My {Unsolicited} Review of The Virgin Mobile MiFi Hotspot

MiFi2200 300x203 My {Unsolicited} Review of The Virgin Mobile MiFi HotspotRemember several months ago, when I was debating whether or not to get an iphone?

I am a Mac-lover, so it was a natural inclination. But after a lot of back-and-forth, I finally decided against it for two main reasons:

1. Cost – Getting the iphone (or any smart phone for that matter), would mean jacking up my current cellphone contract about 4-fold.

2. Usability – I know people are on the Internet with their iphones all the time, but what I want to be able to do mobility-wise is research, write and upload blog posts. And frankly, I can’t see accomplishing all that with just my thumbs.

Instead, I realized that what I really needed was a wireless 3G Internet “stick”. So my husband and I did some research. Unfortunately, we were turned off by the costs – and the monthly contracts.

Plus, we like to road-trip, which is probably when we’d most need the wireless – but so many of the devices have lousy coverage when you’re out on the (back)roads.

We had all but given up on finding a functional and frugal solution to online portability when I remembered Virgin Mobile.

Now, I’ve had Virgin Mobile on the brain for a while, since if we ever do switch to a smartphone, I’m fairly convinced it’ll be with VM.

They have THE lowest monthly plans for smartphones – as inexpensive as $25 per month for unlimited text and data plus 300 talk minutes… and all their plans are pay-as-you-go. No contract, no two-year gotcha.

I had assumed that Virgin Mobile’s deals only extended to the Android smartphones, but I happily discovered that they also have BroadBand to Go plans.

Here are their two broadband-to-go options as of now:

1.     The Novatel Ovation MC760 for $79.99. It’s a little stick that you plug into your device’s USB outlet.

2.     The MiFi 2200 for $149.99. This is the one we got – only it was on sale for $124.99 when we bought it. Basically, it’s a little gizmo slightly bigger than a credit card that creates a wireless hotspot for up to five devices.  Since both DH and I like to bring our laptops on the road, we thought this one might come in handy if we both wanted to be online at the same time.

We bought the MiFi right before our recent trip to Houston. It arrived within 5 business days (we ordered it on a Friday and got it on a Wednesday). Once you receive the device, you do have to set up your useage plan with VM over the phone – but that only took my husband about 15 minutes.

So how did it work out for us? Better than I could have hoped! Seriously, it was just about perfect – and I don’t say that lightly. Here are my favorite aspects of the MiFi.

:: Flexibility – Virgin Mobile only has pay-as-you-go plans. Sign up for 100 MB, 500 MB or unlimited MBs. We went with the 500 MB plan for our 5-day trip to Houston, since we planned for the passenger to use the drive-time for working. We ended up using about 2/3rd of our allotted download, so I think we planned well.

:: Cost – It was a bit of an investment to get the MiFi, but since we only paid for the service we needed, it ended up being far less expensive than comparable options with AT&T, Clear or Verizon.

:: Connectivity / Range – One of us worked pretty much the whole time from KS to TX and back (yeah, we like to party it up on our vacations!). In all that time, we only dropped coverage three times – and each time for less than 5 minutes. And no offense to the good people of southern Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas, but it’s not exactly like those are super populated areas with a plethora of cell phone towers. VM uses the Nationwide Sprint 3G network. Click here to check coverage in your area.

:: Speed – The MiFi promises a much slower speed than what we get at home with Time Warner’s “Turbo Boost” plan, but I’ll tell you what: There was virtually no difference in load time at home vs. on the road. Now, sometimes, it did get a big boggy – and oddly enough, the worst of that was around Oklahoma City. But for the majority of the time, it was smooth sailing!

The only real “minus” that we experienced with the MiFi was Battery Life. It’s advertised to last up to five hours. But we only got around two hours before it petered out and needed to be plugged in. Of course, who knows about optimal conditions and blahblahblah. Fortunately, we’ve got an inverter for our cigarette lighter, so we were able to charge up the MiFi along with the GPS.

If you’re looking for a device that will let you be mobile, without requiring you to type with your thumbs – or empty out your bank account for the next two years – I HIGHLY recommend checking out the Virgin Mobile MiFi.

Disclosure: This review was completely and totally unsolicited. VM has no idea who I am, and they sadly didn’t comp me anything to write this review. I am just so pleased with both the functionality and the frugality of this little gizmo that I had to run out and share the news with my peeps!

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  1. I’m glad you discovered the VM plans. I’m a fellow Mac lover, but Hubby & I have Android phones because we couldn’t pass up the great monthly (no contract) price!

  2. I see the clear rover seems to be less expensive? $99 for the hardware and $45 for unlimited?

    Chaya

  3. Any new observations after a few more months? I am hoping to try the exact same thing with my new iPod Touch. We use the wifi on the iPod at home and at work just fine. We also use the Line 2 app, and use it as a phone. But the times on the road or on trips, I have missed using the apps and phone since there’s no wifi connection. Virgin Mobile seems to still have the best prepaid monthly Mifi deal. So I’m glad to read your observations–thanks! Any other thoughts are a while?

    • Dianne – Thanks for asking! We continue to be really pleased with it. The lack of access in certain areas does present a bit of a problem on road trips and the speed isn’t nearly as fast as I’ve gotten used to at home, but it definitely does the trick. I don’t know that I would want to rely on this as my full-time WiFi solution, but when I’m traveling, it’s really great and I’m sure we’ll use it again this coming summer on our vacation. And yeah, their prices can’t be beat!

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