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Review: Novatel Wireless MiFi 4620L is a solid LTE hotspot

Verizon Wireless (s vz)(s vod) has spent billions upgrading its network for LTE, so it stands to reason that it will offer LTE devices in every shape and form to get subscribers. Verizon calls its line of LTE MiFis “Jetpacks” and one of the newest is the Novatel Wireless 4620L(s nvtl). I used one for a few days and found it to be a vast improvment over my old original MiFi, also built by Novatel Wireless.

It’s fast, but speeds can vary

Clearly, the biggest difference between the two is support for Verizon’s LTE network. The 4620L on LTE should offer speeds around 10x faster than my old 3G MiFi. My testing didn’t quite show that speed boost, but its difficult to get exact numbers for mobile broadband testing due to so many variables: Location, coverage, people connecting to the same cell tower, what they’re actually doing, and more.

The best speeds I saw from the Jetpack 4620L topped out around 10 Mbps, but again, I suspect network congestion may have played a part during my testing. The device managed uploads near 5 Mbps and low latency; more than good enough for a little online gaming. Up to 10 devices can connect to the hotspot over Wi-Fi. I did experience one connection drop on 4G that required the device to be restarted, but otherwise it was trouble-free. Aside from the one hiccup, I worked for hours on the MiFi connection and it was no different from working at my home office on a 25 Mbps FiOS connection.

Size is just right

The device itself is roughly twice as thick as older MiFi’s — about the size of a deck of playing cards — with the standard 1500 mAh battery. A double capacity power-pack and larger cover effectively doubles the device run time, which in my tests averaged about  3.5 hours when on a 4G LTE connection. Nearly all day with the extended battery ought to be possible, as should a full day with both batteries. The device charges quite quickly with the included micro USB power brick and can be charged from a mobile device.

No software and an OLED screen

Aside from the basic wireless hotspot functionality, Two features standout to me. First is the complete lack of any companion software to install. I remember using VZ Access Manager with older devices and there’s simply no need for this kind of application. The Novatel Wireless 4620L just powers up and works, as it should.

Second is the small display on the top of the unit. This is handy because the device has a dedicated phone number and can receive messages; you can scroll through and view them on the display. Plus you can see how many devices are connected, signal strength, and battery life without hitting an app or a web page. Novatel says the device can be used as a GPS over Wi-Fi, but I didn’t test the feature as all of my devices have GPS radios already.

Verizon sells the Jetpack for $49.99 with contract, $269.99 without. Is it a good deal? For those who don’t want to or can’t use their phone as an LTE hotspot, I’d say yes. The MiFi works well and has some great features. Because it can fall back to 3G, you can even use it as a hotspot in an area that lacks LTE coverage. For heavy users, I’d recommend the higher-capacity battery, but for occasional use, the included battery should work fine for most.

5 Responses to “Review: Novatel Wireless MiFi 4620L is a solid LTE hotspot”

  1. Pudnocker

    One big downside for me is that this device blocks port 5060 which is used for SIP or Voice over IP calling. Was planning on working from the road with this device, but this one crippling feature is devastating.

  2. can you swap sims between verizon LTE phones and these.

    i am interested if it would be possible to get a data only sim meant for one of these and use it in LTE phones.

    as a phone hobbiest always buying and selling used smartphones it would be cool to have a SIM to put in whatever verizon LTE’s i have at the moment.

    • Craig Campbell

      Yes, you can take a SIM from one of these and put it in a Verizon LTE phone. You will be able to use data on the phone, up to whatever data plan cap you paid for (5 or 10GB), but you cannot use mobile hotspot/tethering on the phone (I tried). You may be able to use that by rooting the phone and installing a tethering app or a custom ROM. In addition, I’m not sure if SMS would work on the phone – if it did, you would pay per message, as I don’t believe the hotspot plans include any messaging, but I might be wrong. Important to note that you would not be able to make or receive voice calls on the phone using the hotspot’s SIM, as the hotspot plans do not include voice minutes.

      The reverse is also true – if you have a Verizon LTE phone, you can take the SIM from the phone and place it in the hotspot. The hotspot should work perfectly, even if you don’t have the tethering feature on your phone plan. Of course, if you use your phone for voice calls, that would not work whilst your SIM was in the hotspot.

      If you have a grandfathered unlimited phone plan, if you put the phone SIM in the hotspot, you basically have an unlimited hotspot. Verizon obviously do not broadcast this fact, but it does work.

      Similarly, you can also put your LTE phone SIM into a Verizon LTE iPad 3, and data will work fine on the iPad.

      I have done much SIM swapping between phone, hotspot, iPad using my grandfather unlimited LTE phone data SIM, and it has always worked perfectly. Beware however, Verizon DOES know when you put your SIM in a different device. If you check My Verizon online, you’ll see that your plan remains the same, but your device has been updated. So far, they don’t do anything about it other than mark the device updated on the website – but who knows if at some point in the future they may or may not crack down on this sort of behaviour. I have read some reports that part of the agreement for them getting the license for the 700MHz LTE spectrum they use, was that they have to allow consumers to switch between devices like this. I do not know if this is true or not.

    • Craig Campbell

      I completely agree – if you will be working only in Clear coverage locations, I think Clear is indeed a fantastic value option, and the only choice for unlimited data on a hotspot. However, if you are a traveler, Verizon or one of the bigger carriers are a better choice, even though their plans frankly suck compared to Clear’s. One thing to note (and I mentioned in a below comment) that if you have a Verizon grandfathered phone LTE data plan, you CAN take the SIM from the phone, put it in the hotspot, and have an unlimited hotspot. The downside is that now you don’t have a voice call capability, unless you have another phone or SIM to use for voice.