With a mobile hotspot and a mobile broadband subscription, you can set up your own mini Wi-Fi cloud anywhere you can get a 3G or 4G signal -- and experts say the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L is the best mobile hotspot to use. This pocket-sized device (the size of a credit card, only thicker) beams a Wi-Fi signal around itself for about 100 feet, so that up to five wireless devices -- smartphones, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles -- can hop onto the web.
Thanks largely to Verizon's fast 4G network, the MiFi 4510L beats other carriers' mobile hotspots in speed tests. Testers report very quick download speeds ranging from 5 to 20 Mbps and uploads of about 4 to 10 Mbps, with the best speeds within 50 feet of the device. That's not quite as uniformly fast as Verizon's top-rated USB modem, the Verizon Pantech 4G LTE USB Modem UML290 (*Est. $50 with two-year contract), but the USB modem can only be used with one device at a time.
The MiFi 4510L is also compatible with Verizon's slower 3G network. If you want to avoid a long-term contract, Verizon also sells the MiFi 4510L at full price (*Est. $270) for month-to-month customers. Experts do note some drawbacks to the MiFi 4510L. Battery life ranges from three to four hours, and the MiFi 4510L won't transmit a signal while charging via USB, although it will while charging from an outlet. Unlike some rivals, the MiFi 4510L has no memory card slot, so you can't plug in a memory card to use as a shared drive on your mobile Wi-Fi network. And you can't get unlimited mobile broadband from Verizon -- plans top out at 10 GB per month (*Est. $80).
PCMag.com's recommendation of the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L carries a lot of weight; editors there continually test new mobile broadband devices as they hit the market, so they have a good feel for which ones are the best. Mobile-Broadband-Reviews.com's Marc Aarons also chooses the best mobile broadband devices for each carrier, based on extensive experience. Testers at Laptop Magazine, Geek.com and GottaBeMobile.com don't cover nearly as many mobile broadband devices, but their tests of the 4G Verizon MiFi 4510L are thorough and up-to-date. PC World publishes an earlier test on the 3G version of the Verizon MiFi.
PCMag.com tests about 20 current USB modems and mobile hotspots, naming the best Editors' Choice models for each wireless carrier. One of these is the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L; tester Alex Colon says it's the best way to simultaneously connect several devices to the "blazing-fast" Verizon 4G network.
Review: Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L, Alex Colon, May 2, 2011
2. Laptop Magazine
Verizon's MiFi 4510L aces speed tests here, even beating Verizon's other mobile hotspot (the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11). Still, the Editors' Choice award goes to Sprint's version of the MiFi, the Sprint MiFi 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Novatel Wireless, which boasts longer battery life and no 4G data caps.
Review: Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L Review, Kenneth Butler, May 3, 2011
This website publishes charts that detail the differences between each wireless carrier's USB modems and mobile hotspots. If you want a mobile hotspot on the Verizon network, Marc Aarons recommends the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L, which delivers "extremely fast 4G LTE speeds."
Review: Verizon 4G Broadband Cards and Mobile Hotspots: 2011 Review, Marc Aarons, April 8, 2011
The best mobile hotspot on the market right now is the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L, Sal Cangeloso concludes in this thorough, well-illustrated review. Cangeloso tests current mobile hotspots from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon in Manhattan. The Verizon MiFi 4510L achieves a very fast download speed of about 15.4 Mbps, and Cangeloso says it's more reliable and has better features than another Verizon mobile hotspot, the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11.
Review: Review: MiFi 4510L Mobile Hotspot for Verizon Wireless, Sal Cangeloso, May 6, 2011
Chuong Nguyen tests both the Verizon and Sprint 4G MiFis and compares them in this review. The Verizon MiFi 4510 proves faster, but the Sprint MiFi includes unlimited 4G. A 12-minute video review is included.
Review: Verizon Novatel MiFi 4510L 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Review (Video), Chuong Nguyen, May 6, 2011
6. PC World
PC World tests mobile hotspots from three carriers -- AT&T, Sprint and Verizon -- head-to-head against tethered or hotspot-capable smartphones from the same carriers, to see which method of connecting to the Internet works better. The Verizon MiFi hotspot is the testers' favorite. PC World tests in six locations around San Francisco, which only had 3G at the time. Since then, Verizon has introduced an upgraded MiFi that can handle 4G speeds as well as 3G.
Review: Mobile Hotspots: Which Are Fastest, Most Reliable?, Mark Sullivan and Ken Biba, Oct. 19, 2010