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Clear Spot Voyager review: Clear Spot Voyager

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Clear Spot Voyager
8.0

Clear Spot Voyager

The Good

The tiny <b>Clear Spot Voyager</b> can provide Internet access to up to eight Wi-Fi devices at a time with fast 4G connection speeds, has good battery life, and comes with affordable unlimited data plans. The device immediately works as an Internet source when connected to a non-Wi-Fi computer.

The Bad

The Clear Spot Voyager doesn't support 3G, Wireless-N, text messaging, and doesn't have a clear battery life gauge. The mobile hot spot doesn't go into sleep mode, so the battery runs down relatively fast even when there are no connected clients.

The Bottom Line

Supercompact, affordable, and with fast performance, the Clear Spot Voyager would be a great mobile hot-spot device for those who live and travel within Clear's 4G coverage.

If you like Clear's Apollo mobile hot spot, you'll probably love the Clear Spot Voyager. The new mobile hot spot is relatively tiny, just about the size of a very large pebble, and can provide unlimited and fast 4G cellular Internet access to up to eight Wi-Fi clients. For computers, whether Mac or Windows, that don't have a built-in Wi-Fi client, the router also works as USB 4G modem when plugged into a USB port. The device's battery lasted a good while in my testing and it comes with unlimited data plans that start at just $35 per month.

The Clear Spot Voyager is not perfect, however, lacking a clear battery life gauge and the support for 3G, making it useless when out of areas with 4G coverage. For its price of around $125 (no contract required), however, it will make an excellent investment for those who live and travel within Clear's 4G coverage. If you travel more widely and want a 4G device that also supports 3G, which is more ubiquitous, I'd recommend the T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot.

Design, ease of use, and features
The new Voyager is just about a fifth of the physical size of the Apollo, while offering almost all its functions.

On one side of the Voyager is a tiny power button that you need to press and hold for a few seconds to turn the device on or off. There are also three tiny LED dots that change from green to amber to red to show the status of power, the Wi-Fi network, and the 4G network. And that's all you have if you want to know about the condition of the device. For example, the power LED shows solid green when the battery is full, amber when there's about 50 percent left, and red when the battery is about to run out. While this is helpful, it would be better to have a gauge that showed the level of the battery more precisely.

On another side, the Voyager has a microSD port for charging. The router comes with a standard microSD cable and can be charged via an adapter (included) or via a computer's USB port. When plugged into a computer running Windows Vista or later, or Mac OS 10.6 or later, apart from charging, the Voyager also instantly becomes an Internet source, much like when you connect the computer to an Ethernet port, without any software required. A Windows XP computer, however, will require driver software that can be downloaded from Clear.

I noticed that the Voyager can work both as a modem (when plugged into a computer) and a Wi-Fi router at the same time. If you want to use it just as a modem, the Wi-Fi network can be turned off via its Web interface.

On the bottom of the Voyager, along with the chart that shows the meanings of the indicator LED lights, you'll find the default Wi-Fi network and its encryption key. With this information, all you need to do is turn it on and you are all set. There's no other setup required to use the device.

If you want to further customize the Wi-Fi network and use other features of the router, you can access its Web interface by pointing a Web browser on a connected computer to its default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1. (the default log-in password is "admin.")

The Web interface also offers more in-depth information on the router's status, including a more detailed battery life indicator, the exact number of connected Wi-Fi clients, and so on. It also allows for some other basic routing functions, such as port forwarding and firmware updates.

Data plans and performance
I tried the Clear Voyager around the San Francisco Bay Area and was able to get 4G coverage almost everywhere, as with a cell phone. The router offered data speeds ranging from 500Kbps to around 10,000Kbps for download and 300Kbps and 3,500Kbps for upload. As with all mobile routers I've tested, the cellular data speeds of the Voyager fluctuated a great deal; in the end, it averaged around 7,200Kbps down and 2,200Kbps up, which were very fast though not the fastest I've seen. At these speeds, the tiny router can finish downloading a 10GB HD movie in less than 2 hours. You can download as many movies as you want, by the way, as, again, the device's unlimited data plans start at $35 per month. (According to Clear's Web site, its higher-priced data plans offer higher ceiling speeds and more mobile options.) Comparatively, this is the best deal on the market, as most, if not all other providers only offer limited data plans that cap at 10GB per month and cost much more than $35.

As a Wi-Fi router, the Voyager supports the 802.11g standard that caps at 54Mbps. While this doesn't affect the sharing of Internet access, it means the router is not fast enough if you want to share data between clients. However, the router makes up for this by offering very good battery life, around 7 hours in my testing. I did notice, however, that it won't automatically go into sleep mode when there's no connected client, which means no matter how often you use the router, 7 hours are about the most you can get from it, unless you turn it off when you don't need a connection. Other routers, such as the Apollo, would go into sleep mode when idle, making the actual battery life potentially much longer when used sporadically.

All things considered, I was happy with the Voyager's performance. In fact it was impressive for how small the device is.

Cellular Internet speed (in Kbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Download  
Upload  
Clear 4G+ Apollo
9,235 
3,313 
Clear 4G+ USB Modem (4G)
9,216 
3,072 
Clear Spot Voyager
7,393 
2,259 
T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 (4G)
6,729 
2,440 
Verizon Fivespot (3G)
1,300 
700 
Sprint MiFi 2200 (3G)
1,000 
550 

Conclusion
The Clear Spot Voyager is an excellent source of Internet access for those living and travelling within Clear's 4 coverage. Since there's no support for 3G networks, it's useless if you travel elsewhere, however.

Clear Spot Voyager
8.0

Clear Spot Voyager

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8