Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

Summary: Verizon now offers two mobile hotspots for use with the 4G network, one from Samsung and the other from Novatel, and I've been testing them to see which is the best. Check out the face off to see which one gets the nod.

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TOPICS: Samsung, Mobility, Wi-Fi
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The Verizon 4G LTE network is the fastest mobile network in the U. S., and a mobile hotspot is just the ticket to connect up to 5 devices to the network for high-speed connectivity. Verizon now offers two mobile hotspots for use with the 4G network, and I've been testing them to see which is the best. Both the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot and the Novatel 4G LTE MiFi work with data plans on Verizon starting at $50 per month.

Mobile hotspots are gadgets a little bigger than credit cards that combine a mobile broadband modem with a WiFi router to get multiple devices onto the network at a time. They are simple to operate: hit the power button and that's it. The hotspot device connects to the fastest network it can find, starting with the Verizon 4G network, and if that's not available it steps down automatically to the 3G EVDO network. In just a few seconds the hotspot is connected, and the integrated router becomes available for any device with WiFi to connect and get online.

My testing shows that both devices are very similar in form and function, and work well with the Verizon 4G network. I have good 4G coverage in Houston, so I did not test the 3G function of either modem. I have broken down the performance of the devices in several categories to compare the two.

There is not much difference in size between the two devices, with the Samsung just a tiny bit smaller than the Novatel. Any difference in weight is also negligible between the two. I rate them both equal in size.

Check out Verizon 4G mobile hotspot photo gallery


Image Gallery: Verizon 4G mobile hotspot face off:Novatel MiFi vs. Samsung Mobile Hotspot. Image Gallery: PlayBook Image Gallery: PlayBook

Connection speed

In a mobile setting one of the most important features of a hotspot is how fast it gets online once powered on. I have used hotspots in the past that took a very long time to find the broadband network and get online, a real impediment to mobile usage. Neither of these modems take long to get online, with each getting online within 15 seconds or so after pushing the power button. The Samsung is a little bit faster in this regard, but only by a second or two. Either of these devices will get you online quickly while on the go. I rate them both equal for connection speed.

Online speed

Another critical function of a hotspot is how well it dishes out the fast network data to connected devices. I've used hotspot devices that seem to throttle the network speed, and I wanted to make sure neither of these do so. I am happy to report that both modems connect devices at full speed, and I found no differences in this regard.

I ran several simple speed tests in different locations, and in every instance the speeds delivered to my devices was very similar. The only variation I noted was in the LTE network itself, which is common. I was able to record speeds up to 20 Mbps down with both the Samsung and the Novatel, and up to 6 Mbps up. There was no notable speed difference at all between these two devices. I rate them both equal in online speed.

I've heard from several people that both of these devices work well with corporate VPNs, but I haven't tested that myself. Either one should be good for that purpose.

Battery life

These devices are designed to be run using an integrated battery, so battery life is important. The Novatel MiFi lasted about 15 minutes longer than the Samsung on a single charge. I don't find this significant personally, as either device can be plugged into a laptop via USB for both charging and operation. This would keep you going in a pinch, as long as you had a device with a USB port.

The battery life may be more important for some mobile users, and even though the Novatel lasted a bit longer I would give the nod to the Samsung in the battery life category. It's expensive (about $50), but Verizon offers an extended battery for the Samsung that almost doubles the battery life. This option should provide a good 7 hours of usage on the Samsung, versus just under 4 hours on the standard battery.

Conclusion

My testing leads me to conclude that either one of these gadgets is good at the intended function, getting WiFi-equipped devices onto the Verizon 4G/3G network. I found no appreciable difference in operation between the two, and would have no problem recommending either to readers. I would give a slight nod in favor of the Novatel MiFi, simply due to its history of making MiFi devices for other networks. Novatel invented the MiFi, while the Samsung Mobile Hotspot is its first device of this type.

Both devices are $99 from Verizon with a 2-year 4G data contract, and require the same data plan from the carrier.

Topics: Samsung, Mobility, Wi-Fi

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15 comments
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  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    Cool. I am waiting for this kind of review before I buy. thanks a lot.

    Update: I went with Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11 mainly because of extended battery.
    Ram U
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    II have had the Samsung for about a month now. I had the previous gen 3G version from Novatel for 2 years. Once you get a MiFi its hard to live without, especially if you have kids! I love the 4G speed, it is qute amazing. I don't think you could go wrong with either of these
    tgschmidt
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    Too bad Verizon caps you at 10GB :-(
    lgpOnTheMove
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    I've used both devices, primarily in a 3G area. Where I give the nod to Novatel is the ability to force 3G mode, which should save on battery life when traveling in those areas. Also, my experience with the Samsung was frustration with frequent stalls & lock-ups... and I had little trouble finding others experiencing the same thing. So far, the Novatel has been rock solid.
    jgrahs
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    Great review on a few features. What about SDHC card capability? Do both support it?
    unc95
  • Message has been deleted.

    huangsx
  • Have you had solid connections?

    My ThunderBolt drops the connection constantly in WiFi hotspot mode and I am just about ready to throw it off a building. I am wondering if I should switch to one of these with Verizon instead and want to know if you have seen consistent connection performance?
    palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

      @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      I think a lot depends on where you are, moving or stationary, how loaded is the cell site where you loose your connection.
      Have you been complaining to Verizon. It takes time and effort but you can get answers and sometimes results.
      bwexler
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    I hae had the 3g mifi from Novetel for 6 mths, and I loved it. Paid full retail for the 4g version and would not settle for Samsung, because of the great experience from my MIFI. I am a trucker and I could ride thrugh mountains and anywhere leavin my 3g connected and internet running always. Great experience. Samsung makes a great TV, while Novatel is known for WI-FI. Jamie
    fgump23
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    Samsung user here.
    I am going to return it. It locks up, drops connections frequently, and it gets confused when there are several wifi networks in an area (hotel, airport, etc.).
    In rf noisy environments, it doesn't broadcast Ssid at all.
    jim.bresee@...
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    As with all mobile products where you use it will effect how well it performs for you. I am using yet a different mobile wifi hotspot product which accepts different vendor modems. It works with some modems and not with others. It provides excellent 3G performance where it connects. If you pick the product that has good coverage in your geographical area you should be very happy with the results.

    Tom M.
    tlgalenson@...
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    i have the samsung unit and i don't like the battery life on it. it tends to get very hot and overheat! i'm exchanging this unit for the MIFI device tomorrow.

    if anyone needs 50% off either of these devices through verizon, send me a message @ jpham.group@gmail.com
    jphamgroup
  • why? mifi vs my cell phone

    other than separating the costs of a voice plan and a data plan why would one choose to get a mifi? what advantages are there over...my android or apple 4g phone that can broadcast a wifi signal? am i missing the bigger picture here?
    Shivka
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    They both suck..i tried verizon, Att, Tmobile....all mobile broadband sucks..i want it to work everywhere and it doesn't even get a signal in my own house..and when it does, it comes and goes..especially while moving in a car...very annoying
    HAMMER77777
  • RE: Face off: Novatel 4G LTE MiFi vs. Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

    BOTH JUNK..DONT WORK
    HAMMER77777