The Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot for Virgin Mobile ($79.99) is a lot like a buffet—you get as much data as you want, though it isn’t particularly top-quality. It’s a bulky mobile hotspot that hooks into Sprint’s slow 3G network, as well as its abandoned 4G WiMAX network, to provide a wireless connection for up to five devices. And while neither of those networks will get you speeds on par with 4G LTE, you’re paying a whole lot less. For as little as $35 per month, you can have access to all the 4G WiMAX data you can handle. If you live in the coverage area and use lots of data, it’s definitely worth considering.
Pricing and Performance
We have a full review of the Overdrive Pro on Sprint, and the Virgin model looks and acts very similarly. I’ll focus on the pricing and data speeds on Virgin, as well as comparisons with other contract-free hotspots, in this review.
There are two big reasons to consider the Overdrive Pro on Virgin: pricing and unlimited data. The hotspot itself costs $79.99, which is average. But there’s a lot of value to be found in Virgin’s Broadband2Go plans. For $35 per month, you get 2GB of 3G data. $55 per month gets you 5GB. There’s also a daily plan, where $5 per day gets you 200MB of 3G data. Those prices are okay, but here’s where it gets really good: Each of those plans comes with unlimited 4G WiMAX data. That means you can use the Overdrive Pro as much as you want for as little as $35 per month.
Unlike Clear, which provides unlimited data on the same WiMAX network as Virgin, here there’s no cap on download or upload speeds. But there’s still a catch—Virgin claims that speeds may be throttled after 10GB of usage per month. But even then, speeds are capped at 2Mbps, which isn’t bad.
AT&T and Verizon have higher-quality 3G networks, as well as much faster 4G LTE networks, but those plans average around $50 per month for 5GB of data; you can burn through all of that before you finish watching a season of Breaking Bad on Netflix. Theoretically, with unlimited data, you can even use the Overdrive Pro as your primary home Internet connection.
As we discovered in our annual Fastest Mobile Networks report, Sprint has the slowest 3G speeds of all the carriers we tested. So if you don’t live in a WiMAX coverage area, you may want to rethink your options. But if you are covered by WiMAX, you can expect speeds that are much faster than Sprint’s 3G, though still not on a par with 4G LTE. To find out if you’re covered, check here.
In testing the Overdrive Pro, I saw average download speeds of around 3Mbps, which isn’t bad. It should make for relatively smooth browsing and media streaming. Uploads, on the other hand, never made it past 0.4Mbps, which is rather slow, and reception isn’t great either. But if you can tolerate the slower speeds, it’s a major relief to know that you have unlimited data at your disposal. And unlike the Clear Spot Voyager , which only supports WiMAX, the Overdrive Pro gets you a finite amount of 3G data per month as well. Again, this data is very slow, but it’s good to have if you’re traveling outside of the WiMAX coverage zone.
The Overdrive Pro’s battery was good four 4 hours and 10 minutes of 4G streaming in my tests, which is okay, but not great.
The Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot is a good choice if you’re looking for a way to stay connected without running out of data or breaking the bank. You’ll get more reliable, faster speeds with 4G LTE from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, but you’ll also be paying a lot more. The Clear Spot Voyager lacks 3G support, but it also gets you unlimited data on the same 4G WiMAX network as the Overdrive Pro. It’s smaller and more portable, with much better battery life, but it lacks the Overdrive Pro’s external display. The Freedom Spot Photon from FreedomPop is another interesting choice. It too hooks into the same 4G WiMAX network, and actually gets you your data for free, though only in limited quantities. It’s worth a look if you only need a hotspot to get online occasionally.
More Cellular Modem Reviews:
|Cellular Technology||CDMA 1X, WiMAX, EV-DO Rev A|
|Number of Devices Supported||5|
|Battery Life||4 hours 10 minutes|
|Bands||850, 1900, 2600|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc