Priced at $400 without a contract ($170 with a one-year contract or $100 with a two-year contract), the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot isn't affordable, especially when you consider the data plans. There are two of them: either you pay $40 for 250MB a month or $60 for 5GB month. Considering some cell phone plans give you unlimited data for just around $30 a month or the $50 unlimited data plan of Boost, these are rather expensive. There's no option to have an unlimited data plan, either, which means you will have to pay extra (5 cents and 10 cents per MB for the $60 and $40 plans, respectively) if you go over the limit.
However, as a mobile broadband router, the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, which is manufactured by Novatel, is an excellent product. It's a tiny device that offers instant Internet access to up to five Wi-Fi devices, virtually anywhere in the United States. This is the first of its kind that we've reviewed and we really liked it. If you travel for business in a group of five or less, this superportable router will come in handy.
Design and ease of use
Just slightly larger than a credit card and about five times as thick, the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot is tiny and attractive. You can even keep it in your wallet, though we wouldn't recommend sitting on it.
On top, the device has a big power button that also works as a power light and battery indicator. This light is solid green when the device is turned on, red when the battery is low, and flashing green when it's charging. The light is almost too bright, though, which is nice in some cases but could be annoying if you want to keep the room dark.
On the right side, there's a Micro-USB port that accommodates the included wall charger or USB cable.
The MiFi 2200 ships with a small user manual booklet, but chances are you won't need to read it. You need only to connect the device to a computer using the included USB cable and you're almost set to go. When you connect for the first time, the MiFi's self-contained software will launch by itself and start the VZAccess Manager application. It then takes just a few clicks to activate the MiFi 2200. The MiFi will charge when it's connected to a computer.
After activation the MiFi 2200 will work as a modem when it's connected to a computer, or a router when disconnected. In modem mode with the VZAccess Manager software, it provides an Internet connection to only the computer to which it is physically connected. In router mode, however, it automatically connects itself to the Internet and shares that connection wirelessly to up to five other Wi-Fi devices. This mode works just like any other wireless router and clients can just pick up its signal automatically.
The default network name (SSID) and the default encryption key are printed on the bottom of the device. In case you have changed those and forgotten the information, there's also a little reset hole on the bottom of the device that brings it back to its original default settings. So generally, once the simple setup process is done, all you have to do is turn the MiFi on and you're ready to go.
Given its tiny size, we didn't expect many features from the MiFi 2200 and were happy with what it has to offer.
By default, the router's Web interface is easily accessible by pointing the browser to this address: 192.168.1.1. Here you'll find regular features including the capability to change the SSID, the encryption key, the default gateway IP address, and so on. Other than that, we were impressed to find Port Forwarding, which is an advanced feature that allows for setting up special Internet applications such as an FTP server, an HTTP server, or a remote desktop connection. The Web interface itself was well organized and responsive, and works with any browser.
For security, the MiFi 2200 features both WEP and WPA encryption. It also gives the option to filter wireless clients via their MAC addresses. This is convenient when using handheld devices, such as VoIP phones, where you don't want to have to fiddle with typing in the encryption key.
The Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot supports up to five concurrent Wi-Fi devices. Obviously, we'd like to see it support more, but considering its size, this number is fair. Its range is limited to around 30 feet, which is short compared with any regular wireless router, but again, this is not a surprise considering the device's tiny size.
Supporting the older Wireless-G standard (that caps at 54Mbps), the MiFi 2200's wireless LAN throughput performance was around 5Mbps in CNET Labs' tests (compared with the average 20Mbps of most regular-size Wireless-G routers). This speed is not suitable for transferring a large amount of data between network computers. However, it's still fast enough to share the Internet connection.
In our Internet connection tests, the MiFi 2200 offered around 1,000Kbps download and 500Kbps upload. These speeds reduced slightly when we used it indoors. Nonetheless, these are about the same as the speed of a budget-DSL connection, which is fast enough for general Internet needs, including streaming non-HD multimedia content.
During heavy use, the MiFi's battery life lasted for about 3.5 hours. However, when we used the Internet intermittently; it lasted much longer, up to 8 hours or even more. Verizon said that the device's standby time is rated up to 40 hours and 4 hours of usage. The device takes a couple of hours to fully charge from completely dead.
We tried the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot in both New York and around the San Francisco Bay Area, both indoors and outdoors, and the coverage was consistently good. We were able to connect from every location we tried.
On the whole, considering its tiny size, we were happy with the MiFi 2200's performance. Of course, we wished it supported more devices at a time, offered Wireless-N (which caps at 300Mbps) performance, had a longer range, and, most of all, offered more affordable data plans.
Service and support
Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot has a one-year warranty for the hardware. It comes with the same support Verizon offers for cell phones, which is 24-7 technical phone support. There is also a section of its Web site dedicated to the MiFi 2200 to help you get started and troubleshoot any problems.