Review: Verizon MiFi 2200 Portable WiFi Hotspot

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-4

There aren’t too many sweeter combinations of words to hear than “portable” and “hotspot.” Especially for mobile geeks enthusiasts like me. Imagine my excitement when Verizon Wireless announced their own-branded version of Novatel’s MiFi Intelligent Portable Hotspot, the Verizon MiFi 2200! A self-contained WiFi router that fits in my pocket? Yes please.

Tipping the scales at a scant 2.05 ounces and measuring a credit card-like 8.8mm thick, the Verizon MiFi 2200 Portable WiFi Hotspot is smaller than my laptop mouse. But, my mouse can’t broadcast its own WiFi network out to five separate WiFi devices while serving up data from Verizon’s 3G (EVDO Rev. A) data network.

The Verizon MiFi 2200 promises something like 4 hours of WiFi data connectivity for up to five WiFi-enabled mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, cameras, printers… you get the idea), with almost two days of stand-by time, thanks to that integrated Li-ion battery. But, can a 3G router barely bigger than a few stacked credit cards deliver near-broadband data speeds reliably and conveniently?

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-8

Verizon MiFi 2200 Portable Hotspot

By Novatel ($99.99)

Specifications:

  • WiFi (802.11 b/g)
  • microSD slot
  • microUSB port
  • Network: Verizon 3G (EVDO Rev. A) – Dual Band 800/1900Mhz CDMA
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.4 in (90 x 60 x 8.8 mm)
  • Weight: 2.05 oz

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-1Introduction

Portable 3G hotspots aren’t exactly new. But, until now, these solutions were basically full-sized WiFi routers with nothing more than a slot for your broadband data card. The MiFi Portable HotSpot does everything those clunky old 3G routers can do, but it shrinks everything down to the size of a really thick credit card – with an on-board operating system and integrated Li-ion battery to boot!

The Verizon MiFi 2200 pulls down data from Verizon’s 3G (EVDO Rev. A) data network, and serves it up via WiFi to connected WiFi devices. And it’s dead simple to setup.

I took the MiFi 2200 out of the box, taking a moment to admire its glossy shine that I knew would be very short-lived. I connected the MiFi to my computer with a microUSB-to-USB cable, installed the VZAccess Manager software that comes bundled on the MiFi’s on-board memory and, with one click, activated the MiFi 2200 on Verizon Wireless’s network. The power button glowed green to let me know that the MiFi 2200 was powered up and green signal indicator told me it was ready to do my bidding.

Usability

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-7Activating the MiFi 2200 was easy. Using the MiFi is even easier. There’s only one button – the backlit power button. There’s only one LED indicator light – it tells you when you’re connected to Verizon’s EVDO Rev. A network. The power button glows different colors to tell you that it’s charging, fully charged, almost out of power or when there’s an error.

To use the MiFi 2200 as a USB-tethered 3G modem, simply plug the MiFi into your computer’s USB port. The MiFi will automatically power up and lock onto Verizon’s network. Using the MiFi in USB mode requires you use VZAccess Manager to log onto Verizon’s data network. This isn’t as convenient as the WiFi mode, but allows you to turn off your computer’s WiFi radio to save battery power.

WiFi mode is the simplest way to use the Verizon MiFi 2200. Simply power up the device and connect your WiFi device to the MiFi. Network SSID and password are conveniently printed on the back of the MiFi.

The only way to get a more accurate read on your battery’s status, other than the “full,” “not full” and “almost dead” updates provided by the glowing power button, is to check the VZAccess Manager window or log into the router’s web interface. A physical battery meter somewhere on the MiFi 2200 would have been a nice feature.

The MiFi charges via microUSB (the new standardized charging port for all mobile devices). That means all you need to do is carry around a microUSB-to-USB cable and you’re set. Plug the microUSB cable into your car’s cigarette lighter adapter, home wall adapter, or your computer to charge the MiFi. Even better, you can charge the MiFi while using its WiFi!

Performance….continued

Performance

Data Speed
More important than the MiFi’s ease of use is its wireless performance. Does this credit card-sized 3G router really deliver decent  data speeds?

