Hello Sprint MiFi, Goodbye Cradlepoint

Dave Zatz —  June 15, 2009 — 34 Comments

sprint-mifi2

If blog comments are any indication, it seems that most folks take issue with the $50-$60/month fee wireless carriers charge for mobile broadband. However, for me, data freedom is priceless. In addition to my Starbuck’s WiFi and Melissa’s T-Mobile Hotspot access, I’ve been relying a USB Sprint Aircard these last few months for on-the-go computing (as Xohm/Clear still doesn’t provide the coverage or software I’m looking for), often in conjunction with my Cradlepoint CTR500.

As frequent readers know, I tend to avoid clutter and prefer converged devices/tech… when it makes sense. Which is why I’ve been tracking the Novatel MiFi since fondling the little guy at CES back in January. The MiFi 2200 is an ultra-compact piece of tech that functions as both a 3G modem and wireless access point, supporting up to five simultaneous clients.

sprint-mifi5

The first MiFi to hit was on Verizon’s network. And I nearly made the jump, until learning Sprint would also offer the device. So while most folks were Pre-occupied June 6th, I queued up amongst them for the MiFi. I was hopeful of getting a deal, instead of paying the $300 non-upgrade fee. After an employee misunderstanding, a bit of consternation, and some excellent Twitter support, I did indeed end up with the MiFi at the discounted rate of $99 (although I offered to pay $150, forget the rebate).

sprint-mifi4

Unlike its Verizon counterpart, this Sprint edition does not require any sort of software install – everything is done via a web interface. Also, unlike Verizon’s unit, it doesn’t ship with a USB cable. So I haven’t yet verified if it’ll charge via USB while maintaining a 3G connection. (I haven’t tested claims of four hour battery life, but frankly I’d be satisfied with 120 minutes.) The manual seems to indicate the Mifi won’t act as a WiFi access point when tethered via USB, but I’m hoping I can use it like a traditional aircard in that manner.

And that’s really about all I have to say. It’s tiny and works exactly as advertised: I’ve set up a (sort of) hidden WPA2 wireless network, connected multiple devices while mobile. Including usage during a weekend roadtrip to NYC. No complaints. Well if I had to nitpick, those indicator lights are bright and I’d prefer something other than microUSB. Outside of that, I’m quite happy with my purchase and Sprint’s coverage.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

34 responses to Hello Sprint MiFi, Goodbye Cradlepoint

  1. i am waiting for reviews on these. it may become a solution for my parents, where they own 2 homes and pay for internet at each, with much less than 5gb of data/month. $60/month will certainly cost much less than paying comcast twice for the same thing at two houses…

  2. Let me know what questions you have – I’ve been using it each of the last 8 days with no probs. Works great.

  3. So is the only difference between the Verizon vs Sprint on this is that Verizon’s comes with a cable and software install, and Sprint comes with no cable and no software install. Of course the network coverage/speed difference for person to person place to place, so ignoring that, is that the only difference?

  4. As far as I know, it’s the same Novatel hardware just branded differently and those two items I mentioned. I prefer the lightweight, no software approach but would have appreciated a short USB cable to tether it with (assuming it works).

  5. Interesting – we’ve looked at these for work, but haven’t purchased one yet.

    How difficult is it to add on an extra wifi user – for instance If I’m using it for wireless internet connection mostly then want to add a client to it, how difficult is the process?

  6. I have the Sprint MIFI and I have to say the technical support on this has been aweful. Sprint passes me on to Novatel and Novatel does not return any calls or emails. I’m not sure if anyone else is having this problem but the webpage that Novatel tells you to use to change the settings no longer works. It worked the first week I had the device and now it does not work.

  7. So it does not have any ethernet connectivity?

    Seems a kind of limited after using the CTR500, but yes it is tiny.

    The Sierra Wireless buyout of Cradlepoint incidentally fell through last year.

  8. I can tell you that the battery will only last about 2 hours under normal usage and the unit will not charge and provide a wifi signal at the same time.

    Jonathan, I have no problems accessing the IP address provided in the manual to change my settings – 192.168.1.1.

    No ethernet cable but why do you need one? This device can sit in your pocket, purse or where ever and still provide the signal that you need. It is intended to be wireless.

  9. Brent, It’s like any other WiFi router – if you give someone the SSID and WPA key, they can get on. If you leave these things visible and open, they can also get on. (Up to five simultaneous client devices.) You can also filter allow by MAC I think. I can take some more screen shots of the console if you need.

    Rita, No Ethernet connectivity. As my usage patterns change, I need it less. Also, this is purely for personal use as opposed to mixed usage of the Cradlepoint MBR1000 and then Cradlepoint CRT500 I owned. I did appreciate the CRT500′s ability to use Ethernet in either direction – made a nice travel router in various hotels and conference LANs.

    Interesting about the Sierra Wireless deal – that explains why I couldn’t find any references on their web site. I’ve updated the post.

    Carolyn, As long as it will stay powered via USB while acting as a tethered aircard I’m OK. Need to see if Monoprice.com has a short microUSB cable and test it out.

  10. I don’t have a problem with the price. I have a problem with the 5GB limit.

  11. recently wrote up a comparison review of the MiFi 2200 vs. the PHS300, in case anyone wants more details –

    http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/2802/179/

  12. Looks like a cool device. Can’t wait until AT&T gets one out the door.

    Just strap this thing to the back of the iPhone and you have your 5GB Sling Player. I wonder how much TV time that amounts to on the iPhone’s Sling Player?

  13. Nice job Dave. I had the same initial reaction to the Mifi–ooh, I want one! But after thinking about it more, I just got a Cradlepoint CTR350. Its small and NOT battery powered, but I can plug in my existing Sprint Novatel U727 USB modem and it works just fine. I have it running off USB power from whatever laptop I’ve got with me, I don’t need to sign up for a new plan, and it works however I want it to–either sharing an Ethernet connection in a hotel room, or using 3G. The only thing it doesn’t do that I know of anyway, is let you do WiFi both ways, e.g. act as if you’re a single client to a hotel’s billing system.

    Its certainly a little bigger than the Mifi, though not much as you can see at:

    http://www.sizeasy.com/page/size_comparison/23989-Cradlepoint-CTR350-vs-Mifi

    Also the prices are similar, in that I paid $150 for mine. Course that is a full and not discounted price, with no multi-year contract.

  14. I have tried MIFI and found room to room coverage to be sparse vs Cradlepoint have a much better WiFi coverage around the house. Also if you think about it sometimes when I travel I just want to hook up the usb key direct to my pc ,not have t take out a router in addition to my pc in order to get online.
    Good Review!

  15. Just purchased 2 mifi’s for my company. So far so good. It’s not meant to be a wireless router for ethernet or provide multiroom coverage. Great if you want mobile internet in a small area for multiple people or devices.

  16. Just confirmed that with a microUSB cable and Sprint SmartView installed you can use the MiFi as a tethered aircard. (instead of of a WiFI access point – meaning no other connections)

  17. Anybody use the Mifi with a wireless printer?

  18. I have a UM150 USB device that I have to replace because its flex connections are wearing out and it isn’t always recognized when I plug it into a USB port.

    I decided to replace it with the MiFi for the convenience factor, and also because it doesn’t have a hard-wired, damage-prone male USB connector, as all of the other USB dongles do.. It’s far cheaper to replace a USB cable used for tethering than to replace a flimsy USB dongle.

    Cradlepoint has rolled out new firmware for MBR series routers that will support the MiFi, and told me today that the CTR series firmware upgrade is still 2-3 months away. I already own a CTR350, so I ‘m looking forward to firmware that lets me use it when I need greater range than the MiFi’s built-in wifi.

  19. What about the price of Cradlepoint routers vs. the wireless carriers air cards? Isn’t it a better way to go by getting a full data plan and using your cell/smart phone as the gateway connected to a router?

    What are your thoughts on this and the Cradlepoint Products?

    Michael
    New West Marketing
    http://newwestmarketing.net

  20. I’ve had mine for a couple of months now and just love it. I recently moved and I don’t think I’ll be getting television cable (my previous internet source)! More than offsets the cost and I can take it anywhere. I’ve even video Skyped my GF from an amtrak train in montana, it’s really that good!

  21. I have had mine for some time and they are better than I expected. however I am an avid GB down-loader when it comes to 3d files and creating video. I do not use Mifi for that purpose. I only hook all of my pcs and laptops up to it for internet access and normal work. If you have to download almost Terabytes monthly, go with a provider instead of this. This is for on the road, surfing net and more; but not for extremely heavy uploading and downloading (just like all the others that came before it from other companies that only allowed one user).

    It’s easy to add a new user, its just like any other network. You have the admin control panel to allow how many users, and set net secure password.

    This is virtually a replacement network for the average user needs.

  22. What is the difference between using a broadband card and using MI-FI by sprint. Is the MI-FI replacing the broadband card of yesterday?

  23. This will be the future, it confirms my thoughts along with amazing iPhone,Android, & Palms that cell phone companies will be forced out of the normal business of Talk & simply supply data & maybe text for awhile but eventually they will shift technology is killing their ancient business model & force them to offer just data packages & mifi devices. Hopefully we will have great texting apps, but we may not need to text with Google wave coming which is gonna be awsome for both the web, the users, & mobile platform plus email will be superior to text messaging anyway. We hopefully will have great VOIP services providers or maybe the cell phone companies will focus on VOIP instead. If one of these companies were smart instead of thinking for G they would clear up bandwith, expanded switch to VOIP service which would help expenses & the wasted space on voice could be freed for more data bandwith

    anyway I would love for this to replace my home Internet company but no promise that we will have cell coverage on this in my house & I would want an eathernet cord I know it suppose to be wireless but a wired connection is always better just speed test your connection on wireless compared to wired connection u will c that ur speed greatly suffers. My other reason is I am in the gaming business & the wireless connectivity on these devices or adaptors for them r crap. I use wireless around my home but use a wired connection when I can & my XBox is always plug directly to the router when in use. So I need a eathernet connection You see so if they create one that can charge & be used at the same time & also allow for atleast one more wired connections I will test it out & if the speed is their I’ll be sold I rather be paying for Internet I can use anywhere, anyway, anytime, for any device

