The iPad as a Personal Hotspot: Over 25 Hours of Continuous Use

Verizon makes the decision of which iPad to buy even more difficult by being the only of the two US carriers to enable the personal hotspot option on the new iPad. For no additional monthly fee on top of your data plan your Verizon LTE iPad can act as a wireless hotspot, allowing up to five other devices to use its cellular connection over WiFi (2.4GHz only, unfortunately) or Bluetooth. One device can use the hotspot via the iPad's USB dock cable.

If you don't already have the personal hotspot option in the initial settings page, you'll need to go to general settings, then network, and activate personal hotspot there. Once you've done so you'll see a new item for personal hotspot in the default settings page.

You must remain on the personal hotspot settings page for the iPad's SSID to be visible to nearby devices. Once you leave the settings page, the iPad stops broadcasting its personal hotspot SSID.

In general the iPad's personal hotspot seems to be better behaved than similar options under Android. I've noticed all too often that Android hotspots will either stop routing traffic after an extended period of use, requiring either cycling the radio states on the hotspot device itself or in some cases a full reset of the hardware. The iPad wasn't immune to this sort of behavior, it just seemed to happen less than on the Android tablets and smartphones that I've tested. In one test it took only a few hours before I had to reset the iPad to make its hotspot work properly again, while in another case it was only after 24 hours of continuous use that the feature began misbehaving. Overall I am very pleased with the Verizon iPad as a personal hotspot, the bigger issue is the cost of the data that you're sharing with all of those devices.

As I mentioned in our Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE review, these LTE tablets make great hotspots simply because you are pairing smartphone modems with gigantic (for a smartphone) batteries. The end result is if you have to treat your LTE tablet as a true hotspot (screen off and all), you get great battery life. The new iPad takes this idea to a completely new level since its battery is now squarely in the laptop-sized category, but its LTE modem is still designed to run on a < 6Wh smartphone battery.

Our standard hotspot battery life test involves running four copies of our web browsing battery life test and playing a 128Kbps internet radio stream on a laptop tethered via WiFi to the hotspot being tested. While peak download speeds during this test can reach as high as 1MB/s, remember that these web browsing battery life scripts include significant idle time to simulate reading a web page. The average data transferred over the duration of the test amounts to around 25KB/s if you take into account idle periods.

With the Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE I tried something different—letting the tethered notebook download at full speed using the Tab's LTE connection. On the new iPad, after nearly an hour of downloads at well over 1MB/s I saw no drop in the battery percentage indicator—it was stuck at 100%. Not wanting to upset Verizon too much, I needed to find a good balance between a realistic workload and something that wasn't going to make me rack up over a hundred GB in overages.

If our standard hotspot test averages around 25KB/s of transfers, I figured doubling it couldn't hurt. I downloaded a sufficiently large file at a constant 50KB/s on a laptop tethered over WiFi to the new iPad to see how long it would last. The result was astounding: 25.3 hours on a single charge

WiFi Hotspot Battery Life Time

I used up over 4.5GB during this period—almost the entire amount that my $50/month plan gave me, all without having to plug the iPad in to recharge it. That's the beauty of using a 42.5Wh battery to drive a cellular modem that can last a couple of hours on a tenth of that capacity. If you want to use the new iPad as a personal hotspot, you'll likely run out of data before you run out of battery life.

It's a real shame that AT&T decided against enabling personal hotspot on its version of the LTE iPad. It's for this reason alone that I'd recommend the Verizon version, assuming that you're planning on using your iPad in an area where Verizon has LTE coverage of course.

The Most Tangible Feature: LTE Support The Camera, It's Much Improved
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  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    No idea. Was it necessary to upgrade the GPU to get an equivalent experience on the larger screen in that case, or was performance on the 3GS limited by the CPU (or RAM, or something else)? Reply
  • zorxd - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    just look at benchmarks on this web site

    The iPhone 3GS gets more FPS in 3D games because of the lower resolution.

    So in short, yes, it would have been necessary to upgrade the GPU to keep the same performance.

    But no matter what Apple does, people will always say it's the right choice.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I looked for a comparison between 3GS and 4 game FPS comparison and couldn't find anything. Can you point me to it?

    I'm looking for hard numbers because just increasing the resolution doesn't necessarily mean a GPU upgrade is necessary. If (and this is completely hypothetical) the 3GS was performance limited because of its CPU, improving the CPU in the 4 could allow it to achieve the same performance at a higher resolution.

    I'm not remotely saying this is the case, just that I've seen no numbers demonstrating a drop in frame rate from the 3GS to the 4.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I believe the GPU got a clock speed increase when it went from the 3GS to the 4. Reply
  • Peter_St - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    Oh wait, let me rephrase this: I have this nice shiny tower with 2GB of RAM and newest CPU out there but shitty OS with java hogs and memory leaks, but who cares, I'll just go and jerk off on the specs.

    I think that's what you wanted to say...
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    GPUs which consume hundreds of times more watts than SoCs like this and have much more memory bandwidth at their disposal still struggle with the resolution this thing is displaying. The Xbox 360 GPU has, if I recall, around 25GB/s vs 6 in this, and that struggles to run games at 720p in a constant 30FPS. So far, it seems like the retina compatible games do display at native res, but there aren't any improvements in textures, effects, etc. So would the additional GPU power effectively be negated by the resolution for native apps, and still be constrained to games that look straight out of 2003-4? Or is Imagination Tech's video memory compression that much more advanced than AMDs/Nvidias so bandwidth doesn't matter as much? Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    It's not only about the resolution. You could probably play Doom just fine with the SGX543MP4 at this resolution. The problem is when you have more complex level of details, shaders, etc. The iPad couldn't play a game like Crysis even at half resolution. But even at 2048x1536, Doom will still look like a game of the 90s. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    *12.8GB/s, my mistake Reply
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    What's battery life watching a bunch of movies.. say from New York to Hawaii? Will I be able to get 9 hours??

    Can run all the compute benchies we want, but primarily these are portable entertainment devices. The simplest use being the most common.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Depends how bright you want the display, but from the number they're posting you should be fine at < 70% max brightness.

    I would argue that the most common use case is probably web browsing though, not movie watching. Unless... how often are you on these flights from New York to Hawaii?
    Reply

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