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Verizon MiFi 4510L Reviewed: A Handy LTE Hotspot

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Back in December, I broke the mobile broadband speed limit using Verizon’s just launched 4G network. The only LTE-compatible devices at that time were USB dongles, and they were initially limited to computers running Microsoft Windows(s msft). Since then, Verizon (s vz) has added USB support for Mac (s aapl) computers, but also new MiFi devices that can share the fast 4G signal with multiple devices.

For the past week, I’ve been using one of the new MiFi’s. Novatel Wireless(s nvtl) sent me a loaner MiFi 4510L, which Verizon currently sells online for $99 with a two-year data contract. This morning I used the device as my only data connection for my laptop and a tablet. It can share the 4G connection with up to five devices. My laptop was used all morning on the MiFi’s hotspot, while I used the tablet sporadically. Both devices enjoyed super speeds from the 4510L; I felt like I was working at home where I have a fast FiOS connection.

Verizon advertises that the MiFi 4510L should provide downloads 5–12 Mbps and upload speeds of 2–5 Mbps. In repeated tests, the device exceded those claims and performance didn’t vary much. My speedtests routinely showed network latency around 45 milliseconds, downloads at 16 Mbps and uploads just over 5 Mbps, all of which are comparable or better to what I experienced in December.

To give you a real-world example of the speeds, I downloaded the latest Christina Perri album from my Amazon Cloud Storage(s amzn) account in just under two minutes. Every activity I threw at the network and the MiFi — video chats, YouTube (s goog) HQ viewing, streaming music, browsing and more — offered a comparable experience to my speedy home network.

The device itself is slightly thicker than the old 3G MiFi I still have for Verizon’s network, but it doesn’t have a noticeably bigger footprint, as you can easily throw the new MiFi in a pocket. The 1500 mAh battery lasted for just over 3.5 hours on the 4G network and can be charged with the included plug or from a computer’s USB port. One upgrade I really like over the prior version is a handy display to show signal strength, battery life and the number of connected devices: A small dot appears for each computer, tablet or mobile device using the MiFi’s wireless connection.

While the MiFi 4510L uses Verizon’s 4G network, it also supports the operator’s 3G or EV-DO data networks; helpful since LTE is only available in 46 markets now. The carrier plans to cover 145 markets before the end of 2011. Since the MiFi 4510L supports both 3G and 4G mobile broadband, it’s future-proof and is prepared to show you 4G speeds if you’re not yet in an LTE coverage area. Using the device at my home office provided standard 3G speeds, just like my old MiFi does.

Should you buy this MiFi? There’s two schools of thought here for people that need mobile broadband. One one hand, some are occasionally using the wireless hotspot functionality that’s becoming prominent on new smartphones. The potential downside here is that using the phone as a hotspot can leave you with a brick. Once the battery runs down you lose both your mobile broadband and your smartphone features. The other camp would rather have a dedicated data device which can offer more monthly bandwidth for the dollar. For those folks, especially in an LTE coverage area, the MiFi 4510L is a great choice.

7 Responses to “Verizon MiFi 4510L Reviewed: A Handy LTE Hotspot”

  1. Just an fyi for any existing 3G verizon mifi customers..
    You can call their customer service and say that you got a call from verizon rep telling u that ‘if u renew ur contract, u can pickup this 4g device for $50 but that u couldnt find the promo on ur online myverizon account.’

    Just upgraded mine today to this card by doing this. Verizon kind of cold called me last week telling me about the upgrade offer so I said ‘ok, ill do it.’. then they told me they couldnt do it over phone but go to myverizon website + see if the promo offer is available to u. wtf? why call me if u cant even do what ur trying to sell me. Anyways, after some complaints, etc to verizon, they upgraded me with this deal. I was only 2 months in on my contract so definitely worth $50 for this kind of speed!

  2. Curious what others are seeing when connecting iPhones and iPads to the MiFi 4510L. I’m noticing very good speeds when connecting my MiFi 4510L with my Lenovo x200 tablet (12mbps plus up and down). When i connect with iPhone 3gs, iPhone 4 and iPad 2, I only get 1mbps down and a wide range up (between .1mbps to 4mbps). My tests are in Mountain View, Santa Clara California area and have been very consistent.

  3. Randy Marrero

    I just got five of these to test for several vehicles we are deploying in the field, the most important thing is to have the available 24/7. With a power inverter w/ built in USB plug I’ll able to keep them running all day.
    Just make sure you log in to the admin page and choose never to sleep. These are awesome.

  4. Great review Kevin.

    I actually just bought one myself a couple weeks ago. Since then, I’ve traveled across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming & Montana. I’ve been to several national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone during that time. I’ve been incredibly impressed with not only the speed but how often I have good coverage. It definitely gets spotty inside the parks and at times in the very remotest places I’ve been, but that’s hardly a reason to complain.

    As an owner of a rooted Nexus One (capable of tethering over 3g for free) running on T-Mobile’s very mediocre network, traveling with the MiFi has been great.

    The biggest drawback is that I’m very concerned about going over the 5GB limit. I have no idea how much I’ve used so far, but I’ve tried to use wifi whenever I stop for the day because of this.

    Also, a tip for your readers. The last two days of each month, you get an extra $50 “debit card” rebate from Verizon at certain stores. The one near me had this discount so I got mine on a 2 year contract for $50 total.

    • I’ve been using the Novatel MiFi since it came out. I used 3 gigs out of 5 alloted for the month. And I used it with my iPad and jailbroken iPhone. So it’s higher than other folks’ normal use because it replaces my cell phone data plan. I love it. Speed is fantastic.