Palm Mobile Hotspot Speed Tests — Not so Good

22 Comments

Palm (s palm) captured the imagination of many when they announced the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on Verizon (s vz) early this year. The ability to turn the phones into the equivalent of the MiFi excited quite a few who were considering such capability for their mobile arsenal. The Palm Mobile Hotspot software taps into the Verizon’s EVDO 3G network and then uses the phone’s Wi-Fi to form a personal hotspot for up to five devices. It is wireless tethering the way it should be — easy and affordable. Verizon charges $40 a month for the Mobile Hotspot service, while the data plan for the MiFi is $60. Everything sounds like the Mobile Hotspot is the perfect solution for the road warrior looking to use the Palm phone for a dual purpose. That’s if the Mobile Hotspot service lives up to its expectations, and that might not be the case.

I have tested the Mobile Hotspot service using the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. I restricted my testing to date in areas that show full 3G signal strength, to give the Mobile Hotspot a best-case scenario for the testing. My testing has been simple in nature — I conducted multiple bandwidth tests using each phone as the Mobile Hotspot, and recorded the results. I also tested the Verizon MiFi in the same locations, a fair comparison since it uses the same network as the Palm solution.

My findings are disappointing to say the least. I found that both the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus performed virtually identically in the testing, which was expected given the similarity of the phones. The problem is I could never get anything above abysmal bandwidth with either phone. The MiFi performed as usual, with decent bandwidth in the same locations without fail. I can only reach the conclusion that the Mobile Hotspot implementation is not a very good one, and not one I would be willing to depend on for mobile connectivity — certainly not for $40 per month.

To save space below I have included two rounds of testing from each device. Each test for the three was done in the same location, and back to back. I ran a speed test on the Pixi Plus, then the MiFi, and finally on the Pre Plus. After a slew of tests, I believe this is an accurate representation of what I could expect with either phone in regards to bandwidth. While location is important for 3G bandwidth due to local signal strength, the testing accurately reflects the comparison of bandwidth provided by the MiFi vs the two phones. The testing was done with only one device connected to the Mobile Hotspot — a ThinkPad notebook.

22 Comments

Greg Phillips

James, I am going to give you a true review based on 10 months of use. Also, I rely on these connections exclusively, as I have no alternative other than Satellite or Dial Up. I live in my Father’s Mother-In-Law Suite. I have a Palm Pre Plus and he has MIFI, both on Verizon. Your research is correct, of course! At times, I do have bandwidth that is equal to his MIFI. However, sometimes I can notice their is less. My connection has been stable the entire time. Both phones are well worth the $20 savings per month.

One downfall I will mention is the slow offline networking between connected devices. I use the phone to operate 2 desktops, a laptop, a Wii, and my primary cell (Samsung Omnia II). When I use Acronis to backup my computers, or transfer songs from my media desktop to my Omnia II, it is extremely slow at about 300 kb/s.

I am moving though. Time Warner here I come and also will enjoy not having to switch routers when I want to transfer files over my network.

Kimberli

I didn’t download anything and mine works just as well as the internet I’ve been paying my local provider $60 a month for. Hotspot is now free, as well, so for me my phone would be the $60 cheaper version. I’ve had full signal strength every time I use it.

The only drawback, though– and the reason I’m a little wary of canceling my internet– is how HOT my phone gets when I use Hotspot. I have a Palm Pre Plus. They warned me about the battery dying quickly (they were correct), but if I just plug it in while I’m using it for Hotspot, that can be fixed.

I can’t find anything on my phone getting so hot.

Anyone know if this is going to damage my phone or set my apartment on fire?

dreamworm

I just tested the Palm Pre verizon hotspot and I got 150kbps\260kbps and on the MiFi 700kbps\300kbps similar to what James reported from Orange County, CA. I just installed WebOS1.4 and no additional patch. Any suggestions on how to address this issue? Thanks…

Skipp

I am getting 2.25 Mbps download and 450 Kbps upload in Gilbert AZ with the Pre Plus.

Rick Huizinga

The Mobile Hotspot feature on the Palm Pre is now free as of April 1st. This is NOT an April fools joke.

Dave Nanian

I read your post yesterday, and happened to be traveling today, so I did a speed test in Portsmouth, NH. With a Pre Plus, in the hotel, I’m getting 1385K down and 413K up, which is totally reasonable…

sudojudo

Logically, you’d think they’d cripple the Mobile Hotspot speed somewhat to protect their MiFi business.

But less than 1/5 the download speed is ridiculous.

jbrandonf

To be clear..you can buy just $40 data plan to tether..and that includes a data package for the phone?

Or are you buying $30 a month plus $40 on top for the tethering ability?

Luscious

If speeds are this slow perhaps it would be better to stick with USB/BT tethering. I’ve been thinking of grabbing a 4500mAh battery for a TP2 and doing just that – all day wireless. The data plan would only cost me $20 extra on top of what I pay for voice, and no restrictive cap to worry about.

Ivan Samuels

I just read your post. I am sitting in Panera getting 1300 down on their wifi. I powered up my Palm Pre Plus and ran the hot spot. These are my results. i am getting 2271 Mbps down and 400 up. The test was run in Atlanta. Perhaps the location may make a difference. i own a Mifi but don’t have it with me today. My only problem is the battery life on the Mifi is better than the Pre Plus. i carry an extra battery since in only get 2.5-3.5 hours….where the mifi is usually 4+ hours. by the way it is easier to change the battery on the Mifi.

James Kendrick

I’m glad to hear that others are getting good speeds from the Mobile Hotspot. I’ve said many times that location is key to 3G throughput, but I tested this in several different locations.

I’m still not sure why the MiFi would give much better speeds at these locations, though. Same network, different modem is all.

David

I think James got these from Verizon as eval units and probably didn’t apply patches.

David

Some don’t believe the unthrottle patch have any real effect on performance. I’m begining to think it’s locations.

Jack

James, I tested the hotspot speeds on my Verizon Pre Plus after reading your posting. My download speeds are consistently atrocious at 82 kbs. I contacted Verizon technical support and my report has been bumped up to their network division. I was informed that they would be checking to determine if this is a systemwide problem or if I need to swap out my handset for a new one. I am to told by Verizon to expect a call back within several days.

vara411

These observations are rather odd. All readings I have done of Pre Plus download speeds show 900K+ at least for downloads. Precentral.net is currently polling Verizon Pre Plus owners for their speeds. I realize it’s not scientific, but early results indicate your speeds are not typical. Strange…

James Kendrick

I agree they are strange. But it’s hard to argue the comparison with the MiFi over the same network. They are markedly different.

Sam

James,
Did you try to download “unthrottle patch” available through Preware or Quick Install (see precentral.net site)? I think that may be the issue. I have Sprint and I easily get 1500 to 2000 kbps download using Mobile Hotspot. I dont know if “unthrottle patch” is the diff maker but it may cause slow speeds.

Chris

Wow, I didn’t expect such a big contrast in performance from the Palm devices to the Mifi. Maybe the application needs tweaking, I’m not sure if its a Hardware, software, or verizon lockdown problem.

James Kendrick

I have also tested the 3G bandwidth of the phones without the Mobile Hotspot in the picture, and routinely see faster speeds. It’s definitely a Mobile Hotspot issue of some sort.

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