The Straight Talk Hotspot is an all new service from Straight Talk. This little device allows you to connect to the internet via 3g CDMA cell phone carrier connection. This is basically a cell phone that provides data to computers, tablets, iPods, etc via a WiFi connection. The service can be used with as little as a 1gb card for $15 a month that must be renewed every 30 days. Straight Talk will activate the hotspot with either Verizon or Sprint. This is an excellent device for those needing internet on the go where no other wifi connection is available.
The service costs about 1/2 of what comparable contract services would cost while providing good browsing speeds. There are various plans available though I would recommend you consider 4gb or less. Compare Hotspot Data Plans
The UMX Hotspot device is very basic and quite easy to use. The device uses a lithium battery for power and comes with an included AC adapter for charging and/or powering the device for use. It is constructed of all plastic and has rubber bumpers on all sides that protect it from drops. While not absolutely water proof, construction suggests that it is quite water and dust resistant. The buttons are sealed in rubber and the USB connector has a rubber covered.Check Straight Talk Hotspot Availability in your Area
The device is extremely compact, measuring 3″ square and about 1/2 thick. It’s very lightweight so it can be carried with ease.
Again, the device is very simple so does not have a whole lot buttons and such. The center display has 5 icons that show you the complete status of the device. These icons are rudimentary and basically provide the status via color changes. The icons are signal strength, battery strength, wireless connection status, carrier connection status and roaming indicator.
On the left edge of the device, we find 3 buttons namely a power button, wifi on/off button and carrier connection on/off button.
Finally, on the bottom edge is a USB connector which serves the sole purpose of charging either using the provided AC adapter or power from your computer when connected to your computer’s USB port. The device will not provide internet connectivity when connected to a computer via USB.
The device does not have many items to configure. You can connect to the admin screen using the address of 192.168.1.1. There, you have 4 different tabs available which are Home, Status, WiFi and Advanced. The Home tab simply shows you the connection details. The only item worth mentioning on the Status tab is the Check Balance option which tells you how much data you have left on your plan. The WiFi tab lets you configure your device’s security as well as change the SSID. Finally, is the Advanced tab which simply lets you change the Admin username and pwd.
Like any other WiFi router, the UMX Hotspot offers different modes of security. Available security modes are WEP, WPA, and WPA2. By default, the device comes unsecured so I highly recommend you setting up security after you get it activated. I personally used WPA2 because it is the most secure and is actually easier to setup than the more basic WEP. I found the WEP option to be somewhat annoying because you must setup a password that is exactly 5 or 13 characters in length. So say a 6 or 8 character password will not work. The WPA2 lets you enter a password that is 8 characters or greater.
Hotspot Data Speed
The hotspot data speed is of the 3g variety and really varies depending on your connection to the carrier. As such, the hotspot should not be considered as a primary source for your internet connection unless absolutely necessary. That said the speed is great for regular web browsing. For reference, 3g can be considered to be about 10x slower than cable internet, about 5 times slower than fast DSL and about the same speed as basic DSL.
Note that the device allows up to 5 devices to connect to it so the more devices you have the slower your data will be.
Web Site Speeds
Most websites load quickly, again this really depends on your signal to the carrier. If you are in an area with great signal, then speeds will be great. In areas where signal is low, websites will load somewhat slow but not to the point where it becomes unusable. I am in a poor signal area but websites still load fairly quickly unless there are a lot of images. Testing the device in a good/great signal area is another story, sites load quite fast even those with images.
The hotspot works great for things like checking email, Facebook, etc. This would make for an excellent low cost service for frequent travelers. For those that need to VPN to work, the Straight Talk Hotspot will work well.
The device is capable of providing enough speed to stream video. Keep in mind that again, you must have a good signal to stream seamlessly. It also depends on the streaming provider. For example, Netflix will work even with not so good signal because Netflix is able to adjust the video resolution depending on speed. It won’t be HD or anything but it will work. On the otherhand, Youtube does not do that so videos can take a bit to load and will stop occasionally. Again, this is in low signal areas. In good to great signal areas, video streaming is much more seamless.
Musing streaming works great on this device. Music does not use anywhere near the amount of data as video so services like Pandora work great with this device.
I highly recommend this service for people who need internet on the go. The service costs about 1/2 of comparable contract services so it is a great deal. The service does have it’s limitations because data is provided via 3g so it is not the fastest when compared to other internet speeds such as cable, dsl or 4g. I was able to browse the web without any problems. I was also able to watch Netflix even though my signal strength was not the greatest.
I would not consider this for my primary internet device unless you have no other options and know for a fact that you have 3g Verizon/Sprint in your area. That said, I found that it is a great service for use as an alternate source for internet and is well worth the money for that purpose.