Seldom does a product come along that blows us away straight out of the box. The MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, which is made by Novatel for Verizon Wireless, is just such a product. Better yet, since you and up to four friends can jump on this mobile hot spot and surf the net at decent speeds just about anywhere in the United States, the MiFi 2200 is also highly practical, especially if you need to get on the net during your next school field trip. Heck, your teacher may even give you extra points.
We recently took the MiFi 2200 on our own field trip to the New York Botanical Garden and were impressed with the simplicity of its design and how easy it was to use. Shaped like a half-inch-thick credit card, the glossy black MiFi weighs just over 2 ounces and fits easily into your pocket or bag. The edges of the device taper off to a rubberized bottom so it won’t slip away if you set it on a slick surface. (Keep your eye on your friends though, they might want to steal it.)
The MiFi powers up via an AC wall charger that plugs into the device by a micro USB port. About 2.5 hours will give you a full charge which will run the MiFi for the same amount of time with five people hooked in via Wi-Fi. With just one Wi-Fi user, we clocked the MiFi at nearly 4 hours of battery life. (Standby time is rated at approximately 40 hours.)
Set-up for Windows users is relatively easy. Just connect the MiFi to your PC via a USB cable and the device will automatically install the necessary drivers. The VZAccess Manger software that comes with the MiFi is not particularly elegant but it gets the job done, finding your hot spot from the list of others in the area. The password’s right on the bottom of the device which makes it easy to share with the lucky chosen few. Mac users have an even easier time of it — VZAccess Manger isn’t necessary if you’re running Mac OS X 10.4 or higher since the drivers are built right into the operating system.
Though we could only get a sliver of 3G service from AT&T for our iPhone at the Botanical Garden, Verizon’s MiFi gave us full bars of Wi-Fi. When we added in an Asus Eee PC netbook and a MacBook Pro to the signal, we got internet speeds of between 1 and 2 Mbps. While that made HD videos on YouTube look herky-jerky, it was perfectly adequate for casual internet surfing and checking e-mail.
The catch is that while the MiFi itself isn’t expensive, the monthly service plans will seriously set you back. For $39 per month, you get a dinky 250 MB of monthly access while getting docked 10 cents per megabyte in overages. A $59 monthly access plan will give you a 5-GB monthly allowance and five cents per megabyte in overages. No these set-ups aren’t ideal if you want to catch up on episodes of the Jersey Shore but for school work, they’re reasonable — especially if you can get your friends to pitch in.