Most wireless carriers offer prepaid mobile broadband devices -- at 3G speeds. But T-Mobile's 4G Mobile Hotspot Prepaid runs on T-Mobile's 4G network (reverting to 3G where 4G isn't available). Granted, it's not as fast as the top-rated Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L (*Est. $100 with two-year contract). The T-Mobile hotspot averages between 2 and 8.4 Mbps download speeds in tests, versus 5 to 20 Mbps for the Verizon hotspot. But with the Verizon MiFi, you have to submit to a credit check and sign a contract, at least month-to-month. T-Mobile offers its 4G hotspot with true prepaid plans: Choose from a 100 MB week pass (*Est. $10) or month-long plans of 1 GB (*Est. $30) or 3 GB (*Est. $50).
Physically, the T-Mobile hotspot is very similar to the Verizon hotspot. Both are pocket-sized, easy to use and provide a mobile Wi-Fi connection for up to five devices (laptops, smartphones, or anything else that can connect with Wi-Fi). Both provide their strongest signals within 50 feet of the device. Testers say the T-Mobile hotspot isn't perfect -- one tester has a hard time getting a 4G signal in some parts of New York City, while others report that the hotspot shut off its display or went into sleep mode suddenly -- but overall, critics say this is a solid choice for a mobile hotspot, as long as you're covered by the T-Mobile network.
PCMag.com, CNET, PC World and Engadget Mobile all publish comprehensive tests of the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot. Each source tests connection speed, ease of use, battery life and more.
In this test, the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot proves fast, convenient and easy to use. It's the only mobile hotspot T-Mobile offers, but Alex Colon says it would deserve an Editors' Choice award regardless.
Review: T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot ZTE MF61, Alex Colon, May 3, 2011
Dong Ngo gives the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot a "very good" 3.5-star rating out of 5. It's easy to set up and use, gets great battery life (about 6 hours in the test) and manages between 2.8 and 4.5 Mbps download speeds (1.8 Mbps upload) in San Francisco. His main complaint -- that T-Mobile's contract plans throttle speed once you reach your monthly limit instead of charging overage fees -- doesn't apply to prepaid.
Review: T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot ZTE MF61, Dong Ngo, April 27, 2011
3. PC World
The T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot gets slow connection speeds, for 4G (2.8 Mbps download, on average) and falls asleep a couple times while streaming Netflix movies in this test. But with good battery life, decent speeds overall and an array of prepaid and contract plans, it's "a great choice for those within T-Mobile's coverage area."
Review: T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot, Yardena Arar, May 18, 2011
If you can get a signal, the T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot -- although not as fast as a Verizon mobile hotspot -- delivers respectable connection speeds at a lower cost than Verizon. However, in this New York City test, Dana Wollman does have problems getting 4G service -- or at times, any service -- in several areas where it was supposed to be present.
Review: T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot Review, Dana Wollman, April 27, 2011