The Jetpack MiFi 8800L is the best 4G LTE hotspot from Verizon, period. That’s because it’s better than all I’ve tested, and chances are it will also be the last. With 5G coming next year, it’s my educated guess that there won’t be another 4G hotspot.
If you don’t want to hold up to see how 5G pans out, or need a mobile Internet solution right now, the MiFi 8800L is an excellent choice, even though it’s not cheap, costing $200 retail or $100 if you sign up for a two-year contract.
MiFi 8800L: Simple yet effective design
Made by inseego, formerly Novatel, the MiFi 8800L is an oval plastic box that measures 4.45 by 2.80 by 0.75 inches. It’s not tiny but not huge, either, just about the right size for a mobile hotspot.
On top, it has a 2.4-inch 5-line black and white touchscreen that shows the device’s status, connected clients, and so on. The screen’s sensitivity isn’t the best I’ve seen but is good enough, and you can use it to manage most of the hotspot’s settings. For security reasons, you need to use the device’s web interface to change its Wi-Fi and admin passwords by the way — more on this below.
You can open the underside of the hotspot to get to its removable 4400mAh Li-Ion battery. Under the battery, you’ll find a SIM slot. The 8800L uses a nano-SIM. Inseego told me the device is unlocked — meaning it will work with other carriers (changes in settings required) –but I haven’t tried that out. After all, this is a Verizon device.
On a side, there’s a power button. You need to press and hold it for a few seconds to turn on the hotspot. It works fine though I find it a bit finicky. There’s very little tactile response, so sometimes it’s hard to know if you have pressed on it. But that’s not a huge deal.
The most exciting part is the USB-C port. You can use it to charge the hotspot’s internal battery or charge a device connected to it. That’s right; the MiFi 8800L can work as a juice pack. I tried that with my Pixel 3 XL, and the charging worked fine. It stopped when the MiFi’s battery level drained 25 percent.
You can also use it to tether a computer that doesn’t have Wi-Fi to the Internet. In this case, you can choose to make it also work as a mobile hotspot at the same time or not.
And there’s more; you can use the USB-C port to host a storage device, like a portable drive, and share that storage to all connected clients. It’s like a mini NAS server.
A portable drive would drain the hotspot’s battery fast, and there’s only one USB-C port. That said, this option is cool but impractical unless you use a USB-C external drive with a power adapter of its own.
Generous feature set
Out of the box, the 8800L comes with a secure Wi-Fi network that you can use right away. If you want to change this network’s name or password into something easier to remember, you’ll need to use its Web interface. It’s easy: From a connected device, point a browser to its default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1.
The interface is responsive and gives access to all of the hotspot’s settings and features. And for a small device, the MiFi 8800L does have a lot of features.
For example, there’s built-in GPS, which supports the NMEA GPS-over-Wi-Fi standard. Thus, supported Wi-Fi clients can automatically use the MiFi’s GPS feature. Others, such as a computer, will need a software driver first. There’s also a built-in VPN client that comes in handy if you want to remain as part of a home or office network when on the go.
Other than that, the MiFi 8800L also has all the standard settings found most routers. These include port forwarding, port filtering, MAC filtering, firewall, Guest network, and more.
High-end Wi-Fi and cellular specs
Per inseego, the MiFi 8800L is the first and, for now, the only hotspot in the U.S that uses Qualcomm’s latest X20 modem. This modem features Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA), meaning it has improved LTE speed thanks to carrier aggregation and the use of the 5GHz frequency.
The MiFi 8800L supports LTE bands 2/4/5/7/13/14/20/28/46/48/66, as well as UMTS 3G. For this reason, it can work almost anywhere in the world. In the U.S, however, it works best only with Verizon.
As for Wi-Fi, the MiFi 8800L features dual-stream (2×2) Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) with the top speed of up to 867Mbps on the 5Ghz and up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz. Ether is more than fast enough to deliver its cellular Internet in full.
I tested the MiFi 8800L throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and was happy with its performance. Verizon has good cell coverage in the area, and I was able to get good reception — and therefore fast Internet speed — without using external antennas.
On average, I got about 40Mbps, but there were locations I got up to 120Mbps. The slowest speed I got was around 15Mbps. Generally, I could stream movies to three devices at a time while using a fourth for other tasks without any problem at all.
By the way, since the hotspot is so fast, I recommend getting the unlimited data plan (currently cost $80/month). Otherwise, you can blow through any data caps in a matter of just a few hours.
The battery life was also impressive. With typical usage (web surfing, emailing, Google Maps turn by turn direction, and so on), the MiFi lasted me two days of work time on a single charge. When I used it heavily (continuous Netflix streaming together with other tasks), it now lasted about 6 hours. Generally, on average, you can expect some 12 hours easily.
By the way, you can charge the hotspot using any USB-C car charger, including those used for phones. In my case, the hotspot woke itself up (from sleep) each time I started the car, saving me from having to fumble with the temperamental power button, as mentioned above.
As for Wi-Fi, I was able to use it up to 100 feet away in open space. In a house with walls, however, the range now maxed at around 50 feet. While this was shorter than a regular router’s, for a mobile hotspot, it’s among the best.
You probably think you don’t need a mobile hotspot since when need be, you can likely use your phone as one anyway. And for the most part, you are right. But for those traveling with a lot of Wi-Fi clients, the phone’s built-in hotspot feature — which allows only three clients — won’t be enough, plus it’ll drain the phone’s battery fast.
And that’s where the Jetpack MiFi 8800L comes in to play. With super-fast LTE speed, the support for up to 15 clients at a time, and long battery life, until 5G is available, this is a hotspot as good as it gets.