Review of Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot

Have you ever been traveling, laptop or mobile device in hand, and find yourself wandering about aimlessly looking for a WiFi hotspot? You can't find a connection fast enough so you can e-mail your friends those photos of the huge ball of twine you saw on the side of the road.

As someone who is always sending out photos of roadside oddities, I was interested to hear Verizon was releasing the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. The device can be best described as a personal WiFi hotspot you can carry in your pocket.

Verizon sent me a review unit of the MiFi 2200 and I was able to test it out for a few weeks.

The MiFi is compact in size, weighing just over 2 ounces and is about the size of a credit card. It ships with a cloth carrying case, a wall charger, USB cable and instruction manuals.

The exterior of the MiFi is black and glossy, and has a large power button on top that works as a power light and battery indicator. On the side is a micro USB port, which can be used to charge the device using the included wall charger. It is powered by a 3.7 volt Lithium battery.

Using the MiFi as a wireless router is relatively simple. You turn on the device by pressing the power button, search for the MiFi among the local wireless networks on your computer, and connect by typing in the network name and encryption key, which is printed on the bottom of the device. Up to five devices can connect to the MiFi 2200 simultaneously.

You can also connect the MiFi to your computer using the USB cable. Once the MiFi is connected to your computer for the first time, the VZAccess Manager software begins to install, and after a few clicks and minutes, installation is complete. The software allows you to check on your data usage, network connections and additional settings for the device. One thing to note, though: When the MiFi is connected to a computer via the USB cable, it is in modem mode, so only that computer can access the Internet. The device supports Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Mac OS X 10.4.0 or higher and Linux.

The battery life of the MiFi is about 3 hours after heavy use on a full charge. During this time of heavy Internet use, I checked and sent e-mails, browsed the Internet, sent out updates on Twitter, checked Facebook, and viewed videos online. If your use is not constant, then it can last all day before charging. The power button on top begins to flash red when the battery is low.

The connection of the MiFi depends on the Verizon service available in your area. I took it on the road, traveled from Victoria to San Antonio, and had a few drops in service along the way, but those were areas that show no coverage on Verizon's map. However, when I was at my home base in Victoria and when I arrived in San Antonio, I did not experience any drops.

The download speeds of the MiFi depend on your location. When I was in town, in Victoria, my download speed ranged from 7260Kbps to 3680Kbps and 510Kbps upload. When I tested the speed out of the Victoria city limits, off of 59 near the Inez area, my speeds averaged 3480Kbps download and 300Kbps upload. Using the MiFi outside of Victoria city limits, I didn't notice any lag time when I was browsing the Internet or watching videos. However, once I added another laptop and viewed some videos on YouTube on it, the speed of the connection did seem to slow down.

Verizon's MiFi 2200 is $99.99 with a two-year contract, and currently you receive a $50 mail-in rebate. The price without a contract is $269.99. Data plans for the MiFi are $60 for five gigabytes a month, and if you go over the data limit, the charge is five cents per megabyte. There is also a plan of $40 for 250 megabytes a month, with an overage charge of 10 cents per megabyte, which is recommended for someone who maybe checks e-mail every now and then and doesn't browse online much. If you are a heavy Internet user, with that $40 dollar plan, you'll be hitting that data cap fast.

Overall, the MiFi is a good device for someone on the go and with the need for mobile Internet access, and who can afford the data plan. Setup is easy and quick, and staying connected is not a problem as long as you are in Verizon's coverage area. However, for someone seeking to replace their home Internet connection, whether it be cable or DSL, the price of the data plans may be too high for some.

CJ Castillo is the interactivity editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can follow her on Twitter (@cjcastillo) or contact her at cjcastillo@vicad.com or c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.