- Battery Life
One thing we use regularly at pnosker.com are our various hotspots to ensure we have reliable internet connectivity while on the road. Having started with a Clear WiMAX hotspot years ago and moving to Sprint and T-Mobile LTE hotspots more recently, the improvement of connectivity over the past couple of years has been incredible. The most recent deployments of LTE by the four major carriers in the USA (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) has brought real broadband speeds and low latency to the airwaves with speeds significantly faster than DSL and cable internet just five years ago. According to Akamai, just as recently as Q1 2013, US internet speeds averaged 8.6 Mbps download. Ookla reports that in Q1 2015, wireless broadband speeds are averaging 14.2 Mbps in the USA. This means you could do almost anything that used to require a hardwired broadband connection with just a mobile hotspot now.
Of course most wired broadband providers in America do not limit total usage with the ability to download hundreds of gigabytes worth of data a month. The opposite is true with mobile broadband services with 2-5 GB of consumption per month being the norm. Below is a table of cost and speeds for the four major wireless carriers for comparison.
|Carrier||Average Speed||Cost per GB (Prepaid, at least 2 GB)|
AT&T’s cost and speed is right in the middle of the pack. With possibly the most coverage of the four carriers, the trade-off for lower speeds could be worth it if you travel a lot. Approximately the size of a small, but thick smartphone, it packs a 2.4″ LCD screen, microSD slot, 2800 mAh battery, and both 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFI radios allowing for sharing your LTE internet on the less congested bands for more reliable connections. Advertising a 10 hour battery life, it should give you all-day access to your laptop or tablet. I observed 14 hours with light to moderate usage with two devices (of 10 possible). While not connected to WiFi devices, it enters standby mode which gave me over 24 hours of battery life even with 6 hours of active light usage. This offers the opportunity to stay connected only when you need it without having to worry about turning it off in between use stretches. Using the microSD file server mode allowed 10 devices to simultaneously watch different video files and still gave me 11 hours of battery life. This feature is great for families who want to watch their own content on various devices simultaneously.
The only drawback I saw was low download speeds in my region of central NJ. With a 1.2 Mbps download average over several tests with full signal indicated, yet over 6 Mbps upload average, I suspect AT&T’s LTE spectrum isn’t distributed optimally between upload and download channels in my region. Even worse, the average ping time I observed was over 240 ms. Still, coverage was significantly better in areas of New York City compared to my Sprint hotspot (though slower where both had reception).
Overall, I’d suggest the Velocity hotspot for someone who travels in areas of poor service for other networks. While speeds aren’t fantastic, the raw area of coverage is better than the other three major carriers.