October 07, 2010, 10:13 PM — The scoop: Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, by Sprint (and Sierra Wireless), about $100 (after $250 rebate, plus $50 monthly data plan and two-year agreement).
What it is: Like the Mi-Fi and other mobile hot spot devices, the Overdrive combines a mobile Wi-Fi router with a 3G/4G wireless connection, this time via Sprint. The device can share the wide-area wireless connection (either 3G or Sprint's new WiMAX 4G) with as many as five other Wi-Fi devices. The Overdrive also has 16GB of storage space available for file downloads, and you can also tether the Overdrive to a single PC via a USB cable. GPS positioning is also supported, with some mapping apps that could help a mobile traveler find the closest ATM, gas station or other on-the-road location.
Why it's cool: The device has been out for a while, but with Sprint's recent coverage announcement of 4G in the Boston area, I had a better chance to test its speeds and play with the Overdrive device. The 3G/4G aspect is nice -- I only had 3G coverage at my home, but 4G coverage at work in Framingham, Mass., as well as in most of the Boston area (tough to find the coverage maps, as some sites weren't updated for Boston yet).
For 3G speeds, I got on average about 1.12 Mbps of download speed, and 270 Kbps upload rate. Not that hot, considering my broadband provided an average of 9M to 10 Mbps download and 1.06 Mbps upload.
But 3G is old news; how does it fare for 4G?
Testing from my Framingham-based office (with a 60% 4G signal strength), I was able to achieve an average 3.53 Mbps of download speeds, and 0.58 Mbps average for uploads. These are impressive rates for mobile travelers, and I would have likely received faster speeds if I was in metropolitan Boston.
Setup was simple; a one-button push provided the power and the very handy LCD displayed all the proper information about signal strength, which network I was on, and the Wi-Fi SSD. You can also modify the Overdrive settings (such as enabling GPS, or getting more information on signal strength, etc.) via a Web browser connection to the Overdrive.
Some caveats: The only downside is being limited to 4G coverage areas at the moment; for 3G speeds other options (hotel Wi-Fi, etc.) might be more attractive to the mobile traveler. At least until the end of the year, when Verizon says it will launch its LTE 4G service in 38 cities.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)
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