I wasn’t expecting too much out of the MiFi 2200. It’s just so darn small. To my surprise, however, the MiFi 2200 consistently served up data no slower than 1.7Mbps. If you don’t have any reception on Verizon’s network, you’re obviously not getting any data service. But, testing throughout much of Los Angeles showed that Verizon’s data network is capable of EVDO Rev. A speeds almost everywhere in the city. Latency was reliable at around 100ms.

At the time of this writing, the MiFi 2200 hit 2.6Mbps on the downlink with 0.51Mbps (510Kbps) on the uplink, with a 96ms ping time. Impressive, right? Well, even more impressive is that this kind of data speed wasn’t that big of a surprise, I’ve seen it a couple times before.

Put it this way, the MiFi 2200 can stream just about any video (like Hulu) without so much as a hiccup. Higher-resolution video streams (like Hulu HD) might cause a few hiccups, depending on the service in your area, but can usually stream without too much trouble.

Battery life
verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-12Battery life. What about battery life? At less than 0.5 inches thin, how could the MiFi 2200 last for more than a couple hours? Well, I have no idea how they do it, but Verizon’s MiFi 2200 manages a solid 4 hours of continuous use. I didn’t test it with four hours of continuous video streaming, but I’m sure it could manage just fine.

I rarely sit at any one place for more than four hours, so the Verizon MiFi 2200’s battery life is more than enough for me. But, harder-core road warriors might need more power – which is why Novatel designed the MiFi with a user-swappable Li-ion battery.

Stand-by times are pretty much what is quoted on the box. I’m not sure if its exactly 40 hours, but it’s definitely longer than a day and a half. Impressive!

Security… continued

Security

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-10Linux-based OS
The Verizon MiFi 2200 comes with an on-board Linux-based OS that is capable of running network management software on the device. I didn’t have a chance to test out this feature, but according to Novatel, the MiFi can natively host network security applications. That means system administrators won’t have to worry about installing network security applications on every corporate smartphone in the fleet – simply install the security software on the MiFi itself, and every connected WiFi device is protected and managed by that software. If I was a corporate IT director, I’d want to make sure that every mobile employee was issued a MiFi.

Changing SSID and password
The SSID and password are hard-coded to the MiFi. That poses some security risk, but I suppose the on-board security applications go a long way in protecting network security. Worse yet, the SSID and password are printed on the back of the MiFi. So, if it ever gets stolen, make sure you deactivate the MiFi post-haste!

I’m sure these are minor issues for most people, but corporate types might want to take note.

Overall… continued

Overall

The Verizon MiFi 2200 isn’t the only MiFi available in the US, so I can’t speak for all MiFi variants, but Verizon’s MiFi 2200 definitely delivers on all its promises. It truly is portable (my wallet is bigger than the MiFi 2200!). It delivers broadband-like data speeds on a reliable basis. Battery life is as long as claimed, but still leaves room for improvement.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had in using the MiFi is that, no matter where I’m working, everyone asks about the MiFi.  People ask me for access to my portable WiFi network, others just chat me up about the blinking plastic slab on my table. It can get a little annoying, but it’s a good problem to have!

verizon-mifi-2200-portable-hotspot-13Pros

  • Tiny package – very pocket friendly
  • Ample battery life
  • On-board Linux-based operating system capable of hosting native networking applications (useful for corporate ecosystems)
  • Removable battery for virtually unlimited uptime

Cons

  • No battery-charge meter (the battery status indicator doesn’t always cut it)
  • Can’t change password or SSID
  • Login credentials printed on back of device (security issues)
  • Exposed microSD card slot
  • Jesse Murphy

    Very nice article about the MiFi device – sounds like it is working really well for you. It is great to see other companies breaking into the mobile broadband market, there’s a lot of potential left to explore. More companies pushing the industry will help make it a widely recognized connectivity tool. CradlePoint Technology has been heading-up the market and perfecting their products for several years now. Their WiPipe technology and freedom to choose any provider cuts down on costs and enables users to access higher speed browsing, utilize a longer signal range (150’ plus), provide access to even more people and do it all with guaranteed security. Might be worth checking out if your looking for a more controlled way to stay connected.

  • PAUL

    Will,

    Like any other router, you can type 192.168.1.1 in your browser and access the MiFi’s configuration page. This is where you can change the password and SSID and several other settings.

