Stop me if you’ve heard this before. You’re taking a road trip with the family. Parents up front, kids in the back. For the most part the kids seem to be behaving, amusing themselves with their iPod Touches or one of the family’s iPads.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, an argument breaks out. It’s a doozy by the sounds of things. Something about whether you can share more than one world in Minecraft or not, or, which Star Wars movie showed Anakin Skywalker with his replacement robot hand. The shouts of disagreement are reaching a fever pitch back there and you and your spouse are about to lose it and say something you might both regret. This could all be solved so easily if you could just reach your smartphone, but it’s wedged in your front pocket and it would be too dangerous to pull it out while driving. Your spouse’s phone is already dead thanks to that phone call to the in-laws that lasted about 45 minutes longer than it needed to. What to do?
Well, if you happened to have the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2 portable WiFi hotspot with you, you could simply turn it on, let the kids connect one or both of their devices to the internet and let Google solve the fight once and for all. Ah, here comes at least twelve seconds of peace and quiet until the next fight erupts.
Now I realize that this scenario may not resonate with all readers – especially those without kids – so allow me to highlight some of the MiFi 2′s other features:
The sleek little device looks a lot like a miniature version of Apple’s Magic Trackpad. You could stick it in your shirt pocket or toss it in your purse and never even know it’s there. The cylindrical portion contains the battery while the flat surface houses a touch-sensitive colour LCD display. This display is your command centre for the MiFi 2′s functions. Once turned on using the power button integrated into the side of the battery cylinder, the MiFi 2 connects to your carrier’s 4G LTE network. In case you have yet to experience the joys of LTE connectivity I’ll give you the highlights: It’s fast. Damn fast. Like so fast you’ll probably wish your home internet connection could be this fast. Depending on where you are, you could easily see speeds of up to 25 Mbps.
You can then connect up to 10 devices via Wi-Fi b/g/n. Simply find the MiFi in your device’s list of Wi-Fi networks (you can change the name in the settings), enter the password (this is displayed on the MiFi 2′s Connection Info screen) and, voila! The 2.4Ghz frequency isn’t quite as fast as the newer 5Ghz frequency but for most applications, you likely won’t notice. If you happen to have a laptop that doesn’t have WiFi (not really sure if that’s even possible) you can tether it to the MiFi via the included USB cable.
So if we stopped right there and enjoyed the fact that we now have WiFi access to the internet from a tiny, battery-powered 4G LTE hotspot, most folks would probably agree that this is a super-handy device when travelling.
But the MiFi packs a few other features that make it much more than just an on-ramp to the internet.
The MiFi 2 has a MicroSD card slot that supports MicroSD cards up to 32GB in capacity. The contents of this card, be they movies, music, photos or any other file type, can be accessed from any of the connected devices – simultaneously. If your device is a full-fledged Windows PC or Mac, you get to the files through a shared drive letter. If your device is something less powerful, you can still get to the files through the MiFi’s DLNA Media Server. And since battery is capable of powering the MiFi 2 for a staggering 11 hours, there’s a good chance your tablet or laptop will die before the MiFi 2 does.
It also has a handy web-based interface which means that even though you can configure most of the settings via the touchscreen, there will be times when it’s simply inconvenient to dig out the MiFi from wherever you’ve got it squirrelled away. This web interface is clean and intuitive and frankly makes me wonder why so many home routers don’t feature something as elegant instead of the coma-inducing designs you typically find.
Concerned about how much data you’ve used? The MiFi 2 has a Data Usage screen that not only shows you exactly how much you’ve consumed, but also lets you set alert levels so you don’t go over your limit inadvertently. We all know that can get expensive.
While not perfect (the touch screen responsiveness leaves a lot to be desired), the MiFi 2 fills a gap in a road-warrior’s arsenal. You could use your smartphone’s built-in WiFi hotspot feature to cover your basic connection needs, but having a dedicated device takes the pressure off your phone and your phone’s battery.
You can pick up a MiFi 2 from Bell on a 2-Year contract for $49.95 or you can buy it outright for $199.95, no term required.