Sprint has teamed up with Novatel Wireless to bring one of its first tri-band LTE hotspots to market with the MiFi 500 LTE. Available for $49.99 with a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year contract, the MiFi 500 connects to the carrier’s LTE network at 800MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.5GHz. Sprint promises long battery life, additional security for your connected devices and an easy-to-use interface through the hotspot’s built-in LCD. Naturally, we gave the MiFi 500 a spin to see just how fast this hotspot is.
New York City isn’t one of Sprint’s official LTE markets, but we were able to get coverage in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. After running the device through Speedtest.net 10 times on the east side of Manhattan, the MiFi 500 LTE averaged 7.2 Mbps downloads and 3.4 Mbps uploads. Those speeds are decent, but we’ve seen faster from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
According to the results of PCMag.com’s recent nationwide 4G LTE network test, Sprint averaged 5.6 Mbps down and 2.4 Mbps up, so our hotspot performed slightly better. Still, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all averaged well over 10 Mbps down and over 6 Mbps up.
On the bright side, the Spring MiFi 500 LTE lasted 7 hours and 59 minutes on a charge when we connected a PC to it over Wi-Fi. Our battery test surfs the web continuously, visiting a new site every 30 seconds. By comparsion, the AT&T MiFi Liberate lasted a slightly longer 8:26.
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Sprint’s pricing plans for the MiFi 500 start at $34.99 a month for 3GB of data. If you want to double that to 6GB, it’ll cost you $49.99, and quadrupling it to 12GB costs a steep $79.99 a month. That may seem expensive when you consider that you can get a smartphone with unlimited voice and data with Sprint’s Unlimited My Way Plan for the same price. However, if you want 5GB of hotspot data with your phone, that’s $110 per month.
By comparison, Verizon charges $30 a month for 4GB of data on its hotspots, but you must also pay a $20 line charge. AT&T charges $50 a month for 5GB of data on its MiFi Liberate, a slightly-higher rate of $10 per GB. However, if you have a mobile share data plan, you pay $20 more per month to use that data on your hotspot.
We’ll bring your our full review of the MiFi 500 as soon as we’ve finished all of our testing.