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Review: Novatel Liberate MiFi on AT&T

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There are two types of people who tow their boats and campers:

1. Those who use a regular car -- Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry or equivalent.

2. Those who use a Ford F-350 Super Duty pickup truck or equivalent.

The same thing applies for those who need to set up a portable WiFi hotspot. There are two ways of doing this.

If you are the kind of person who tow your boat with a regular car, you will perform this task using your regular smartphone. Whether your smartphone is based on Apple(AAPL) , Google(GOOG) , Microsoft(MSFT) or Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry, they all serve as a WiFi hotspot -- just like a regular car can be equipped with a tow hook.

However, if you are the kind of person who uses a Ford F-350 Super Duty truck, instead of a regular car, to tow your boat, then you are also likely the same kind of person who sets up your portable WiFi hotspot using a Novatel MiFi.

Towing your boat with a Honda Civic is technically possible, but it will tax the little car to exhaustion. Same thing with portable WiFi. If you are going to do serious work, and you don't want to be plugged into a wall outlet -- perhaps because no such outlet is easily available at that point -- then you want to use a dedicated hotspot machine from Novatel or equivalent. You are now ready for professional-grade, heavy-duty, WiFi hotspot performance!

The latest such WiFi hotspot device is the Novatel Liberate MiFi offered on AT&T(T) . It breaks with previous industrial design radically.

Previously, a portable WiFi hotspot was an unassuming brick. Initially, in 2009 it had no display, but in subsequent generations exhibiting increasingly informative displays.

This latest version looks just like the Apple Magic Trackpad, but smaller. The cylindrical "stand" contains the equally cylindrical battery, and on the ends of this cylinder you will find the MicroUSB charger and on/off button. The design is brilliant and beautiful.

Touch Display

The greater part of the "pad's" surface area consists of a color display, and for the first time on a WiFi hotspot it's a touch display.

That's interesting, but it's all downhill from here. The touch response is terrible. You sometimes have to try tens of times to obtain any response/action of any kind. This is inexcusable. How did this get past any basic quality testing?

The preferable way to change the MiFi settings, such as the WiFi network name and password, among every setting imaginable, is on a PC's Web page -- as with any other portable WiFi hotspot. In this regard, the device's touch display doesn't really add any value.