Last time, I went over the process of signing up for a “free” FreedomPop account. After getting the Freedom Spot Overdrive Pro in the mail, now it’s time for a test drive. What you get is a refurbished Sprint Sierra Wireless Overdrive Pro with the Sprint logo covered with black tape. On a side note, Netgear has bought the rights to these Aircard products from Sierra and sell them to Sprint.
Also, by the time I finally got my Overdrive Pro in the mail, my FreedomPop dashboard told me that I only had 17 days left on my “free” month of Internet. Frankly, I don’t think they should start the clock on your service until you activate your device. I lost almost half the month waiting on delivery.
But I digress.
As you can see below, the Overdrive Pro is small and can easily fit in your pocket or purse. It has tiny rubber feet so that it won’t slide if you have it on a precarious angle.
The battery is removed by sliding the back cover off as shown below. On the top side, there is a microSD card slot and a mute slider switch. On the bottom, there is a micro USB connector and 2 external antenna connectors with sliding covers. On the main side, there is a lighted large power button as well as an LCD status screen.
First, using the provided USB charger, plug the unit into a power source to start charging the battery. You will probably see the charging status on the LCD as shown below:
To power on the unit, press and hold the power button until the LCD screen comes on. You will first see a Sprint logo, then you should see a screen like the one below. Notice the top status line shows the Sprint signal strength, 4G Wimax (or 3G), the exclamation shows the number of alert messages, the zero next to “Wi-Fi” indicates the number of connected devices, and the battery status (shown here charging).
The middle of the screen shows the SSID (Wi-Fi network name) and the password below in parenthesis. At the bottom, you see the amount of data transferred during this session and the time it has been active.
To get started, one of the first things you will want to do is upgrade the firmware. To do so, first, connect to the Overdrive Pro with your computer or laptop WiFi, using the Network name shown on the screen (OverdrivePro687 in the example) and the password in parenthesis (21192040 in the example above). Notice that this will be different on your Overdrive Pro.
Once your device has connected to the Overdrive Pro, type in “http://overdrivepro687” (in the example) into the browser URL. If that doesn’t work, try “http://192.168.0.1/” to bring up the setup screen for the device. You will get the screen below in your browser.
At the top, enter “password” for the default Admin login password. Notice that the password is all lower case. Now press “OK” to login. The main screen above gives you all the Overdrive Pro statuses on screen, as well as a graphical representation of the actual unit on the right. You can click the image above to see a larger version.
Next, click on “Admin Setup” at the top. You will get the setup screen shown below. From here, you can set the admin password, the Wi-Fi SSID and the Wi-Fi password. You can leave everything as the defaults if you want. At the very bottom under #4, you can decide to not display the password on the LCD screen. The default is to show the password on the screen.
After that, click on “Advanced Settings” at the top. That will bring up the screen that you see below. If the unit detects that there is a newer version of the firmware, it will start downloading it from their server automatically. If this does not happen, you can manually check to see if there is a newer version by clicking on “Check for updates now.”
From this screen, you can also change the admin password and a bunch of other settings. You shouldn’t need to change anything for now and just use the defaults.
Once the firmware is downloaded, you can install it on the unit and you will see a status bar on the LCD like below. This will take a few minutes so be patient.
There is one setting that you might want to change. Click on the “Wi-Fi” tab to get the screen shown below. Under the heading “Max Number of Users,” the default setting is 8. Frankly, if you let 8 people connect to your poor 4G Wimax, your connection will drag down to a crawl. Unless you are selling Wi-Fi at the airport or in your car, you shouldn’t have 8 people connecting to your Overdrive Pro.
If the Overdrive Pro is not being used, it will automatically go into sleep mode. You can click on the power button to wake it up. You can also see 6 screens of status information by double clicking on the power button. To go to the next screen, double click the power button again. Here are what each of the 6 screens will show you.
- Connect info (Network SSID, password)
- Data used this cycle
- Network status (3G, 4G)
- Aircard 802S info: Firmware version (01.07.09 as of this posting), Network preference, Battery remaining
- Software updates (if any)
As for speed, it will vary greatly depending on the area. Compared to my old Epic 4G, the Sierra Wireless box’s reception seems to be worse, but in some case, better than what I got on my Epic. As you can see below, at home, I got a almost unusable speed below 1 Mbps.
However, in downtown, I managed to get a very acceptable 7.79 Mbps and was able to surf websites and run my iPad apps with no problems.
According to Sierra, the battery should last an average of 4 hours depending on how many users are connected. I have not used it enough to see if this is true. I’ve been turning the unit off completely when not in use to save battery. They also claim the indoor range is about 114 feet, and the outdoor range to be about 150 feet.
Because my iPad is WiFi only, I’ve been using the Overdrive Pro when I don’t have WiFi access with good results so far. I’m curious to see what happens when I try to reduce my plan to a free account when my free month is over. I’ll keep you posted.