Novatel Liberate MiFi with touch screen (review)

Summary:The mobile hotspot is one of the greatest inventions of all time for road warriors. The Novatel Wireless Liberate is the best of the lot.

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Novatel Liberate MiFi on the AT&T network

When the first MiFi mobile hotspot appeared a few years ago it was a game changer for the mobile professional. A small gadget that tapped into mobile broadband and shared it with multiple devices over Wi-Fi was revolutionary and set the stage for the mobile hotspot feature now common on smartphones.

The Novatel Liberate is a global device and can be used in many countries. This makes it a great bit of kit for international travellers.

Novatel Wirelesshas been making MiFi devices from the beginning, and the Liberate MiFi with touch screen is a solid evolution of the technology. I have been testing one on the AT&T 4G network for a few days and it is easily the best of the lot.

Novatel MiFi Liberate

What sets the Liberate apart from the MiFi crowd is the 2.8-inch touch screen that provides a window into a process that is normally hidden from the user. I thought a screen on a mobile hotspot device was a gimmick, but having used it I now believe it is a great feature.

The benefit of the screen is evident from first boot of the Liberate, as it provides a status on what is happening. Once the device taps into the data network, the screen gives instructions for how to get devices online via Wi-Fi. The whole process just takes seconds from boot to getting online.

While the Liberate is small and light (4.26 oz.), Novatel Wireless has crammed a battery that can deliver a claimed 11 hours of use inside. I didn't benchmark that claim but in several days of all day usage I believe it to be accurate.

Bus card size
Size comparison with standard business card

You can connect up to 10 devices to the AT&T network with the Novatel Liberate. I had as many as four connected at once during my use and it worked flawlessly. A nice security feature is how the Liberate indicates on the screen when a device is trying to access the mobile hotspot. This alone makes the screen worth having on the Liberate.

The Novatel Wireless Liberate is a global device and can be used in many countries. This makes it a great bit of kit for international travellers.

The AT&T version of the Liberate as tested can connect to LTE, HSPA+/HSPA, EDGE, and even GPRS. It dishes the connection out over 802.11 b/g/n to connect to virtually any mobile device.

There are some additional features that I haven't needed to use, such as the integrated DLNA Media Center and the ability to share files right from the device. 

The Liberate is a full secure Wi-Fi router that is configurable for any desired setup, but the default configuration is very secure for most users.

The Novatel Wireless Liberate MiFi is $200 without contract on the AT&T network, or $50 with a 2-year contract.

See related: iPad mini: Mobile hotspot for 12+ hours, perfect emergency tool

Topics: Mobility, Reviews

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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