Take your sports car on a rough country road, and no matter how good a car it is, chances are you won't go very fast. It's the same with the Netgear Zing.
This is the first 4G/3G mobile hot-spot router from the networking vendor, which up to now has been better known for making regular-size networking devices, such as the R6300 802.11ac router. The Zing is, for now, available only from Sprint, and Sprint's 4G LTE network is to some extent still in its infancy, both in terms of coverage and speed.
That aside, the new mobile router is one of the most advanced I've seen that comes with an interactive touch screen, a robust Web interface, and a mobile app for managing and monitoring it. In addition to supporting both 3G and 4G networks, it includes GPS functionality and a long-lasting battery, all housed in a solid and sturdy body.
In my testing around the San Francisco Bay Area, where Sprint hasn't officially launched its 4G LTE network, the Zing's performance was quite impressive. Much better than that of the similar Sprint MiFi 500 LTE from Novatel Wireless.
The device costs exactly the same as the MiFi 500 LTE, at $50 after mail-in rebate (a two-year contract required) and comes with the same three data plans of 3GB, 6GB, and 12GB costing $35, $50, and $80 per month, respectively. And this means there's no reason you shouldn't pick it over the Novatel counterpart.
Whether or not you should pick it over hot spots from other carriers, however, depends entirely on if you're happy with Sprint's current 4G LTE coverage. If you are, then for now the Netgear Zing is easily the best option if you want to bring fast Internet access to up to 10 mobile Wi-Fi-enabled devices at a time when you're out and about.
A little large but thin and very sturdy
Measuring 2.7 inches by 4.3 inches by 0.6 inch, the Zing is quite large compared with other hot spots such as the MiFi 500 LTE or the AT&T MiFi Liberate, but it's thin and small enough to be carried around easily. The device is also very sturdy, and feels very solid in the hand despite being made mostly of plastic.
On one side, it has two ports to support external antennas, a SIM card slot that support micro-SIM, and a Micro-USB port for charging with the included power adapter. You can also charge the device via a computer's USB port, and in this case it can also be used as a tethered modem to provide Internet access to the host computer. This is a good feature if your computer doesn't support Wi-Fi.
On the opposite side, there's a power button that you can press and hold to turn the device on or off, or press just once to wake it up from sleep mode. The device took exactly 30 seconds to boot fully boot up and be ready to provide Internet access.
The Zing's bottom opens up to reveal the battery bay, which holds a 2,500mAh lithum ion battery. This battery is more powerful than the MiFi 500 LTE's, and it's needed to power something the Zing has that the MiFi doesn't: a 2.4-inch LCD resistive color touch screen on top.
Full-access touch screen, robust Web interface, and a capable mobile app