Sprint Overdrive — Quick Look

Sprint Overdrive 4G Modem

I have been a mobile broadband user for years; I started back in the 1xRTT days as a matter of fact. I’ve watched connections speeds go up over the years, and until recently I was quite happy with the EVDO speeds I enjoy using my Verizon MiFi. Sprint has been madly rolling out WiMAX (4G) all over the U.S., and the recent news that Houston was lit up had me jonesing for a switch to the higher speed. I waffled over the decision to jump from Verizon’s 3G to Sprint’s 4G for a while, so the folks at Sprint decided they would send me a 4G Overdrive modem to test. I’ve only had it for a few hours, and haven’t found any 4G connectivity yet, but here’s a quick look at the Overdrive modem.

The Overdrive is like the MiFi as it is a 3G modem that serves as a Wi-Fi router to allow up to 5 devices to connect to the Sprint network simultaneously. Once the device has been set up to use the Overdrive’s Wi-Fi network, subsequent connections are as easy as hitting the power button on the modem. That’s what makes wireless routers like the Overdrive so compelling, they are easy and will work with any device with Wi-Fi. Oh, and if the Sprint 4G network is active in the area, it connects at those speeds (up to 10 times faster than EVDO). That’s pretty darn compelling, too.

The Overdrive is bigger and thicker than the MiFi, no doubt to fit those extra 4G bits inside. It has a nice LED display on the front that provides full status information, like connection info and battery gauge, which is sadly lacking on the Verizon MiFi. There is also a microSD card on the Overdrive to allow storing media files for streaming over the Overdrive’s Wi-Fi network.

Sadly, the 4G network is not live on my street yet, so I haven’t been able to enjoy that fast speed. The Overdrive tries to find and connect to the 4G network when powered on (which takes a minute), and failing that connects to the Sprint 3G network, which is happening at my home office. When I first checked the Sprint 4G coverage map a couple of weeks ago it showed the area where I live was fully covered with 4G. When I check it today it shows that there is 4G coverage most everywhere around me except on a few blocks surrounding my house. No 4G for me.

My limited testing has only been at home on the 3G network. The speed I am getting on the Sprint 3G (EVDO) network is slower than the Verizon 3G (EVDO) I get on the MiFi, which is disappointing. I wouldn’t mind trading the MiFi for the Overdrive if I didn’t give up any speed at home, but that’s not the case. Of course when 4G gets turned on here — and there’s no indication when that might be — there’s no looking back.

So far I haven’t seen any power problems as some have reported. The Overdrive has been solid in that regard, although it has intermittently dropped the 3G network connection a few times. That has been really annoying as it kills whatever I’m doing at the time. I have to manually tell the device to reconnect to the Overdrive and then I am back online.

I’ll be testing the Overdrive more thoroughly over the next few days, so I’ll find some 4G and report on the speed I get. I’ll also have a look at the Overdrive’s configuration, as every aspect of both the data connection and the Wi-Fi settings can be customized. This may have something to do with the connection drops I’ve seen so far.


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