Name: Freedom Spot Overdrive Pro
What it is: a refurbished — yes, refurbished — Sierra Wireless mobile hot spot device from FreedomPop that works on Sprint's 3G and 4G networks, so you connect almost anywhere in the country. The Overdrive Pro works with any Wi-Fi-enabled device, including laptops, tablets and phones, and uses a FreedomPop account to manage your data use. Plus, the company provides 500 MB of free data a month, which may be all you need if you just check email and don't stream video. Before you buy, input your address in FreedomPop's website to make sure it has service in your area. I tried the refurbished unit because that's what most users choose, rather than a new one for $199 (and much more at some retailers).
The good: When I discovered that I could have my own Wi-Fi hot spot at the airport gate and on the tarmac, I was hooked. I have kept working on my Wi-Fi-only iPad on tarmacs at several airports. Reception is best by the window. I tried the recommended Premium 2GB plan, which is free for the first month and thereafter $19.99 a month. The plan has allowed me to send email, surf the Web and watch a few TV shows each month in various locations, including my own apartment when my home Wi-Fi is slow. A PC World chart (tinyurl.com/ou629qn) shows that users can read 333,333 emails, download 333 songs or watch three 30-minute TV shows with a 1GB data plan. If you primarily travel to major cities, where 4G networks are available, the FreedomPop Photon hot spot could be a fit. I visit too many destinations that have only have 3G, so I needed a hot spot that could connect over 3G and 4G. The Overdrive Pro does that with ease.
The bad: No international coverage yet.
Cost: $59.99 (but $34.99 with a current special)
Available from: freedompop.com/odppremier3
— Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers