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Depending on where you live and work, it can seem like the Internet is everywhere. But sadly, a good Wi-Fi signal can be lacking when you need it most--and the days of open home–Wi-Fi networks are mostly gone, as even your mom has figured out how to lock down her network. But with Verizon’s MiFi in your pocket, you can access the Internet from just about anywhere.
At 3.5- by 2.3-inches, the MiFi is about the size of a credit card. It’s less than a half-inch thick and weighs 2 ounces, so it’s easy to carry everywhere. It’s essentially a Wi-Fi access point that connects to Verizon’s 3G network, and it has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Since it’s wireless and rechargeable, it doesn’t require a physical connection to your machine and works fine from inside your bag or a pocket. When used with a single computer, the MiFi’s battery lasts about 4 hours. You can easily share your Wi-Fi with up to five other devices, though battery life will take a hit with the increased data traffic.
Carrying around your own Internet connection is priceless--even if network congestion occasionally tarnishes the experience.
The MiFi puts the Internet in your pocket--as long as there's a strong 3G wireless data signal.
Using the MiFi is as simple as turning it on. The default network ID and password are on the bottom of the device, and you can edit settings via browser-based configuration pages. For road warriors, the MiFi can be tethered to your notebook computer, giving you an endless supply of Internet for as long as your laptop has power. The only drawback to this setup is that you can’t directly share your connection with additional devices while it’s tethered--although Mac users savvy enough to set up Internet Sharing can easily get around that limitation by creating their own network. Shhh--don’t tell Verizon you heard it from us.
As you can imagine, instant Internet anywhere is infinitely useful. That said, your experience will vary widely depending on how congested the 3G network around you is. Downtown San Francisco is notorious for being a miserable 3G black hole, due to the concentration of 3G devices. One recent afternoon, our download speeds varied anywhere from 134 to 786kbps. After a short hop across the bay, we were consistently getting download speeds around 1100kbps as we sat on the shore of Oakland’s Lake Merritt and finished this review in the sunshine. The volatility of Verizon’s 3G network certainly isn’t the MiFi’s fault, but it’s worth considering how and where you might use it prior to buying in.