in the comments at a later date.

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