Introduction

A while back we explored almost all of Verizon’s 4G LTE network launch hardware - two USB modems, the Samsung SCH-LC11 hotspot, and the HTC Thunderbolt, to be exact. Since then, one more WiFi hotspot product has launched which we’ve been playing with for a long time, the MiFi 4510L from Novatel Wireless. The SCH-LC11 was a decent hotspot but still didn’t quite nail everything.

It’s pretty amazing to me how Novatel Wireless’ MiFi brand quickly became so synonymous with portable cellular hotspots. The MiFi 2200 is an iconic product that pops up just about everywhere and has enjoyed well-deserved, almost unchallenged success on practically every single CDMA2000 carrier in the US. For many smartphone users, using things like WMWifiRouter and other similar software tools (long before Android added its own wireless AP) that made a smartphone into a portable WiFi access point were old hat, but Novatel’s MiFi was a nicely packaged solution that was much easier to swallow. Novatel has kept the MiFi updated, but has primarily focused on versions with exclusively 3GPP (GSM/UMTS) connectivity. The deployment of Verizon’s 4G LTE network thus necessitated another update, and Novatel’s answer is the MiFi 4510L, which includes support for the carrier’s 700 MHz LTE and 1900 / 800 1x/EvDO Rev.A networks. 


The LTE-enabled MiFi 4510L next to its older sibling, the MiFi 2200

I was a bit surprised to see Novatel beaten at launch time by Samsung, whose SCH-LC11 hotspot we reviewed came before the MiFi variant by a fair margin. At the time, I was satisfied with the SCH-LC11 but still looking for a few additional important things. Chief among those were 5 GHz 802.11a/n support, ability to change between using the device as a modem or charge when connected over USB, GPS support, and more customization options inside the web control pages.


Samsung's SCH-LC11 hotspot

Unfortunately the MiFi 4510L doesn’t really bring anything different on those fronts, and as we’ll see in a moment actually is based around the exact same combination of MDM9600 baseband and WCN1312 WLAN with no discrete applications processor. 

First things first, and that’s how the MiFi 4510L compares physically to its predecessor, and the SCH-LC11. Unfortunately, the SCH-LC11 had to go back to Verizon before the MiFi 4510L came, so I don’t have any side by side shots with that device, however the table below tells the story of how the two compare when it comes to size and weight. 

Portable Hotspot Comparison
  Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 Samsung SCH-LC11 Novatel Wireless MiFi4510L
Height 59 mm (2.32") 59 mm (2.32") 60 mm (2.36")
Width 89 mm (3.50") 90 mm (3.54") 95 mm (3.74")
Depth 8.8 mm (0.35") 11 mm (0.43") 13 mm (0.53")
Weight 59 g (2.08 oz) 81.5 g (2.87 oz) 88.6 g (3.13 oz)
Network Support 800 / 1900 (1x/EvDO Rev.A/0) 700 MHz (LTE), 800 / 1900 (1x/EvDO Rev.A/0) 700 MHz (LTE), 800 / 1900 (1x/EvDO Rev.A/0)
Battery Size Removable 4.25 Whr Removable 5.55 Whr Removable 5.6 Whr

It’s clear to me that the original MiFi 2200 is still the form factor to beat, leading both in overall package volume, and weight. The move to LTE has necessitated both a PCB that spans the entire length of the board, and a larger battery, and that definitely shows. 

Physical Impressions and Aesthetics
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  • jigglywiggly - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    What's the point of this if the max data thing you can get is 10gb? Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    I really think that Verizon is testing the waters to see what will stick when it comes to their pricing. At this point, $80 for 10 GB is... well, too much, really. At least for me personally.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • testprof - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    Brian,

    Perhaps you could do a follow-up comparison to the Sprint MiFi 4082. The Sprint furnished configuration appears to be much more extensive than what you show for the 4510L. The lack of a robust configuration for WiFi is a shortcoming, but is not a problem for me, as I do not attend many large gatherings... I use it principally for updating test systems in the field that have no corporate network connections for security reasons. The 4082 has a MicroSD slot for up to 32GB and supports file sharing, active on-board GPS, USB tethering, and has application widgets. I would prefer the Verison LTE network for its better coverage, but cannot complain about the single price unlimited 4G on Sprint. I am disappointed at the 5GB cap on 3G and the incredible level of overage costs if you exceed that. It is $0.05 per megabyte of data. That's $51.20 per gig!!!
    Reply
  • Luscious - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    Have you taken a look at Clearwire's Clear Spot 4G mobile hotspot? They charge only $45/month (or $50 with a business plan that includes a QoS contract) and let you use unlimited 4G (no caps).

    My monthly usage falls around 25GB, so at 10GB Verizon's LTE service is in my case overpriced and insufficient. If carriers insist on caps they should raise them!!! 25GB should be the minimum for one month of laptop tethering.

    I'm confused though why you want 5GHz in a hotspot when netbooks and notebooks still ship with 2.4Hz radios inside. I don't fancy a wifi dongle sticking out the side of my device, and if interference were an issue, plugging in via USB would solve that.
    Reply
  • wpellis - Thursday, September 01, 2011 - link

    To Luscious last comment, the point is that you have flexibility to seamlessly share that internet connection with multiple laptops, devices, etc. Reply
  • schmitt - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    iPads ship with 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Reply
  • schmitt - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    I was a Clearwire customer and used the iSpot. But, their 4G coverage in Vegas was bad. So, I gave the iSpot to a friend and cancelled the service. They will throttle your speeds.

    This is from Clearwire's website:

    ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY
    Effective August 22, 2011

    Unlimited Use Plans. If you subscribe to a service plan that does not impose limits on the amount of data you may download or upload during a month (or other applicable service period), you should be aware that such “unlimited” plans are nevertheless subject to the provisions of this AUP. What this means is that all of the provisions described in this AUP, including those that describe how Clearwire may perform reasonable network management such as reducing the data rate of bandwidth intensive users during periods of congestion, will apply to your use of the Service. The term “unlimited” means that we will not place a limit on how much data you upload or download during a month or other particular period. However, the term “unlimited” does not mean that we will not take steps to reduce your data rate during periods of congestion or take other actions described in this AUP when your usage is negatively impacting the Internet experience of other subscribers to our Service.
    Reply
  • gonna621 - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    I upgraded from my 3G to this 4G. The 3G worked great, this thing sucks ass. It does not work with 4G because there is not enough 4G cell sites in my area. It did not work at all when I first got it, because it was hunting for a 4G signal. Tech support had to force it to stay on 3G for it to work.
    It turns itseld off several times and day and has to be constantly reset.
    You can connect to it and it does not tell you that it is not connected to the internet.

    I tried to take it back but they won't accept it.

    DON'T BUY THIS PRODUCT IT IS A RIP OFF AND VERIZON DOES NOT STAND BEHIND ITS PRODUCT
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    Verizon is certainly to blame if you're disappointed with the 4G coverage in your area.

    The fact that there are not enough 4G "cell sites" in your area, however, has nothing to do with the 4510L.
    Reply
  • biffsbiz - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Gonna621, You are correct, this device works poorly in CDMA, EvDo, & LTE areas. It drops connections continuously, it never shows a signal strength anywhere near what a MiFi 2200 shows, it cannot switch between CDMA, EvDo, & LTE, it is just a poorly functioning device. If you have a MiFi 2200 do not be fooled by it's ease of use and functionality into upgrading to the MiFi 4150L. Keep your 3G device until LTE software works with 1x, 3G & LTE properly. Biff Reply

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