Most helpful critical review
101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
Just what we needed for Internet access on travel, BUT...
on August 29, 2012
Our checkered experiences with this device are covered in four parts. The first sad story is presented in the review referred to below. The second, successful act follows this introduction. The third act, also a failure, can be found in the addendum below. The fourth act was successful after a warranty replacement. In fairness to Verizon, we note that about 68 out of 72 people found this review helpful during the four-star, "act 2" success phase. Any responses since then are logged by the review through act 4.
The Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (NO CONTRACT) is exactly the device needed for maintaining Internet contact on our vacation. We bought it from Verizon, because Amazon did not sell the no-contract version at the time we bought it. In fact, that is a separate, sad story, detailed in a review of the first unit (contract-only) we actually bought from Amazon. [see http://www.amazon.com/review/R2IZ4M1KI2J69F/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B005EN6FUM&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag= ]
Act 2. Setup of this device was fairly straightforward. However, there were a couple of rough spots. First, the unit only has a single multi-colored LED for operational status feedback. There are four colors (dark green, light (lime) green, yellow, and purple), and the LED can be either flashing or steady. The mysteries of this light are partly explained by a helpful table in the manual, but there is a key omission from the table: the light will be flashing green when the unit is turned off and connected to the charger. The unit has a simple LED display, and it surely would be nice to have a set of 1-word status codes instead of or in addition to the complicated LED. Second, we had to call technical support to get activated and connected. The instructions online were not quite complete enough to enable us to do the required steps without personal assistance. The support call was short-- about 10 minutes-- and polite & efficient.
Operation of the device over our two week vacation was flawless. Connections were fast enough and always available, even though our coverage area in the Finger Lakes area of New York State only had 3G service. On the basis of Internet service alone, the only slight criticism we have is that the service is a bit expensive for a given amount of data. On the plus side, the weekly ($15 for 7 days/250 MB, currently) or monthly access plans are just what we needed for infrequent travel usage.
Some hints we would have appreciated might help you. First, make sure you buy the no-contract unit, if that is what you want. The exact same model number is used for the contract-only unit! Second, we'd recommend activating and getting familiar with the device before you need it on a trip. Having separate internet access during the setup process would help. Third, be aware of the amount of data your computer uses for various operations. The weekly allotment of 250 MB seems like a lot, but... More than half of our first week's data allocation was used before we realized it: by Windows Update! Turn off the Windows Updates, or switch them to manual. Other companies' updates can be similarly expensive, such as Adobe's Reader or Flash. Also, if you are a "mad browser", and usually use DSL or cable with unlimited data, you might be surprised how the big sites eat your data budget. CNN's home page uses about 7 MB (much of it ads). No problem for modest browsing, but only ~30 pages on big sites is enough to use most of the data limit. Forget streaming audio or video. Finally, to monitor your usage, Windows' wireless connection "Status" tells you how many "packets" have been transferred. One packet is about 2000 bytes, so 250 MB is about 125,000 packets.
In summary, this device performs its task very well. Four stars if you actually get the right item and have success getting it connected.
Act 3. Unfortunately, this year's vacation was Internet-free. Thinking all the snafus were behind us, we purchased some minutes and proceeded to test the JetPack. Alas, no connection. So, back to tech support. Found out that our account had been cancelled due to inactivity and the number resold. Verizon set up a new account and issued a new phone number. The device still wouldn't initialize. We tried three times over the next 24 hours, the last time from departures at the airport. Once we arrived on vacation, tech support eventually assigned still another account and phone number. No go. Their next suggestion was to buy a new SIM card. No improvement. The final suggestion by tech support (in this phase) was to send the device to Novatel, the manufacturer, for warranty repair.
Act 4. A little over 3 weeks later, we received a replacement unit. Getting the account set up and activated took about 40 minutes of customer service time (by this time I was afraid to take any step on my own). The service has been working very nicely for a couple of days. We're currently in a Gen4 area, and the download speeds are between 1.8 and 4.3 Mbps. Upload times are between 2.3 and 2.7 Mbps. Very nice.
I assume that these devices work more often than not, but can't prove it. For us, it was a major effort for only a little service. Combining acts 1-4, three stars. If you need it and are lucky, it's great. If you aren't lucky, the experience could be a major hassle. Good luck.
Used this MIFI to save $$$ when staying at a meeting hotel in Denver. Hotel charges $16 per day for Internet access (at comparable speed; heavy data use would change the cost comparison). We were able to have access for 7 days for $20. Refueling the device for 7 days' use was as easy as it should be. Signed on to account, clicked on the option for a refill, and it worked. Performance in downtown Denver was excellent. Once in awhile, it switched between 3G and 4G (according to system loading?), but mostly 4G. Worked fine for browsing and email. No problem with access whenever we wanted it.