Wireless Product Review: Novatel Revisited + Sierra Wireless 598U

Last month I wrote a review on the Novatel Wireless MiFi, the cool new mobile hotspot. I gave it a generally glowing review, but reserved the right to later judgment based on further testing.

Well, I am calling upon the right of later judgment. Upon further review, this device did not deliver the goods. As I reported before, all the features seemed to work quite well; I had been able to get it up and running with no issues at all. After running steady for a few hours, however, the problems started to appear.

Seemingly at random and for no apparent reason, the MiFi would disconnect and reconnect to the service. This presented somewhat of a problem when I was trying to move a file with no resume capabilities. If the connection bounced at any time during the transfer, I had to start completely over. This is unacceptable as a main connection to the Internet.

After much research and not a few calls to technical support, I came to the conclusion that there is a flaw in either the hardware or the firmware running it. Apparently, this is a regular occurrence, and not yet solved. This forced me to revisit the Sprint store and my solution for connecting to the Internet.

After some paperwork, I settled on the Sierra Wireless 598U as a replacement solution. This nice little piece of hardware is a USB 3G wireless modem. About 3 inches long and an inch wide, it also contains a micro-SD card reader.

This USB modem is compatible with both windows and OSX, but requires proprietary software to be installed. The good thing is that you don’t have to keep track of a CD: the drivers and software are built into the firmware of the device and are installed the first time it is plugged in.

The 598U absolutely blows the MiFi away as far as connection strength and stability, and I am getting better speeds than I ever have on Sprint’s network. Even when my signal is showing at forty percent, I am getting better speeds than the MiFi would with 100% signal strength.

I was easily able to install the USB modem on my Macbook Pro and share the connection wirelessly with the other computers in my house. After a few weeks of testing and moving several Gigabytes of information, I am happy to report that the 598U is handling my needs quit nicely.

Although it would have been nice if the Novatel MiFi had delivered, I can say that the new solution is working quit well, and Sprint has done a reasonable job of customer service in the process.

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