"Good initially, but poor long-term quality"1.0 starson by _Alistair
Pros: -Fast download & upload speeds
-External antenna port
-Ability to disable 3G stepping
Cons: -Power button is awkward
-Constantly going dormant in areas of good signal
-Battery drain quirk that causes the battery to deplete when plugged in in certain situations
-Internet connection sometimes will not work, even if it says it's connected
Summary: For a little bit of background, I live in Amish country, where AT&T owns the rights to provide us with landline DSL, but refuses to do so. We initially had a Huawei EC228 on Alltel's truly unlimited 3G data plan and relied on sharing that connection with the entire house through Windows' Connection Sharing feature. Because our area was a part of Verizon's Alltel buyout, we became Verizon customers, and we were allowed to continue our truly unlimited 3G data plan through them. However, last year, we received a notice stating that we would not be able to continue our unlimited plan, and we would need to upgrade to one of their new 4G data plans with limited data. Needless to say, we did not do so. And apparently many other customers didn't either, as the deadline came and went, and we were eventually offered our unlimited plan back, but on 4G. We were strong-armed into upgrading to a 4G device, as Verizon stopped supporting (or started blocking, rather) Alltel devices. So we chose this hotspot after reading rave reviews about it.
The main reasons we bought it were because of USB tethering and the external antenna port. I frequently use the USB tethering when in a public place, as I turned off the password for when the device is at home. We also have an external antenna on our roof, which we used for the Huawei EC228, and it really helps with signal. Another feature I discovered when I was messing around in the settings to enable USB tethering was an option to disable 3G stepping (stepping down to a 3G connection if "there is no 4G connection available"). I decided to turn that off, after I noticed the connection would drop to 3G at times, even if there was a good 4G connection.
The interface is fairly decent. To get started, turn on the screen by pressing the power button for a short moment. Holding it down will turn the device off. From there, press the check key to go to the menu. Each sub menu will have an appropriate icon and label, just cycle through them with the arrow keys and use the check key to enter. Use the Home option to return to the home screen. Easy enough.
The hotspot was incredibly fast, too. Much faster than the internet at university. I would frequently get upwards of 1MB/s (not a megabit, but a megabite). This, with our unlimited data plan, was great for online games where latency wasn't too much of an issue. Uploads were similarly fast, and I could upload videos to Mediafire in minutes, depending on file size.
The device has an alright build quality to it. Nothing great, but not exactly poor, either. Material-wise, it kind of feels like a Palm Pre with a less-soft Touchstone back (a matte plastic that isn't too rigid), and a much more rigid glossy-plastic front (without the Oreo-effect, of course). The buttons do feel really cheap, especially with the plastic "chrome" finish they chose. The power button, in particular, doesn't feel that great. It has an awkward size and shape that isn't easy to press. It's almost flush with the bezel, which can make it hard to tell where it's at by touch.
However, despite the device's good initial quality, it fails to maintain that quality throughout the its life. Having owned the device for more than five months now, I can suffice to say that even though it offers some great features, a decent interface, and blazing speeds, even in a rural environment, the device is simply not worth it.
First off, the device has a battery discharge quirk. This usually happens during periods of poor weather. What happens is when the device is plugged in, the battery will continue to discharge because the amount of power the device is using to maintain signal outweighs the amount of power it's drawing in from the USB port. When the battery gets close to being completely drained, the device will refuse to connect, and will need to be recharged without being turned on. This is incredibly problematic, as it's constantly raining in my area.
The connection speed has also slowed down significantly, almost to a crawl, most of the time. We do have periods where the connection is fantastic, but now they are few and far between. Sometimes, the connection drops completely, even if the device still thinks it has a 4G connection.
In addition to that, the device tends to go dormant, even in times of good connection. On top of that, it likes to stay dormant, and not come out of that state. When that happens the device needs to be power cycled in order for it to connect again.
I've also experienced poor Wifi signal with this device. Admittedly, this may be due to Wifi interference, and because the device isn't meant for long-range connections, but as a device that's supposed to provide internet to our entire house, this is a major con.
But overall, couldn't recommend this device to anyone. While it's a good device initially, it becomes practically unusable after a few months time.
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