Review of the iPad Air personal hotspot

Took the iPad Air personal hotspot for a spin this morning. Could not have been a more positive experience.

I travel a lot, and frequently find myself without a net connection. Some of what I do can be done on a cellular iPad, but there are many times when I need to work on my laptop. In the past, I’ve turned to personal hotspots from various carriers, but I’ve never been happy with the reliability and the cost is high for the bandwidth you get.

The iPad Air data plan is $50 per month for 5GB of data. My previous data plan was $30 for 3GB and I rarely used more than 500MB. I look at this as paying an extra $20 per month for the hot spot. Not quite right, but close enough. I’m used to paying between $45-$75 per month for other cellular hotspot solutions. On the cost side, this is a bargain, assuming you can live with the 5GB limit. For me, this is not an issue.

Setup is a breeze, far simpler than any hotspot I’ve ever used. On your iPad, go to Settings / Personal Hotspot and tap the switch to turn it on. That’s it. You’ll have the choice of using the hotspot over WiFi, USB (plug the iPad into your computer) or Bluetooth (you’ll be prompted to enable Bluetooth – I did not do that). Your hotspot will come with a default password that is different for each iPad. Tap on the password to change it.

Back on your computer, the iPad WiFi will appear in the list of WiFi networks as the name of your iPad. For me, the iPad appeared as “Dave Mark iPad Air”. I joined the network, typed in the password, and I was in.

The network speed is fast. I ran a benchmark and found the speed to be about 9MB download and 2.25MB upload. Not as fast as FiOS but still pretty zippy. I did not notice any slowdown when sending emails or browsing the web. Obviously, file downloads will be slower, relative to my broadband connection, but that’s to be expected.

I had a friend log in with a Windows machine and her experience was just as positive. She was able to play World of Warcraft and not notice a bit of difference between WoW on broadband and WoW on a hotspot.

Bottom line, the personal hotspot on my iPad Air is a home run. Simply brilliant.