The T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot is just slightly larger than the previous version, the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot ZTE MF61 . To make up for this, it supports T-Mobile's faster 4G data speeds of up to 42.2Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up, which was first introduced with T-Mobile's Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick .
This doesn't mean the router necessarily offers better cellular data speeds at all times, however. In fact, in our testing around the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sonic was, on average, actually slightly slower than the ZTE MF61. But the truth is that the speed of a cellular connection varies a great deal from one location to another, and we find the Sonic's performance, though not as stellar as we wanted it to be, acceptable. It's fast enough for basically any Internet applications.
Similar to other T-Mobile mobile access devices, the Sonic offers concurrent Internet access for up to five Wi-Fi devices and comes with limited data plans; when the caps are reached, the device's connection speed will be significantly throttled for the rest of the month. All things considered, at $100 (after discounts, rebates, and with a two-year contract), the T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot will make a very good investment for those who travel frequently. If you're looking for a 4G device that comes with a more affordable and unlimited data plan, we'd also recommend that you check out the Apollo from Clear .
Design, ease of use, and features
The T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot has a candy bar design, with a sleek casing that measures just 4.02 by 2.2 by 0.61 inches. It's also very light at just 3.88 ounces. On one side, the devices has a power button that you need to press and hold for a few seconds to turn it on or off, and a WPS button, which allows you to add wireless clients to its Wi-Fi network.
The device has a tiny OLED display on the top that manages to show all important information, including a battery gauge, cellular connection status/signal strength, and the number of connected Wi-Fi clients. The display turns itself off after a few seconds but will come up immediately with a quick press on the power button.
The bottom of the device can slide open to reveal the 2,200mAh battery. The device ran for 7 to 9 hours during our testing, depending on how heavily we were using the Internet. That's actually one of the best battery life scores we've seen among mobile routers of this size, thanks to the router's smart standby mode that puts the router to sleep when there's no connection and immediately brings it back on when there's a data request. In our trials, the router's battery can actually last for days when used sporadically. With other mobile hot spots we've seen, you have to manually bring it out of standby mode by pressing on the power button before you can use it again.
Near the battery are the SIM slot and a microSD slot that can host a card (not included) of up to 32GB. At one end, the router has a Micro-USB port that both charges the device (a cord is included) and allows you to connect it to either a PC or Mac, so it can be used as a tethered modem. When connected to a computer, the router also charges the battery and acts as a card reader.
When the battery bay is opened, you'll also find a label with the device's default wireless network and the encryption key printed on it. With this information, all you need to do is turn the router on, connect Wi-Fi clients to the default network, and you're set. As long as you're within T-Mobile's coverage, you're connected to the Internet.
The router's Wi-Fi network's settings, as well as other settings can be change via its Web interface. To access this, from a connected computer, juts point the browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1. The default password to log in is admin.
The Sonic's Web interface also enables users to send/receive text messages and manage the microSD card. You can choose to make the card work in the USB mode (when the router is connected to a computer) only or in WebShare mode, which allows any connected clients to access data stored on it via a browser. This is actually a great feature, which worked well in our trials, for those who want to share data while on the go.