T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot supports 42.2 Mbps HSPA+ (review)

T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot supports 42.2 Mbps HSPA+ (review)

Summary: The Sonic 4G is T-Mobile's latest portable hotspot device that supports their fastest data network technology. The battery lasts a long time, but speeds could be improved.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi
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I have been a T-Mobile customer for a long time and when other carriers started rolling out WiFi hotspot devices I kept asking T-Mobile for one since a USB hotspot doesn't help me with tablets, gaming device, iPods, and other mobile devices. T-Mobile launched their 4G Mobile HotSpot in April of this year and now they have the new T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot device that they sent along for me to test out for a few weeks. Check out my image gallery of the Sonic 4G.


Image Gallery: Check out several photos of the Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot from T-Mobile. Image Gallery: Sonic 4G retail package Image Gallery: OLED display

In the box and first impressions

The retail package shows off all the functions and specifications of the new hotspot and inside you will find the Sonic 4G HotSpot, battery, charger, USB cable, Start Guide, and handy carrying pouch to protect the device. It was nice to see a case included that offers some scratch protection of the device while you carry it in your bag.

I was immediately impressed by the form factor and design after pulling the Sonic 4G out of the box. It is sleek and reminds me of the old Motorola PEBL phone with rounded edges and a great soft touch back. The front has a mirror-like finish on it too, but the small OLED display shows through it just fine. The full soft touch back battery cover has T-Mobile 4G HotSpot branding on it along with a sticker to give you some basic directions to get started.

Specifications

Specifications for the Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot include the following:

  • 850/900/1900/2100 quad-band GSM support
  • 1700/2100 AWS HSPA+, 2100 UMTS, 850/900/1900 support
  • Support for the latest 42.2 Mbps T-Mobile 4G network, upload at 5.76 Mbps
  • Support for sharing network connection on up to 5 devices at once
  • Small OLED front status display
  • microUSB for charging and tethering
  • microSD card slot with support for up to 32GB capacity
  • 2200 mAh battery for up to 4.5 hours of continuous usage
  • Dimensions: 4.02 x 2.2 x 0.61 inches and 3.88 ounces

The Sonic 4G is manufactured by Huawei, who also makes their new SpringBoard 7" Android tablet. While it is designed for use as a WiFi mobile hotspot, with all the security features you need, you can also use it in USB tethering mode. This is preferred if you have a laptop so you can keep the device charged up while using it at the same time. Keep in mind if you connect via USB, then it won't function as a WiFi hotspot for other devices at the same time.

Daily experiences with the T-Mobile Sonic 4G

After charging up the Sonic 4G HotSpot (thankfully through a standard microUSB port on the bottom), the first thing is to remove the battery cover and check to see what the default SSID and password are for the device. You can change this later by visiting http://mobile.hotspot in you web browser and then accessing the admin setup. Under the battery cover you will find the battery (of course), SIM card slot, and microSD card slot. You can share files, photos, and more by using the microSD slot and then connecting multiple devices. I personally don't find much need for this, but it is nice to have as an option.

After pressing the power button and starting up the Sonic 4G you will see the connectivity and charging status in the small OLED display on the front. As you connect devices you will see the indicator change to show how many devices are connected. The Sonic 4G also supports text messaging, check your data plan for details, and the status of those message also appears on the OLED display.

There is also a WPS button above the power button so you can quickly and easily connect to WPS-enabled devices without worrying about customizing all the security settings.

I used the Sonic 4G to update my iPhone 4S and iPad 2 to the latest iOS firmware and it worked flawlessly. I also connected a Nokia Lumia 800, iPod touch, HTC Flyer, and Samsung Galaxy Tab to it to test out connectivity and speeds. While the Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot supports the fastest T-Mobile data networks, I actually found that the HTC Amaze 4G gave me about double the speeds I saw on the Sonic 4G. After trying several devices and speed tests I regularly saw download speeds in the 6 to 9 Mbps range with the Sonic 4G. These are fine, but for the price of the data plans I expected them to be closer to what the Amaze 4G showed. Then again, the faster the network the faster you will go through your limited data allowance too so you need to be careful with these fast devices. T-Mobile won't charge you for going over, they just throttle you back to slower speeds.

Battery life was excellent (I was seeing something like 5-6 hours) and seemed to be much better than what I have seen on other mobile hotspot devices. I think the T-Mobile HSPA+ network is more power efficient than LTE and the software on the device does a good job of going to smart standby status when no connectivity is required.

Price, plans, and availability

The full price of the T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot is $174.99, but with a new 2-year contract you can get it for $99.99 after a $25 mail-in rebate (don't you just hate these things?). Monthly data plans (here is the data plan page, with a required 2-year contract, for the device include:

  • $39.99 for 2GB reduction free
  • $49.99 for 5GB reduction free
  • $79.99 for 10GB reduction free

You also get unlimited use at T-Mobile hotspots, such as airports, coffee shops, etc. You can also get a $10 per month discount if you have a voice line on T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has no annual contract plans where you can pay per week or month, as follows:

  • $10/week for 100 MB
  • $30/month for 1 GB
  • $50/month for 3 GB

These no annual contract plans are ridiculously high for data. Your best bet is really to just add-on the WiFi hotspot functionality to your smartphone if you have one that supports this function, which includes the new T-Mobile HTC Radar 4G.

Other reviews

As you know, I always recommend you check out other reviews before making a purchase decision and here are a couple that I found for you to read. I agree with the ratings from both of these reviews and found them to match my experiences too.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi

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    I live in Oklahoma City, and according to T-Mobile's Data Coverage map, I am in 4g Very good coverage area. I received my 4G Sonic Mobile Hotspot device today, changed the SSID and PW, restarted, and hooked up. With a single device, Speakeasy.net gave me 1.06Mbps download and Speedtest.net gave me 1.1Mbps download speeds. I contacted TMobile to question this speed, as 4G doesn't have these speeds in it's nightmares. The tech had me restart the device and visit a site called Mobilespeedtest.net and run a 1MB test. amazingly I got 6.69Mbps speeds. he said he activated the profile, and that must have fixed it. After hanging up, I got the same speeds through the other sites, and DLing a file was tragically slow.<br>Inside the hotspot's GUI it shows a real-time track of sent and received data. After restarting the device, this was reset to 0. I pulled up IE, went to mobilespeedtest.net like the tech said to do, and the tracker showed 184kb received. I ran the 1MB test, which now showed 7.3Mbps speeds, and tabbed back to the GUI. It showed 224kb received. After running the speedtest through speakeasy, the GUI showed 2.84MB received. I have to say, I'm fairly sure the Mobilespeedtest.net is fradulent and used by techs simply to get customers off the phone. <br>Very disappointed with T-Mobile's network and customer service over here.
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