on July 12, 2012
I have to say that when I first considered purchasing this unit I was skeptical because I have family members in my area (North Jersey) who have Sprint 4G (which VM uses) and did not have great things to say about it. Even though I looked on the web site and was covered by the coverage map, I still was a somewhat skeptical but I figured at least I could get a decent back up portable 3g device. The day I received the unit from Amazon within about 20 minutes of un-boxing it, charging it, and going online to VM it was ready to surf, and surprisingly I gotta a pretty decent (not great) 4G steady signal.
This is probably what most people really want to know (me included), with the 4G I'm getting so far I would say that this unit is definitely faster than DSL (digital slower line- like one old cable ad put it) not quite as fast as Cable, and not anywhere near FIOS when its working properly (but is anything for home users). Rather than talk about kbps or MBps I'll just keep it in general terms, most standard 3-5 minute Youtube videos or online news video either partially loads or fully loads (meaning most or the entire video can be played not just the first part) within 5-15 seconds, full HD videos don't fully load quite as fast (more like 15-25 secs) but so far I haven't gotten the wheel mouse of video buffering death that was common with DSL. Webpages including Amazon's load up pretty instantaneously (1-2 secs) depending on the browser (Firefox of course), and sites that are very photo heavy like Huffpost or sports sites load no problem.
If you are thinking of using this to replace your hard-wire internet service I would give a few cautions. First depending on your are you may not get full 4G coverage and the speeds which I've described are with 4G, like I said before and this is only my opinion 3G is like DSL or slightly slower, while 4G is closer to cable. So far I am happy with the internet speeds that I am getting with this unit, but given the option to stay with Cable or FIOS if cost is not a big concern I would. Virgin Mobile (via Sprint) slows down your 4G data rates once you approach 10 GB of data, that is still a substantial amount of data but if you are the type of person who subscribes to Netflx or Amazon video and wants to watch 3 full HD movies every month then reconsider, also OS updates, antivirus downloads (mostly for Windows users) bite into your monthly data usage as well. I would say that at $35 a month (no contract ) for the basic 3G 2 gigabyte/4G unlimited (read slowed at 10 GB) plan you can't go wrong using this device to supplement your current service, and you can put money on the service only when you need to so you could try it for a month then decide if its worthwhile. If you're using this for travel I think you can't go wrong, the size is very portable (see next section).
Size and Battery Life
I'll post the pictures I took but the size if basically 2/3 of a deck of casino cards and about the same thickness. It is small enough to fit in a pocket but with the amount of heat the device gives off I wouldn't recommend it. So far I haven't traveled any long distances (trips) with it but if its like other VM/Sprint devices the coverage for 3G should be excellent in the Northeast and the 4G coverage decent in most city areas around NYC, Philadelphia etc. If you are a person who travels by car, train, or bus I could see this coming in handy but the only caution would be it would be easy for someone to maybe walk away with it in certain places so maybe a belt clip or some kind of attachment devices would work better than the pocket option. I've used it on battery power for almost a solid 3 hours and still had one full bar remaining and the device goes into a sleep mode when no devices are connected to it. You can connect multiple devices at the same time so far I've only done laptop and desktop but any modern WIFI capable device should work no problem.
SECURITY- it does offer 2 types of wireless encryption WPA and WPA 2 Personal, but the stronger encryption is recommended for only newer devices. One plus but at the same time drawback is that it shows the amount of devices and data used and for how long they have been connected on the front L10/28CD panel, but it also shows the password for network that you currently have set up, which is another reason not to let prying eyes see it.
Overall I give this device a solid rating so far for speed, portability, and battery life (even though it runs a little hot), you can run it using a usb adapter connecting so it doesn't have to run off battery. I would just caution anyone thinking to replace their home internet service with it to try it first and see if the speed/data limits meet their needs.
After owning this unit for a few months my initial review and opinion stands. I have had the chance to travel all the way south to Florida and have gotten very good 4G service in some cities, and not so great 3g in other areas. However, there is a word of caution with the battery, I find that while using this for internet service at home either you should use the usb power adapter supplied with the unit (without the battery plugged in the back) or just charge it and use it off of battery power alone. With battery power alone I have been able to get 3 hours of use (when the battery is cool and hasn't been in use, and not doing heavy downloading) and of course with just the usb power adapter plugged in you can use it like any other electric wall socket device. But if you keep the battery plugged in while using the Overdrive with outlet power, like I had been doing, then the device will start to overheat and will start automatically shutting down (or restarting). When this first happened I thought the battery was bad but then I realized that if I unplugged the battery and only used USB/ outlet power, and let the battery charge when I wasn't using the Overdrive (on outlet power), I have been able to get much longer battery life and use out of the device.
Another thing I found is that some people complain of not being able to get 4G service on their Overdrive even in major cities such as ATL,etc. If this happens, before giving up on it you should log into the Overdrive's setting through your computer's or even your phone's web browser (check the documents that came with it, it's really easy just type in hotspot on your browser should do it) and select 4g service preferred under the advanced settings tab ( its located under the 2nd WAN tab). Some people use the 4g only setting, but from my experience the 4g preferred works best because it usually will connect to the 3G network first to establish a connection then connect to 4g if it is available in your area. Hope this info helps, I still recommend the Overdrive pro over about every similar device on the market just because of the price and options for Virgin Mobile's plans...
There seems to be many more negative reviews of this unit lately and many people who've bought it and said that they don't get 4G coverage in their area. I think part of this may be due to the fact that the Overdrive isn't 4G lte (at least that's my understanding ) and Sprint is in the process of making a lot changes and upgrades to their networks from WIMAX to 4G LTE, from what I've read the Overdrive uses the WIMAX 4G and Sprint is changing over to 4g lte. Long story short, when I first bought the Overdrive Pro I got decent 4G coverage some places that I've used it most, the NYC, North Jersey area, and in Florida, Philly,etc, but if you aren't absolutely sure you will get the 4G (not LTE) coverage for your area when purchasing this device then I wouldn't invest any money or time in it. I still get pretty good speed and coverage, but maybe as more people have purchased these the network traffic has increased as well, I don't get any thing from VM or definitely Sprint for my reviews and I try to keep them as honest as possible, I still personally give the Overdrive 4 Stars, but reading other people's complaints I would be careful to buy one if I wasn't sure it would give me the coverage I was looking for.
on June 15, 2012
Preface: 11/15/2015: After 3 years of using this product, I came back to read my initial review of Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro. I have to say I wish I had come back here sooner because my review seemed critical and that is not fair. I should have revised this review 2 years ago to reflect the success I have had with this device after learning how to cool it. I simply got a desk fan, and placed this unit directly in front of the breeze created by the fan. Presto. Works perfectly.
