What's Hot: Nice design, 4G connectivity, and good performance.
What's Not: 4G still limited to a few markets in the nation.
When Sprint announced the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot at CES 2010, I was a bit taken aback. Could this be the only device that Sprint planned to announce at CES? As the convention went on - and as I had more time to play with the Overdrive - I became more and more impressed. From conventions to general traveling, It seems like I'm always on the road. I wouldn't change that for the world (FYI, I love to travel), but it has always been challenging to find a good replacement to my high-speed internet at home. Is the Overdrive the perfect replacement? Of course not. That being said, 4G connectivity is the closest thing to cable and DSL yet, and I found myself less irritated with the connection speeds than ever before. Sure, it had times where it was faster than others, but overall, I rarely found myself thinking "good heavens, I wish I was doing this work at home." Given the connectivity options I've faced prior to this, the fact that I don't have to think about that is a compliment to the Overdrive's capabilities.
Design, Features, and Functionality
Shaped like a hockey puck, the Sprint Overdrive offers beveled corners, and a relatively minimalist design, with a display and power button on the front of the device. The top of the device houses a sound on/off toggle, and the microUSB charging port and microSD card slot are on the bottom. The Sprint Overdrive box is shaped like the device and offers an AC adapter, USB cable, and instruction manuals.
When connected to the Overdrive, you can view full stats at http://overdrive from your computer. From the control panel, you can monitor the Overdrive's status, review the connection information (and decide if you want to connect to 3G or 4G), and see how many people are using the device. A primary frustration about the MiFi solutions centered around the inability to easily detect basic information about the device - battery life, the number of users on the device at any given time, and signal strength. Thanks to a small screen on the front of the Overdrive (and the accompanying admin webpage), the problem is gone.
The Overdrive was tested in the Charlotte area, and 4G data speeds were very good. Download speeds came in at 5.20 Mbps, and upload speeds came in at .75 Mbps. When visiting a known Sprint dead spot, I found data to be reasonably quick, despite having one bar of (3G) service. When I was testing the device in Las Vegas, I experienced the occasional cutout - I would be browsing the web, and the unit would suddenly lose the connection. Assuming that it was the overload of people using the network during CES, I waited until I returned home for formal testing. I'm happy to report that there have been no outages or issues here - in fact, I've been using it for the past five hours without trouble.
I'm very impressed with the Sprint Overdrive, and given the (recently lowered) $59.99 monthly price tag, why not? For the same price as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile's solution, I can sport 4G speeds in several markets across the US, with 3G as a backup. Speeds are reasonably fast given the device's mobile nature, and it offers upgrades that make it worthy of consideration over the carrier's MiFi offering. The way I see it, it's a product that's about a year ahead of its time, and should be taken seriously.
Pick up the Sprint Overdrive at select Sprint stores, or online at Sprint.com.