  • William Crotts

    Was wondering what ways are there to charge it? and if you can charge while being used as wifi??

    • Will Park

      It charges via microUSB cable. You can use a wall adapter, car adapter, or your computer to charge the MiFi.

      • Scott Jones

        You can’t charge it from your computer while using it as a WiFi hotspot, unfortunately… hopefully that is a flaw that can be fixed by a firmware update.
        If you plug it into your computer’s USB port, it will act as a USB cell modem only.

        • Jplovett

          Can you charge it with it’s wall charger while using it’s WiFi capability?

      • SL

        I am highly suspicious as to whether you really tested this device.

        Lies
        ——
        1 – First, charging off “4 hours solid usage”, it barely gives less then 2 hours on conservative usage.
        2 – Charge off cigarette lighter. The firmware will not allow the device to be charged off a cigarette lighter, though it will power the device.
        3 – In the many times the speed was tested, I have NEVER achieved 2.6mbps. Even if this speed was achieved, its a rare thing to be over 1.8mbps. Average is under 1.5mbps.
        4 – Within one year I have had 3 different units due to the battery being over charged and burning up the battery.
        5 – The unit is incapable of waking up and connecting automatically when the power is connected (for example when the car engine is turned on). One has to manually wake it up.

  • Shea

    Thanks for the great writeup! I am definitely considering buying this after canceling my AT&T contract with the iphone last week. I still have the iphone, and have been surviving off free wifi signals and Skype to make calls but I have a feeling it won’t cut it. Now it seems like I can have the best of both worlds, wifi for in car calling and others using the internet, but also mobile 3G, and at a cheaper price than AT&T with WAY more flexibility. This seems like a no brainer…….

    • Scott Jones

      I’ve been using it since last week with a iPod Touch (unfortunately, 1st generation, so no built-in mic circuitry), and have been very pleased with it… I’m planning on getting a iPhone 3Gs next month in Spain (where I already have both a cellphone contract and a data contract, so with the iPhone 3Gs I’ll be able to save money by replacing a 35 Euro + 17% IVA (VAT tax) data line with a 15 or 25 Euro iPhone data plan… and they allow tethering in Spain!)
      With the MiFi 2200, I’ll be able to use the iPhone in the States with Verizon’s much better data network (although I’ll probably still use an old LG phone for voice calls)
      and not be stuck paying $70-$100 or more a month to ATT

      Until next year, when hopefully Verizon will have LTE up and running, and Apple will hopefully come out with a LTE version of the iPhone, the MiFi is the next best thing!

  • Holly

    Hi, I have a question about this device and I can’t find the answer anywhere! I’m hoping to use this device in my home to create a wireless network. (I live in a rural area where this is my only broadband option.) I can’t find the RANGE of the device anywhere. Will it cover a computer upstairs and two downstairs simultaneously or do all the computers need to be very close to the modem? Thanks for any clues!

    • Will Park

      I haven’t gone further than 40-60 feet from the MiFi at any time. The signal was strong all the way, but there weren’t any obstacles like walls getting in the way. I hope that helps!

    • Joho

      yea it should work all around the house, thats the way i use mine, i place it in one room and it works all over, very strong signal

  • Troy Hayes

    The MiFi 2200 was significantly slower than Sprint Mobile Broadband using a Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 (usb modem). I’ll be keeping the Sprint.

    • Scott Jones

      Did you do that comparison using it as a cellphone modem, or via WiFi?

  • Scott Jones

    The reviewer mentioned a micro-SD card slot, but the MiFi 2200 does not have one!
    That is only on the larger GSM/UMTS versions MiFi 2352 and the upcoming 2372…
    (which also have a extra 900MHz ARM processor).

  • Linda Odom

    I attempted to use this,never would hook up w/ my HP Q775.-did work w/ my 2 other computers. Tech support very poor thru Verizon, most of what I learned w/ blogs etc. Only 5G a month was simply not enough for us. I ended up reverting back to the Usb 720 and unlimited service(had to fight to get that back)

  • Josh Jones

    Yeah, that kinda stinks it can’t be used for wifi WHILE being charged off your laptop. I have a 2G iPhone I like to use its wifi on, but sometimes I need to charge it off my laptop on the road, and then only my laptop gets 3G internet (via the USB modem), and my poor old iPhone is stuck LIVING ON THE EDGE!

