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Sprint Overdrive 4G: The Common Connection for your Gadgets

April 16th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Technology

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked about my Apple iPad is “Did you get the 3G version?” or ” How much do you pay a month to connect to the Internet?” My answer has surprised many people. So the following is a quick post about why I purchased the WiFi model of the iPad and how I connect to the Internet while traveling.

My Overdrive and iPhone - for size comparison.

After researching my options, I purchased a Sprint Overdrive™ 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless. The device is slightly bigger than a deck of cards and allows up to five WiFi devices within 150 feet to connect to the Internet through a 3G or 4G connection to Sprint’s network. The device has a basic interface with only two buttons: Power and Mute. All settings are configured through a web Interface that you can access from any browser after connecting to the device.

For a traveler that has multiple devices (laptops, netbooks, iPads, iPhones), the Sprint Overdrive makes it a wonderful solution for providing an Internet connection on one account. Here are some examples of how I’ve used the Sprint Overdrive in the past few weeks:

  • While at a client’s office, I was able to setup a WiFi network for my MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone and the MacBook Pro of a co-worker. We didn’t have to connect through the client’s WiFi.
  • While at home I’m able to setup an Internet connection on my Sprint Overdrive. I don’t have an Internet connection at my condo, so it’s one less Internet subscription in my life. Streaming videos from ABC on my iPad is seamless. I can watch an entire hour long show without a single hiccup.
  • While in a New York Taxi, an associate and I were able to stream live video of the Masters golf tournament on the iPad and two iPhones simultaneously. You can see the video here.
  • While at a local restaurant in San Antonio that doesn’t have WiFI, I was able to activate the Sprint Overdrive and leave it in my car and then I was able to surf the Internet on my iPad from inside the restaurant.
  • While driving I had a client call and ask for some large files, I was able to pull over, fire up the Sprint Overdrive and connect via my laptop and send the files. I regularly drive to Austin with several coworkers, I can see using the Sprint Overdrive as a solution to let everyone in the car connect to the Internet.

So far, I’ve been very pleased with the functionality of the device. And the 4G network is very fast! Here are the results from SpeedTest.net while connected to 4G from my condo:

While the upload could be faster, for most applications the above speeds are great, even for multiple devices.

The device is extremely simple to use. It has a single Power button that does what it says. And a switch that controls the audio interface of the device. With the audio turned on, the device will “announce” through a series of distinctive beeps when it has connected/disconnected from 4G/3G networks and when devices connect/disconnect via WiFi. It’s pretty annoying to have the audio interface on for very long, but it’s helpful when you are troubleshooting connections.

The rest of the options are configured through a very comprehensive web interface. The primary need for using the configuration tool is to setup a password for your WiFi network. The password is displayed on the front of the device so you won’t forget it.

The device also has a slot for a MicroSD card so you can share a common storage device on your mobile WiFi network. I haven’t tested it yet, but it’s certainly a cool concept.

Unfortunately, the Sprint Overdrive has a few issues that might make you think twice before signing up for another monthly service account – $59.99/month. Here’s a few of the issues that I have experienced in my first 12 days with the device:

  • Battery Life – The battery life is about 3-4 hours. While that’s not terrible, it will keep you looking for an outlet wherever you travel. I purchased a car charger (USB) for the device and that helps. It’s worth noting that accessing the battery is easy. For those that travel a lot, it would be a good idea to invest in a second battery.
  • Slow Bootup – It takes between 90-120 seconds to startup. While that doesn’t seem terrible, if you just want to check a quick email, it seems like forever.
  • Power Button – The single power, push button is odd. You basically have to hold it down for several seconds to either turn it on or off. I can’t explain it, but some times it just seems hard to use. I wish they just a simple slide on/off switch.
  • Glitches – In two weeks, the device has locked up a total of four times. Just completely locked up (the WiFi network shows up, but the clock on the device and the connection to the Internet are unresponsive.) I’m guessing that a software update for the device will be coming out soon.
  • 4G Availability – In my home town of San Antonio, I’ve been able to connect to 4G everywhere I go. In Chicago, I was able to connect to 4G. During three days in New York, I didn’t find a 4G network once. When a 4G network isn’t available, it switches to a 3G connection, which is considerably slower.
  • Price – The device is only $99, but I now have another $59.99 per month account. Unlike having a dedicated connection on an iPad 3G, at least I can use it with multiple devices.
  • Data Limits – The $59.99 monthly plan has an upper limit of 5gb of data per month (before they start charging per megabyte.) I’ll report back later, but I can easily see hitting the 5gb limit, especially if multiple users are accessing the device.

Overall, I really like this device. It’s perfect for the business traveler that has multiple devices or commonly travels with coworkers. I think this device would also be great for a family that has multiple laptops or iPads. It would provide an easy way to let everyone connect. I wish that AT&T had a solution. I really didn’t like having to open another account at Sprint, but that was my only option. I considered Clear, but they’re coverage isn’t as extensive as Sprint.

As I get more experience with the device, I’ll provide more updates. If you have any questions, please contact me at rs@toolboxstudios.com.

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