I had discussed problems getting 4G; there were short periods of time in which 4G didn't work, but those issues have been resolved sufficiently. The 4G has worked probably 95% of the time over the last 3 years. This product is actually quite reliable considering.
I am still using my Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro, and I have just changed my rating to 4 stars. But not Virgin does NOT offer the $35 a month unlimited 4G plan for new customers; however, I am grandfathered i for I don't know how long. In my opinion, the plans offered are not as good as they were in 2012-2014. So for a new customer, I would rate this 4 Stars because of all the disadvantageous changes in their plans. The golden days of Virgin Overdrive Pro are over, because before there was unlimited 4G for only $35. During 2012-2014 I was able to leave the unit on overnight with Bit Torrent running, burning through tons and tons of data, without getting throttled down. Now I still have 4G, but they slow me down after I pass a certain thresh hold. At this point, it is important to call virgin mobile and find out what plans are available for the Overdrive Pro.
Review from 2012:
I purchased this unit 2 weeks ago. I almost made the mistake of opting for the Clear Hotspot. Thank goodness I didn't. I have been using Virgin Mobile Broadband to go for 3 years with kinda shaky service in the beginning, but pretty good results once you understand how to use the unit using the User Menu.
To get online, all you need to do is get the password from the digital readout on the front of the unit when it is turned on, and just enter it into your computer when it detects wireless network Virgin Mobile on the lower right side of the computer screen. I can have up to 6 users with my 2012 machine.
The Sierra Wireless unit is compact and very business like in appearance. The billing options are preferable to getting stuck in a contract. I left the unit OFF and charged overnight planning to activate the next day. At first, I had problems because they don't tell you what the Administrative Password is. That password is simply "password." Then later you pick your own. The administrative password will allow the user to go into the advanced settings for the Virgin Overdrive Pro unit. For example you can choose 4G only, or 4G preferred ( which will allow the unit to go into 3G automatically if 4G doesn't work), you can choose how long the unit will stay on in battery mode, you can pretty much control almost anything from the administrative menu.
After that small initial snafu, everything was very smooth. I'm getting 4G coverage where I am, after figuring out how to control the unit in the Account Settings menu. In my suburban area, I usually get a 40% signal inside the house, and outside it has varied from 40 % up to 100% 4G signal. The speeds vary according to signal strength. However, at even 20% in a weak signal area, it it steady and has never bumped me off. The only time the unit has turned off for no reason is when the temperature gets high during simultaneous charging and heavy use. Then simply unplug and run on battery and just continue with heavy use it won't fail.
So far, this is an incredible system that makes those large Wall-Mounted routers and bulky connections into telephone jacks completely obsolete. This unit is smaller than a cellphone . . . battery life away from the charger may be an issue but I will follow up in a few weeks with that info.
But overall I am very impressed with this money saving device. I no longer have to pay for internet at home and the office. I can just put this in my pocket and take it with me.
(POST SCRIPT: Please choose the 4G friendly $35 or $55 plan. The $50 plan does not include 4G. I will try to run Speedtest to see how much slower service toward the end of the month when if go over the allotted GB's )
7/30/12 NOTE: The 4G is NOT "4G LTE" on the Virgin Mobile network, so one must consider that when making the purchase. I'm not sure if this unit will be compatible with LTE if and when Virgin-Sprint platform will have it. If anybody knows, please comment. Thanks!
5/17/13 UPDATE: After using this unit for 10 months, I confirm its sufficient for having private internet on the go so you don't need to be at the mercy of hackers lurking in public networks. One can do light tasks, such as banking, email, light business work. However, this unit is too weak for streaming video and heavy gaming purposes. It is insufficient for Amazon streaming movies because you really need a 4G signal at least 4 bars to work properly. Using an iPad, I have watched movies on Netflix when this was new, but it seems to be slower than it was last year.
Finally, after 10 months of heavy use, this unit does not stay on 4G at all, I did all the trouble shooting, reset to factory default. Didn't work. Now this unit only does 3G, I will contact Virgin to see if they can repair this thing or diagnose it.
At the $149 price I paid in July 2012 I would consider this a thumbs down. Now that it sells for under $100, it gets a guarded thumbs up.
*** DO NOT BUY THIS UNIT! While this was a great device several years back, this is no longer a viable choice. If my information is
*** correct it will no longer work as of sometime around Nov. 2015 due to network changes. It was good while it lasted.
*** Update: As of Nov. 1st, 2013 the unlimited 4G data plans are no longer available. This means this device is no longer a *** good choice, in my opinion, unless your use is very occasional and light.
*** If you have an existing plan, it can be kept for two more years (as I understand it) as long as you renew every month.
Quick summary: Excellent device with minor limitations, cheapest mobile hotspot plan I've found to date with no contract. Very good 4G Wimax speeds if you are in an area with good coverage (usually a city environment).
Pros: Simple to use, good speeds, great web page device portal, small and well built, battery life of 3-3.5 hours, but can easily be used for an entire day with extra batteries or external battery pack. Very portable. Works well even with a marginal 20% (weak) signal. Neat no wifi (secure) USB tether option works very well. Fast network access to internal storage (microSD) card via wifi (share option). Cheap data plan: no contract, $35/month for 10GB 4G data, plus 2 GB 3G.
Cons: Can run hot under heavy use (e.g. full speed continuous downloads), setup can be confusing, speeds throttled to 2 Mbps after 10GB of 4G data usage, unsure as to how long Virgin Mobile will offer current attractive data plans (no guarantees).
My experience: Works extremely well in my 4G Wimax rich coverage area. Extremely flexible configuration options and features. Very high speeds in my area 6-10 Mbps down, .8-1.5 Up. Avg 8.5/1.3 so far. With A/C USB adapter and some cooling strategy, can use at home all day. With ext. batteries can use on the go all day. Very satisfied and meets all my needs.
