AT&T MiFi 2372 review

In the week or so that I have been testing the AT&T MiFi 2372 by Novatel Wireless, it has already saved no less than three lives.

First, it saved my cable guy’s life. You see, Time Warner Cable provides the worst home Internet service I have ever experienced. I can’t even think of a close second. If providing terrible home Internet service was a sport, Time Warner Cable would be on its tenth consecutive undefeated season. Forget the fact that my upload speed is capped at 60Kbps and I’m lucky if I can get half that — it has been months since I’ve gone through a full day without at least one service interruption. Months. Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable has an exclusive contract with my building so I have no choice but to endure its abysmal service. Last week, as a Time Warner Cable technician entered my home for the sixth time in two months, I realized that this certainly would have spelled serious trouble had it not been for my trusty new back up device.

Before the MiFi 2372 arrived on my doorstep from Novatel, Sprint’s Overdrive had been my savior — thus bringing me to the second life AT&T’s MiFi saved. After applying the most recent firmware update on my Overdrive, battery life dropped from roughly 2.5 hours to roughly 2.5 minutes. That might seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you it’s not. From a full charge, my Overdrive now displays a low battery warning in under three minutes. It then powers down and becomes unusable until I pull the battery and replace it again, which then affords me another 2.5 minutes of WiMAX connectivity before the device powers itself down. Since applying the aforementioned firmware update, the only purpose my Overdrive can adequately serve is that of a blunt object — one I surely would have used to bludgeon a poor unsuspecting Sprint store employee had the arrival of the MiFi 2372 not reduced my boiling blood to a simmer.

Finally, of course, the third life this mobile hotspot saved is my own. I’m certainly not bright enough to evade capture and I assure you… I wouldn’t last more than a few minutes in prison.

All joking aside, the combination of Novatel Wireless’ MiFi 2372 and AT&T’s terrific mobile broadband service in my area have made for a great experience. I routinely get around 5Mbps down and over 1Mbps up, which are identical to the speeds I saw over WiMAX back when my Overdrive was more than a shiny black paperweight.

For those unaware, the function of a “MiFi” device is simple: it connects to a cellular data network and then allows other devices to share this data connection over Wi-Fi. The MiFi 2372 supports up to five simultaneous connections, and anything with a Wi-Fi radio is compatible. It also features a microSD card slot with support for up to 16GB of storage, which makes sharing files between connected devices a breeze.

Novatel’s MiFi 2372 is capable of download speeds up to 7.2Mbps and upload speeds up to 5.76Mbps. While I haven’t gotten close to reaching the cap on the upload side, download speeds have approached 6Mbps in and around New York City. Assuming AT&T will continue to expand its HSPA+ service in the coming months, it would have been nice if Novatel prepared for 14.4Mbps in the MiFi 2372. Current speeds are more than adequate when only one device is connected, but I did experience some hiccups with multiple simultaneous connections — especially if any of the connected devices were streaming video.

Battery life on the MiFi 2372 is outstanding. Surprisingly so, in fact. Novatel’s website claims that the device will last up to 4 hours on a single charge when one Wi-Fi device is connected. Believe it or not, that figure aligns with my experiences quite well. It should be noted that AT&T’s service is exceptional in my area, and battery life will certainly be less impressive in fringe coverage areas.

The MiFi 2372 is the first device to feature Novatel’s new widget support. Because the device doesn’t have an on-device display like Sprint’s Overdrive, the widget panel is quite useful. It is accessible on the MiFi dashboard (just point your browser to http://att.mifi) and provides a good deal of information. Examples include remaining battery charge, signal strength and number of connected devices. You can also log into your AT&T account and see widgets that will display account information and messages. Finally, there are location-specific widgets that become active when you enable the MiFi 2372′s internal GPS. Accessible information includes weather forecasts and Google Maps integration for fast and easy local searches.

As AT&T’s first mobile hotspot, the Novatel MiFi 2372 sets the bar at a good height. Not too high, mind you, but just high enough. The battery life is impressive, the widgets are interesting and useful, and data speeds are adequate. AT&T’s network has taken a lot of heat recently, but I find AT&T to be just like every other cellular carrier in the world — it’s good if you’re well-covered and bad if you’re not. I happen to live and work in an area that is thoroughly blanketed with AT&T’s speedy 3G service, and as long as I’m not using an iPhone I rarely have any issues. If you can make the same claim about the majority of areas in which you plan to use a mobile hotspot, the MiFi 2372 is ideal.

The Novatel MiFi 2372 mobile hotspot is available immediately from AT&T for $299.99 off-contract or $49.99 with a new 2-year agreement. I recommend paying the extra cash up front so you can temporarily stop paying for the service if you don’t plan to use the device for a while. Monthly service costs $35 for 200MB of data or $60 for 5GB of data, and overages cost $0.10 per MB so definitely monitor your usage closely — which, by the way, can be done quite easily using one of the widgets on the MiFi 2372 dashboard.

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