AT&T MiFi Liberate: The Best Mobile Hotspot I've Ever Used

If you can afford one, hotshot, an AT&T LTE MiFi will change your life a little bit: you have Internet virtually everywhere you go, a wireless high-speed network in your bag.

Most mobile hotspots are lousy. This one is stellar.

What Is It?

A tiny portable wireless hotspot that lets you jack up to ten devices into AT&T's speedy LTE network.

Who's It For?

Professionals who want their office to move with them, those who hate dealing with coffee shop internet, the rich.

Design

The Liberate is a little awkward looking, with its bulging cylindrical battery compartment that precludes pocketing. But it's still plenty tiny.

Using It

Instead of a minimal (or no) display, the Liberate has a bright 2.8-inch color touchscreen. You normally use a computer to change a mobile hotspot's settings. But this does it on the tiny screen, and it sets the Liberate apart from so much of the competition.

AT&T MiFi Liberate: The Best Mobile Hotspot I've Ever Used

The Best Part

The battery life. The battery life! This thing will go for days (granted, it's idling a lot of the time). But we're used to other hotspots dying after a few hours.

Tragic Flaw

It's very fast—I regularly clocked in at around 11 Mbps downstream—but nowhere near the whopping 20-30 Mbps we've seen from other LTE devices.

This Is Weird...

Sometimes the Liberate gets stuck in regular ol' faux-4G mode, and has to be switched in and out of airplane mode to hop back into LTE land. An occasional annoyance.

Test Notes

  • I used the Liberate in New York City, Washington, DC, and along the Amtrak corridor between them. I got a strong, consistent signal in town, and it rarely died on the train.
  • It's nice to be able to switch between a long-range signal and lower-range, battery-conserving Wi-Fi broadcast.
  • It's even nicer to be able to turn the thing into a mini-media server by popping in an SD card. The contents are available to any connected devices.

Should You Buy It?

If you need broadband to go, then yes, this is probably the best product out there. As with other mobile hotspots, the biggest hangup is price—this one runs $50 to start, with a two-year contract, and you'll have to tack the requisite data plan onto your existing wireless burden. Those plans vary in price depending on how much data you need, but you can expect to pay at least an additional $20 a month.

AT&T MiFi Liberate

• Price: $50 with two-year contract
• Weight: 4.26 ounces
• Dimensions: 4.05 x 2.88 x 0.34-0.88 inches
• Display: 240x400 WQVGA
Gizrank: 4.0 stars