Well, having read the mixed reviews here, I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that if this device worked as well for me as it has for some others here, it would be great. So when it arrived today, I was quite eager to give it a go. First, I installed the battery, plugged it up and put it aside to charge. While that was going on, I went ahead with the steps necessary to setup my account.
Is there some universal law that says all phone/Internet company type businesses must have the crappiest web sites in existence? It sure seems so. While not as dismal as some, the Virgin Mobile site was replete with glitches. Trying to find the "Activate" link took a few minutes. The online form was relatively well done and easy to fill out, though. When it said the MDN was on the back of the device, I realized it was not (external) but inside (like your cell phone) and so I had to remove the battery to get the number. My bad, perhaps, but the instructions will easily confuse someone not aware of the fact that they are usually in the battery compartment. Their instructions should be more clear. Still, no big deal. After completing the form, you'll get a confirmation and more instructions. OK so far.
So the device is charged and I follow the instructions to turn it on, connect, and complete the activation process. More glitches, but things go fairly well. You only get 3G at this point, so don't worry about that. Stumble around until the thing restarts and you get the account page where you choose your plan. Hit the submit button and wait (30 secs) as instructed. Finally it comes back and says there was a problem charging my credit card and to review the information I had supplied. I knew I had been careful and given the correct information. So I am puzzled at this point
So, I go back to check, but the page reloads and now it suddenly says everything is OK. This sort of thing happened numerous times throughout the setup process. There's got to be a better way. But, if you've done this sort of thing before, you'll figure it out. Just ignore the web site glitches and follow the steps outlined in the little guide that comes with your unit. The info there is correct (if incomplete). Anyway, you'll eventually get through it and the device will restart, the web pages will get all screwed up, but eventually reconnect (now you may have multiple pages/tabs open, if so, close the older ones). Now it will start trying to connect to 4G and you should be good from here on out.
So how well does it work?
OK, so the thing is working, but how well? Well, first I walk around and am disappointed to get only a 20% (2 bars) signal, but in a few places I can get 40% (4 bars). I find a slight change of position can make the difference between 20 (weak) or 40 (good). But after some experimentation, I find I can get 40% (good) fairly reliably. Interestingly, I get the same signals whether I position close to a window or in the middle of the room. No big difference. I am in a good 4G coverage area according to the map (in city) so I thought I'd get a better signal, but 40% is the best I can do (so far). (Update: got 60% signal in another building downtown.)
However, when I go to run some speed tests, I am very pleasantly surprised to see the results consistently averaging around 8.6-8.7 Mbps down and 1.6-1.70 up - that's nearly 3 times better than my crappy Verizon DSL line (3.3 on a good day, but 1.76 currently - that's down!). Netflix streams very smoothly, far better than my DSL. I am a happy camper.
So next I move it to where I am getting a weak (20%) signal and re-run a series of tests and I am very pleased to find I still average 6-6.5 down and 1.3 up. Not bad. Netflix still streams great, and those speeds are still twice as fast as my DSL on it's best days. We have a winner!
The device is small, seems well built. I did not enable the GPS function, don't need it, the battery charges reasonably quickly and the device also runs fine off USB power from the AC adapter or my laptop. Extra batteries are cheap, so no reason you cannot charge a few spares if you want, but since you can run off your laptop, you may not need 'em. The display is a nice feature and the device web portal gives you complete control. Mine was already set to 4G preferred and I did not need to change anything except the password. In this same admin panel you can disable displaying the password on the device display if you wish.
This thing fits easily in your shirt pocket, so very portable. Once you get over the setup and activation hurdles, you're in good shape. If it continues to perform at this level, I will be extremely pleased.
At the current price and with the $35 2 GB 3G, unlimited 4G (throttled after 10 GB, will have to see how that goes), and no contract, this is a value that's hard to beat. I hit 9.5-10 Mbps occasionally, but the steady 8.7/1.7 is plenty for my needs. At this point, I'm thrilled with it.
*** So two thumbs up for the OverdrivePro -- it's exactly what I hoped it would be. ***
(And thanks to all the many reviewers here before me -- could not have latched on to this gem without your helpful reviews good and bad.)
*** Later updates ***
Update: First issue I've found. I ran a stress test downloading at full speed for 2-3 hours and the unit over-heated and shutdown. This was on battery power only - no AC or USB. When I checked, the battery inside was extremely hot to the touch. I removed it to let it cool. Running on AC power without the battery, it might run cooler, I think, so I am going to test that mode as well. This is a worst case scenario, since you would not normally be downloading for such long periods continuously, but it still reveals an issue that seems similar to the issue others have reported here of the unit over heating with the battery in it after charging. Download speeds were in the 8.6-9 Mbps range (40%-good signal).
20121121-Update: Long extended downloads cause a noticeable rise in temperature and this thing runs warm anyway, so it actually gets pretty hot after an hour or so of a full throttle download. Found that using some common sense helped, e.g. place device on a cool surface.
On the good news front, I have played around with the USB tether option and that works great. You can tether via USB and turn off your wifi radio in your laptop and in your OverdrivePro as well, if you wish. There is an option to do this automatically (i.e disable wifi in tethered mode). In that case, no one can then connect via wifi and only your tethered laptop has access. Good for security and saves battery life on both ends. So this is a nice plus when you are out and about. One flaw, though, is that the battery must be installed. You cannot remove it during tethering. Bummer, but I guess it saves some circuits/cost to do it this way. It does charge the battery while operating in this mode.
Speeds have remained very good. I occasionally hit the 10 Mbps max speed, and average 8.6 or so down which is great. Even with a weak signal I am getting 5-6 Mbps. So I'm very pleased with the speeds I'm getting. Battery life seems to be around 3-3.5 hours depending on use. Nearly unlimited time using USB tether option and/or external battery packs (more below on this).
Oh and a note about the GPS, there's a setting for the GPS for "one time" (i.e. when you turn it on) and "continuous" -- the first saves battery life, but does not update your position. The second keeps updating, but drains battery power, of course, to do so. Nice to have the choice.
Another very nice feature is the microSD card slot. This works extremely well. Very fast - faster than most of my USB drives/sticks. So you can keep music or videos on the microSD card and anyone who connects can enjoy them. You do not need a 3G/4G connection for this, it's just wifi -- so won't count against your data plan. And you can download files to this internal storage as well if you like. Very nice bonus feature for this device.
Here's a great tip from M.R. Smith's review under the Sprint model (same hardware): "... add a micro-SD card and put the manual and some notes on it" -- this allows you to easily access the info and always have it readily available.
2012-11-28 Update: Getting 3-3.5 hours battery life, but tonight I am getting an extended life using a small external battery pack ]to power the unit and charge the internal battery, while in use, and extend useful portable life. So far I have been up in solid streaming mode for 5 1/2 hours and it looks like I will have another 3-4 hours easily. This makes for a very nice "all day" portable WiFi setup for under $100 and only $35 per month with no contract. I am extremely pleased. Will add more details later when I have more time. (This works extremely well - will add more detail later.)
2012-11-30 I found a Sprint ]branded version "like new" for $25 and bought it to use as a battery charger. For $25 I get another battery, another AC adapter, the unit to use in charge mode (i.e. a battery charger), and another wifi storage device (confirmed - worked fine). Bought an additional used battery ]for $7, so now I have three batteries = 9-10.5 hours run time. [Couple this with the external rechargeable battery pack method mentioned above and I have easily over 20 hours of useful life.] (You could probably skip this approach and just use the external charger and you'd be fine.)
2012-12-11 updated review with links to products mentioned. Note that since the Overdrive Pro charges from it's micro USB port, any cell phone type charger/battery pack will work. You don't have to use the exact one I purchased. I just ran across a deal on another "cell phone charger" which uses AA batteries. Since I have a ton of rechargeable AA batteries (and chargers) I got one of these to use as well. It was only $7 (usually 20). Anything that puts out standard USB power (500ma-1A, 5V) should work, a USB car charger made for cell phones and mp3 players will also work. So power is virtually unlimited if you use your imagination and plan ahead.
I continue to be very happy with this device. Just keep an eye on operating temps (via the web portal). So far, with just a little common sense, I have been able to control that fairly easily. Also, I generally can get a better signal if I stand this thing on edge rather than laying it flat. I get a good signal this way 99% of the time and it seems to help cooling as well.
20130131 - I dropped my rating from 5 to 4 stars because many VM users experienced a 4G "outage" for a couple of weeks which was just fixed today. 3G worked fine, but 4G could not connect even though it acquired a good signal. Nothing to do with the device itself, but apparently some sort of config or authentication issue between the sprint Wimax network and Virgin Mobile. VM customer service was clueless, but nice and did try to help. As with all comm companies service is lacking - have experienced similar with others - but I will say VM's service better than most since they at least answer their phones and try to help. But a two+ week 4G outage is simply unacceptable (it affected some but not all users in various parts of the country). Fixed now and speeds are excellent (6-10+ Mbps)-- maybe even slightly better than before. Other than this, still pleased overall.
20130215 -- getting a bit better signal quality consistently since the outage mentioned above. So maybe they upgraded some equipment? Signal a bit stronger and less noise. Upload speeds definitely a bit better as well as down. Everything has been good since 4G was restored. This thing is hard to beat when it's cookin'!
20130307 - Everything has continued to work after the outage mentioned above with no problems, speeds remain a bit faster and signal strength definitely a little better.
20131023 - Still happy with this unit. Once you figure it all out as per above, it's pretty reliable and works well.
on July 14, 2012
This is a nice device, with limitations. It is fairly small, and the charger and cord are compact. The LED display is helpful, showing the current connection mode (3G or 4G), the number of current WiFi users, and the battery indicator. My only complaint is that Virgin Mobile should improve the activation process, which is flukey and not very user-friendly. It took a few trys to get the account activated. After that, everything has been smooth sailing.
We have used the hotspot for about 10 days in two locations. One location is right on the edge of a Sprint 4G coverage area. We get 4G connectivity if we put the hotspot on the windowsill. If we move it more than a foot away from the window, the speed drops to 3G. With 4G, an Internet speed test measures the download speed around 1 Mbps. Two or three people can use the WiFi simultaneously without noticeably impacting browsing speed, unless one person is doing continuous uploading or downloading. A user in an adjacent room gets a fairly strong signal. Someone two rooms away may get a weak signal, depending on wall construction. For two days, we were in a small town where Sprint has only 3G coverage. That was adequate to access email and do limited browsing. We didn't attempt to connect more than one person at a time, which probably would have slowed browsing to a crawl.
This device gets quite warm if you leave it plugged in after it is fully charged. We use it continuously with no problem, but we unplug it after the battery is charged and wait until the battery is nearly drained before we connect it to the charger again.
This seems like a great device for intermittent usage and travel in relatively developed areas with Sprint 4G coverage. It works great with a laptop, netbook, and/or Kindle Fire, providing reliable WiFi on the road. (If you travel in less developed areas with only 3G coverage, the Virgin MiFi is a cheaper option. Check the Sprint data coverage map online.)
on September 25, 2012
I purchased this particular mobile broadband hotspot device after careful consideration and looking at numerous user reviews. The fact is I don't need mobile broadband often enough to justify the monthly cost that either a laptop mobile aircard or service plan from one of the big carriers like Sprint entails. However on occasion I do go elsewhere in the country like to my mother's place where she does not have Internet service or to a coffee shop or the library where I need a laptop and Internet service, but don't want to use the free WiFi offered since such services are notorious meccas for hackers. So Virgin Mobile's pay as you go without a carrier contract variety of plans for their mobile broadband devices are perfect for my needs. Virgin Mobile contracts with Sprint to use their cell phone towers and so that's another plus in that anywhere you can get Sprint service you will be able to use your mobile broadband device. And since Sprint is available nearly anywhere I would go that helps add to its overall value in my eyes.
I already own a Virgin Mobile Ovation MC760 mobile broadband device with pay as you go service and while it gives okay 3G it's not anything to write home to mother about. However I did and do love the fact that I can purchase a month of unlimited data use when I need it and when I don't the device can sit at home in a drawer and I don't have to feel guilty that I'm paying for a service I don't use or need each month. That said I have kept my eyes open for Virgin Mobile to come out with a later generation device that I hoped would a) have improved performance for 3G networks and b) would also work with Sprint's 4G network wherever this is available. And to that end the Virgin Mobile Overdrive Pro 3G/4G prepaid mobile hotspot manufactured by Sierra Wireless has answered my prayers.
First off I do want to state that from everything I've read and all of the people I've talked to no mobile broadband service is yet up to the point where it can easily replace an in-the-home Internet service such as DSL. It simply does not (to paraphrase Scotty from Startrek) "have enough powah!" That said the Overdrive Pro comes close. I live in a major city on the West Coast and get Sprint's 4G here. It's not fantastic service, but it is sufficient and most days I can get 40 to 60 percent inside and 100 percent outside with 3G coverage being even better. There is sometimes more lag on playing video using this device, but overall it does the job I need it to do, which is letting me access my laptop Internet service when I'm out and about away from home. I've taken it on a couple of outings and so far have been able to get 4G everywhere I go, no problem. The real test will be when I take it to another state to my mother's house, which is in a more rural area that may or may not have Sprint 4G coverage. I'll give an additional update to this review after I go there next month and find out.
Installation is fairly painless, but there are several issues and tweaks that will vastly improve your installation and usage of this device. These are:
a) Make sure you write down every single password and number that you are given. Having to hunt down these things later on is a giant nightmare pain in the you-know-what. So have pen and paper handy and store it someplace you'll be able to find it easily later (but not others you don't want using the device).
b) Whatever you do if you have any sort of real-time antivirus/antispyware protection turn that off before you try and install this device. Otherwise you will run into problems installing the device like I did. Once I realized that was the problem I was able to follow the directions given and install it no problem.
c) The device does not come with a user manual, but you can find this on virgin Mobile's website at:[...] I would urge anyone with one of these devices to download this manual and read it to fully understand how to use your Overdrive Pro.
d) To get an improved signal both on 4G and 3G it helps if your device is closer to a window and/or up higher. Same with using the USB cable that the device comes with since this acts as an antenna and also allows you to place the device up higher. (I set mine on top of my filing cabinet next to the window and it gets 20 to 40 percent more signal or better).
e) You can also go into the device via your Administrator login (during setup you'll be prompted to set up a password for this) and tweak it in numerous ways. For one thing you can tell the device whether you want it to use 4G only, 4G or 3G depending on which is available or 3G only. This makes a tremendous difference in what type of service and the clarity of signal you get. Additionally Virgin Mobile's $55 per month plan allows you to use unlimited 4G although 3G is limited to 5GB. So obviously whenever you can tell it to use 4G only this is preferred. (Note: lower cost plans do not have the unlimited 4G component, so make sure you study exactly what you're getting with each of the plans before you buy them.
f) I also got better signal by going into my administrator login and setting the Battery and USB power ranges to the long range settings. However read your user manual to see if this would work for you and/or experiment to find out if this helps. It did for me.
g) The screen on the top of the device will show the password unless you tell it not to, so make sure you do this. Otherwise anyone can see your password right there on the device.
That's all I have to report at the moment. I did purchase the $55 one month coverage plan and so far so good. And Virgin Mobile has a webpage that allows you to go in and view your usage on both 4G and 3G to keep track of how much you have left. I love that aspect of Virgin Mobile as well since you don't get as many surprises on data overage as you might with other carriers.
I've looked into signal boosting antennas and devices for the Overdrive Pro and so far all I've found that is known to definitely work is the AirCard 802S Desktop Cradle that is manufactured by Sierra Wireless. This is supposed to increase 4G signal and allow one to charge the Overdrive Pro. You can purchase this cradle either directly from Sierra Wireless or from Sprint who have their own version of the Overdrive Pro that is yes the same device. One is just sold by Virgin Mobile while the other is sold by Sprint. I suppose I'll pony up for this device soon enough and give it a test drive although I'd be happier with something that will boost the 3G signal as well and I don't think this cradle does. At least it doesn't state that. But no matter, that's a different review for a different time.
All in all I'm happy with my Virgin Mobile Sierra Wireless Mobile Broadband Overdrive Pro (try saying all that 10 times really fast) device. It's not perfect hence the only 4 stars, but for a somewhat techie girl like me it'll do. And it does seem to work better than some of the similar devices my other friends have that they're always complaining about. Besides the sleek, slightly futuristic design and the fact that it's smaller than a deck of cards adds to the charm. And so far Virgin Mobile can't be beat for their pay as you go with no contract service for their mobile broadband devices. Given all of that I'm satisfied until something better comes along anyways.
The other thing I would note is that you are able
on September 30, 2012
the device can work well when the specified coverage area is correct, especially for 4G coverage which is very limited outside of major metro areas or business centers in cities. The home coverage is normally 3G only which severely limits the usefulness of the device except for low data usage consumption purposes. The plans become very costly when used for things involving streaming or downloading of any sort. 3G consumption limited to 2GB or 5GB/mnth costing $50. Again 4G is unlimited data usage(albeit slower speeds after 10GB) but severely limited in areas of availability. Hope this helps potential users. Info as of 10/01/12.
on September 19, 2012
I purchased this device like many others to be able to connect my laptop, cell phone and tablet while on the go. I've had several other big carriers including AT&T, Tmobile, verizon, and even Clearwire. I hated the fact that i needed to sign a contract and pay monthly for something that i only need to use occasionally. I also disliked the fact that 3GB was almost 50 dollars on the other providers and i would be charged for any overages at 10 dollars a gig. So i started to look elsewhere. I needed a device to have the following criteria, Decent speeds, no overages, cheap, and pre-paid for the months that i do not use it. So upon seeing this at walmart and doing further research this device seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
Initial Setup & Unboxing:
I never considered myself purchasing a prepaid cell phone or aircard for that matter, but the expensive price of overages and the low monthly caps of the larger providers forced me to look elsewhere.
The device it's small, no problems with carrying it at all in a pocket, the unit includes a replaceable battery, Micro USB cable, instructions, and a USB charger. It has a status screen for displaying usage stats, battery, signal strength and connected users etc. Initial setup is a bit tricky but not too bad. You need to connect the device via wifi ( it will show the SSID and WPA key on the device screen ) open your browser and it will connect you to the device setup page. There you will need to go to virgin mobile website enter your credit card information and choose a plan, 55 dollars for 5 Gigabytes of 3G and Unlimited 4G, or 35 dollars for 2 Gigabytes of 3G and Unlimited 4G. They will give you an account number and id which you will need to go back into the unit and enter in order to get online. I was up and running in about 20 minutes
Coverage & Speed:
I live in the city and mostly travel to other larger cities so the lack of wireless coverage outside city lines isn't a problem for me. If you live away from the cities or the outskirts for instance long island NY where there's 0 4G coverage for this device, you are pretty much stuck with the slow 3G and 2 Gigabyte Cap. To do anything in these days online, being in a 4G coverage area is an absolute must.
I travel a lot but have only had this unit for a week and haven't gotten much chance to get to too many places other than NYC and surrounding areas, But i have taken it so far to northern Jersey, Central Jersey, and all over Brooklyn and was able to keep a constant 4G signal. There are some areas that have dead spots and will pick up 3G only, but i haven't had to experience that too much. In my home in Brooklyn, i get a fairly strong 4G signal, however data speeds are pretty bad. I average anywhere from about .5 down and 1.2 up on a busy night to about 1.2 download and 1.5 upload max later in the night around 3am or so. I believe it has something to do with the towers in my area as if i drive a couple blocks away i get pretty decent speeds of 4.0 Mbps + down. This doesn't bother me too much since i have cable modem service at home and mainly use this on the go.
Certain parts of Brooklyn i was able to pick up 8-9 MBps down and 2.0 up. In Manhattan around 50th and 6th i was able to get great speeds as well, around 5.0 Down and 1-2 up. 3G was a different story, i was only able to manage about .3 down and .2 up everywhere. Not a big deal because the nice feature of this unit is you can force it to never fall back to 3G if 4G isn't available saving your 2GB bucket, or vice or versa.
One other note on signal, the 4G runs on 2.6 GHZ, a very high frequency but has the capability to carry a lot of data. It does not penetrate buildings well so this makes the signal very sensitive to weather conditions. I didn't believe this until It rained very heavy last night and i lost 4G service at home. After the rain stopped the signal returned to full bars.
Now the question is for people who are looking to replace a DSL or home line.. Can you? It boils down to two questions. How often do you use it, and how good is the coverage in your area. Id say for light usage it might be a good idea and for someone who's not on the internet 24/7. The problem is that this card gives you unlimited data but with caveats. You are only allowed full 4G speed up to 10GB and then after it is slowed to about 1.5 Mbps or so. Not too bad, but not great if you plan on streaming netflix in HD. Id say overall the device is better suited for mobile users on the go looking to do light web surfing and not a replacement for home fixed internet.
Battery life is about 2-3 hours on 4G. The unit does heat up a bit, but i haven't had any problems with it shutting down or disconnecting like most people say. Maybe i have a newer revision, who knows.
At 50 dollars for the unit itself and the cheap plans, you are probably not going to get a better deal elsewhere. This unit is simply great for the price. Want to know a little secret? This unit actually uses sprints network for 3G and Clearwire's network for 4G. Clearwire charges 35 dollars for 1.5 Mbps service and 55 dollars for 4-6 Mbps service. With Virgin mobile hotspot, you are basically getting access to clear's 55 dollars service, PLUS sprints 3g for the price of clearwire's lowest tier. Ad in the fact not contracts, no overages, etc, id say its PRETTY slick deal.
While it is not perfect and no way a replacement for a home DSL (unless you are a very light and occasional user), it is a great solution for city goers looking to access the internet. The 4G pretty much makes this device worth it, if you are not in a 4G area id say skip it, unless you really need internet access in 3G areas since it is so slow. I would have given this 5 starts if there was more 4G coverage, but i guess you cant have everything in a budget device.
on April 18, 2013
I can't speak to how this device works when it's up and running, because I have not been able to get it up and running. I called the help desk and got a representative whose accent was so heavy that I could barely understand her. After twenty minutes, I gave up and promised to try further on my own. Since I always ran up against the same block--"Authentication failed"--I called again next morning and got a rep with better English-language skills. I worked with her for half an hour, basically going around in circles. Whatever she suggested, "Authentication failed". Finally she speculated that Comcast was somehow blocking rival wi fi devices, so that I should leave the house until I was out of range and try again. This seem absurd to me (I had earlier turned off the Comcast modem and Netgear router at her suggestion) but agreed to try it.
Of course that didn't work either. I tried it at various locations throughout the day, on my laptop, tablet, and smartphone: "Authentication failed"!
I have requested a return authorization (I bought it from Virgin Mobile, unwisely, rather than from Amazon) and refund, as well as cancellation of my $55 monthly broadband fee, but have not yet received a reply.
My suggestion: if you buy this device, buy it from Amazon, which has a good and transparent return policy! And don't buy the $55 plan to start, until you know that the devices works.
UPDATE: I was told by email to phone for a return authorization, which I did, and again got a rep with such poor English language skills that I had to go online to confirm the mailing address (Brightpoint North America in Plainfield, Indiana). In the course of doing that, I discovered that the "help" desk is apparently located in Nicaragua, and also that Virgin Mobile has nothing to do with Richard Branson but is a subsidiary of Sprint, two discoveries that go a long way to explain the difficulties I've had. The device went into the mail yesterday. I will report back on my success or lack of it in getting a refund. In the meantime, BEWARE!
on November 29, 2012
A fast, affordable device when some patience is applied to find optimal placement. I'm getting 8.5 to 11.2 Mbps Down and 1.1 to 1.36 Mbps with pings of 129-156ms with using these placement tips based upon trial and error:
(*) If experiencing low signal try pointing the bottom side (battery door) in the direction of the tower (check coverage on clear.com site for tower locations)
(*) For long internet sessions remove the battery and run off of the AC power. That way you won't ruin the battery and keep the device cooler (constantly charging and using a battery causes the battery to heat up)
(*) If indoors, try attaching the hotspot to the window with the bottom side battery door facing outside towards the cell tower. I used velcro to do this.
(*) Double pane glass can cause some signal degradation, I found that attaching the hotspots on the window with a small piece of velcro minimized the signal loss. When the hotspot was away from the window as much as 4 inches the speed dramatically reduced and was less consistent.
Now you might be saying... I want to turn it on and have it just work. When I did this my speeds ranged from 2 Mbps to 6 Mbps Downloads and 0.5 to 1.2 Mbps Uploads with pings of 130-200ms. A side note: every hotspot I have used required some placement adjustments even with different carriers.
See the user pictures for speedtest proof
on February 22, 2013
I purchased the Overdrive Pro because I needed temporary internet for a place I was moving out of soon, and I didn't want to sign a contract. I wanted something that was hassle-free, low-cost, high-speed, no-contract, and unlimited. I also wanted to be able to easily set up this same internet service at my new place that I'm moving to. I searched and searched, read many reviews, and after ten days of deliberation, and having no internet, I decided that my best option was the Sierra Wireless Overdrive Pro for Virgin Mobile. So far, I have had this mobile hotspot for ten days, and it has been a bittersweet experience for me, but I am mostly happy.
I want to be as helpful as I can in this review, and I will offer my best advice based on my experience. This device and its service is a decent replacement of basic DSL service, though it's not at all comparable to Cable or FIOS. Although the 4G internet is unlimited, the connection will usually be too weak and the latency will suffer greatly, but the bandwidth will still be decent. 3G, on the other hand, will usually have a good to excellent connection, so the latency is decent, but the bandwidth is a bit slower. This will cause you to find yourself switching between 3G and 4G quite often, based on your needs.
Unless you plan on using this on-the-go, it is best to not insert the battery into the device, because the battery causes it to overheat. It works just fine at home when it is plugged in without the battery. Activating the Overdrive Pro was frustrating because the instructions that came with it did not provide all the information I needed to properly set up my device. First of all, even if you do not have any internet, you will still be able to access the online activation wizard once your computer is Wi-Fi ready and you turn on your Overdrive Pro. You do not need any pre-existing internet service to activate the Overdrive Pro. The password for connecting to the internet is displayed on the LCD screen of the Overdrive Pro. None of that was made clear when I was activating the device, but things went pretty smoothly after that, until I ran into another problem. When it came time to choose a plan, my experience was completely different from the set-up guide's instructions. It says in the instructions that a new browser window will automatically launch that will take you to your account portal. This did not happen for me at all. So I ended up going to virginmobileusa.com and selecting "Manage My Account" in the upper right hand corner. I then entered my account number and the 6-digit password I created and I chose a new plan from there.
If you want to access the Overdrive Pro Home Page to adjust settings for the device, go to virginmobile.hotspot and you will be redirected to the Overdrive Pro Home, and the URL will display your IP address. This is important: you will notice you're unable to change any settings because only the administrator is allowed to. You will need to log in as the administrator with the following password, "password". That's right, the password is password, and this is nowhere in the instructions (it is in the beginning of the Activiation Wizard, though). The Overdrive Pro Home Page is very useful because it gives you complete control over the device, and gives you many ways to set up your device. To change between 4G and 3G, click the area on the Overdrive Pro Home Page that says 3G (or 4G) Connected, and you will be given a list of preferences. It's best to choose either 3G only or 4G only. In my experience, I have been unable to quickly access my account from the Overdrive Pro Home, where it says, "My Account". Instead, to access your account in the future, simply go to virginmobileusa.com and select "Manage My Account" in the upper right hand corner.
If you're like me, you will have a hard time trying to find a strong 4G connection. This is probably why it's "unlimited". I have found myself switching to 3G quite often, just because the 4G connection is unreliable and sometimes totally unavailable. Even if you're in an area that has 4G coverage, you may still find that you have a weak connection and the 3G connection will usually be much stronger.
From my experience, the 4G connection was so unreliable that I was unable to use it for online gaming. I mostly play Call of Duty and other first person shooters, where a strong connection is mandatory. The weak connection of the 4G caused poor latency and disconnections. If you're gaming online, you will find tons of lag and server connection timeouts. Because of this, it is best to use 3G when playing video games online. If you're worried that you will hit your data limit, rest assured. Online gaming, surprisingly, does not use much data. I played for six hours straight and only used about 100MB. DO NOT USE 3G WHEN STREAMING VIDEO, ESPECIALLY NETFLIX! Virgin 3G has a data limit of either 2GB or 5GB, neither of which are anywhere near enough to support streaming. Look at it this way; typically, only one hour of watching Netflix will use up about 300MB of data. That means in about three hours you will have already used about 1GB of data. In six hours you will have used almost all of your 2GB of data, and in 15 hours you will have used about all of your 5GB of data.
If you do end up reaching your data limit with 3G, there are ways to improve the performance of 4G so that it is more usable. First, make sure you live in an area that is covered by Sprint 4G WiMax. Second, make sure your mobile hotspot is in a place where it gets the strongest signal. Third, go to virginmobile.hotspot (Overdrive Pro Home Page), then log in as the administrator with the password: password. Go to advanced settings, then to the router tab, and enable port forwarding. Go to portforward.com to learn more about port forwarding. It will give you specific instructions on how to forward your ports for specific programs, gaming consoles and video games with your Overdrive Pro. Port forwarding basically improves the speed of your internet connection. Finally, I know this may sound crazy, but try placing a sheet of aluminum foil underneath the Overdrive Pro. This may reflect your signal better, and improve signal strength. It improved my signal strength by 10%, which may not sound like much, but it made a huge difference.
The 4G Connection works just fine for web browsing and streaming on Netflix, although you will notice the resolution on Netflix will tend to bounce between High Definition and Low Definition, but you shouldn't have any problems with buffering. I have been able to watch Netflix and other online videos such as YouTube and Hulu perfectly without any buffering, pausing, loading screens, etc.
I wasn't going to write this review until I had used more than 10 GB of 4G data, because I wanted to see how bad the throttling would be. Virgin says they may reduce speeds after 10 GB, and I have read that they cap the speeds to 2 Mbps. Well, I am happy to say that I have used about 23 GB of 4G data. I passed 10 GB two days ago, and so far there has been no throttling. I still get the same speeds I used to get, which is around 3 Mbps or more. Maybe Virgin hasn't caught up to me yet, and they might need to manually throttle my speeds, but my speeds obviously have not been reduced automatically after passing 10 GB.
