Verizon MiFi 2200 Tested, Reviewed, Loved

Last Updated May 27, 2009 1:54 PM EDT

A while back we unboxed the Verizon MiFi 2200, a portable 3G modem card that doubles as a Wi-Fi router. Now that I've spent some time with it, I'm ready to render a verdict.

It's awesome.

Perfect, no, but an incredibly practical tool for travelers -- especially those who travel in groups. Here's my rundown on the MiFi:

  • Design: It's hard to believe such a slim, compact card can function as both a 3G modem and Wi-Fi, all while packing its own power supply. Slip the MiFi into your pocket and you'll quickly forget it's there.
  • Functionality: The MiFi can share its connection with up to five clients. Notebooks, netbooks, iPhones -- the combination is up to you and your fortunate traveling companions. One could argue that five connections limits the MiFi's value, but that's understandable given the available bandwidth (3G isn't cable, after all)
  • Performance: I tested the MiFi at a neighborhood coffee shop. The latter's in-house Wi-Fi network delivered a 3.6Mbps download speed and 1.4Mbps upload speed, according to Speedtest.net. The MiFi managed 1.1Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up. Nothing to write home about, but real-world performance seemed very speedy. If you're downloading files or streaming video, you may notice some lag -- but for e-mail, the Web, remote access, and the like, the MiFi doesn't disappoint.
  • Range: I don't consider range a major deal for a product like this, as you're likely to be sharing your access with co-workers gathered in a hotel room, airport lounge, hotel ballroom, etc. That said, the MiFi delivered strong signals from as far as 30 feet away, and even between floors of a home office. No problems in the range department.
  • Battery: I wish I could report the MiFi runs all day, but its battery expires after 2-3 hours of operation. Given the size of the device, that's still pretty impressive. And you can always swap in a new battery if need be.
  • Price: The card itself sells for $99.99 (after a $50 mail-in rebate), which I consider quite reasonable. I'm less enthused by the pricing plans, though that's true of all modem cards. Verizon's $39.99/month plan gives you 250MB of data (why bother?); $59.99/month nets you a more realistic 5GB. There's also pay-as-you-go access, which lets you skip the subscription and pay $15 per 24-hour session. That's a nice option for infrequent travelers--but you're better off at Starbucks (where I believe a 24-hour pass costs $9.99).
Interestingly, Sprint will unveil its own version of the Novatel-made MiFi 2200 card next month. While it promises an almost identical feature set, SlashGear found that its performance was roughly half that of Verizon's card.

In any case, I highly recommend the Verizon MiFi 2200 to anyone looking for a modem card, as it offers the benefits of Wi-Fi connection sharing for about the same price as a one-system-only USB or PC Card modem.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.