Verizon 4G LTE: Pantech USB Modem and Samsung Mobile Hotspot

Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11I haven't written a post in a while, so I'm combining my reviews of two devices that both use Verizon's 4G LTE service, the Pantech 4G LTE USB Modem UML290 and the Samsung Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11.

First, the good news: if you haven't already heard, Verizon's 4G LTE service is fast--wicked fast. It's faster than any 3G service and even faster than Sprint's/CLEAR's 4G WiMAX by two to six times depending on the conditions. Streaming video or playing online games will present no problems for this service which is probably faster than most people's home Internet.

Now for the bad news: the mobile hotspot is not as fast as the USB modem. Using the Pantech USB modem, I was able to achieve Speedtest.net scores such as 26.72 Mbps down and 10.09 Mbps up rather consistently (and I've seen reports of others getting even higher scores). When I switched to the Samsung hotspot, my scores dropped by about 40% in each direction. This isn't surprising--I would not expect the Wi-Fi hotspot to be as fast as the USB 2.0 modem for the same reasons that an ethernet cable transmits faster than Wi-Fi. In all honesty though, only die-hards like me will ever notice the difference.

Another downside of both devices is their software. The VZ Access Manager that controls the USB modem is functional and easy-to-use, but clunky in it's design and obtrusive in the way that it tries to manage the Verizon modem and the Wi-Fi connections at the same time. The Samsung hotspot has the worst firmware I've ever seen on a routing device. Other hotspots that I have used try to emulate the layout of home routers on their configuation screens, usually offering a large subset of that functionality. The Samsung SCH-LC11 has such Spartan screens that it's almost pitiful. Fortunately, the device works pretty well out of the box, because if you wanted to do anything more complex than open a couple of ports, you would be out of luck. I can't even tell if there's a way to update the firmware.

Again though, those are nits to be picked only by the most advanced users. Most people will pull it out, turn it on, set a network name and a couple of passwords and be off and running within minutes. Sprint/CLEAR still gets the nod for heavy use since they offer unlimited 4G data, but between Verizon's 4G speed and 3G coverage, there's no way I can't heartily recommend this service.