Today I’m testing (and using) Straight Talk’s ZTE Z289L mobile hotspot. The device only cost’s $50 (roughly) at Walmart.
I discovered after some research that it offers the least expensive prepay data, the device itself works great! Even out here in cell phone hell, where you have to drive roughly 3/4 mile for AT&T and practice Feng Shui for Verizon to work in your house. (At least it works inside though!)
I’d rate it 4 of 5 stars just for a minor case of intermittent connectivity when multiple users logon.
ZTE Z289L Set up was 50/50 (meaning if you screw it up the first time you have to look up factory reset etc.) Otherwise a quite simple and capable LTE device.
Supports up to 5 users at once, fits in your pocket, data costs range between:
- $15 for 1 Gb of data
- $25 for 2 Gb of Data
- $40 for 4 Gb which lasts 60 days as opposed to only 30
- $50 for 5 Gb as above (60 days)
- $75 for 7 Gb as above (60 days)
Data consumption rate overview
With 2 users over the course of an hour of searches and social media posts we found we had used approximately 120 Mb of Data. (None of this was used for streaming video which uses considerably more data than you might expect.)
A few tips for data conservation:
- Leave your most visited sites open in tabs on the browser where possible unless they play video or other high data use media. Connecting to a page costs more data than leaving it open.
- Turn off background applications on your computer that might be updating themselves randomly.
- Leave Skype off until you absolutely need it.
- If using Windows 10 turn off updates over metered connections.
- If using other versions of Windows disable updates altogether until you are back on non metered connections.
- On Linux simply ignore update requests. (Obviously.)
To determine if any of your programs aren’t conforming to this data conscious profile, simply open a task manager and look at what is using network data i.e. A desktop Google Hangouts app fetching notifications is using approximately as much data as Skype doing the same thing, but so is an unchecked browser updater, adobe updater, or similar service.
Comparitive advantages-disadvantages of a hotspot device versus using a phone or tablet as a hotspot
- Smartphones eat data depending on how many apps are installed.
- Tablets do the exact same thing as smartphones however they spend a bit less and tend to connect better than smartphones in most cases, due to the lack of additional carrier signal used for phone related operation.
- Hotspot devices don’t have apps, connect marginally better than phones or tablets, and seem to hold a connection better.
- We were lucky to get three advantages, even if two were more comparisons than advantages
While smartphones are obviously the most self justifying devices for daily use, tablets and hotspot devices are both drastically better for use as a hotspot. Whether you require something for work or home use you’ll get much better connectivity with a hotspot device. That said you should certainly consider this Straight Talk model a worthwhile contender at a budget price that makes them ideal for most users.