Get a CradlePoint mobile Wi-Fi hot spot for $99.99

Just one catch: It's BYO aircard. That can actually work out in your favor, though, especially if you pair the gizmo with a pay-as-you-go 3G service.

Pair this mobile Wi-Fi hot spot with the USB wireless card of your choice. Buy.com

I'm a huge fan of the Verizon MiFi 2200, a pocket-friendly 3G modem that doubles as a Wi-Fi hot spot. Just one problem: it locks you into a two-year contract with Verizon and costs a minimum of $40 per month--$60 if you opt for the unlimited-data 5GB data plan.

You can accomplish much of the same thing with the CradlePoint PHS300, currently on sale at Buy.com for $99.99 shipped. The only difference is, it's BYO wireless card.

In other words, you have to supply the modem; the PHS300 turns it into a secure Wi-Fi hot spot (for up to 16 users; the MiFi limits you to five). This may sound like more trouble than it's worth, but hear me out.

For starters, this is perfect for users who already have a wireless modem from, say, Sprint, and don't want to buy extra hardware from Verizon, sign on for two years, etc.

Even better, you could pair the PHS300 with Virgin Mobile's awesome Broadband2Go, a pay-as-you-go wireless modem that requires no contracts and has no monthly minimums. That's what I'm doing, and I'm loving every contract-free minute of it.

There are a few caveats, however. First, the PHS300 works only with USB modems, not the PC Card variety. (It can, however, pair with certain phones as well--see the complete list of supported devices on CradlePoint's product page.)

Second, the PHS300 is nowhere near as compact or elegant as the MiFi, and your modem sticks out awkwardly from one end. (You could always grab one of these 90-degree USB adapters, which would at least point the modem up instead of out.)

As I mentioned, I've been road-testing a PHS300 with Virgin's Broadband2Go, and they've made beautiful mobile-hot-spot music together. Granted, the initial outlay is a bit steep--$99.99 for the router, another $99.99 for the modem--but after that, you pay only for the Internet access you need. Not a bad solution at all.

By the way, the PHS300 (which lists for $179.99) earned an average of 4.5 stars from Amazon customers. It's a fine product, IMHO, and a decent bargain at $99.99.

 

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