Sunday, June 19, 2011

TECH REVIEW: The Evolution of Verizon 4G LTE - The Future Looks Bright

Verizon 4G LTE - It's good to lightening fast depending on where you live...

Over the past 6 months, I have had the opportunity to watch the evolution of Verizon 4G from the initial press conference announcement back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to the release of numerous 4G devices including the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt Smartphone that I have been reviewing for the past few weeks.

One of my favorite tech blogs - Techlicious (love that name), wrote an article back in May of this year entitled "The Fastest 4G? It's No Contest" where they declared Verizon 4G LTE network "the hands-down winner" after testing nearly every 4G phone on the market. 

From January until now, I have reviewed a number of Verizon 4G products as Verizon has steadily rolled out their 4G network to more parts of the country.  For me, Verizon's 4G LTE has been a steady evolution of good products that work good to lightening fast depending on if 4G has been rolled out to your part of the country. 

Let me tell you about some of the Verizon 4G products I have tried and my thoughts on each...

Verizon 4G LTE USB Modem attached to my netbook
Verizon 4G LTE USB modem - This modem is very slick and well made.  The end pops open to reveal the USB end that you connect to your computer.  When not in use, the unit folds flat for storage and it is small enough to be put in your pocket, which I liked.

I received this modem a few days before I left for the CES conference in Vegas.  To keep down luggage fees, I wanted to pack light which meant I took my netbook instead of my laptop.

The Verizon 4G LTE USB modem comes with a disk that contains VZAccess Manager software that must be installed on your computer in order for the modem to work. Since I wanted to use this 4G modem with my netbook which does not have a CD ROM, I had to copy the software first to a thumb drive and then install it on my netbook.  After installing the software, my next problem was finding an area that had 4G available. Since 4G was not rolled out to a lot of areas in January, testing this modem at 4G speeds was difficult. 

I never did get 4G speeds in Detroit nor Vegas - and that is the wrinkle with using these 4G devices. If Verizon 4G LTE is not yet in your area, you will only get your typical Verizon 3G speeds.  So that is something to consider as you decide when to purchase these 4G devices.

Also remember that modems can only be used for one device at a time and that device must have the VZAccess Manager software installed for the modem to work.

Verizon Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
Verizon Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot -  I love mobile hotspots since you can use them to connect up to five wi-fi enabled devices to the internet connection.  So it does not matter if you have a desktop computer, laptop, netbook, smartphone, or tablet, as long as it is wi-fi enabled, you are all set.

I received the credit card size Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot for review back in April, right before I attended the 2 day Future Midwest Conference near downtown Detroit.  The conference was supposed to have wi-fi access, but there were problems and the access did not work at times. But I did not care because I was able to pull out the Verizon Samsung 4G Hotspot and share it with 4 others at the conference - which of course made me a very popular person.

The device itself is very well made and sturdy and it has a sliding cover for the USB port which I thought was a good upgrade from the Version 3G Hotspot. The first day of the conference, the 4G access speed was good and everything worked great for the five of us on our laptops, netbooks, and tablets. Day two of the conference, the speed was down considerably. The light on the unit indicated that we were no longer getting 4G access and it showed. Outside of my use at the conference, neither my home nor my place of employment was in a 4G area coverage so most of the time that I had the unit I only received normal 3G speeds.

Overall, even though I did not get good 4G speed at the time that I tried out the unit, I thought that the Verizon 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot was a well made device that is a definite upgrade from the 3G model.  As with the Verizon 4G LTE USB modem, if 4G is not yet available in your area of the country, you need to consider that when you purchase this device.

Motorola Xoom is 4G Upgradable
Motorola XOOM - Back in March, I reviewed the Motorola Xoom which I used as a 3G hotspot so I am sure you must be asking yourself why I am including the Xoom in this post about 4G.  Well, the Motorola Xoom Tablet is 4G LTE upgradable which means if you are thinking about purchasing the Motorola Xoom, you can do so now knowing that when 4G is available in your area, you are all set for the future and do not need to purchase a new tablet to get 4G.

Verizon HTC Thunderbolt is a Lightening Fast Smartphone
Verizon HTC Thunderbolt Smartphone - For the past few weeks, I have been reviewing the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt - and loving it!  Now, when I first took this Android smartphone out of the box, I was stunned by its size.  My personal smartphone is dwarfed by this 4.3" WVGA display size device.  I just did not believe at the time that I would ever get used to a smartphone of this size - but boy was I wrong.

I use my smartphone to read lots of Amazon Kindle eBooks and the HTC Thunderbolt makes for a wonderful reading experience. My eyesight is not what it used to be and I loved the large screen and larger print.  I found the Thunderbolt to be like a "mini tablet" in that the larger size makes everything much easier to read including my email.

Watching videos on the HTC Thunderbolt is great with the super clear screen, fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Dolby surround sound and the built in kick stand on the back of the device that supports the phone at just the right level for watching videos.  My son is also loving the Thunderbolt because he is using it to play his favorite game - Angry Birds, which I downloaded for FREE from the Amazon Android Store.  Again the super fast processor and clear screen make the experience of playing Angry Birds anything but upsetting. 

The Thunderbolt can also be used as a 4G Hotspot for up to five users and the 4G speed is AMAZING!  I purposely drove to an area in Oakland Country where I knew that 4G was available.  I connected the Thunderbolt to my laptop and the response time was immediate.  As I browsed my email and surfed the web, the screens painted without any delay.  I felt the internet speed was actually faster than the cable connection at my home.  As Verizon 4G LTE is being rolled out to more areas in metro Detroit including Ann Arbor, Brighton, Plymouth, Walled Lake and Yspsilanti, all the 4G connections problems that I encountered earlier in the year will definitely be a thing of the past.

The HTC Thunderbolt also has an eight megapixel camera and does HD video recording.

As I pack up the smartphone to return it to Verizon, I am more than pleased with the HTC Thunderbolt.  This is a very well made smartphone that is a super fast 4G Hotspot, large print eReader, camera and a video viewer and HD video recorder.  The Verizon HTC Thunderbolt 4G smartphone does it all well.

Verizon  Executives announce 4G lineup at CES Press Conference - January 6, 2011
The Future of 4G looks Bright with Verizon
I am glad that I have been able to see the steady process in the evolution of Verizon 4G LTE from my front row seat at the initial press conference at CES back in January until now. Initially, I saw well made products, but a network that was not available to take advantage of the devices. Today, I see both great devices and a lightening fast network that should be rolled out completely by year end. Now, I cannot wait to try out some of the other Verizon 4G devices including the LG Revolution, and DROID Bionic 4G.


Disclosure: I was loaned Verizon 4G devices for the purpose of writing a review and stating my unbiased opinion. I was not compensated for this post.

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