  • Vince Agusta

    MIFI is horrible. Did not connect with my Windows Vista Laptop as a WIFI. Would connect as a tethered device but not as a WIFI. Verizon support could not figure it out after 3 days and a instore technician review. I give them credit for trying but bottom line is they could not fix the issue. I expect any company to understand any issues with Microsoft software and be able to navigate throught them since their products are assumed to be working with MS. Anyway nice idea with MIFI but not functional. It appears to work with some computers and not others. Technician got a connection with his Windows XP laptop but could not connect with my Windows Vista Laptop.

    • Brian

      Just got off the phone with Verizon tech support and still no answer to the Vista compatability problem. I have 3 laptops (running 7, XP and Vista) and only Vista has a problem. My wireless printer and Ipod even hooked right up with the network. Great product, but my son has homework to do and can’t use his computer…. Not too happy…

    • Connie

      Just bought the MIFI today. Had trouble getting it activated and had to call Verizon support. It's working fine now, and I have Vista on my laptop and desktop It's also working great on our other laptop, which has XP. Whatever the issue was with Vista (and there's always an issue with Vista, it seems) it must have been cleared up in the time that's passed.

    • Timemaster315

      Did you try piggy backing on your computers WiFi? —Example—Turn the MiFi 2200 on. You can bring up the VZ aceess manager, but do not try to connect. Then, connect your computers own wifi and it should recognize the MiFI signal. If it does and your PC’s wifi is on, then try to connect with the VZ access manager, it should connect and will automatically turn off your PC’s wifi. After that it should automatically start when you rtuen your MiFi 2200 on as long as your Acess manager is on. I had that same problem you had and Customer service couldn’t figure it out, I discovered how to do that on my own. Good luck.

  • fondy44

    Have you had any problems charging it? Mine only seems to charge using the included AC adapter. I recently noticed this when the battery died after having been left connected all day to my iGo car charger using a USB tip/micro cable. The accessory outlet in my car gets constant power even with ignition switched off.
    I thought the problem might be with the iGo setup, so when I got it home I connected it to my iPhone’s AC adapter – still nothing.
    Very disappointing.

    • Will Park

      I noticed some inconsistent charging when using the USB cable and my computer. I don’t believe the MiFi can be charged and tethered at the same time.

      You might want to try using a different USB car charger.

  • BE

    I’ve had the MiFi for about two weeks. This device is awesome. No issues with battery life, turned off the SSID broadcast, so it will be hidden from most while traveling. I have not had any issues connecting the device to my MacBook Pro on either the Snow Leopard or XP partition and speeds are more than adequate. I was initially thinking of getting one of the many USB air cards, but decided I didn’t want a big USB stick hanging off the side of my computer. What I really like is that I can leave the MiFi in my briefcase and not have to worry about accidentally leaving it somewhere.

  • MSF

    So I was checking this out and thinking it would be pretty niffty to own one. My one question is though. Could it support online gaming on a console like the PS3? Would be a nice set up for roadtrips or other times I’m away from home and want to play online.

    • Bill Pryor

      You can use it for gaming but it would use up a lot of data. Best way to use your ps3 or any other gaming console is to tether your smart phone to your laptop. Be sure to have an unlimited data plan first. Then on your laptop create an ad hoc network. This allows other devices to connect to the internet via laptop’s ad hoc network. My MiFi is usually under 2mbps download the tether usually hits 2.5. Downside to tethering on verizon is that you get bumped off the internet when a call comes in. Once verizon is upgraded like att so we can be on the web while on a call that will change.

    • Lunar88

      nah it dont work dude

  • Frank

    The SSID and password are not hardcoded. Simply point your browser to the device (default IP is 192.168.1.1) and login (default password is admin). Then you can (and should) change the settings to suit your needs.

    For example, the default IP address conflicts with many of the wireless routers so I set mine to 10.0.0.1. You can also set the wireless security key to something hard to guess but easier to remember than the default key.

  • GMAN

    can i use the MIFI 2200 to play with my PS3? like cod?