If you're wondering how I was able to track my 4G data usage, the best way to do this is to go to virginmobile.hotspot, log in as the administrator, go to "Advanced Settings", and on the "Device" tab, go to "About" and it will tell you how much data you have used for both 3G and 4G (It will say "Total Bytes:"). You can also track your 3G data usage by going to "My Account". Another way to get an idea of how much data you are using in a current session is to either look at the LCD display on the Overdrive Pro, and it tells you how much data you are currently using in the bottom left corner, or to go to the Overdrive Pro Home Page, and it will tell you how much data you have used, followed by the length of the current session. It only displays how much data you have used since the device last connected to the internet. If you turn off the device, or if there are any interruptions in the connection, it will reset the data tracker down to zero.
It's best to start noticing how much data you are using while doing different online activities, and adjusting your device between 3G and 4G accordingly, as well as adjusting your plan to fit your needs. If you're doing something that doesn't use much data, but is important to maintain a strong connection (such as e-mail, online gaming, filling out applications, taking surveys, taking tests, paying bills, etc.) you need to be using 3G. If you're doing something that consumes a lot of data, but you don't mind having a weak connection, (such as watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, listening to music, etc.) you need to be using 4G.
I don't travel with this device at all. It works great as home internet. However, the biggest drawback of the BroadBand2Go service is that it's extremely difficult to download large files. Some files are larger than 5GB, so there's no way to use 3G to download large files. The only other option is trying to use 4G to download large files, but you will find that the connection may drop somewhere in between the download because the signal strength is so weak. This is the only real problem I have with this service. There was no solution to this problem other than going to my friend's house and using his internet to do large downloads. The BroadBand2Go service is still a pretty decent alternative to DSL or Cable home internet because of the unlimited 4G. I didn't like having to pay about $100 for the actual mobile hotspot, but it was worth it for the affordable service that comes with it. I am satisfied with my purchase and I highly recommend the Overdrive Pro because of how versatile it is.
UPDATE (08/05/2013): Here's my current situation: I am now living with someone who does not have internet, and he is the only person who has the power to turn on the internet, but he keeps procrastinating, so I'm still stuck with the mobile hotspot. After using this mobile hotspot for six months, I have become quite frustrated with it. I have moved locations twice since my initial review, so that may have something to do with it. When I first wrote the review, I was living in El Segundo, California, where I had a consistent two-bar 4G connection that I was quite pleased with. Then I moved to Torrance, California, where for the first time, I had a good to excellent 4G connection, which was fantastic, but then I had to move again. Now I'm living in Redondo Beach, California, where I'm lucky if I can even find a 4G signal, and even when I do, I only get zero to one bar.
The Overdrive Pro has a few bugs that have become very annoying, but the one that aggravates me the most is this: I turn on the device, then it says "4G Network Acquired" and it says it has an excellent signal, then it says, "Connecting to 3G/4G Network..." then it repeats that same process again! It goes right back to saying "4G Network Acquired" and then it says "Connecting to 3G/4G Network..." again... Then it says, "Connecting to 4G" but at this point the signal drops down to one bar, then after a few seconds it will say, "Searching for 4G Network..." and then it will repeat the entire process over again, while never actually connecting to 4G! The only way to end this loop is to turn the thing off for a while and try again later, but even that doesn't work sometimes.
I have tried positioning the hotspot in just about every spot in my home, and only one spot can actually pick up a 4G signal. I actually have to tape the hotspot to a wall as high as possible. I've tried using foil to boost the signal, but now that just hinders the signal even worse. When I'm lucky enough to be able to pick up a signal, the speed is so slow that it's not even fun to use. It's almost impossible to watch any videos, and my only source of television is Netflix, which relies on a strong and fast connection, which I can't really get, so I can hardly use these services even though I'm paying a total of $43 a month for them. I can no longer play video games online because that has become completely impossible. I think if Virgin offered a new plan which gives us the option to pay a little more, but get up to 10GB of 3G Data, I would be more satisfied because I can usually pick up a decent 3G connection wherever I am. As it stands, I'm only willing to pay $35 for the 2GB of 3G Data. It doesn't seem worth it to pay $55 for 5GB because that's still not enough data (and the 3G is no longer good enough to consistently play video games online). If there was an option to pay around $60 for 10GB of 3G data or more (even unlimited 3G), I would praise this product.
Right now this product is making me miserable, because more often than not, I'm fighting with it to pick up a 4G signal and maintain a 4G signal. The words, "Searching for 4G Network..." and "4G Network Not Found" have started haunting me. It would be great if this device could pick up a 4G LTE signal rather than a crappy 4G WiMax signal, but I have a feeling that Sprint does not want to make 4G LTE unlimited right now. For now, we have to settle for this very small, shoddy and abandoned 4G WiMax Network, and many of us who purchased the Overdrive Pro will suffer the consequences of a poor 4G Network.
One more complaint I have (and then I'll shut up) is the Virgin Mobile "My DataCard" Website. They keep making changes to it. Some of these changes are for the better, but most of the changes are for the worse. I'll start with the good: I'm glad that they finally added a data tracker for the 4G (even though they should have already had this from the start)! Here's the bad: I don't like how they're forcing us to go with the "Automatic Renewal" option if we're choosing the $35 plan. For the first couple of months, I would just choose the only $35 plan they had, which didn't automatically renew. I prefer that because this service is intended to be temporary for me. Then for the next couple of months I noticed they rolled out the "Automatic Renewal" plans, but still allowed us to choose a "One Month Only" plan, which I always opted for.
Recently, however, the past few times I have tried to chose the One-Time plan, I get this error message: "HOLD ON THERE. There was a problem. We won't be able to complete your switch online. Please call and ask a Live Advisor to help you out" I called that number several times, and it was just an automated menu that went nowhere. Any time I would try to complete the purchase, it would just bring me back to the main menu without buying a plan. I had to try over and over again on the website to make the purchase, and eventually, it would finally work after many attempts. Now, I'm getting ready to renew the plan again, and I noticed there is no option for "One Month Only" for $35, and only the "Automatic Renewal" plans are available. The only "One-Month Only" plan I see available is for $55. I know they're doing this to try and swindle more money out of their customers, but don't they realize how much this is pissing everyone off?! It just shows me they have terrible customer service. Guess what guys? This just went from a 4-star review down to a 3-star review. Keep it up and I'll keep removing stars.