  24. Carolyn,

    I read your comments before I purchased the mifi and assumed that I could not charge my mifi and use it at the same time. That information is not necessarily accurate. I used my mifi without being plugged in and while my laptop was connected, I decided to plug in the charger. I was able to continue to maintain my internet connection while the mifi was plugged in. I would suggest that you give it a try and see if it works for you.

  25. yes… it will charge from a ac or dc charger and still provide wifi, just not while tethered. It will charge but the wifi is disabled. Fyi… it worked great for a car full of kids watching youtube on ipods.

  26. So…I just need a clarification: the MiFi’s wifi is only disabled when charging AND tethered at the same time? 2 hrs on battery power isn’t too much of a problem by me as long as I can charge & still use the device at the same time from my car while on the road.

    Also, does the MiFi have an RF port to plug in an external antenna to boost signal reception?

    I’ve been using a Cradlepoint CTR350 with a Sierra Wireless 595U for a couple of years now and love it, but the size & compactness of this MiFi device is tempting….

  27. John, WiFi is only disabled when the MiFi is tethered to a computer. It basically acts as a ‘normal’ aircard at that point.

    The MiFi has one port, a microUSB jack – used for charging and/or tethering. There are no other ports, including an antenna option as you discovered. Because it’s also a WiFi access point, I usually just leave the MiFi on a windowsill if I have poor indoor reception.

  28. …Just read that there are no external antenna options or connectors on the MiFi.

  29. i actually sell these devices and the sprint mifi is better then the verizon mifi. The reason is because sprints network, even though its advertised at 3g, actually runs at 3.5g connection while the verizon network still runs at 3g. It doesnt sound like a huge difference but on sprints network downloads are about 150% of verizons. As for charging it, if you charge it through usb it will only act as a standard modem(non-wireless), but if you charge through the wall it will still operate the same as it would just off of the battery. The battery life is between 2 and 2.5 hrs if only one device is being used. In order to add a second, third, ex. person onto the device all they need is the network key that was set up on the device. They will be asked to enter the key when they try to connect to the device.

  30. Alright, I recently purchased a Mifi about a month ago, and cancelled my other internet provider. Now my work computer will not receive the internet, also my son is complaining about his xbox live not working, any help? Can i make it connect to a router then plug the xbox/computer into the router?

    Thanks.

  31. Andrew, thanks for that info…it finally validates my actual experience. I have a place in Big Bear Lake, CA not accessible to DSL. Been using different Verizon wireless braodband devices over the last few years. A recent guest brought along his Sprint mifi card and had d/l speeds around 1.3. My eyes almost bugged out since my Verizon usb device was lucky to d/l above 250 kps.

    As I was jumping to Sprint, I learned about the “identical” Verizon model. To keep my business, Verizon sent me a Mifi 2200 as a courtesy upgrade. While it is faster then my previous USB device, I’m lucky to get a d/l speed of 400 kps (vs my friend’s 1.3 mb with Sprint).

    Another oddity, regardless of where we put his card, it still had fast speeds. To get the best speed, I have to move my Wifi to the southern most rooms. (likely due to granite formations/topograhy of the area) This is just like my other Verzion broadband devices. This doesn’t make sense…if both devices are receiving signal from Verizon’s towers, why doesn’t the Sprint Mifi device behave the same way?

    While the two Wifi devices look the same & have the same 2200 model number, their real life performance is very different.

    Verizon does not have a 5gb max. This makes a tough choice…stay with Verizon’s slower speed with no data limits or go with Sprint’s faster service under the 5gb limit? Perhaps Verizon requires Sprint’s 5gb limit as a way to even the playing field?

    Andrew, any talk of Verizon kicking up their network speed anytime soon?

  32. Geoff, both Sprint and Verizon run at EVDO rev. A speeds. (Both also have a 5GB cap.) Your speeds seem slow, so I’d imagine it’s antenna placement or network saturation in that location. Have you tried others?

  33. For what it’s worth, I purchased a charge-only USB to microUSB cable for my phone before I got my Mifi (Sprint). When this cable is plugged in, I assume the Mifi doesn’t see any comm effort so stays in Wifi mode. It works just fine as a hotspot while connected to my computer to charge. Brand is Rocketfish and I bought it at a big box electronics retailer.

    Also, perhaps because I upgraded an older plan with a PC card modem, I still have unlimited bandwidth for ~$60.

  34. Is it possible to take the wireless signal from the Mifi and convert it to an ethernet wired connection so that I can network my printer into a router? I would greatly appreciate a reply to brodiestephens@sbcglobal.net.

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>