    • greg stodard

      i dont think so i tried it and it didnt even connect to the net sadly

  • Amanda

    VERY satisfied with the MiFi 2200! Just installed it yesterday and we LOVE it! It’s fast, internet security is 100%, its compact and convenient… so far, we are looooving it! We have 3 laptops hooked up to it at once with no problems at all. Ours came with a USBcable AND a wall charger unit. Only thing we’re having a problem with is the fact that each time we shut down our laptops and power them back up, say, 4 hours later, it doesnt automatically connect… we have to power down the MiFi unit and restart it before our computers connect again. Im sure it’s an easy fix, and we are calling Best Buy tomorrow to get it figured out. DEFINITELY recommend it!

    • Bill Pryor

      sounds like you just need to save the network and set it to automatically connect when present. You probably already worked it out. How about data usage. If you are running several laptops are you using more than the 5gb for $60?

  • Russ

    I got the unllocked GSM version of this and was sorry to see there is no way to create a WiFi network using a laptop's wried internet (i.e. without any SIM card). The use case is this: check into hotel, connect PC to hotel Ethernet cable (wired) and somehow use Mifi to set up a hotspot, so my whole family could connect iTouch, smartphone, nook, etc. going through the Mifi and through the single wired broadband PC connection. Any devices do that?

    • Assdf

      Just get a wireless router/

  • Russ

    never mind i learned you can just set up local Wifi from your PC with Windows – ad hoc wireless connection – very cool.

  • Bethanyliz

    Does anyone know how to turn the MIFI off so that the battery doesn’t drain while it’s in off mode? Whenever I turn it off and then try to use it again the following day, it has no power and has to be connected to the usb port to recharge.

    • Timemaster315

      I just push the power button and hold it for a few seconds and it goes off, then the next day it comes right on again without charging, so if your battery is draining while powered off, then you may have an issue with the battery and may need to buy a new one.

  • A Gausepohl

    Does the MIFI stay charged or continue to charge while plugged into the laptop? With the work I do I need it to stay charged and functional for more than 4 hours almost daily.

    • Timemaster315

      It seems to stay charged for me. It should for you too.

    • Timemaster315

      It seems to stay charged for me. It should for you too.

  • tunnel rat

    can anyone out there tell me how to connect the cricket crosswave to a PS3 network please. signed novice

  • Georgiagirl8767

    I have a unlocked verizon mifi 2200. My iPad recognizes it but when I go to login to YouTube etc it keeps loading until it says cannot connect. Can anyone tell me what is going on.

  • Lauriegosch

    I’m wondering can anyone tell me how to get my hp wireless printer to work with the mi-fi 2200

  • Surftrotter

    We got this device and service about 6 months ago and it’s been a constant nightmare.
    First, they sell you a coverage package, which means you are subject to overages no one can ever quite
    substantiate. I was sold the median package of 5G per mont oft a household of 2 using Internet for a couple of hours per night. Salesman told me we’d have to benoine downloading movies 2x a
    day and
    playing video games
    constantly to exceed our limit. Well- according to mysterious ways of Verizon we went over ny 2 gigs and had to pay 20 plus tax for that every month even when I proved the device was shut off completely one month for 2 weeks while we were on vacation.

    Next, we could never is use the device at the same time. If one of us was on the other couldn’t get past log on because there wasn’t enough
    bandwith- ever.

    Next, someone in our neighborhood kept chaning put password which meant dozens of hours on the phone with tech support hanging the password every week.

    This mifi has been a nightmare. I’m out here seeming
    an alternative. I’m done with verizon.

  • janet

    CAN ANYONE TELL ME HOW COME IM THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN CONNECT THRU THE HOTSPOT WITH THE COMPANIES COMPUTER BUT NO ONE CAN STAY CONNECTED WITH THERE PERSONAL COMPUTER.  YOU GET ON AND THEN IT KICKS YOU OFF.  SAME AS IF I TAKE IT HOME.  IF IM USING THE COMPANIES LAPTOP I CAN STAY CONNECTED FOREVER BUT WITH MY OWN COMPUTER DOESNT LET ME.  WHATS THE DEAL?  ANYONE KNOW?

Back to top ▴