Although Sprint’s 4G LTE rollout hasn’t exactly been blazing, the carrier has announced a trio of tri-band 4G LTE devices here at CTIA 2013 that will let users enjoy better in-building coverage and better network performance. All three devices will be able to tap into Sprint’s 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz bands, as well as Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz network. The Netgear Zing is the most compelling of the three gadgets, as it’s the first touchscreen hotspot in Sprint’s lineup.
During our quick hands-on at CTIA, the Zing impressed us with its intuitive touch interface. Right up front you’ll see how much data you’ve used, the battery life and password. You can then drill down into settings with a tap to adjust things like brightness and toggle GPS. While on the heavy side, the Zing also works overseas and can connect to an optional dock to boost your signal even further. Expect up to 10 hours of battery life via the 2,500 mAh battery.
Sprint also launched the MiFi 500. This hotspot is chunkier than the Netgear and offers an OLED status display. Like the Zing, the MiFi 500 connects up to 10 devices and offers up to 10 hours of battery life (with a 1,800 mAh battery).
Last but not least is the Netgear 341U USB modem, which is a little wide for our tastes, especially if the USB ports on your notebook or clustered close together. On the plus side, the device includes a built-in LCD to show you signal strength and connection status.
Sprint says it offers 4G LTE service today in 88 markets nationwide, and that 200 million people should be covered by the end of the year. However, given how far Sprint is behind both AT&T and Verizon with its rollout, the carrier could use all the help it can get. Its 800 MHz spectrum (transitioning from Nextel) will offer better in-building coverage, while Clearwire’s 2.5-GHz spectrum should give Sprint customers better coverage in densely populated cities.