As you know I use quite a few smartphones and devices, many of which are from overseas so they have no 3G support here in the U.S. I used to have both AT&T and T-Mobile SIMs for my devices, but canceled my AT&T account and bought a Verizon Wireless MiFi last Fall. I then saw 4G roll out in the Seattle area and asked people if there was a MiFi that supported this 4G network. I was told that such a device did not yet exist and I could put something together with the 4G USB card and an adapter to try to get such a unit. This sounded to clunky to me so I stuck with my Verizon MiFi. At CES 2010 last month Sprint announced their Overdrive device from Sierra Wireless that functioned just like the device I was looking for with 4G and 3G support in a compact package. Sprint sent along an Overdrive for me to test out and after a couple of weeks of using it in the Seattle and Portland areas I am pretty sure I will be putting my MiFi up on the auction block and moving to the Sprint Overdrive instead. Check out my image gallery of the Overdrive with some comparison shots with the Verizon MiFi.
|Image Gallery:I have several photos of the Sprint Overdrive and settings display.|
FeaturesThe Sprint Overdrive is similar to the very popular MiFi with support for connecting up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices to a portable hotspot. The Overdrive supports 4G (WiMAX) and 3G (EV-DO) networks so you get the ultimate in data speeds. In addition, the Overdrive has a microSD card slot so you can insert a card and share the content with the connected devices. A GPS receiver is also included in the Overdrive so you can map your location on a PC or Mac that has no integrated GPS receiver.
In the boxThe Sprint Overdrive box is modeled to appear very similar to the Overdrive itself with diamond-shaped corners and glossy black plastic. You will find the Overdrive unit, A/C charger, USB cable, Get Started Guide, Terms & Conditions of services, information book, and recycling envelope. To charge the Overdrive you simply insert the USB cable (with a microUSB end) into the charging adapter and plug it in. You can also charge up the Overdrive while connected to your PC or Mac computer.
SpecificationsSpecifications for the Sprint Overdrive include the following:
- 1xEVDO Rev A, Rev. 0, and 1XRTT
- WiMAX 2500 MHz
- 1.4 inch 128x228 pixel LCD front display
- microUSB for charging and tethering
- microSD card slot
- 1830 mAh battery for 3 hours of continuous usage
- Dimensions: 3.14 x 3.14 x 0.61 inches and 4.51 ounces
Based on my personal experiences, I agree with their stated 3 hour battery life with one or two devices connected to the Overdrive. The battery is easily removable so you could always carry an extra battery to keep you going if you can't charge up your device. With my Verizon MiFi I regularly see 4 hours of battery life so there is a trade-off here with the Overdrive.
Speed test resultsI conducted several speed tests in 4G zones in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. I was in an area where the signal status showed a strength of about 40% on the 4G network. I used Speedtest.net on a Windows PC to measure the speed test results. I also tested my Verizon Wireless MiFi and T-Mobile N900 with T-Mobile's 3G connection in the same location at the same time to see what other carrier 3G speeds provided.
Here are the results of my testing, maximum of 5 readings:
- Overdrive in Seattle with San Diego server, 4.10 Mbps download and 0.47 Mbps upload
- Overdrive in Portland with Oregon server, 4.17 Mbps download and 0.73 Mbps upload
- MiFi in Seattle, 1.63 Mbps download and 0.27 Mbps upload
- T-Mobile in Seattle, 1.58 Mbps download and 0.30 Mbps upload
Sprint states that 4G theoretical download speed can be over 10 Mbps with upload speeds of up to 4 Mbps with the actual average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps. As you can see, my results confirmed this actual download speed with a decent signal and with a better signal I should see faster speeds.
One thing is clear here and that is 4G speeds are at least twice as fast as 3G speeds in actual testing. I have seen up to 3 Mbps on my Nokia N900 with T-Mobile from time to time though so T-Mobile's HSPA+ network may approach the speeds being provided with Sprint's WiMAX network.
Daily experiences with OverdriveThere is a single button on the front for turning the Overdrive on and off. Above the button in the middle of the upper portion you will find a small LCD screen where you can view signal strength, battery level, connection type, Overdrive password and more. I personally like having a small display to give me a good idea of the status of the device and hated that the MiFi doesn't have a good way to give me battery and connection status right on the MiFi itself.
There is a small silver toggle button to turn the notification sounds on and off and I personally kept it off 95% of the time. The Overdrive is glossy black plastic and quite a finger magnet, but this is not an issue for a wireless hotspot like this. The microSD card is nice to have, but not necessary for the way I use my devices.
To manage all of the settings on the Overdrive you simply connect the Overdrive via USB cable to your Windows or Apple computer and enter http://overdrive in your web browser. Chrome support is included, along with IE, Safari, and Firefox. After entering this URL you will see an Overdrive status page and then you can login to manage all of the advanced settings and functions on the device. By default, the password is "password" and after logging in you can change it to whatever password you like.
There are a TON of advanced settings available in four tabs; Devices, WAN, WiFi, and Router. Settings for the device include management of the basics (password, update management, etc.), display settings, microSD card management, sound management (alerts, connection, user joining and leaving, etc.), about, and log. WAN settings include setting up and managing 3G, 4G, and GPS connections. In GPS you can select mapping service from Google Maps, Mapquest, Bing, and Yahoo. This is good if you are connecting to a PC and I can really see this being useful for an ultra-portable device used as an in-car navigation system. WiFi settings are what you typically see in a wireless router, including network, security, and MAC filter settings. Router settings are again typical for a router, including port forwarding, LAN settings, trigger settings, and DMZ setup.
I included a couple of screenshots from these settings in my image gallery and I have to admit I was quite impressed with all of the settings available, especially when compared to the minimal settings I was used to on the MiFi. Even though there are a ton of settings, you can keep everything in default mode and still quickly and easily use the Overdrive with no further setup or customization. It is nice to have advanced settings too for those of us who want to increase the security settings and further customize the Overdrive.
Price, plans, and availabilityThe full price of the Overdrive is $349.99, but with a new contract through Sprint you can get it for $99.99 after instant savings and rebate. I see it is available on Amazon for new customers for $49.99 with a 2-year contract so that is probably the route I will personally take. The monthly service fee is quite reasonable at $59.99 per month that includes true UNLIMITED data on 4G and 5GB of data on 3G. You also have a 300MB/month allowance for roaming on other networks (aka Verizon Wireless) if you live on the fringe of Sprint's signal.
Sprint's 4G network continues to roll out around the country with at least 27 markets now supported. Sprint plans to roll out 4G in many more areas this year, including Boston, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC.