Clear 4G + 3G Hotspot Review


I was going to be off grid for a while and wanted to make sure that I had several things available to me. A way of communication (cell phone) as well as some entertainment (computer with Netflix, Hulu, etc).  So I decided to look around and see what was out there in the way of WiFi hotspots, etc.  Surprisingly, there’s a decent number of places online that will rent you a wifi hotspot for your first born.  I really wasn’t in to having connection that bad, so I decided to ask around at local wireless providers.  I tried the big ones (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc) and after finding out that NO ONE in the area rents the units (yes, I tried every little mom and pop organization I could find) I decided ok, let’s see what their rates and return policies are.  I checked out all the same places as before.  The cheapest I was able to find was about $40.00 a month, 30 day customer satisfaction return policy and would have to pay along with the $40.00 a month service fee I’d also have the following:

  • $35.00 one time activation fee (non-refundable)
  • $45.00 restocking fee on all returns
  • Have to sign a two (2) year agreement unless I bought the equipment outright.

◦     This would be waived if I returned within 30 days

I went in under the auspices of ‘trying before buying’.  Which in fact I really was.  I wanted to see if it’s right for me before I shell out another bunch of money that I really don’t need to.

I’ve got the iPhone 4, I’ve upgraded to the latest OS, but if I want to enable tethering I’d have to leave the data plan I have now ($30.00 unlimited) for a $25.00 a month plan that gives me only 2Gig of data a month to play with.  On the average, I’m using 4-6 Gig a month.  Definitely not what I want to see if I’m paying $25.00 for 2Gig plus extras…

So finally, I figured I’d give Clear a try.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Clear (http://www.clear.com), they offer combined mobile and home internet plans, home only plans, and voice plans.  They use several different styles of mobile hotspots as well as more permanent in home routers.  They have both business and private plans.

I stopped by their local office and talked to them about a trial period.  I stated (which I am not lying) that I was interested in seeing if A) the devices were right for me and B) they were going to work for what I want them for.

I got set up with an unlimited data plan on both 4G and 3G service for $55.00 a month, no activation fee, no commitment and I can cancel any time I want within the two week customer satisfaction return period with no penalties.  If I decide to cancel after the two weeks it would be a $40.00 restocking fee and that’s it.  I figured I’d definitely know within the two weeks so I signed up.

I got to the store and picked up the device, got it activated and headed home to play.

Once I got home, I took the plastic case out of the packaging

The actual box it was in is pretty nice, a hard plastic box that would make a nice storage container for just about anything.

Once I opened the box, I found the Clear Spot mini handbook.  Some simple information, how to, care and feeding, etc.

Underneath that is the actual hotspot.

And under the hotspot comes the wall charger and USB cable that could be used in either a computer, auto adapter or the wall charger.

The hotspot itself on the left side has a volume on/off button.

The bottom of the device has the battery case.

The right side has the USB port.

The top of it has the screen display as well as the on/off button.

On the display, you can see the device status:

  • battery power
  • number of users
  • SSID name (that you set)
  • how much data has transferred (up/down)
  • If it’s using the 3G or 4G network
  • how much cellular signal it has

When there are no users connected to it, the little person image by the battery indicator is empty.  With one user, it’s full.  With two or more, it has the actual number of users connected.

After the setup I connected to it with a Mac, iPhone, PSP, Wii, and a Windows 7 computer.

They all connected with little to no issues whatsoever.

Using my iPhone I ran a few speed tests.  I don’t have 4G access at my home so I ended up using 3G. Using Speedtest.net I achieved a ping of 351 ms, .34 Mbps download speed and .18 Mbps upload speed.

I ran it a second time to make sure that it was correct and received a ping of 304 ms, .33 Mbps download speed and .15 Mbps upload speed.

When I switched over to my homes wifi, I achieved a ping of 321 ms, 9. Mbps download speed and 3.08 Mbps upload speed.

And again, a second time for verification.  90 ms ping time, 9.31 Mbps download and 3.08 Mbps upload.

The device itself has a web interface for setting things up. It’s actually pretty straightforward and intuitive.

Under the Device tab, you can set the admin password, client list, help for advanced, backup and restore the router settings as well as updating the firmware as well as the sleep timer.

On the display tab, you can choose to turn the power button LED on or off and control the LCD Backlight.

The microSD Card tab enables you to either turn on or off the SD-card slot.  You can re-name it and allow anyone or only specific individuals to access it.

It seems as though this could be a portable web drive that is easily shareable with wifi.

The sounds tab is pretty much what it sounds like.  Enabling and disabling sounds and which ones.

The about tab is pretty interesting as it gives quite a bit of information about the device itself.  It gives the MAC, ESN, if it’s been reconditioned or not, the manufacturer, the version, model number, MDN (phone number of the device), activation status, etc.

The log tab alows you to either enable or disable the logs.  You can either export them or clear them but there’s no way that you can actually view them (that I could find) without exporting them.

The WAN tab allows you to set up the preferred WAN mode (3G or 4G), failover time, and switchback wait-time.  Not much else, but it does give stats and the abillity to load 3GPRL and vie certificate information.

The Wi-Fi tab allows you to set the device for wi-fi or USB-PC only/dual, the SSID, the Hostname, if you’re going to broadcast the SSID, the maximum number of users (up to 8), the power consumption capabilities, channel, etc.

It also allows you to set the security of the device:

  • None
  • WEP 64 Bit Shared
  • WEP 64 Bit Open
  • WPA Personal TKIP
  • WPA2 Personal AES
  • WPA/WPA2 Personal
  • WEP 128 Bit Shared
  • WEP 128 Bit Open
  • WPA Personal TKIP/AES
  • WPA2 Personal TKIP/AES
  • WIFI password and password reminder
  • MAC Filter (allow, disallow, etc)

Under the Router tab, you can set things like Port forwarding, setting up the DMZ, the internal lan information (max DHCP clients, etc).

On the main page, there are several sections that allow you to view and/or set other items.

View the signal and if it’s weak, strong, etc., if there are any alerts, if you’re connected to 3G or 4G, how much battery life is remaining, how many users and who they are, the amount of data transferred, if there’s an SD card and the speaker status.

My overall connection experiences with it were spotty at best in doors without 4G coverage.  When the device was close to or outside, it was fairly decent even with 3G.  With 4G connection, it flew pretty good.  I didn’t get a chance to test the 4G speeds but the little bit I did have 4G connection, it seemed to work fairly well.

Setup overall was a breeze (I’ve set up wifi hotspots, routers, etc MANY times) and it seems as though for a first time user, it wouldn’t be too difficult with the guided setup.

The customer service reps at the shop that I got this were as helpful as they could be although they don’t normally have one of these to test or play with so they weren’t really all that familiar with using or setting it up.

The customer service number (I had a few issues with the default passwords) wanted to be helpful, but they put me on hold a lot while they ‘checked with their experts’.  Didn’t know Google was that hard to use.  😉  Just kidding, don’t know what they were doing when they put me on hold, but from what I understand, this device is still fairly new to quite a few people and they are still working out some of the kinks.  Don’t know how true that is, but I’ve read a few bad reports on the service/devices online so I’m not sure what to think overall.

I personally don’t think this is the right device for me even though it is quite configurable.  If it was maybe $20.00 a month for unlimited and/or I needed to use it more often or were able to write it off as a business expense, I’d be more likely to keep it.  As for now though, till they get some of the kinks out as well as increasing the 4G network to what the 3G network is now, I don’t think I’ll be going with one of these devices long term.

Again, it’s a device that I was using solely for personal business as if there were a business reason for using a wifi hotspot, I’d be signing one out from the office.

Now, I open this up for questions regarding the device, the service, etc.  What are your thoughts on it, have you used it, do you use something now?

Advertisements

~ by Normanomicon on October 27, 2010.

5 Responses to “Clear 4G + 3G Hotspot Review”

  1. Good post. Your experiences seem to more or less mirror mine with a USB adapter. The speed was great — when it had coverage. When it didn’t, my 3G service was hit or miss, and often refused to launch. It’s worth noting that although Clear advertises “unlimited” usage, they are allegedly throttling people down to .28k once they go over 10 gigs per month.

    • The throttling I didn’t know about. I’m tempted also to try the xfinity mobile hotspot, it’s only $40.00 extra a month and I wouldn’t really notice the extra cash. But I’m always complaining about my cable bill as it is so…

      1/2 a dozen of one, 6 of the other.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Groubal Petitions, Norman W. Norman W said: Clear 4G + 3G Hotspot Review: http://wp.me/pJfKm-VC […]

  3. Great post. I use a similar MiFi modem with T-Mobile in Austria but could not find a pre-paid 1GB SIM for the USA… 😦

    • If I’m not mistaken, Virgin Mobile has a unit for around $150.00, they’ve got the whole prepaid thing down. I may have to try theirs to see what it’s like. If I do, obviously, I’ll be doing the review. Not sure if it’s SIM driven, or if the SIM would work in your device though.

Comments are closed.

 
%d bloggers like this: