On AT&T’s network, MiFi has been a myth, a legend, a fictional story that you can tell your children. It almost seemed as though AT&T was at odds with these clever new devices, or at least it was pushing a mild anti-MiFi agenda for some reason. CDMA foes Sprint and Verizon (heck, even Virgin Mobile) have offered MiFi devices for some time now, leaving the GSM brothers in the dark.
Welcome to the MiFi revolution, AT&T. Seemingly sick of being left behind by its competition, AT&T has introduced its customers to the wonders of MiFi, a mobile hotspot reminiscient of a hockey puck that allows you to connect up to 5 devices wirelessly to AT&T’s data network all at once.
All of this may seem laughable, considering 2 other MiFi devices were announced at CES a few weeks ago that offer access to 4G speeds on both Sprint’s and Verizon’s networks; the brand-new AT&T MiFi, also known as the Novatel 2372, is only capable of HSDPA 7.2 Mbps speeds.
Keep in mind, however, that this shouldn’t come as a shock since it’s the introductory MiFi device, and at the time of release AT&T wasn’t focused on launching any 4G devices period. The closest any data device got to 4G was an LG USB stick that’s upgradeable to LTE once that network is deployed.
But now that we’re seeing several 4G-capable phones and laptop cards announced for AT&T, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we soon see MiFi devices sporting the same speeds. Heck, the carrier even announced earlier that its forthcoming HTC Inspire 4G will have a mobile hotspot starting February 13, so why not offer a similar service on a MiFi as well?
It’s not unreasonable to question the logic of purchasing a 3G MiFi when 4G is knocking on AT&T’s door. But even with that in the back of my head, how was my experience with the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2372 with AT&T? Read on to find out.
I’ve been waiting a long time to see AT&T come up with a MiFi solution. Laptop cards are SOOO 2009, after all. Not to mention it gets frustrating only being able to get data for one device at a time, and having to install special software onto each device I wanted to use the laptop card on. Unlocked MiFi devices have been available as a cool workaround way to operate a mobile hotspot on AT&T’s network for a while now, but only at full retail price, without contract.
So I was definitely excited to see the Novatel 2372 come out on the network with specific AT&T frequencies and available for either full retail or a subsidized price for those who for sure will need the device for 2 years and want to save some money.
Inside the box there is a standard quickstart guide with a full wall charger (not the new charging modules with USB ports as we see on most smartphones now), dedicated USB cable, and the actual unit itself. On the unit I found all the instructions I needed to get the MiFi charged and ready to broadcast a signal.
Setting up the MiFi was easy enough to do, and I was working off the network in no time. It couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly, because my home internet was down most of the night (sure love paying premium prices for that privilege too. I’m not bitter though) and my wife was really hoping to watch Netflix before turning in for the night. Easy enough problem to solve: I got her hooked up with the MiFi connection and her Netflix was flying in just a few minutes.
In this scenario, my new MiFi unit was worth its weight in gold at first impression. Did it hold up over the course of my review?
Speeds of the Novatel MiFi 2372
Usually I save the device’s performance to the very end of the review, but this is the most important part of the MiFi analysis. If it doesn’t offer decent speeds, the 2372 isn’t worth getting, much less for a 2 year contract.
My experience was great with the 2372. I consistently saw speeds between 3-4 Mbps down and around 1.0-1.2 Mbps up, which for my neck of the woods is great. I’ve read reports of people in other areas getting 4-5 down. For a 3G-only MiFi, this is top-notch speed and certainly worked for my needs. Don’t get me wrong — I love speed and want to access the net with the fastest speeds possible, and I want to upload my videos as quickly as I can. But I never had to complain about the network going too slow, especially given the recent trouble my landline internet provider has been to me. I actually have been getting faster down/up speeds than those guys.
The Novatel 2372 has a theoretical peak speed of 7.2 Mbps on AT&T’s HSPA network, but it’s extremely rare and the planets have to align to achieve these speeds. In fact, 4 Mbps is still considered above average performance. For a 3G-only device, it worked to my satisfaction.
Performance of the MiFi 2372
Speed of the Mifi 2372 aside, there were other aspects of the device’s performance that left me somewhat concerned.
Setting up the MiFi onto my wireless devices was very easy, and I was up and running within only a couple minutes. One of my first tests, however, involved uploading a video to YouTube. Everything was going fast enough to my satisfaction for having 1 Mbps upload speeds, until the MiFi just mysteriously shut off halfway through the process. After some fiddling around, I realized that the 2372 was incredibly hot. The overheating obviously shut down the MiFi so that it could cool down.
Overheating happens with most electronic devices; it’s the nature of the beast, unfortunately. My concern is that it happened so quickly. Within 45 minutes of seemingly standard use, the MiFi was crippled.
On another occasion, the MiFi worked well for around 2 hours before turning off again. It wasn’t hot this time — it just appeared to stop getting internet service until I reset the device. The only difference this time is that I had the MiFi plugged directly into the wall. While there are settings to turn the MiFi off automatically after a certain period of non-use to save battery life, I had been actively using the MiFi connection the entire time.
Those were the only 2 issues I had with the 2372. Every day after that, the MiFi unit worked perfectly without any hiccups, even for an extended period of use.
Either way, I’ve been perfectly happy with the MiFi, as long as it’s been working.
A side note about plugging in the MiFi: if you plug it directly into the standard wall charger that comes in the box, you can charge the MiFi and broadcast a signal at the same time. However, when I first tried using the MiFi I had it plugged into the USB data cable instead. Since the cable had the data pins inside, it would not allow the 2372 to broadcast. This will be important to know when using the 2372 for the first time.
Setting up the Novatel MiFi 2372
Haven’t been scared off yet? Let’s look deeper into how the MiFi gets set up. Upon first getting it out of the box, the 2372 comes with a default SSID and password. After turning on the device, the network will be located and you’ll see a soft blue LED icon lighting up on the front of it. Simply find the SSID in the list of available WiFi signals, type in the given password, and you’re ready to internet it up all night.
There are more options for customizing the 2372 to your liking and taste. In the box, you are given instructions to point your browser to http://att.mifi, or you can alternatively type in the device’s IP address instead. Once there, log in and you will have access to all your vital stats such as current monthly usage, text messages received, current battery life, and which wireless devices are currently connected. It’s a pretty handy way to keep a close eye on your account and everything you’re doing on it.
I’m very happy to see AT&T making a necessary competitive adjustment by offering a MiFi on its network. Having the ability to connect 5 devices up to the network all at once is a much better use to everyone than a laptop card. The MiFi itself performed decently. Aside from having it disconnect on me twice when first using it, it worked great since without a flaw.
The 3G speeds are usable without getting too frustrated, but I anticipate some 4G MiFi devices coming in the very near future on AT&T’s network so it’s hard to completely back this one. But if you need one now, without any worries as to what’s coming down the pipeline in 2011, the Novatel MiFi 2372 will still serve you well and save your skin in a tight pinch. It has for me already, even after only using it for a week now.
If you’re shopping around, here’s where you can find the AT&T Novatel MiFi 2372.
If you liked the post, you might find these interesting too:
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- AT&T to upgrade its 3G network to HSPA 7.2Mbps
- BT Launches Mobile Device Offering