Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot (Sprint) review: Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot (Sprint)

The router comes with a microSD card slot, located underneath its battery cover, to host storage to share between connected clients on the go. This is a nifty features for those who need to share documents and files between a group of travelers.

For security, the Tri-Fi Hotspot supports all variations of WEP, WPA, and WPA2 wireless encryption standards. It also offers Wi-Fi Protected Setup, a feature that quickly connects WPS-enabled clients to a Wi-Fi network.

Data plans and performance
I tried the Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot around the San Francisco Bay Area and was able to get consistent 4G coverage only within the city of San Francisco. In other cities, such as Oakland and Berkeley, most of the time I only had a 3G signal. At spots where the router was able to connect to Sprint's 4G network, its connections, while fast, weren't as fast as I've seen in others, such as the Jetpack 4620L from Verizon. Overall, the router's 4G speeds averaged at about 7Mbps for download and 1.4Mbps for upload. That's about the speed of a lower-tier cable broadband you have at home, which is very fast and enough for any hi-def media streaming. In fact I was able to stream multiple HD YouTube videos with no problem or lagging.

Note that at this download speed, you can go through the first tier of the data plan's included data cap in just about an hour. There are also two other data plans that cost $50 for 6GB and $80 for 12GB per month. The last plan is actually a better deal than what Verizon offers with the Jetpack 4620L, which is $80 for just 10GB. If you go over the limit, you'll have to pay another 5 cents for each additional megabyte. Note that these caps are applied to only when you use Sprint's 3G, 4G LTE and 4G WiMAX networks. The when you go off-network, the 3G portion of all of these data plans comes with just 300MB data cap and will cost another 25 cents per megabyte when you go over.

This wouldn't be a big deal if Sprint's 4G coverage were ubiquitous, which it isn't. Currently Sprint WiMAX is only available in select cities, and its 4G LTE network is expected to launch by the end of the year. This lack of coverage makes the Tri-Fi Hotspot more of a regular dual 3G/4G device, and its data plans even more expensive, comparatively.

As a mobile router, apart from the excellent battery life, the Tri-Fi also stayed very cool in my testing, even after extended operation.

Conclusion
The Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot is an excellent mobile router; however, the appeal is for now undermined by Sprint's spotty 4G coverage and expensive data plans.

CNET's cellular Internet speed (in kilobits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Download  
Upload  
Verizon VL600 UB Modem (4G)
12,288 
3,130 
Novatel Jetpack MiFi 4620L
1,0047 
9,845 
Clear 4G+ Appolo
9,235 
3,313 
Clear 4G+ USB Modem (4G)
9,216 
3,072 
Clear Spot Voyager
7,393 
2,259 
Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot
7,027 
1,440 
T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 (4G)
6,729 
2,440 
Verizon Five Spot (3G)
1,300 
700 
Sprint MiFi 2200 (3G)
1,000 
550 
Verizon MiFi 2200 (3G)
1,000 
500 

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Where to Buy See All

Sierra Wireless 4G LTE Tri-Fi Hotspot (Sprint)

Part Number: SWAC802
MSRP: $249.99 Low Price: $349.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Connectivity Technology wired
  • Weight 3.4 oz
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.